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Teens Thrive in Library's Summer Volunteer Program

Johnson County Library resumed its in-person teen volunteer program this summer, and 90 young people took advantage of that opportunity in June and July.

They provided over 1,300 hours of invaluable service at six branches: Antioch, Blue Valley, Corinth, Leawood, Lenexa and Monticello. They helped with book distributions, shelved materials, and even created book displays and colorful window art.

Students volunteering at the busy Blue Valley branch said it was an intellectually-engaging experience.

“I wanted to do it for the benefit of the community itself,” said Arham Chundrigar, 15, who attends Blue Valley West High School. “If you enjoy the Library itself, it’s a great way to get involved within it.”

Chundrigar gave out free books to families who visited the branch.  

“I would familiarize myself with each book and provide recommendations for people’s age levels,” he said.

Volunteering gave Raghu Penugonda, 16, of Blue Valley Southwest High, an appreciation for the diversity of Library patrons. “So many people were willing to come in and try to get a book to read over the summer,” he said. “So it really taught me a lot about what the community looks like here.”

Chelsea McCollam, 17, of Blue Valley West High, enjoyed the Library atmosphere.

“When I started shelving Holds,” she said, “I remembered why I like the Library, and then I checked out my own books. It renewed the love of trying to explore books.”

The pandemic halted in-person teen volunteer efforts in 2020 and 2021. But this summer it was once again safe to invite young people ages 13-18 to participate. Nearly everyone who applied was placed at a branch, working as many hours as they wished.

Summer is the ideal time, because teens are available and Library staff can really use the help. That was especially true with Blue Valley’s book distribution, where teens greeted families and provided excellent patron service.

“They just made it really fun and welcoming,” said Kate McNair, Johnson County Library’s Teen Services Coordinating Librarian. “We definitely had a lot of teens who wanted to contribute their creativity and their passion to the Library, which I think is really cool.”

While the teens get volunteer service credits, the Library is also a great first-job experience. Students have to apply and interview. They sign up for shifts and have to show up on time.

“So these are all great skills that they can be building in a pretty judgment-free, safe environment,” McNair said.

Christina Larkins, youth information specialist at Corinth, was thrilled to have about 30 teens volunteer at her branch.

“The teens were incredibly kind and smart and many of them had a lot of self initiative and drive,” she said. They pitched in wherever needed, including watering the Corinth garden and decorating the windows.

an image of painted windows in the children's section of Corinth library

Summer is a really busy time at Corinth. “So it really helps having extra hands,” Larkins said. “Those little small tasks add up and really help us focus on moving literal mountains of books.”

Johnson County Library has other innovative youth activities. Teens can sign up to review books, with their insightful critiques posted at They can also join the Young Adult Literary Councils, sharing favorite books and participating in fun activities such as author visits and game days.

McNair eagerly anticipates Summer 2023, building on a mutually beneficial program for staff and youth in 2022.

“You get a chance to build a relationship,” McNair said. “You see them build skills and help them grow, and that I think is something that’s really fulfilling for our staff. I know it’s really fulfilling for me.”


Meet the Presenter: Brendan Kiely

I first met Brendan Kiely on Twitter. I knew of his work, notably the New York Times Bestselling All American Boys, which he co-wrote with Jason Reynolds. But when I saw him getting out of an elevator in in Rochester, New York (I was there moving my oldest into a dorm room), I was too shy to say hello. So I did what shy writers do: I tweeted him.

And he was gracious and kind and told me that the next time we crossed paths, I should say hello. Little did I know how soon that next time would happen: I met him for real at the Solstice Low Residency MFA Program, where I was an MFA candidate and he was a new faculty member, teaching Writing for Young Adults.

In the short time I’ve known Brendan, I’ve been consistently awed by his enthusiasm for words, for writers and for people. He’s excited to talk about writing and books, he’s eager to encourage writers to work on their projects, and he’s willing to have conversations about subjects silly and serious. He’ll be leading two sessions at our Writers Conference: Writing for Young Adults and Writing Place, both on Friday, Nov. 18. 

