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A photo of a man in a collared shirt and suit jacket in the foreground, with a woman in a dress and a boy in the background, both waving small American flags.

Táriba, Cabrera and their 12-year-old son, Daniel, outside the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park in Topeka

Library Program Teaches Citizenship Applicants ‘Meat’ of U.S. History

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in May 1954 to end legal segregation in public schools, it established one of the most fundamental precedents in the nation’s history.

The Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park in Topeka thus proved a fitting location — right before Independence Day — for a naturalization ceremony where participants swore to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Johnson Countians Monica Fracachan Cabrera and Juan Calderón Táriba took part in that proceeding. The married couple’s participation marked a milestone for them and for the Library’s free U.S. citizenship class, established three years ago by Latino Services Outreach Librarian Christine Peterson.

The Library class now counts 18 new U.S. citizens among its alumni.

The couple credited Peterson and the class for providing the materials and the structured curriculum that prepared them for the rigors of becoming citizens, which starts with a 20-page application through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Applicants must also demonstrate an ability to read, write, and understand English and pass an oral civics exam with 10 questions selected from a 100-question study guide.

The Library offers the citizenship program three times a year. The program generally runs for about 15 weeks with weekly 90-minute Zoom sessions on Tuesday mornings and Wednesday evenings.

Peterson said the number of attendees is growing. She has approximately 30 people enrolled this trimester.

Originally from Venezuela, Cabrera and Táriba arrived in the United States six years ago after winning a visa lottery system to enter the United States. After spending time in Colombia, they settled in Johnson County because they had family in the area.

Their 12-year-old son, Daniel, is a middle schooler in the Blue Valley School District.

Cabrera is a research assistant for JUNTOS - Center for Advancing Latino Health at the University of Kansas, and Táriba is a mental health language coach at Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

Through Peterson as a translator, Cabrera explained why she and her husband consider it significant to become U.S. citizens.

“It’s important because this is our second home. We weren't born here, but we probably will die here,” she said. “This country opened up its arms to let us come in, and our son is now going to have those opportunities, especially in education.  Maybe my grandchildren will even be born here, but we now have a voice, and we can vote, and we can participate in the government.”

Peterson conceptualized the citizenship program when a friend asked for her assistance in becoming a citizen. Peterson was also encountering Latinos who wanted help preparing to answer the citizenship questions.

Having lived abroad, Peterson knows the limited rights citizens have in other countries. Immigrants who come to the U.S appreciate the freedoms they have here, she said, and Peterson enjoys adding context to what the candidates already know.

“I do not want them to memorize 100 questions and spit out the answers,” she said. “I want them to know the meat of the country.”


Meet the 2023 Writers Conference Presenter: Amber Logan

Wondering about what comes after a first draft? What about knowing when to “show” vs “tell” in your writing? Maybe you’ve read a book on craft but aren’t quite sure how to best implement what you’ve learned. Amber Logan is here to help you with your writing woes!

Amber A. Logan is a university professor, freelance editor, and author of speculative fiction living in Overland Park, KS with her husband and two children—Fox and Willow. In addition to her degrees in Psychology, Liberal Arts, and International Relations, Amber holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England. Amber’s debut novel, The Secret Garden Of Yanagi Inn, is an adult contemporary gothic retelling of the children's classic The Secret Garden set near Kyoto, Japan. When she’s not writing, Amber enjoys trips to Japan, exploring unusual vegetarian foods, and reading Haruki Murakami.

We are thrilled that Amber will be joining us at the Writers Conference this year to offer a class called “When to Show vs Tell.” She will also join Amy Leigh Harden for two presentations: “Why (and How) to Read Books on Craft” and “What Comes After the First Draft.” Amber and Amy led craft book discussions this past year at the Central Resource Library, and they were a total success. We can’t wait to have them back at the conference this year!

You can register for the 2023 Writers Conference here. Registration isn’t required but is appreciated, and your RSVP includes both days of the conference, Nov. 3 and 4. Sessions are available on a first-come first-serve basis. We will also be hosting a Writers Conference Kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 2.

Inspired by this year’s conference book, By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, we asked Amber a few questions to get to know her better:

1. What's in your TBR pile? 

My TBR pile is ever growing! Top of the pile right now are About Writing by Samuel R. Delany and Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan. I like to be reading at least one non-fiction and one fiction book at all times.

2. What are you reading right now? 

Right now I am reading Yellowface by R.F. Kuang and absolutely loving it. I am a sucker for books about authors.

3. Do you have a favorite book you love to recommend? 

I just finished reading an ARC of Caitlin Starling's Last To Leave The Room and was absolutely swept away by it. I can tell it is my new "everyone must read this book" book.

4. Do you have a favorite bookstore?

I live within walking distance of a Half Price Books, so they probably get most of my disposable income, but I really love Rainy Day Books and Monarch Books & Gifts for their cozy vibes and helpful staff members. 

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

Q: Who is an underrated author more people should be reading? A: I discovered author An Yu awhile back, and she immediately became an "auto-buy" author for me. Her two novels are Braised Pork and Ghost Music, and if you love the kind of dreamlike slipstreamy vibes of Haruki Murakami, you will love them.

Woman with Tuba

Margaret Ott seated, holding a tuba - 1935

New JoCoHistory Blog Post is Music to Our Ears

Johnson County Museum Upgrades to a Cloud-Based Collection Software

Guest written by Anne Jones, Curator of Collections

During our national accreditation process, we learned that the public values learning about the professional practices and standards we maintain as a field. This not only contributes to the high level of trust the public has in the museums, it is also fun. So, today we’re pulling back the curtain on just how we manage the museum’s collections with the Johnson County Museum’s Curator of Collections, Anne Jones.

