After 12 years as director
Mid-Continent Public Library Director and CEO Steven V. Potter announced this week that he will retire at the end of June.
Potter has been the director at MCPL, which operates 35 service locations and serves more than 850,000 residents across Jackson, Clay, and Platte Counties, for 12 years but he has worked for the Library since 1988. During his 34 years with MCPL, Potter has served in a variety of different roles-from shelving books and managing day-to-day branch operations to cataloging and digitizing items, overseeing system-wide technology projects, and performing administrative functions at the library’s headquarters.
“I feel much has been accomplished in my three decades at MCPL,” said Potter. “We have worked hard to provide the best library experience, and I think the people I’ve worked with for all these years have exhibited exceptional stewardship, allowing the library to have a great collection, welcoming facilities, and a strong financial position. It has been my great honor to serve this library, and I know staff will continue to provide great service in my absence.”
During his tenure as director, Potter ushered in many significant milestones and achievements for the library, including:
.2010 – “MyMCPL.org” website is launched. This is a significant upgrade of the Library’s website and information infrastructure. Incidentally, Potter coded and launched the Library’s first website in 1995.
.2011 – Downloadable eBooks are added to MCPL’s services. eBooks become the fastest growing and most quickly adopted service in the Library’s history.
.2013 – The Story Center at MCPL is established with support from the Kauffman Foundation to help storytellers create and share their work and connect with the work of others.
.2014 – MCPL wins the IMLS National Medal for Museum and Library Service Award, presented by First Lady Michelle Obama.
.2014 – Square One Small Business Services at MCPL is established with support from the Kauffman Foundation to help local entrepreneurs and business owners.
.2015 – The Library celebrates its 50th anniversary.
.2016 – Voters pass Proposition L, which increases the Library’s funding for the first time in more than three decades, allowing the Library to enhance its offerings and update its physical spaces.
Prop L enables MCPL to expand branch hours, grow its collection (books, movies, music, online resources, etc.), and increase early literacy and other special programming.
.2017 – MCPL launches its “Reading Rocket,” a mobile early literacy unit that travels to “transportation deserts” to provide Library services.
.2018 – MCPL kicks off its Capital Improvement Plan, made possible by Prop L, which calls for improvements at all of its branches as well as the addition of two new branches.
To date, the Plan is nearly complete, with the majority of Library branches having been renovated or replaced and a new location added in Lee’s Summit (East Lee’s Summit Branch).
Currently, four construction projects are underway (construction of the Green Hills Library Center to replace the current Boardwalk Branch, the renovation of the Lee’s Summit Branch off Oldham Parkway, the replacement of the North Oak Branch building, and the addition of an auditorium to the Woodneath Library Center).
The Green Hills Library Center will open later this year and will become the home of the first public library culinary literacy center in the region, which will help people learn about food preparation, nutrition, and food culture. It will provide culinary-based programming to teach reading, math, science, and other subjects in a commercial kitchen with classroom seating. In addition, the branch will feature two health department-certified kitchens available for local food-based businesses.
To complete the construction promise made during the Prop L campaign, MCPL is in the final stages of property acquisition for the new Grain Valley Branch, East Independence Branch, and a replacement branch for Riverside.
“Mr. Potter has been an exceptionally effective leader and strong advocate for libraries, and Mid-Continent Public Library is well-respected and nationally renowned as a direct result,” said MCPL board member Joycelyn Tucker Burgo. “His long, successful tenure has allowed the MCPL district to flourish through child and adult literacy, small business development, and building the modern community resource MCPL is today. As a community, we have been extremely fortunate to have had him at the helm as director for the past 12 years. On a personal note, if there was a way to keep him at the helm, I would be all for it. I applaud his many accomplishments and wish him well.”
In 2015, Potter wrote an article with Diana Kander for Library Journal, and he coauthored the book The Purpose-Based Library with John Huber about how libraries can best serve their communities by adapting their offerings to people’s needs, a strategy he’s used throughout his career.
In addition to his work for MCPL, Potter is a member of many regional and national organizations, including:
.Clay County Economic Development Corporation, Board of Directors
.Independence Chamber of Commerce, Public Policy Committee
.Truman Heartland Community Foundation, Board of Directors
.Amigos Library Services, Board of Directors
.EveryLibrary Institute, Board of Directors
.Mid-America Library Alliance (MALA), Officer
.Missouri Public Library Directors, Officer
.Missouri Library Association
.Public Library Association
.American Library Association
.Rotary Club of Independence
In looking toward the future, Potter shared his enthusiasm for retirement: “I really look forward to benefiting from Mid-Continent Public Library’s service as a customer for the first time since 1988.”