Friends and Foundation

Bookmark Design Winner Now Introducing Daughter to Library

As a kindergartner in 1999, Mary Clow won Johnson County Library’s bookmark design contest for her age group, with the message “I like the Library.” 

Now married and mom to 1-year-old Isabella, Clow is having a wonderful time introducing her daughter to Johnson County Library.  

“More than 20 years later, I love getting to share the Library with my own daughter,” Clow wrote in an email to Library staff. “Isabella is a huge fan of our weekly trips to the Library and loves getting to pick books from the shelves herself. Thank you for all you do, and for sharing books with my family for over two decades.” 

That’s just the kind of communication from patrons that warms Librarians’ hearts.  

Clow grew up in Overland Park and Lenexa, where her mother took her and her sibling regularly on weekends to the Central or Oak Park branches.   

“We checked out books and movies,” Clow recalled. “Pretty early on, mom had to implement the rule that we could only check out as many books as we could carry. My favorite book as a kid was The Big Red Barn.”  

As an adult, she’s now enjoying reading that classic by Margaret Wise Brown to her daughter. 

She doesn’t have a vivid memory of creating the winning bookmark but knows her mother sought out those types of fun Library activities that she could do at home. She remembers there was a reception for the winners. She now flexes her creative muscles with cross-stitching and other crafts.  

Clow became an avid reader and remains a fan of young adult fiction, especially books by John Green and Maureen Johnson. She graduated from Shawnee Mission West High School and got a degree in elementary education from Pittsburg State University. 

Even during college, Clow stayed connected to Johnson County Library during summers. She was a nanny one summer for a family with four children, ages 12, 10, 8 and six months.  

“The Library programs were great for them, just finding free stuff to do,” she recalled. She took the youngest to Storytimes while the older children found books and enrichment. The family lived closest to the Leawood branch, but Clow said they checked the calendar for different programs and visited a number of branches. 

“There were MakerSpace activities that the older kids really liked,” she said. “It was really great to have stuff for that whole range of ages. I also did the summer reading program with them.” 

After college graduation she worked as a substitute teacher for several Johnson County school districts before she was hired as a math teacher at Westridge Middle School in Overland Park.  

She taught math for a year but realized it wasn’t the best fit. Since 2017, she’s worked as the director of children’s ministries for Lenexa United Methodist Church, and that’s been very fulfilling.  

She and her husband Nicholas, a civil engineer at Black and Veatch, live in Shawnee, where they frequent the Shawnee Library branch. They regularly use the Library app and often put books on hold. 

Isabella is just getting to the age where she is aware of books being read to her, and Clow looks forward to helping her learn to appreciate books and reading.   

“I was definitely raised going to the Library,” Clow says, adding that it’s gratifying to see that tradition extend to a new generation.  

And who knows? Maybe in a few years, Isabella will follow mom’s example and also enter the bookmark contest with her own creative design. 

Why I Give: Lynne Brown

Books and libraries have always been a big part of my life. I remember being 5 or 6 years old and reading Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss all the way through by myself. I have a vivid memory of the joy and empowerment I felt in that moment… I’m a reader! It was a first step in my lifelong love affair with books and reading.  

My grandmother was a church librarian in Hesston, KS. My sister and I loved to hang out with her and browse the library shelves, on Sundays during our summer vacations. My grandparents and my parents were big readers. Their love of reading and books was instilled in me, a legacy my husband Gary and I passed to our children and now to our grandchildren.

The Library has played an important role in my professional life. I do research for clients, and Library study rooms are a perfect landing place between meetings or for a virtual call.

As a past Foundation Board member and continuing member of the Fund Development Committee, my passionate belief is that libraries are invaluable in our community. Books and access to information are essential. I take a great deal of pride and satisfaction in having helped, over the years, to establish the Foundation’s planned giving initiative, The 1952 Society: Writing the Library’s Next Chapter, and the Readers Circle (donors who have given $10,000 or more.) I’ve had a lot of fun helping with Foundation events including Rare Conversations, the Pinnacle Awards, and now Library Lets Loose. It is more important than ever to ensure our Library’s success in benefitting future generations. That’s why the Library is, and will continue to be, one of my personal philanthropic priorities.

