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Arthur Jensen and Holstein

Arthur Jensen of the Art-Jen Farm in Olathe displaying his Holstein, the first prize winner at the Holstein Parish Show in Paola. 1956.

Acclaimed Archives

It’s another grand Throwback Thursday when we encourage you to time travel through Johnson County's history. JoCoHistory is a collaborative presentation of the history from the Johnson County Museum, Johnson County Library and many JoCoHistory partners. Explore historical photographs and documents about the people, places and organizations of Johnson County, Kansas, from the 19th century to the present.

Collection spotlight: Johnson County Archives

About this collection: Largely images from annual reports produced by Johnson County staff over the first half of the twentieth century, most notably the County Agricultural Agent and the Home Demonstration Agent. Numerous activities of those two offices are depicted, including programs with area farmers, homemakers and 4-H clubs.

Video Games are Expensive. Check Them Out for Free at Johnson County Library

For many people who are trying to save money, Johnson County Library is a great solution for free access to books, audiobooks and DVDs. Another real bargain that may be overlooked is the Library’s video game collection, which gamers of all ages can enjoy for free or to “try before they buy.”

Many patrons are surprised to learn the Library carries a wide selection of popular video games for platforms such as Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox. Two games can be checked out at a time, for two weeks each. The games are kept on carts near branch check-out desks for browsing. They are also available for reserving online and placing on hold.

When Johnson County Library asked for feedback on Facebook about ways the Library helps with family budgets, parent Sarah Eggers had an immediate response: “Video games, hands down, is the biggest money saver. I could pay $60 for myself or my kid to play a PS5 or Nintendo Switch game, but instead I rent it from the Library for free.”

Eggers, who lives in Lenexa, particularly likes cozy video games such as Animal Crossing, which are relaxing and fun, appeal to all ages, and are great for kids.

She was delighted that Johnson County Library has such a good selection, especially because her daughter Hazel, 6, has also become a fan of video games, including Paw Patrol and Yoshi.

“I first saw it on the website about their video games,” she said. “It’s so easy. You can search by the gaming platform you’re going to use. They have games for everything. I’m usually looking for Nintendo Switch games.”

She estimates she’s saved at least $240 over the past six months by checking out free video games for Hazel.

Charles Hower, a Central Resource Library information specialist, has been a video game enthusiast since he was a teenager. In fact, he played a part in persuading Johnson County Library to start acquiring video games nearly two decades ago.

From 2004 to 2006, he was on the Library’s young adult advisory council, recommending ways to engage teens. He and his older brother Robert suggested the Library acquire video game consoles.

“They piloted it at Central,” he recalled. “They ran video game tournaments. It took off and was popular enough that they started investing in console video games and circulating them, not just for teen events.”

After he joined the Library staff in 2018, he saw that the video game collection had increased dramatically, with multiple Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch options that are very popular with families. The collection is always growing; a list of recently-added games is available on the Library's website.

Hower has two children: Cora, 3, and Maxwell, 6. Maxwell is now old enough that he really enjoys Lego Star Wars, Lego Jurassic Park, plus Zelda and Mario games. Hower and his son have a great time with the two-player games.

Like Eggers, Hower says it’s just smart financially to explore the Library’s video game collection. It's also a good way to try out games before he decides whether to buy them for himself or for the family's home collection.

“We usually have at least one video game checked out that we’re playing off and on,” he said.

Eggers says the games are even educational, helping Hazel to boost her hand-eye coordination and reading skills.

“I do hope more people realize how much money they could be saving,” Eggers said. “Your taxes already pay for it. And you pay zero dollars (for the Library games). It’s great.”

