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This Week at the Library

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

READ to A Dog with Pets For Life – Tuesday, Nov. 7, 3:30 – 5 p.m.

Join us at the Antioch Library for this program. The Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) 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.

Family Storytime at Lenexa Public Market – Wednesday, Nov. 8, 6 – 6:30 p.m.

Join us for a fun Storytime at Lenexa Public Market! Hearing stories is a great way to spend time with your kids and help them foster a love of reading. Stories, songs, fingerplays and movement activities foster pre-reading skills. Fun for the whole family! The address of the Lenexa Public Market is 8750 Penrose Ln, Lenexa KS, 662119

Scribbler Society – Wednesday, Nov. 8, 4 – 5 p.m.

Young writers ages 10-14 are invited to this one-hour collaborative writing club at Central Resource Library. Writing prompts, activities, and encouragement will be provided as we confront the blank page and build a community of writers with monthly meetings. Registration is required each month.

And there’s much more happening this week … 

Already have a busy week?  Remember, you can watch recordings of many of our programs at your convenience with Library OnDemand


Election Day is November 7

Overview of upcoming dates for voters in the November 7th General Election: 

  • Nov. 6, 2023 – Advance voting in person closes at noon 
  • Nov. 7, 2023 - General Election - Polls open 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. 

If you're looking for information on candidates, advanced voting, and polling locations, check out our FAQ »


Why I Give: Amanda Vega-Mavec

I donate and volunteer for the Johnson County Library Foundation because libraries and books have always played an important role in my life. I want to help provide that opportunity for others. My first memory of a library is of the one from my grade school, where the librarian, Mrs. Sanchez, nurtured my love of reading and learning. She and my teachers realized that as long as I had a book in my hand, I was less likely to cause trouble. So, I always had a book in my hand. (And I was even allowed to shelve books as a reward!)

Those educators along with my parents also nurtured my desire to learn about all types of topics. No topic was off limits, but they created a safe opportunity for me to ask questions about and discuss any topic. This directly impacted my analytical and critical thinking skills. And, my ability to think for myself. I am so grateful they gave me these opportunities and think they should be available to every child.

Libraries serve many roles; I feel like I am always learning new things. For me, at this stage of my life, it’s about being a meeting place for the community. I go to the library for meetings for other groups I am involved with almost as much as I go to pick up books. Not too long ago we invited some family friends to join us for a library event. They ran into several friends, including a beloved staff member I also know well. In that moment the library was the mutual friend that brought us all together.

I am currently finishing Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Mind and on deck are Entre Guadalupe and Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art and Book Collecting Now: The Value of Print in a Digital Age. I always have a “next up” pile of books going. I will even start carrying around my next book before I finish the one I’m reading.


Meet the 2023 Writers Conference Planners!

Hopefully we’ve met you at one of our previous programs or at a past Writers Conference, but if not we’d love to meet you! Planning the annual Writers Conference is a joy and total labor of love. If you’d like to get to know the conference planners a bit more, continue reading below. We can’t wait to see you at this year’s Writers Conference!

You can register for the conference here. Registration isn’t required but is appreciated, and your RSVP includes both days of the conference, Nov. 3 and 4. Sessions are available on a first-come first-serve basis. We will also be hosting a Writers Conference Kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 2.

Helen Hokanson has worked at the Library for 25 years. She found her niche as the Local Writers Librarian in 2014 and leads our committee not just in planning the Writers Conference, but in envisioning and planning year-round programming, readings, and writing contests. Currently reading: Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room by Dawn Downey.

Joseph Keehn is the Events & Programs Coordinator for the Johnson County Library, where he plans, develops, implements, evaluates and manages programs and events that meet the diverse needs of all patrons. He has been with the Writers Conference since its beginning. 

Lisa Allen started at the Library in 2019 and joined the Local Writers Committee that same year. She is the Social Media Coordinator for the Library. This year at the conference Lisa will be offering one-on-one critiques on reading your work aloud at one of our drop-in activity tables.

