2023 Year in Review

2023 was a busy year at Johnson County Library! Before we ring in the New Year, check out this highlight reel of the past 12 months.  

The Collection 

The first title checked out in 2023 — at exactly midnight on Libby — was "Ugly Love" by Colleen Hoover. In November we hit the 1 million checkout milestone in Libby; the title that put us over the mark was "The Wives" by Tarryn Fisher. And though the final numbers aren’t in yet for December, Library users are on track to check out nearly 5.5 million items in 2023! 

These books took top honors for most checkouts through the year: "Tom Lake" by Ann Patchett, "The Five-Star Weekend" by Elin Hilderbrand, "Happy Place" by Emily Henry, "Hello Beautiful" by Ann Napolitano and "Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus. Top eAudiobooks were "Fourth Wing" by Rebecca Yarros, "Lessons in Chemistry" and "Spare" by Prince Harry. Taylor Swift swept the CD category with the top three check-outs: "Folklore," "Reputation" and "Lover." 


In January, construction kicked off in earnest for the new Merriam Plaza Library. Over the summer, visitors to Antioch Library and the Merriam Community Center were invited to sign sheets of drywall that were then installed in Merriam Plaza’s meeting room. Our partner, Titan LLC, completed the building by the end of November, and now the transformation from an empty building into a Library is underway.  

Up the road, Antioch Library celebrated many “lasts” in December as it prepares to permanently close on Jan. 29, 2024, in order to transfer its staff and collection to Merriam Plaza. A ribbon-cutting celebration for new branch is planned for Spring 2024.  

Elsewhere in the county, Oak Park Library closed for work in August and reopened mid-December. The improvements included upgrades to building systems such as climate control and security; paving and ADA improvements; exterior improvements such as new signage, light fixtures and bike rack; new front doors; and renovated public and family restrooms. A new Questions Desk is slated for January. Leawood Pioneer Library visitors enjoyed a repaved parking lot, and De Soto Library got a new roof among other small improvements throughout the system. 


We celebrated 2023 with a lineup of amazing events: young patrons enjoyed Scribbler Society and weekly Homework Help gatherings while more than 500 visitors came out for Genealogy Day, the first since 2020.  The return of Toys Night Out, at which beloved toys enjoy overnight adventures at their local library, was a hit, while established events like Tabletop Games, Legislative Coffees and Book Clubs continued to be popular.  

The November Writers Conference and new monthly Open Mic events brought together writers and those who love to listen to stories and poetry. The newest issue of elementia, a literary magazine produced by teens and for teens, received almost 1,000 submissions for consideration. Around 100 people attended the reception at Lenexa City Center Library, the first in-person celebration of the journal since 2019. 

Johnson County Library’s annual Summer Reading program was a huge success. In addition to special programs and events, the Library distributed 18,951 books and worked with 60 local schools and 14 community partners. And in partnership with Catholic Charities, the summer meal program at Antioch and Central Resource Libraries served over 2,000 meals to kids.  

The fun didn’t end in the branches, either. More than 500 Library card holders enjoyed special free admission days at Shawnee Town 1929 and the Johnson County Museum, and our Local History programs used YouTube to reach hundreds of new attendees. 


The Library’s Development Department celebrated several milestones in 2023. The Johnson County Library Foundation welcomed new Executive Director Shelley O’Brien in March, and in April the Library’s volunteer program received a Service Enterprise Certification, an elite designation that only 11% of non-profits achieve. The 1952 Society welcomed award-winning audiobook narrator Edoardo Ballerini for a special event, and September ushered in another successful Library Lets Loose; this year was the best yet with more than 600 guests partying in the stacks at Central Resource Library. The Friends of Johnson County Library also saw an increase in membership and now hosts used book sales every Saturday at their Lenexa Headquarters.  

In the News 

In April, the Library removed overdue fines! This historic vote by the Library Board was made to increase access and remove barriers to Library materials for as many people as possible. In the same spirit of meeting the needs of our community, in August the Library Board approved a partnership with local non-profit Strawberry Week to provide free period products in every Library restroom. 

Our Librarians made more than 26,000 new Library cards in 2023, the most new cards in years and a 25% increase over 2022. Over 2,200 of those were during National Library Card Sign-Up month in September, which was also the month of Library memes! We got some inspiration and a little bit of viral love thanks to Kansas City’s new favorite couple: Travis & Taylor.  

Also in September, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel visited Central Resource Library as part of the Secretary's "Back to School Bus Tour 2023: Raise the Bar" campaign in partnership with local non-profit KC Digital Drive. Cardona participated in a roundtable with local educators about our country’s digital divide, then held an impromptu Storytime in the kids’ area. 

In November, right in time for World Kindness Day, the Library welcomed attention from all over the world when Captain Ben, a Delta Airlines pilot, found one of our Library books ("If the Shoe Fits" from the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski) on a seat in the Atlanta airport. He mailed it back to Shawnee Library branch manager Anna Madrigal with a letter that shared his own love of reading and an offer to pay any late fees for the book. After our social media post went viral, Sarah recorded a thank you message to Captain Ben and he reported that he heard from people far and wide about his kind gesture.  

Last but not least, we were thrilled to debut three new “traveling murals” on our Library courier trucks this fall. Kansas City artists Sol Anzorena, Lauren Seider and JT Daniels each created a mobile art exhibit that showed their perspective on the question: “What is the impact of reading and literacy in a community?” We hope the trucks bring you joy as you see them around Johnson County. 

Thank you for making Johnson County Library a place to learn, explore, enjoy, create and connect this year. We can’t wait to see what 2024 brings!