No Wait Wendesday: Yumi and the Nightmare Painter by Brandon Sanderson

Hello and welcome to No Wait Wednesday, where we take a peek at a great book on the New Release shelves at one of our local Library branches that's hot, fresh, and eagerly waiting for someone to take a chance on it. Normally in this space we tend to look at newer authors who are lurking just under the surface - their books might be well-reviewed, but at the same time aren't household names or endorsed by certain book group-loving celebrities and thus aren't a part of a massively long hold list. Today, however, we take a look at an author who's not only acclaimed as one of the greatest names in his particular genre, but his work has has sold millions of books around the globe and it's honestly a bit surprising that his newest stuff is not already buried under a mountain of holds: Brandon Sanderson.

Since his debut novel Elantris hit the shelves in 2005, Sanderson has electrified an entire generation of fantasy readers. Writing for both adults and teens and with the occasional journeys into science fiction, Sanderson's brand of relatable, intricately-built, and fast-paced novels are ideal entryways into the genre. His work is loosely connected together in an immense shared universe called the "Cosmere," where characters, elements, and concepts might reappear and reinforce themselves from book to book. (New readers shouldn't worry much about reading his work in sequence, however, as these repeating elements are very much in the background - similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe where Doctor Strange or Nick Fury might appear in a movie and you don't need to know their entire history to know what's going on.)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanderson took the opportunity to work on what he referred to as a series of "Secret Projects" - works that would bypass the traditional publishing path and would offer to fans directly through Kickstarter. After becoming the most successful Kickstarter project of all time, these are now available to the public in print, which (finally!) brings us to today's No Wait Wednesday book, one of those "Secret Projects," entitled Yumi and the Nightmare Painter. Not exactly the straight-ahead epic fantasy that is Sanderson's hallmark, this work involves a more dreamlike fairy-tale fantasy mixed with character-driven romance, which is more in line with the current Romantasy trend of authors like Sarah Maas or Jennifer Armentrout than traditional old-schoolers like Patrick Rothfuss or Robert Jordan that have usually been Sanderson's readalikes.

"Yumi and the Nightmare Painter" introduces us to two characters in vastly different worlds: Yumi is a lonely young woman who lives a quiet, solitary, and thankless life where she channels divine spirits to help her community. Nikaro lives a world surrounded by dark, misty entities that he can trap by painting them into art and thereby protecting his city, however he has lost his creative spark and is just going through the motions. These two characters find themselves connected by a strange bond where, nightly, each can live in the others' body. As they get to know each other and learn how to navigate their new worlds and new abilities, they discover that they are the only ones who can truly understand each other, and they must find a way to both save their worlds and be together. Dreamlike, ethereal, and drenched in richly detailed atmosphere, this fantasy novel wrapped up in a love story was inspired in part by a Japanese manga series, "Hikaru no Go," and the video game "Final Fantasy X," among other Asian influences, and the pages are illustrated in a manga-like style by Aliya Chen that adds greatly to the striking visuals of the story.

Whether you're a fan of epic fantasy, romantasy, Japanese manga, Korean manhwha, or just looking for a well-told stand-alone story that satisfies, give this one a shot and put it on your holds list. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next week!

Toolkit Tuesday - Shortcuts to eNewspapers

With Toolkit Tuesday, we share Library tools you might not know about! This week's tool: Shortcuts to eNewspapers.

Love eNewspapers? We understand that finding what you're looking for on a big website that is stuffed-full with great information like ours can sometimes be difficult. We been asked for some shortcuts to all of our eNewspapers. Here you go!

This Week at the Library

Library OnDemand – Programs available anytime you like on our YouTube channel. 

Your doorway into live and archived programs. Arts & Culture, Career & Finance, Community Matters, Writers and more!

Read to a Dog with Pets for Life – Wednesday, Feb. 21, 3:30 – 5 p.m. View all dates

Join us at the Blue Valley Library for the popular Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program. This program improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to a registered therapy dog or cat! These animals volunteer with their owner/handlers as a team. Please note: space is limited for this program; kids will get a ticket at arrival and wait their turn to read to one of several animals.

Teen Book-ish Club – Thursday, Feb. 22, 5 – 6 p.m.

