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No Wait Wednesday:

Hello and welcome to this week's edition of #NoWaitWednesday, where we look at a title on the New Release shelf at one of our Library branches that's just waiting for a lucky patron to check it out - all without worrying about a lengthy waiting list. 

Others Were Emeralds is the debut adult coming-of-age novel by internationally acclaimed writer and poet Lang Leav. A stunning novel about guilt, friendship, and loss, this story will move readers who love insightful and lush writing from authors like Etaf Rum or Ocean Vuong. The story begins in the 1990s with Ai, the daughter of Cambodian refugees who fled their war-torn country and settled in small-town Australia to rebuild their shattered lives. Her friend group is a small but a tight-knit one, likewise populated by second-generation Asian immigrants who are trying to find their own way in a place far different from where their parents were from - which is difficult all its own, but made even more so by the arrival of adolescence and the difficulties of navigating secondary school.

The novel is primarily character-driven with the author focusing on the multilayered, invisible, and sometimes painful teen relationships between Ai and the prettier and more charismatic Brigitte, the politically-minded Sying, and the shy, withdrawn Tin, among others. A series of misunderstandings drives the friends further apart and those friendship are eventually shattered when an encounter with some local racist teen boys inflamed by the anti-Asian prejudice that swept Australia goes horribly wrong. Afterward, Ai graduates and goes off to Sydney for college, still haunted by the memories of her hometown, however a breakdown during her second year causes her to come back and confront her past and reconnect with those she thought she left behind, and she realizes that both time and distance have altered everyone's points of view.

Leav's poetry background shines, as the words and phrases she artfully selects cut to the core of each of the characters - she can present an array of emotions by just a few words or a gesture from one of her cast. Coming in at just under 300 pages, this novel is ideal for a reader who likes the thought of a meaty read but might be scared away by the length (and heft) of similarly themed novels. Leav skillfully cuts all traces of fat, leaving an impeccably tailored, insightful novel that bridges the gap between Teen and Adult audiences. 

Place your holds! Thanks, as always, for reading, and we'll see you next week. 


This Week at the Library

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

Poetry Walk at Strang Park – Daily, Nov. 1 - Nov. 30, All Day 

Meander through Strang Park while you enjoy poetry by Traci Brimhall, Poet Laureate of Kansas, on the theme of Memory Palace. Poetry boards with accompanying artwork by Kelly Yarbrough will be placed throughout the park. 

Read Under the Stars – Wednesday, Nov. 15, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Elementary aged kids and their families, please join us at the Monticello Library for a low-sensory personal reading experience. We invite you to bring your own book (or borrow one of ours!), curl up and read in our quiet starlit Library space.

Teen Bookish Battle – Sunday, Nov. 19, 1 – 2:30 p.m.

Do you have a ton of bookish trivia rattling around in your brain? Test your knowledge in our Teen Bookish Battle and win great prizes! Grab your friends and join us at the Lenexa City Center Library  for an afternoon of books, trivia, and light refreshments, all planned by our Young Adult Literary Council.

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


Read Under the Stars

Elementary aged kids and their families, please join us for a low-sensory personal reading experience. We invite you to bring your own book (or borrow one of ours!), curl up and read in our quiet starlit Library space. No registration necessary.

Wednesday, Nov. 15, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Monticello Library

Thursday, Nov. 16, 4-6 p.m.
Central Resource Library

Bend Sunds (in orange shirt) on a UN mission trip to Mali with a Chinese Army unit.

Bend Sunds (in orange shirt) on a UN mission trip to Mali with a Chinese Army unit.

Army Veteran's Career of Service Continues at Johnson County Library

Over the last few years, Johnson County Library has closed (and then reopened) during a global pandemic, then faced a cascade of subsequent challenges — from locating personal protective equipment (PPE) to navigating supply chain issues. Throughout this time, the Library has been able to call on the skills of Ben Sunds, the Library’s associate director for customer experience since 2018, whose previous military experience provided the training needed to help navigate these tricky situations.

Before joining the Library, Sunds had a previous 32-year career with the U.S. Army, mostly in special operations. That included command of a battalion at Fort Bliss, Texas from 2013 to 2015. During that time, Fort Bliss was the base where soldiers who had helped contain a deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa quarantined on their return to the U.S. 

“No one got sick,” Sunds says, recalling that successful quarantine operation.   

“We all had to go through the PPE training. I thought that was a very military term. Now it’s in people’s common vernacular,” he said. “We all had to learn all the protocols.” 

He never imagined he would experience the fallout from another epidemic as has happened in recent years with the COVID-19 epidemic. 

“But I’m very thankful for the training experience,” he says now. “It breeds a lot of resilience and perspective.”   

