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This Week at the Library

Library OnDemand – Available anytime you like.

Spooky Story Youth Contest – Sept. 5 – Oct. 5, online, All Day 

Submissions accepted September 5-October 5 Dark nights. Abandoned cabins. Eerie noises. What restless spirits will you bring to life in your spooky story? All youth writers in grades 3-12 are welcome to submit a spooky story. Winning writers will receive a prize and their stories will be featured on the Library’s website for all to enjoy. Winners will also have the opportunity to read their stories aloud at our “Night of Fright” on October 30th. Guidelines: Open to writers in grades 3-12 this fall and one submission per writer, please.

Two Chapters Book Club – Tuesday, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov.7, Dec. 5, 4 - 5 p.m.

Join us at Central Resource Library to hear a librarian read aloud the first two chapters of a favorite book and then decide to check out a copy if you like it. If the chapters are short, we might sample more. Snacks and activities related to the book will be provided. Ages 7-11.

Teen Book Club – Sept. – Dec., Sept. – Dec, Different dates and times at three locations.

We are proud to present the Library’s first ever Teen Book Club at three locations! Let’s get together to share our love of reading and chat about each month’s books. No registration necessary. Come join us at Antioch, Blue Valley and Lenexa—or mix and match! Bring your own book or check out the month’s book ahead of time from the Library—each title is offered in the catalog as a physical copy and eBook.

Walk and Read at Sar-Ko-Par Park – Saturday, Sept. 9 – Sept. 17, All Day

Family and friends of all ages are invited to join Johnson County Library for a walk in at Sar-Ko-Par Park! Walk and Read creates a reading opportunity for all, in various parks throughout Johnson County. Those who participate will read two stories posted around a path, one going each direction. When you finish one story, you can turn around to the other side of the sign and begin the next story, which will lead you back around the path. The stories are Books Aren’t For Eating by Carlie Sorosiak and Once Upon a Goat by Dan Richards.

 The Walk and Read program encourages physical activity, literacy and family time. The paths are stroller and wheelchair friendly, allowing for all to join in the fun! Dates are subject to adjustment due to inclement weather conditions. 

And much more happening this week … 


Meet the 2023 Writers Conference Presenter: Meet Joaquín Zihuatanejo

We are thrilled to announce that Dallas Poet Laureate and World Poetry Slam champion Joaquín Zihuatanejo will be joining us for the 2023 Writers Conference! Joaquín will be our keynote speaker at the Conference Kickoff event on November 2nd, he will lead poetry and revision workshops during both days of the Conference November 3rd and 4th, and he will also host the Johnson County Library Writers Conference Poetry Slam Championship to close out a weekend of writing fun.

Joaquín was born and raised in East Dallas and his work is reflective of the Chicano culture he grew up with, particularly life in the barrio. He’s been called, “one of the most dynamic and passionate performance poets in the country, melding equal parts comedy, poetry, and dramatic monologue into a crowd-pleasing display of verbal fireworks… always thrilling, Joaquín’s hilariously manic presentation is full of compassion and nuance, never sacrificing substance for style.” 

Not only is he a National Poetry Slam Finalist, he also holds several other impressive titles: a Grand Slam Spoken Word Champion, HBO Def Poet, world-renowned teacher, performer, poet, and husband to his beloved wife, Aída.

We asked Joaquín a few questions to get to know him better:

1. What's in your TBR pile? 

The Misfit's Manifesto by Lidia Yuknavitch 

2. What are you reading right now? 

The Seven Good Years by Edgar Keret 

3. Do you have a favorite book you love to recommend? 

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon 

4. Do you have a favorite bookstore? 

Deep Vellum Books followed closely by the original Half Price Books both in Dallas, Texas.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

First book that I read that looked and sounded like me and my familia: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

We look forward to seeing you Nov. 2-4 to write, network, and talk books with us! You can register to attend the Nov. 2 Kickoff with Joaquín here with  and you can register for both days of the Writers Conference here. For the Conference, your RSVP is for both days and sessions will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. We look forward to seeing you there! 





Black & Veatch Support ‘Amplifies’ Library Services

It would be an understatement to say that the Library’s MakerSpace had humble origins.