Brendan has been quoted as saying, "...for me, writing fiction is an act of social engagement. I want my work to participate in relevant cultural conversations." That commitment is evident in his most recent book, The Other Talk: Reckoning with Our White Privilege. In addition to being on the faculty of our Writers Conference, Brendan will be in conversation with local student Tahraji Milsap on Thursday, Nov. 17. We invite both students and parents to attend.

More about Brendan, via his official bio:

Brendan Kiely is The New York Times bestselling author of All American Boys (with Jason Reynolds), Tradition, The Last True Love Story, and The Gospel of Winter. His most recent book is The Other Talk: Reckoning with Our White Privilege. His work has been published in over a dozen languages, and has received the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, the Walter Dean Meyers Award, and ALA’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. A former high school teacher, he is now on the faculty of the Solstice MFA Program. He watches too much basketball and reads too many books at the same time, but most importantly, he lives for and loves his wife and son.

Learn more about Brendan on his website or follow him on Twitter.

-- written by Lisa Allen, adult services information specialist


TBT: It's Hip to be Square

As you very well know, September is National Square Dance Month. 'Do si do' and 'swing your partner' over to Jocohistory, where you can enter the search term "square dancing." It's a fun glimpse into a different time as we celebrate this Throwback Thursday.

Remember, Jocohistory is the place to time travel through local history. Be sure to follow our hashtag on Twitter!

Some call TBT the best day of the week.


What do you know about the Library?

It's the Library Lowdown Quiz Showdown Part I
We love quiz podcasts and radio programs like “Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!” We also live for getting to know everything there is to know about Johnson County Library! What do you know? What do we know? Get ready for a variety of Library games! In this fantastically fun episode, we play Bluff the Librarian with Local Arts Librarian Bryan and Library Password with Matt, Patti and Courtney.

Be sure to stay until the end when we announce the winners of our at-home Crossword and Word Search!


Meet the Presenter: Steven Kolbe

The mystery genre has been around for approximately 181 years, with Edgar Allen Poe's The Murders In The Rue Morgue commonly attributed with creating the first literary detective. Whether there's a body found in the library, a gritty crime scene marked off by caution tape or a prized artifact found stashed away, mystery stories of all shapes and sizes are here to stay.

Steven J. Kolbe is no stranger to a mystery — after all, he writes mystery novels, reads and reviews mystery novels, and teaches folks how to write a good mystery. His most recent novel, How Everything Turns Away, features a suspended FBI agent who stumbles upon a grisly murder and seeks to find the victim justice before the killer strikes again.

Steven studied at NOCCA and LSU in Louisiana before moving to Kansas to attend Kansas State University, where he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in English.  Before calling himself a writer, he was a student worker for the prestigious literary journal The Southern Review. According to Steven, if you received a formal rejection letter in the mid-2000s, he probably sealed the envelope.

When he's not writing, Steven spends time with his wife and three children in their home in Southwest Kansas. An avid library supporter and fan of mystery novels, Steven also enjoys blogging about his traveling adventures as well as sharing writing tips.

Steven will be sharing his expertise at this year's Writers Conference. He will present a session titled "Abnormal Psychology in Fiction,” lead a workshop on how to add tension to a scene and sit on a panel about rejection and critique.        

Learn more about Steven at his website.

-- written by Jesseca Bear, adult services information specialist


Cast Your Vote for Best Library

Voting for the Pitch's Best of KC 2022 is open through Sept. 30, and three of our locations are on the ballot for Best Library Branch on the Kansas side!

We think all our branches are pretty great, but if your favorite is Central Resource, Corinth, or Lenexa City Center, head on over to the ballot to spread the word. There's no category for Best Library Patrons but if there were, we're sure ours would win!


This Week at the Library

This week at the Library, you can join us at:

Library OnDemand Available anytime you like.

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

Walk and Read at Listowel Park Saturday, Sept. 17 - Sept. 25, Anytime

Johnson County Library, Shawnee Parks and Recreation Department and De Soto Parents as Teachers invite you to visit the Walk and Read program at Listowel Park. “Imagine” and “Lucky Leaf” will be posted.