Come visit the Teen Book-ish Club at Lenexa! Let’s get together to share our love of reading and chat about our current reads. Register online for some or all sessions. Discover new favorites, releases or fandoms from other readers in your community.

Open Mic – Friday, Feb. 23, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Johnson County Library is teaming up with Bear Necessities Coffee Bar (9609 W 87th St, Overland Park, KS 66212) to bring you an Open Mic from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on the fourth Friday of every month. Bring poems, short stories, essays and excerpts to share on the stage, or come just to listen. We’ll feature readings from our contest winners and the rest of the time is for you. Sign up at the event; three-minute limit.

Legislative Coffee Series – Saturday Feb. 24, 10 – 11 a.m.

Come to the Blue Valley Library to discover what’s percolating in the Kansas Legislature. Representatives and Senators with constituents in Johnson County will discuss the new legislative session, followed by Q&A. You bring the questions; we provide the coffee and doughnuts.

  • Rep. Mari-Lynn Poskin, District 20
  • Rep. Dan Osman, District 48
  • Senator Cindy Holscher, District 8
  • Rep. Nikki McDonald, District 49
  • Rep. Heather Meyer, District 29
  • Rep. Chris Croft, District 8

Can't join us in-person? This event will be streamed live on YouTube. We invite all Kansas State Senators and Representatives to participate in this series, which is celebrating its 10th year!

And much more happening this week … 

Tabletop Games

Join us for a fun-filled event with family and friends and become a part of the Johnson County tabletop gaming community. Discover new games from our collection or bring your personal favorite to share – you might get creative with a round of Dixit, collaborate to escape the Forbidden Island or strategize your way to victory as King of Tokyo! Come and go as you please. Refreshments are provided.

See the schedule »

Youth Information Specialist Cassidy Coles

Youth Information Specialist Cassidy Coles

Youth Specialist has Lifelong Connection to Johnson County Library

For nearly her entire life, Youth Information Specialist Cassidy Coles has had a wonderful relationship with Johnson County Library, first as a patron throughout her childhood, and then joining the staff when she was still in college.

As she approaches her 40th birthday and marks 20 years as a devoted Library employee, she counts her enduring connection to the Library as a true blessing.

“My overwhelming feeling about the whole time I’ve worked here is gratitude,” she said. “I feel so lucky, fortunate, to be able to watch these relationships build, change and grow.”

When she was just a toddler in Overland Park, her mother began taking her to the Antioch branch to check out stacks of children’s books. She was an early, enthusiastic reader and during elementary school she frequently went to the Oak Park branch, where the Librarian role captured her imagination. She would play library clerk at home, pretending to check out books to her mom.

During high school, the new Central headquarters branch was her go-to place for books and other resources to complete homework assignments. 

“I grew up in Johnson County Libraries, for sure,” she recalls.

While in college studying elementary education at Ottawa University, she took a part-time job at the Gardner branch as a page in February 2004. That blossomed into her promotion about 18 months later to the position of part-time youth information specialist, a job she has held ever since.

Serving patrons ages 0-18 and their families throughout the system has given Coles an amazingly rich range of experiences over the years.

Highlights include educating children and their parents at Storytimes at Gardner and Blue Valley; working on a team with Youth Librarian Kathy McLellan to develop the award-winning early literacy program “6 By 6 Ready to Read” in 2009; providing Library services and encouragement to youths involved in the county’s juvenile justice system; and mentoring teens since 2011 on the Library’s renowned elementia magazine.

“That’s just been one of the most meaningful experiences,” she said of working with incredibly creative and thoughtful teens. “Being able to listen more and more to the way they want their magazine to be, and the way they want to represent themselves. Seeing that evolve has been wonderful.”

She spends time each week answering questions and assisting people of all ages with book suggestions and other resources. With so many years based at Gardner, she’s watched a generation of kids grow up, to the point where some are now bringing their own children to the branch.

“It’s amazing to think about the ways families need Libraries over and over throughout their lives,” she says.