Its original home was not much bigger than a closet, said Shelley O’Brien, executive director of the Johnson County Library Foundation. But now the area at the Central Resource Library serves almost as a branch within a branch — offering state-of-the-art capabilities like 3D printing and providing space where creators of all types mingle.

The upgraded surroundings have “really amplified the program and amplified what we can do,” O’Brien said, putting the Library on the cutting edge of the experiential learning that will define the library of the future. “This is not a trend,” she said. “This is not going away.”

And none of that would be possible without the more than $30,000 a year that Overland Park-based Black & Veatch provides as the sponsor of the MakerSpace, she said. The global design and engineering firm’s commitment to the Library extends to serving this year as the presenting sponsor of the library foundation’s annual fundraiser. 

As an international corporation, Black & Veatch has no shortage of potential causes to back, O’Brien said. “It means a lot to us for them to say they want to invest their philanthropic dollars into a local nonprofit like the Foundation, and a local organization like the Library.”

Outside support is critical to providing a range of services to patrons, and O’Brien said Black & Veatch’s financial commitments play a significant role in allowing the Library “to have innovation and creativity, and to provide the community with these great tools.”

There is perhaps no better spokesman for Black & Veatch and its commitment to the Library than Pete Barth, an Illinois native who moved here from Davenport, Iowa, in 2014 with his wife.

He is the company’s engineering partnerships leader and serves on the board of the Library foundation. Barth is also the son of a teacher who preached the value of reading and is an active patron of Olathe’s Indian Creek Library as the father of three kids ages 8 and under.

The parent in him loves that libraries now have playgrounds and cool indoor activities that excite kids to just be at the library as a first step to gaining a love of reading. He knows that is the case with his children.

In his professional role, Barth welcomes the opportunity for the company to support a free public resource that provides equitable access to all members of the community. Black & Veatch is also happy to help students cultivate an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

Library Lets Loose provides essential funding for the extras the Library offers, O’Brien said, including the varied programming that keeps people coming back to the branches. Barth said Black & Veatch’s role as the presenting sponsor is a way to help “amplify the event and the importance of the library system in general.”

“I think it’s fair to say that the library is an integral part of every community,” he said. “We are just glad to be a part of it and help to support the growth of both the MakerSpace and the library infrastructure in Johnson County in general.

“We are proud of our community, we want to be a part of the community, want to be visible in the community, and want to give back to all those communities that support our professionals and our business.”

Barth was not exactly a bookworm as a teen, but it seems his mom’s prodding planted a seed for adulthood because reading is now a welcome stress relief. “It’s a good way for me to escape and displace,” he said. 


Meet the 2023 Writers Conference Presenter: Elle Jackson

Elle Jackson is a champion of the powerful impact of writing and reading fiction, and she knows fictional stories can be excellent tools to chip away at inequities and destroy barriers. You might remember her interview for The Pitch in 2021, where she shared her experience as the first Black author to be published in Harlequin Historical’s line of romance novels.

Jackson primarily writes romance with a historical bent. Her novel A Blues Singer to Redeem Him is set in Kansas City and is the first book in Harlequin Historical’s line of romance novels to be written by a Black author. The novel is set in the 1920s during the prohibition era in Kansas City, and the main character is a Black female blue singer who survived the Tulsa Massacre.

Elle was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas. She has a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Baker University, an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Pittsburg State University. Teaching excellence and having a positive impact in her community are both paramount to Jackson, and she is currently a principal in her hometown of Kansas City. While Elle Jackson fulfills many roles (educator, writer, real estate professional) her most important roles are wife and mom to her two kiddos. 

You can find more about Elle and her books on her website here

We are thrilled to have Elle on our conference faculty this year! She will be presenting two sessions: “Romancing History” and “Writing Atmospheric Stories.” 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.

Inspired by this year’s conference book, By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, we asked Elle a few questions to get to know her better:

1. What's in your TBR pile?

The Coven by Harper Woods; 

The Never King Series by Nikki St. Crowe

2. What are you reading right now? 

The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

3. Do you have a favorite book you love to recommend? 

The Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

 Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

 Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

 Dread Nation by Justina Ireland and Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

4. Do you have a favorite bookstore? 

Willa's Books and Vinyl

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked

What book do you want to write next? I want to write a series that focuses on historical reimagining with a main character who is fearless but falls for someone and finally allows someone to take care of her.