Read the full article on the JoCoHistory Blog »


No Wait Wednesday: The Scent of a Garden by Namrata Patel

Hello and welcome to #NoWaitWednesday, where we spotlight a book that's ready and available on the New Release shelf at one of our Library branches. Hot, ready, and best of all - no waiting!

Scent of a Garden by Namrata Patel introduces us to Asha "Poppy" Patel, daughter of a family of successful hoteliers in Napa Valley, California. When Poppy was young, she discovered that while tending her grandmother's garden, she has a special gift for identifying scents - so much so, that as she grows up, her family steers her away from the family business and into a prestigious career working as a Paris master perfumer. Everything seems to be going well until Poppy gets COVID-19 and loses her sense of smell and takes a leave of absence back to California, where she is pulled in different directions from her well-meaning but ambitious family, only finding solace by restoring her grandmother's aromatic garden, which has been neglected over the years. While back home, she's also reunited with Neel, her first serious love that went sour when Poppy left for Paris, and her former best friend, Millie. While Poppy reconnects with her friends and family, she also tries to reconnect with her sense of smell, or else the dream job that she spent her entire life working toward will forever be out of reach.

But then again - is that what she really wants?

This novel is not only a delightful example of women's fiction but Patel has absolutely done her homework with her descriptions of both the lush and atmospheric Napa Valley hotel world as well as descriptions of the Paris perfuming scene - smells are lovingly described with care, passion, and flair. The novel also excels at describing the complex and interconnected dynamics of the expectations of a high-achieving immigrant family, as Poppy tries to please her mother, who wants her to go back to Paris, and understand her father, who wants her to take over the family hotel business. However, the parents aren't presented as monsters or mere obstacles to Poppy's character growth - they're presented as characters in their own right, who have strong points of view and want nothing but the best for their daughter.

Full of character work, self-discovery, and just the right amount of romance, Scent of a Garden should be on your to-be-read list. If not, then make sure you check out our New Release section the next time you're in the library - you'll be sure to find something that scratches that reading itch.


This Week at the Library

Library OnDemand – Available anytime you like.

Candidate Forum: Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees Candidates – Tuesday, Sept. 26, 6 – 7 p.m.

The Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley Post will be hosting 11 nights of local candidate forums ahead of the Nov. 7 general election at the Central Resource Library, giving Johnson County voters a chance to hear directly from the candidates who want to represent them in city government and on school boards. The full list of events is here.

Candidate Forum: Fairway and Roeland Park City Council Candidates – Thursday, Sept. 28, 6 – 8 p.m.

This forum will be held at the Cedar Roe Library and the Roeland Park candidates are at 6 p.m., the Fairway candidates are at 7 p.m.

Candidate Meet and Greet: Blue Valley Board of Education Candidates – Saturday, Sept. 30, 10 – 11 a.m.

Interested in learning more about the school board candidates on your ballot? Join us at the Blue Valley Library for a meet and greet with the candidates. You'll have the opportunity to introduce yourself, ask questions, and learn more about their stances on the issues impacting your local schools over coffee and donuts. We invited every school board candidate to participate in the Candidate Meet & Greet. Johnson County Library hosting these events does not constitute an endorsement for any particular candidate or issue.

Women’s Bike Summit – Saturday, Sept. 30, 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

The Women’s Bike Summit will be held at the Central Resource Library and is a gender-inclusive event for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together to celebrate bicycling, discuss issues that are relevant and important to people on bikes, and get practical biking information and experience. Come meet new bike friends and participate in a day of free and interactive hands-on activities, workshops and rides that support, enhance and uplift women’s bicycling experience.

Nothing But the Page: A Workshop Led by Diana Goetsch – Saturday, Sept. 30, 9 – 11 a.m.

Some writers write better than they speak. Using free-writing exercises we’ll learn how to write more profoundly than we think or speak—with surprisingly quick results. Perfect for all genres and levels, this two-hour session, with acclaimed writer and renowned teacher Diana Goetsch, is for people wanting to elevate their freedom and creativity on the page. This program will be hosted using the meeting software Zoom. A Johnson County Library staff member will contact you via the email you registered with to provide more information about the program and instructions on how to access the Zoom meetings. You do not need to download any software or create an account.

And much more happening this week … 


Meet the 2023 Writers Conference Presenter: Lydia Perez

You know what time it is? Time to “BYOT!”  

That’s right: you can Bring Your Own T-shirt to the 2023 Writers Conference, and we’ll add our conference logo to your shirt! We’ll use our vinyl cutter and heat press to add our special Writers Conference logo to your shirt, and you can keep a piece of the Writers Conference with you wherever you go. This is the first year we’ve been able to do something like this, and it’s all thanks to Makerspace Facilitator Lydia Perez!

Lydia has been a MakerSpace Facilitator at the Central Resource Library since May 2022, but they worked for the Olathe Library system in a variety of roles before that. Their creativity, knowledge, and kind instruction make them a special addition to the Johnson County Library staff. When asked about their favorite ways to express their creativity they say, “While I love making and digital fabrication, I also love drawing and writing.”

We are thrilled that Lydia will be a part of the faculty for the 2023 Writers Conference. They will facilitate a drop-in activity and guide conference attendees through the steps of making their own “zine” (a zine is a DIY short chapbook or magazine). Lydia says that “creating mini zines is a wonderful exercise to practice flexing your creativity and is something I enjoy a lot.” Make sure to stop by Lydia’s table at the conference to learn how to create your own mini pocket zine! They say you can “fill it with writing, doodles, poems, or anything else! Let your creativity flow or use some prompts to spark inspiration.”

You can register for the conference here. Registration isn’t required but is appreciated, and your RSVP includes both days of the conference, Nov. 3 and 4. Sessions are available on a first-come first-serve basis. We will also be hosting a Writers Conference Kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 2.