— Lynne Brown

Johnson County Library Foundation Helps Make Magic Happen

Leila Gallagher and her family have been avid Johnson County Library patrons for years, often visiting Lackman and now the Lenexa City Center branch. 

When her son Joey was diagnosed with a rare brain disease six years ago, the Library became an even more important source of normalcy, comfort, fun and knowledge. Gallagher became especially aware of how the Johnson County Library Foundation supports programming that serves the entire community.  

The Foundation is the fundraising non-profit that helps the Library build its collection and resources, beyond what tax dollars provide. Its annual year-end appeal is underway, with the theme “Your gift makes magic happen.” 

“The Library has been a godsend,” says Gallagher, who has volunteered with the Foundation’s Library Lets Loose gala and whose family also makes charitable donations to this worthy cause. 

“It’s such an important aspect of our lives,” Gallagher said of both the Library and the Foundation. “It makes us feel good to be able to do something outside of ourselves. And we know that impact is so profound, how many branches they are able to serve with that money.” 

Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Stollsteimer said about 1,500 appeals have been mailed to regular donors, inviting them to make a year-end contribution.   

“Year-end giving is a tried and true tradition,” Stollsteimer said. “It’s the giving season, when not-for-profits and donors connect.” 

Every dollar helps, Stollsteimer said, to support the Library’s early literacy efforts, STEM education, online tutoring and civic engagement. Foundation funding also supports the Library’s hybrid online and in-person programming, which began during COVID and is thriving. 

The Foundation’s Library Lets Loose event, held in-person Sept. 17 after two virtual years, was hugely successful, attracting 500 participants to the newly reopened Central Resource Library. Stollsteimer said she hopes this year-end appeal builds on that momentum. 

This year’s theme embraces the feeling that many have: books are magic, and both adults and kids are looking for magic in their lives. Foundation supporters can help in that mission by mailing back their donor card or going online to

For Gallagher and her family, the Library has indeed brought magic to their lives. Leila and her husband Scott co-own the small business ePromotions, which markets promotional products, and Scott also works in sales. Their daughter Gia is 17, and Joey is now 10 years old.  

Joey had a stroke and seizure six years ago and was diagnosed with moyamoya, a rare cerebrovascular disorder. He saw specialists at Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Hospital and had two brain surgeries at Boston Children’s Hospital. His treatment is ongoing and he is doing well with his schooling, both at home and in the classroom. 

Gallagher says the Lenexa branch provides a quiet refuge for her and her husband to get out of the house and work on their business. Gia loves talking to the Librarians and gets materials for AP English and other classes. For Joey, the Library is his happy place. 

“It was a normal, safe place and a place that he knew didn’t feel like physical therapy or the doctor’s office,” Gallagher said. “It’s hilarious, we go about every two weeks. We get about 20 books.” 

The family enjoys Lenexa’s beautiful interior, filled with colorful mosaics. “We really love the team there,” Gallagher added. “They are so friendly and welcoming.” 

As someone experienced with public relations and non-profits, Gallagher realizes the Foundation’s great value. “It is so important to the community, literacy as a whole,” she said. 

Stollsteimer said connections to families like the Gallaghers are what make the Foundation doubly worthwhile. “Library lovers are timeless,” she said. “They continue to support the Library.” 

Friends of Johnson County Library Pop Up Book Sales

Friends of Johnson County Library want to sell you some used books!

Pop Up Sales:
Saturdays, 11:30 a.m.-5p.m. (closed for holidays,  inclement weather closings announced on Facebook)
In the Pine Ridge Office Park
8279 Melrose Dr.
Lenexa, KS 66214,

The Friends of Johnson County Library want to assure you: the used book business is great.