In her spare time, Coles plays the ukulele, at Storytimes and with friends. She discovered the instrument in 2012 when Johnson County Library bought several for staff to use. 

“That has been a source of comfort and joy and gratitude,” she said. “It occupies your whole mind and body.”

She also loves to cook and is an endlessly curious reader, tackling intimidating tomes like “Moby Dick” and “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” She’s currently making her way through “Ulysses,” and finding it magnificent.

She’s mom to Felix, 13, and Poppy, 11, and is very involved in their school, theater and sports activities. They, too, are big readers and have used the Gardner Library their entire young lives.

For Coles, Johnson County Library is so much more than her employer. It’s a cherished community hub, a place for education and enrichment, and the family’s home away from home.

Archiving Architecture

It’s another grand Throwback Thursday where we encourage you to time travel through Johnson County's history. JoCoHistory is a collaborative presentation of the history from the Johnson County Museum, Johnson County Library and many JoCoHistory partners. Explore historical photographs and documents about the people, places and organizations of Johnson County, Kansas, from the 19th century to the present.

Collection spotlight: Johnson County Museum Historic Preservation Survey

About this collection: Begun in 1991, the Historic Preservation Survey is a collection of photos documenting the architectural style and condition of more than 10,000 pre-1950 homes across Johnson County. The original photos are owned by the Johnson County Museum.

Can you tell us more about this image?

No Wait Wednesday: The Blue Monsoon

Hello and welcome to No Wait Wednesday, where we spotlight a book that's ready and waiting on our New Release shelves in search of that one special patron to take a chance on it. We know that patrons don't like waiting on the holds list for that new celebrity-endorsed book, but if you take a peek at our collection - or just ask your local librarian - there's always a new discovery in several different genres to enjoy. Today we're going to take a look at The Blue Monsoon by Damyanti Biswas, the second in an electrifying police procedural set on the streets of Mumbai, India.

The novel begins with Senior Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput arriving at the scene of a particularly grisly murder that occurred at the site of a Hindu temple. Soon, a video of the murder is posted on the social media feed of a Bollywood influencer, deepening suspicions that someone is being framed for the crime. While Rajput conducts the investigation and follows whispers of a sinister cult that ultimately might be behind everything, a monsoon pummels the city, further complicating the investigation. Rajput himself is caught in a stressful family situation, as his wife, confined in a wheelchair, is about to give birth, and he is also attempting to build a relationship with a daughter he only recently discovered he had. All of these plot threads, including corruption in Rajput's own police department, collide in a complex and satisfying conclusion. Biswas' writing style is atmospheric and propulsive, bringing the reader into the minds of not only the main detective, but several supporting characters, all the while keeping the clues and the action moving forward, so there's never any dull spots; think of an author like Michael Connelly, just with the volume knob cranked way up. While The Blue Monsoon is the second in Biswas' series starring Detective Rajput following 2022's The Blue Bar, this can easily be read as a standalone and a jumping-on point for new readers.

And, as a brief side note, it's interesting that location is so important to the mystery/thriller genre. No matter what sort of crime novel you're reading, where and when the story takes place is not only important, it's absolutely essential. Whether the novel is based in 1940's Los Angeles, the backwoods of rural Maine, a small knitting shop in coastal Scotland, or in the slums of Mumbai, place is always of cardinal importance. One theory is that the types of crime committed - and the circumstances in which they occur - can vary differently from time to time and place to place. Society, culture, religion, politics, race - all are vastly different depending on where (and when) the characters and the audience are. The exploration of those issues give authors a LOT of room for elevating a simple police procedural to something truly profound. Here, Biswas uses her story to reveal the larger scope of Mumbai where she brilliantly describes a clash of cultures, religions, and caste systems, where some people live in almost medieval poverty while others live in gleaming, well-protected high rises and use their wealth and influence to protect (and further enrich) themselves. This will be a fascinating eye-opener to many readers as they follow a flawed yet noble detective in pursuit of a twisted killer.

Thanks for reading and we'll see you next week!