Lenexa's Video Library

New JoCoHistory Blog Article

Lenexa’s Video Library: The Life and Times of Johnson County’s Largest Video Store 

It all began in the early-to-mid 1980s. Holly DeNeff was in dental school, but had come to feel that dentistry wasn’t the right fit for her after all. She wanted to start her own business and started looking around for the right industry. At the time, there were two boom industries for budding entrepreneurs: tanning salons and video stores. Holly mulled both of them over, working briefly at both to learn the businesses from the ground up. She worked her way up to a store manager position at National Video (a national chain with several locations in the area) and thought that maybe she’d found her industry.

Read the full article at the JoCoHistory Blog home »


Meet the 2023 Writers Conference Presenter: Kelly Yarbrough

Kelly Yarbrough is an artist in Manhattan, KS who mainly works with mixed media drawing. The Great Plains and prairie ecosystems have a special place in her heart, and their inspiration is evident in her work. Kelly has an MFA from Kansas State University.  She is a Regional Field Representative and Art & Environment specialist for the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, a facilitator for Artist INC, a trained Konza Prairie docent, and a 2021TEDx Austin College speaker.

Kelly loves meaningful conversations inspired by creativity and loves collaborating with other artists. We asked Kelly if she would be interested in collaborating with Traci Brimhall to illustrate the poetry walk that Traci is creating for the Library to coincide with the Writers Conference this year. The partnership between Kelly and Traci turned out to be a fascinating and dynamic relationship where both artists inspired each other in unique ways. We are really looking forward to not only seeing the poetry walk that Traci and Kelly have created, but we are also excited for their panel discussion about their collaboration at this year’s Writers Conference. The poetry walk will be available at Strang Park, located just behind the Central Resource Library, this upcoming November.

You can find more about Kelly and her artwork on her website here.

You can register for the Writers 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. 


Meet the 2023 Writers Conference Presenter: Dennis Etzel, Jr

Dennis Etzel, Jr is a Senior Lecturer of English at Washburn University, where he has been teaching since 2007. He is a neuroqueer poet and Topeka native, where he lives with his wife and sons. Poetry and inclusion are near and dear to Dennis’s heart, as you can see in his poetic memoir My Secret Wars of 1984 which was selected by The Kansas City Star as Best Poetry Book in 2015. His collection of poetry, Fast-Food Sonnets, was a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. 

Dennis has been described as an encouraging and enthusiastic teacher who intentionally provides a safe space for all, no matter if someone is an undergrad student or a veteran workshop attendee. His understanding of the important relationship between creativity and connection is another reason we are so excited to have Dennis at the conference this year. In past interviews he has said that he hopes his writing sparks conversation, and that is exactly what we hope to do at the Writers Conference: provide a space for inspiration and conversation for local writers. 

You can catch up with Dennis on his website here.

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

Inspired by this year’s conference book, By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, we asked Dennis a few questions to get to know him better:

 1. What's in your TBR pile?

Top three on my stack: Valkyrie Poetics by Swanee Astrid, Valley of the Many-Colored Grasses by Ronald Johnson, and A Sand Book by Ariana Reines

 2. What are you reading right now? 

I am currently reading The Book of Stolen Images by Laura Lee Washburn

3. Do you have a favorite book you love to recommend? 

So many favorite books, but AMANDA PARADISE: Resurrect Extinct Vibration by CA Conrad is one I recommend this year.

4. Do you have a favorite bookstore? 

My favorite bookstore is Round Table Bookstore which can be found in the NOTO Arts District in Topeka. A family of four run the store and they sell new and used books. It is so amazing--a visit as part of a perfect evening spent in NOTO

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

I am currently writing a hybrid non-fiction book titled At the Movies for health and Healing which collages memoir, research on film theory, and mythology as those stories that represent reality--that films give us a contemporary mythos to inform our lives and heal through experiencing.