New JoCoHistory Blog
As we bid farewell to 2023, the Johnson County Museum is proud to reflect on a year filled with achievements, community engagement, and memorable moments. Throughout the year, we remained dedicated to our mission of fostering a deep understanding of history and community-building as we welcomed over 50,000 visitors to the Museum and Lanesfield Historic Site. Our visitors’ enthusiasm and engagement fuel our commitment to providing quality exhibits, educational programming, and a space for families to create lasting memories in KidScape. Here’s a glimpse into our notable accomplishments and a sneak peek at what’s to come in 2024.
Read the full article on the JoCoHistory Blog.»
Hello and welcome to the first No Wait Wednesday post of 2024, where we take a look at a book that's on the New Release shelf at one of our local Libraries that might deserve a bit of extra attention. Nobody likes to wait in line for something good to read, so if the hold list for the latest bestseller might seem a bit daunting, come on over and check out a great book that's right here, ready and waiting for you.
Professor, poet, and novelist Ron Rash might be in the conversation as one of the best authors that many folks have never heard of. Critically-acclaimed, a regular on year-end best of lists, and a PEN/Falkner Award finalist among many other accolades, Rash's "The Caretaker is his first novel in nearly ten years and needs to be on the radar of book groups as well as lovers of lovingly-crafted and atmospheric historical fiction. Coming in at a (relatively) slim 275 pages, this novel of an outsider who swears an oath to take care of his best friend's wife during wartime packs a tragic Shakespearean punch, with rich, evocative themes of loyalty, community, and several star-crossed relationships that test the boundaries of friendship itself.
Set in 1951 in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the small North Carolina community of Blowing Rock can't escape the reach of the Korean War, sending the son of one of the community's most prestigious families to the front. The Hamptons own the local sawmill as well as the general store, however scion Jacob was disowned from the family because he fell in love with and married a teenager from Tennessee who he met outside a movie theater very much against his family's wishes. Naomi is a hotel maid, from very much the wrong side of the tracks, and most importantly, is pregnant with Jacob's child. The couple are ostracized from the tight-knit community and have no friends, except for one: Blackburn Gant, Jacob's childhood buddy and live-in caretaker of the local cemetery. Blackburn suffered from a bout with polio as a child that left him partially disfigured and with a limp. As an outsider, he understands what Jacob and Naomi are going though, and when Jacob must travel across the globe to Korea and meet his fate, Blackburn offers to look after his bride, protecting her as best he can from the pressures of town, including local toughs looking to bully them as well as the surprisingly long reach of the Hampton family, who had their own plans for their son and are desperate to reclaim him back to their fold. When tragedy strikes Jacob in Korea, the shockwaves change Blackburn, Naomi, and the Hamptons forever.
Rash writes with a sparseness and with an authenticity that leaps off the page. His dialogue between characters especially shines, however you can feel the roots of his rural North Carolina even in the descriptions of the warm, syrupy-thick twilight when Blackburn is mowing the grass of the cemetery. However, the tone is not nostalgic - Rash has serious points to make about the dark side of a tight-knit community that distrusts outsiders - even if that outsider status is asked for. Readers attracted to literary fiction with a rich atmosphere, a strong sense of place, and with a touch of Southern Gothic vibes - such as Wiley Cash, Rick Bragg, and Daniel Woodrell - will find much to enjoy here.
Thanks for reading! Make sure to place your holds now, and we'll see you soon.
With our Tuesday Toolkit, we share Library tools you might not know about! This week's tool: Shelves.
Your favorite author just released a new novel and that has you ecstatic! Then reality hits. You haven't finished reading their last book and you've got 20-plus other books checked out. No worries! That's the purpose of the "For-Later" shelf.
You can keep track of what you've checked out and let others who think you have great taste keep up with what's trending in your world. How? Add those titles to your "In-Progress" shelf.
Finally, when you finish those books, eBooks or movies, add them to your "Completed" shelf. It's a little reminder of what you've read, what author had you screaming "Never again!", and what you've loved with all of your heart.
Where are these magic shelves? In the catalog. Your shelves simply are lists of items you have borrowed, are currently using, or want to borrow in the future. You are in charge! You determine what to put on your shelves. They are set to public by default so you can share ideas with your friends and all users of the BiblioCommons catalog system at other libraries. Not into sharing? If you so choose, you can change your shelves to private by going to My Settings and clicking on "Privacy." It's up to you!
So, give Shelves a try!
Library OnDemand – Programs available anytime you like on our YouTube channel
Your doorway into live and archived programs. Arts & Culture, Career & Finance, Community Matters, Writers and more!
Young Adult Literary Council – Tuesday, Jan. 9, 5 – 6 p.m.
Teens are invited to join the Young Adult Literary Council at the Lenexa City Center Library 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. Meet new people and receive volunteer credit hours for your time with us.
Tween Book Club – Wednesday, Jan. 10, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
If you’re age 9-13 and enjoy reading, this program is for you! Let’s get together at the Monticello Library to read new books, discuss ideas and characters, and meet other book lovers. Each session we read a different book, and staff will lead the group in a discussion about the book. Participants will get a free book while supplies last. Stop by the Youth Services desk to pick up your copy of the January book, Where the Lost Ones Go by Akemi Dawn Bowman.