Cindy Frazer has been at Johnson County Library since 1985 and has been on the Writers Conference committee for 7 years. Thanks to Cindy, we have signage and schedules and all those didn’t-think-of-that essentials that make the conference successful. 

Diane Haner has worked at the Library since 2001 and joined the Local Writers committee in 2016. She is an Information Specialist. Currently reading: Black Oscars: From Mammy to Minny, What the Academy Awards Tell Us about African Americans by Frederick Gooding Jr. Favorite book: “One of my favorite books is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.” TBR: “On my TBR pile is Pines by Blake Crouch and Bibi: My Story by Binyamin Netanyahu.”

Eden Pierce is an Information Specialist with Johnson County Library and the newest member of the Local Writers committee. It’s been a pleasure for her to get to know the community of writers in Kansas City and see how such different people can come together to share their writing and support each other. Her educational background is in English and creative writing, where she helped found an art and literature journal and worked as a newspaper copy editor. Eden will be available at the conference to discuss and hone your elevator pitches, helping you pinpoint and present the heart of your work. Currently reading: “I’ve been reading a ton of graphic novels this fall. I love the way your mind can fill in the blanks between comic panels to bring a story to life. At the moment, I’m reading Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, a bitter-sweet “tragicomic” memoir of Bechdel’s family.” Favorite book: “I like recommending Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott for its solid advice for both writing and life. Sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded to take your writing “bird by bird,” one thing at a time.”

Jesseca is an Information Specialist at Johnson County Library. She joined the Local Writers Committee in 2022 and has loved getting to work with so many local writers. Currently reading:  Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. Favorite book: “So hard to narrow it down! I guess I’ll pick Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.”

Photo from the early 20th century of the Missouri Pacific Railroad depot in Stilwell. Johnson County Museum

Photo from the early 20th century of the Missouri Pacific Railroad depot in Stilwell. Johnson County Museum

New JoCoHistory Blog Story on Trains has Arrived at the Station

Railroad-Inspired Johnson County Placenames

For anyone who hasn’t had the chance to visit the Johnson County Museum’s special exhibit, TRAINS: Transportation and the Transformation of Johnson County, you might be thinking: how much change did railroads really bring to a county that today has a modern, suburban, automobile-centered landscape? The TRAINS exhibit makes it clear that railroads transformed elements of Johnson County’s landscape, economy, society, and population. Access to the railroads held the fate of whole towns – including town names. Here are five examples of Johnson County, Kansas towns (past and present) named as a direct result of the railroads.

Read the full story on the JoCoHistory blog »


No Wait Wednesday: Where the Dead Sleep by Joshua Moehling

Hello and welcome to #NoWaitWednesday, where we turn the spotlight on a book on the New Release shelf that's hot, available, and ready for a lucky patron to check it out. No one likes waiting in line for the newest bestseller, but there's always quality authors that are lurking just under your nose at your local Library. 

Patrons love a good police procedural, and patrons really love a good rural police procedural, where the action is taken out of a big city with all of the security cameras and state-of-the-art forensic equipment and into a more rural setting, where resources are scarce and law enforcement cover a larger area with little help, armed only with their own skills, their knowledge of the community, and a deep sense of right and wrong. It's a situation rife with storytelling potential, and fans of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett novels, Craig Johnson's Longmire series, or Jane Harper's excellent Aaron Falk novels know that small towns often hide big secrets.

Joshua Moehling's novel Where the Dead Sleep features small-town Minnesota sheriff Ben Packard. Correction - make that acting sheriff, as Packard is really a deputy who is elevated to the top spot when the sheriff of the small town of Sandy Lake falls ill. Packard grew up in the community and is familiar with many of the local players, but left when he was younger and is now back after a personal tragedy, bringing a bit of an outsider's perspective to his job. The novel begins with an early-morning call when a local man, Bill Sanderson, is found shot while in his bed. Even though Bill is a respected, high-profile banker known by pretty much everyone in the community, he's also the sort of person who always has drama swirling around him: he's a known gambler who's previously stolen from a business partner, and he is also recently divorced - and then turned around and married his ex-wife's sister directly afterward. Not to mention his poker buddies who all say the right things to the police but seem to be hiding something. We quickly learn that plenty of locals have some sort of grudge against Bill, but clear and definitive evidence is hard to find, and Packard must sort through the different levels of lies, secrets, and cover-ups to find the real story, which spans generations of greed and corruption, rotting the community from both above and below.