The Friends started selling used books more than 30 years ago, and they are going strong still. Their 16k item (or more!) weekly inventory is restocked weekly and comes mostly from generous community donations, with the balance from books periodically weeded out of the Johnson County Library’s circulating collection. Friends’ net proceeds are paid into the Library's Collection budget, to help the Library buy new books. “We’re really proud of this success,” says Friends president Chris Meier. “Not only are we repurposing books in our community and giving them longer lives, we’re supporting our favorite public place: the Library!”

The Friends sell books in-person and online. They launched Pop Up Sales earlier this year at their donation processing headquarters in Lenexa. The Pop Ups are a sort-to-sell experience right at the source of the Friends broad and robust donated inventory. A corps of dedicated volunteers scan, examine and sort gifted materials for subject and quality. A lively Sale audience can generally be found at the door awaiting the weekly Saturday start time of 11:30 a.m.. Friends members receive a 20% discount on the already very reasonable prices. Gift cards are available, too!

The Pop Ups launch was a prelude to closing the two branch bookstores at Antioch and Blue Valley Libraries in July. After careful monitoring of sales activity at both stores, the Friends noted that sales continued to lag behind pre-pandemic levels. They made this bittersweet decision, after 26 years, so that the organization can focus resources toward their mission of supporting the Library.

Friends’ online sales are divided among international, national and local customers who peruse the broad selection on popular platforms like Amazon and Ebay, and on the Friends web site. Free shipping and the Friends reasonable prices are sure to wow. Top sellers tend to be first editions or hard-to-find items like out-of-print technical manuals. “The selection changes quickly,” says operations director Shanta Dickerson, “because we sell frequently and replace with new material that arrives every day.”

Why We Give: Chris Anderson and Lyn Buckley

Growing up on the west side of Chicago – and in walking distance to a library nearby, Foundation board member Chris Anderson cannot remember a time when he didn’t go to the library.

“The library was always a safe place to go,” he recalled, and by age 11 he could walk there on his own to check out books, which provided a great sense of independence.  

Chris’s wife, Lyn smiled broadly as she remembered her mom taking her to the library when she was a little girl to check out books. It quickly became her favorite place, and she has loved books ever since, noting that reading is her favorite pastime. Out of her siblings, she was definitely the bibliophile and still is. She affectionately refers to books now as “the beauty of the universe.”

As parents to two sons, it was part of their daily routine to read bedtime stories every evening. Their sons now read nightly to their kids continuing the tradition. Chris and Lyn share their love of libraries and reading with their grandchildren and noted their oldest granddaughter is in fourth grade has her very own library card. Lyn added that for people of all ages, library programs are key to engagement as they are centered around access and exploration. From early literacy storytimes to author visits and beyond, sharing information that is open to everyone is unique to libraries and a wonderful resource.

A fun shared experience Chris and Lyn have enjoyed for over 25 years is being part of a book group, where they have read many books they would otherwise not have been exposed to or read. Chris added that reading a variety of literature is the spice of life.

As a Foundation board member for many years, Chris believes the Library is a worthwhile organization to support on different levels. He remembered when he first came on board being amazed at the breadth of all the things the library offered, including online resources and programming for all ages. He added he believes that many of the Library’s programs are able to offer additional resources that exist due to extra funding provided by the Foundation.

Lyn shared her vision of the future of libraries to include more e-readers, a source for continued access to materials and programming for everyone, and a place in particular for students to access technology centered around gaining knowledge.

“Librarians are the most wonderful people on earth!” Lyn exclaimed. “They are always happy to help with anything — be it finding a book, research materials. and connecting people with the resources they are looking for!”

A Very Special Did you hear? podcast Episode: Library Lets Loose!

Extra! Extra! Hear all about it!

Did you know the Johnson County Library has a podcast? If not, this special episode is the perfect place to begin listening. By spending a mere 15 minutes with us, you too will be able to answer with a resounding "Yes!" to the question: "Did you hear?"