Sunds had a fascinating and fulfilling Army career that took him to 26 different countries. He did combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq but most of his work involved civilian/military cooperation, forging good relations with diverse cultures, including remote villages in Pakistan. One United Nations mission involved helping Tajikistan, in Central Asia, to make sure it maintained a stable government. 

“I liked the adventure part of stumbling into something and not being able to communicate. I find that part exhilarating, not frightening,” he said.  

He and his wife Shannon always knew they would wind up back in the Midwest; he grew up in Iowa and she grew up in Nebraska and they met at Northwest Missouri State in Maryville. He finished his Army career as deputy director for the special operations education department at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. 

The family, including daughter Jessica and son Garrett, settled in Shawnee. When Sunds retired from the military in January 2018, he still craved a public service-oriented job and landed in his new position at Johnson County Library in May 2018. He has discovered that, like with military special operations, Johnson County Library is full of “very highly educated people but very united in a common cause.”  He enjoys supervising the staffs that handle internal and external communications, in-house support training, and information technology. He appreciates these employees’ skills and strengths and how everyone has risen to the occasion during the recent COVID-19 pandemic.  

One of the first things that attracted Sunds to Johnson County Library was the fact that the organization had a strategic plan, and he was impressed with its specific mission and vision. That was familiar to him, coming from a military background, and he’s found this job to be a great fit. He was looking for a culture that embodied community engagement, service and lifelong learning and caring.

“And I think I found all that,” he says, “in the Library.”

More than 26,000 veterans reside in Johnson County, and 200 Johnson County Government employees working in 19 departments have self-reported their veteran status. In honor of Veterans Day, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners issued a proclamation to recognize all veterans, military members on active duty and reservists in the Armed Forces. The County will observe Veterans Day today at 11 a.m., at the Lenexa National Guard Armory, 18200 West 87th Street Pkwy., located just west of Renner Road.

The event recognizes veterans from all Armed Forces for their military service. It’s open for the public to attend and will also be livestreamed on Johnson County’s Facebook page and online at Johnson County employees who have served in the Armed Forces are part of a veterans slide show featured on that page.

You can also find Library materials related to Veterans Day with one of these lists:

Tudor style dwelling

An example of Mission Hills architecture.

Cities and Towns of Johnson County

Time travel through Johnson County's history on this beautiful throwback Thursday. Did you know is the best place to explore historical photographs and documents about the people, places and organizations of Johnson County, Kansas, from the 19th century to the present? JoCoHistory is a collaborative presentation of the history from the Johnson County Museum, Johnson County Library and many JoCoHistory partners.

If you want to probe for information on places like “cities and towns of Johnson County,” there’s simply no better place than JoCoHistory.


No Wait Wednesday: Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly by Marie Bostwick

Hello and welcome to #NoWaitWednesday, where we shine a spotlight on a book in the New Release section of one of our Library branches that's just sitting there ready for a lucky patron to check it out. Since we're getting deeper into November, some of you might be looking for a title that will bring some warmth into your lives, since the winter months are growing both shorter and darker. Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly by Marie Bostwick, this week's pick, will please readers who love warm, syrupy, emotional southern fiction novels by the likes of Mary Kay Andrews, Jill Shalvis or Susan Mallery.

The novel begins with Esme believing that she has, indeed, failed spectacularly - she was recently fired from her high-profile big city publishing gig and just went through a tough divorce. In short, her life is completely different than what she expected it to be. When she hears about the sudden death of her grandmother, Adele, Esme packs her belongings and seizes on an opportunity to return to her childhood home in North Carolina to both help her family and to lick her wounds.

There, she discovers that the previously bustling lakeside resort run by her family is falling apart, bit by bit, as her grandfather is unable to keep up with repairs. Esme soon rolls up her sleeves and gets to work, not only helping her grandfather restore the small resort, but reestablishing tentative ties with her estranged mother, Robyn, with whom she has a checkered relationship and discovering that the new mysterious yet talented chef, who is living out of his van, might be more than he appears. 

She also discovers a box full of museum-quality vintage quilts left over from her late grandmother, along with some letters that shed much-needed light on long-thought-forgotten family lore. The narrative then shifts, telling the story from Adele's point of view, filling in many of the cracks in the family's history. Does Esme finally get some sort of redemption and find a path forward? Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly is a heartwarming novel about different kinds of family - both the natural and found types - and how the decisions we make can still lead us home. Marie Bostwick lovingly paints the picture of an Asheville, North Carolina, that readers will fall in love with and excels at the gentle humor, wit and exploration of the deep personal relationships that tug at the heartstrings and make readers feel both comforted and enlightened. Brew yourself a nice, tall glass of sweet iced tea - well, since this is November in the Midwest, maybe a mug of hot tea will have to do - and place this one on your holds lists if you can't snag it off the New Release shelf. 

Thanks for checking in with us on #NoWaitWednesday, and we'll see you next week!


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