Family Storytime at Lenexa Public Market – Wednesday, Jan. 10, 6 – 6:30 p.m.
Join us for a fun, flexible Storytime at Lenexa Public Market, 8750 Penrose Ln., next to the Lenexa City Center Library. 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.
Friends of the Library Pop-Up Book Sale – Saturday, Jan. 13, 9 a.m. – noon
Every five years, the Library’s strategic plan evolves and changes to better serve patrons and to improve operations and programming. The 2024-2029 strategic plan highlights three areas: building projects (both a new building and improvements to existing buildings); a reorganization of staff and job descriptions; and a focus on diversity, equity, belonging and inclusion efforts.
Merriam Plaza Library will open in spring 2024, but other building projects will also require focus, County Librarian Tricia Suellentrop said. These projects include maintenance work at the Shawnee Library, ongoing discussions in Prairie Village regarding a community center campus — that could include a new Corinth Library — and renovations to the Spring Hill and De Soto locations.
The Library is exploring a key-card system that would expand Library hours at Spring Hill and De Soto without adding additional staff by allowing patrons into the buildings before and after staff are present. This might benefit students and others who need extended access to Wi-Fi and often use the Library’s parking lots to connect.
Suellentrop and Deputy County Librarian Kinsley Riggs also highlighted anticipated service improvements resulting from a personnel reorganization within the system.
The reorganization is intended to “turn the dial up” on customer service, Suellentrop said. Branches have the mantra of, "how do we get to ‘yes’?” in filling even the most difficult requests. “Staff will now have more time to get someone closer to what they need and what they want,” Suellentrop said.
Changing job descriptions and duties and adding new positions focused on programming, Riggs said, helps the Library provide “the right programs in the right places based on what our patrons need and want.”
Riggs notes that those programs could be online or in the branches; but the bigger hope is for the Library to get out into the community more by participating in school events, farmers markets, festivals and other gatherings and events. The intent is also to build on partnerships with other county departments, such as Johnson County Corrections or outside partners like Growing Futures Early Education Center.
“It’s possible we will see an increase in programs,” Riggs said. “It just depends on when we hit the right stride.”
The third focus of the new strategic plan is an integration of county-wide efforts to improve diversity, equity, belonging and inclusion. In Library operations, these efforts will include working to ensure that both staffing and programming decisions (including author visits, program topics, storytimes, book groups and more) align with the vision and mission of Johnson County’s DEIB goals.
As with the previous five-year plan, this updated version has five key performance areas (KPAs): education, operations, community, communication and convenience. Tweaks to the language in the vision for each KPA emphasize the Library’s focus on the Johnson County community.
Also on the horizon in the coming years is a refresh to the Library website and security reviews at branches.
Meanwhile, Library officials will continue managing consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, some positive and some not. One challenge is training staff to respond to an increasing unhoused population and their use of Library spaces.
Because the Library learned during the pandemic that patrons appreciate curbside service when possible, the Library has continued curbside service at five locations. It will also remain fine-free, which Suellentrop said provided a “really great test for the Library board” and gave members the confidence to keep it in place moving forward.
You can view the strategic plan as well as the Library’s mission, vision and values on the Johnson County Library website.
It’s another grand Throwback Thursday when we encourage you to time travel through Johnson County's history. JoCoHistory is a collaborative presentation of the history from the Johnson County Museum, Johnson County Library and many JoCoHistory partners. Explore historical photographs and documents about the people, places and organizations of Johnson County, Kansas, from the 19th century to the present.
Collection spotlight: Johnson County Museum
About this collection: The Johnson County Museum has a wide range of images dating from the late 19th century to the current day. A major focus of the collection centers on individuals and groups of people in domestic, recreational, scholarly and business settings.
With our Tuesday Toolkit, we share Library tools you might not know about! This week's tool: How to search for staff-generated booklists in the catalog!
You will find a search bar near the top of every page of our website, just under the navigation menu bar. Select the options to Search the "Catalog" by "List" from the dropdown menus. Then, type "JCL" in the search box.
That's how easy it is to search for staff-generated booklists in the catalog!
You'll find booklists for book groups, leadership, suggested genres and sub-genres, books for language learners, early literacy picks, most wanted titles, recommended teen titles and more! There are well over 400 staff-generated booklists in the catalog!
Johnson County Library locations are closed Monday, Jan. 1 for New Year’s observance.
Look what’s coming in the new year!
- New Merriam Plaza Library is opening in Spring 2024 with approximately 15,000 square feet and will pay homage to some of Antioch’s most beloved features such as reading nooks in the kids section. Community input sessions held by the Library and architects led to features such as a convenient drive-thru, a large meeting room with updated technology to host storytimes and other events, plus two well-equipped study rooms and a variety of seating options across the branch.
- Local art exhibitions will be continuing as Johnson County Library partners with InterUrban ArtHouse to curate a diverse selection of artwork to display in the Library’s physical and digital spaces. While you view these exhibitions at the Library you can also scan the QR codes at each and listen to the artist’s audio commentaries and read their bios.
And the tradition at Johnson County of offering a variety of resources for writers of all levels of experiences will still include lectures, workshops, contests and opportunities to share work with our community.