Young Adult Literary Council In-Person event Sunday, Sept. 18, 2 - 3 p.m.

Teens are invited to join the Young Adult Literary Council to share favorite books, pick up advanced reader copies of teen books to read and review, and participate in other fun activities such as author visits, game days, event planning and more. You can meet new people and receive volunteer credit hours for your time with us.

The Art of InterviewingWednesday, Sept. 21, 6:30 - 8 p.m. 

Your resume got you noticed and invited for an interview. Now it’s game time! Professional development consultant Efren Mojica of All About You Consulting will outline the entire interview life cycle: pre-interview, interview, and post-interview, as well as how to adapt to the increasingly-common virtual interview.

Writers Conference PregameThursday, Sept. 22, 6:30 - 8 p.m. 

Excited for the November Writers Conference? Us too! We’re so excited, in fact, that we can’t wait until November to start! Get a head start with our first-ever Writers Conference Pregame at the Central Resource Library. Meet fellow writers and conference planners, review session descriptions, register and pick up a free copy of our conference book, Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways by Sarah Stein Greenberg (as supplies last). Faculty will join, both in-person and virtually.

And much more happening this week »


Search our Web Catalog using lists!

When you search our catalog, you can search by 'lists,' Librarian and user-created ways to browse for something new to read! Looking for readalikes for a favorite book, or maybe a subject your young reader is obsessed with? Try searching for lists today!


Get Your Financial House in Order

Johnson County Library is delighted to present Nancy Doyle, personal finance expert and financial literacy advocate, to offer patrons invaluable advice on managing their financial lives more effectively and confidently.

Doyle will share her insights on “Getting Your Financial House in Order,” on Oct. 11 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. via Zoom. Register online to attend.

Doyle, who is based in Chicago, is the author of two books: Manage Your Financial Life: A Thoughtful, Organized Approach for Women, and Manage Your Financial Life: Just Starting Out. In her books, speeches and consulting work, Doyle provides easy-to-understand strategies and real-life examples to illustrate key concepts for women, millennials, families and those dealing with life transitions.

She offers an independent, objective approach to financial planning, which is important in money matters.  Doyle is a passionate advocate for personal financial literacy and also a big supporter of public libraries.

Doyle’s presentation is part of Johnson County Library’s fall programming. Career and Finance Librarian Marty Johannes says it fits right in with the mission of helping patrons navigate challenging times. 

“Financial literacy is always an important skill to develop,” Johannes said, “but especially as we emerge from the pandemic it becomes an even more critical skill.”

At a complex time when people are bombarded with numerous financial choices, accounts and platforms, Doyle will explain how to make better financial decisions and how to gain peace of mind through a kind of financial “spring cleaning.”

According to Ms. Doyle, “getting organized is an essential first step for managing your financial life.” After Doyle presents, there will be time for questions and answers.

Doyle brings 30 years of experience in investments and wealth management. She is an experienced family office investment professional. She has also been an equity research analyst and consulted on investor relations strategies for financial services companies.

She is a graduate of Georgetown University and received her MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. She holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and is a Professional Member of the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals.

Doyle’s presentation is one of six Career and Finance programs offered this September and October by Johnson County Library. Other programs provide information on funding for small businesses, writing a resume that gets results and preparing for a successful job interview.

The Library will also offer the highly-popular program, Step-by-Step Through the FAFSA. Jason Anderson of Gradmetrics walks line-by-line through the FAFSA form and explains the ins-and-outs of the college admissions and financial aid process. The program will be offered online in September, and as a hybrid program (in-person and online) in October. 

Information on all these programs is available in the Fall guide, available in Library branches and online.

Johannes notes that during the pandemic, the Library created a robust archive of online career and finance webinars that people can watch when it’s most convenient for them.

“We and our patrons discovered the beauty of virtual programs,” Johannes said. “For us, it has meant we’ve been able to really expand our reach beyond those who could come into the Library and beyond those who could attend the live program at a specific time.” 

Most archived online programs are available on the Johnson County Library’s YouTube channel.  They can also be accessed from the Career Development and Personal Finance Research webpages.