We discuss the annual one night only party at the Library we call: Library Lets LooseYou are not going to want to miss this festive, lively after-hours celebration and fundraiser for Library Lovers at Central Resource Library. If you are 21 years or older, we invite you to join our Honorary hosts Senia and Will Shields to enjoy food, drink, music, our MakerSpace and truly good people!

Tickets and more information:

A Very Special Did you hear? podcast Episode: Library Lets Loose!

Extra! Extra! Hear all about it!

Did you know the Johnson County Library has a podcast? If not, this special episode is the perfect place to begin listening. By spending a mere 15 minutes with us, you too will be able to answer with a resounding "Yes!" to the question: "Did you hear?"

We discuss the annual one night only party at the Library we call: Library Lets LooseYou are not going to want to miss this festive, lively after-hours celebration and fundraiser for Library Lovers at Central Resource Library. If you are 21 years or older, we invite you to join our Honorary hosts Senia and Will Shields to enjoy food, drink, music, our MakerSpace and truly good people!

Tickets and more information:

Library Lets Loose In Person for 2022

Library Lets Loose is Saturday, Sept. 17. Everyone is eager this year to gather and celebrate in person.

“We’re so excited that we’re in person, and at the shiny newly-renovated Central Resource Library,” says Stephanie Stollsteimer, Johnson County Library Foundation Executive Director.

The festivities are the Foundation’s signature annual fund-raiser. Although virtual in 2020 and 2021, this year Library lovers (ages 21 and above) will congregate Sept. 17 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. for drinks and dancing, food and fun. It will be a great night out to support Lifelong Learning opportunities at the Library.

Space is limited and Reservations are encouraged. Get more info:

“We’re just thrilled to be in the Central Library,” Stollsteimer said. “There is a fabulous new Kids’ area. The Black & Veatch MakerSpace will be showcased too. It’s a chance for folks to get in and to see what a fabulous space it is. Oh, and to have a party!”

This year’s honorary hosts are Senia and Will Shields, long-time Johnson County Library supporters and champions of early literacy.

“The Library has been an incredible impact on our lives, and that’s why we’re excited to be honorary hosts for this year’s Library Lets Loose,” Will Shields said. “Once you become a lover of reading and a lover of books, you understand the important role libraries play in our lives. Our Johnson County Libraries are constantly creating new opportunities for library users.”

Senia Shields echoes that sentiment. “Literacy has been an important part of our work and we love the Library resources,” she said. “They open up new opportunities and are paramount for operating successfully in our world.”

The couple arrived in Kansas City in 1993 when Will Shields was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs as an offensive guard. That same year, they established the Will to Succeed Foundation, which provides financial and educational resources to those in need.

Shields played his entire 14-year career with the Chiefs, retiring at the end of the 2006 season. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

At its pre-pandemic peak, Library Lets Loose hosted about 500 people. Stollsteimer hopes for another great turnout this year. Central has plenty of room for a big crowd of Library lovers. Participants will sample cocktails and delicious bites from local restaurants. DJ Stann Tate makes a return appearance to lead everyone in letting loose on the dance floor in the Library.

Donors can win prizes, including several unique experiences. The event also features a scavenger hunt with a chance to register for a special prize. Patrons can view videos to learn more about the Library and its programs.

Donate online before and during the event: all donations are greatly appreciated. Gift dollars enhance Library services and programs above and beyond what taxpayer dollars provide. They are a vital part of Johnson County Library’s success.

Stollsteimer is especially gratified that Library supporters remained so generous during the COVID pandemic. Corporate sponsors lined up for the virtual Library Lets Loose events and are once again showing their support this year.

Last Chance: Friends Bookstores Closing!

Antioch & Blue Valley Bookstore Clearance Sales

July 26, 28, & 30, 2022: 75% off Clearance Sale in Friends library bookstores

Expanded Final Sale Hours:

Tuesdays, 10:00 am - 5:00 p.m.

Thursdays, 12:00 pm - 7:30 p.m.

Fridays, 10:00 am - 5:00 p.m.

Saturdays, 10:00 am - 5:00 p.m.

The last day of business for both stores is Saturday, July 30, 2022.