Youth Specialist has Lifelong Connection to Johnson County Library

Youth Information Specialist Cassidy Coles

Youth Information Specialist Cassidy Coles

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.