Also, Packard must decide his own career path - does he fade into the background, continuing on as a local deputy, or does he run for sheriff himself, potentially opening up his personal life as a gay man in a very traditional small town, but also giving him the ability to find out what happened to his missing brother from long ago? Moehling shines when balancing the procedural part of the novel where we follow Packard's investigation and unraveling of Sanderson's death with Packard's interior thoughts as he considers revealing more of himself to those around him. The novel, like all great mysteries, jumps between the technical and the personal, and the small-town Minnesota setting with its sprawling cast of (sometimes) eccentric locals and tourists is fuel for a nice long series of novels.

Where the Dead Sleep is technically the second book in this series, but can easily be read as a stand-alone. (Curious readers can check out 2021's And There He Kept Her as a proper introduction.) Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next week!


Meet the 2023 Writers Conference Presenter: Natasha Ria El-Scari

We are thrilled to announce that Natasha Ria El-Scari will join us at this year’s Writers Conference! Natasha will facilitate a discussion between Traci Brimhall and Kelly Yarbrough as they dive into the details of their writer-artist collaboration while working on the Library’s November poetry walk in Strang Park. Make sure you don’t miss out on this great discussion and be sure to check out the poetry walk behind the library during the conference!

Natasha Ria El-Scari is a poet, performer, writer, Cave Canem alum, Ragdale Residency recipient and facilitator/educator for nearly two decades. Her poetry, academic papers, and personal essays have been published in anthologies, literary and online journals.  She has opened for and introduced many great writers, singers and activists, and has been featured at a host of universities and venues nationwide. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Natasha has a BA from Jackson State University and an MA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Natasha’s Black Feminist approach is reflected in her writing, poetry and performance pieces. Once asked in an interview what makes her unique she replied, “…most people lie to themselves, but I like to reveal myself.” 

In 2015 Natasha released her first book, Screaming Times (Spartan Press, 2015). Of her work, critic and poet Denise Low writes, “Poems lift off the page, almost reading themselves. Unlike some performance poetry, her words translate well to the printed page.” Her second book, The Only Other (Main Street Rag, 2016) dives into the taboo voice of the other woman. In 2019 Natasha released her first self-published and non-fiction book in collaboration with her son entitled, Mama Sutra: Love and Lovemaking Advice to My Son.  In 2020, Natasha self-released, I Say, T(He)y Say a chapbook about a special decade in her maternal grandmother’s life. In the same month she released Growing Up Sina, her first novel created after challenging herself creatively to grow outside of her first love, poetry. Her forthcoming work, Steelife, explores her feminist upbringing and the evolution of her womanhood.

Natasha’s CDs, DragonButterFirefly (2006), This is Love… (2010), CuddleComplex (2016), We Found Us (2023) and DVD Live at the Blue Room (2015) display how Natasha connects with any crowd with maternal warmth and unrelenting honesty. This mother of two adult children and a bonus son is also the founder and curator of Black Space Black Art, an organization created to promote the exhibition of African American visual arts and businesses. She is also the founder and curator of the Natasha Ria Art Gallery, a small powerhouse that focuses on exhibiting marginalized artists and cross genre cultural events. In 2021, Natasha was featured in the Emmy nominated PBS documentary 6 Streets and received the 2021 KC People’s Choice Award Winner for Best Author. In 2022 BSBA was awarded the Downtown KC Urban Hero Award. Natasha and her husband Kevin have plans to open her day and overnight urban retreat space for creatives in the future. For details and booking:

You can register for the conference here. Registration isn’t required but is appreciated, and your RSVP includes both days of the conference, Nov. 3 and 4. Sessions are available on a first-come first-serve basis. We will also be hosting a Writers Conference Kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 2.