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Staff Spotlight: Web Content Developer Brings Multimedia Talents to the Role

Dave Carson, web content developer and multimedia producer for Johnson County Library, brings a passion for storytelling, public speaking, movies, researching and writing to all his communication roles, which helps him thrive in the demanding job.

He cultivated those skills throughout his education and early career, first on the Olathe South High School forensics team in the late 1980s. (He fondly remembers seeing actor Paul Rudd shine in tournament improvisations as a Shawnee Mission West student).

Carson’s abilities in humorous and dramatic interpretation helped him earn a scholarship to Kansas State University, where he continued competing in forensics.

“By my senior year we took fourth in the nation,” Carson recalls. “I’m pretty proud of that.”

He got a master’s degree in rhetoric from K-State and taught at a Wichita college and then at Longview Community College. He also worked part-time for several years at Westport’s beloved Tivoli independent movie theater, where he befriended owner Jerry Harrington and saw countless great movies.

In the late 1990s, Carson got a second master’s degree in educational technology from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he helped create multi-media products to assist literacy teachers with their instruction.

From there, he went to work for Iowa Public Television for six years.

“We produced educational multimedia products. They were aired on Iowa Public Television and on National PBS,” Carson says. He also helped produce web content, plus educational products on CD-ROMS and DVDs that went to libraries and schools.

By then his own daughter, Hazel, was in elementary school and Carson wanted to return to Johnson County to be closer to family. He saw a Johnson County Library job posting that was a great fit for his skillset.

Carson has been with JCL since February 2007 and has had a big role in three website redesigns, including configuring Library web pages for smartphones. He and colleague Amy Field write a lot of the web content and he’s also involved in podcast creation and other initiatives.

He believes strongly in the Library’s mission, promoting literacy and lifelong learning and making a positive difference in the community.

“On a personal level,” he added, “I enjoy variety and the challenge of learning new things and adapting.” Keeping web content current and correct has been particularly urgent and important during the COVID pandemic.

“We are responsible for adding alerts to the website. We had to stay on top of that important messaging, for sure,” Carson explained.

Carson produces the Did You Hear?” monthly podcast, which he co-hosts with Charles Hower. The podcasts share compelling behind-the-scenes interviews and stories about Library staffers, patrons and services.

He’s also creating short YouTube video tutorials, introducing young learners to what the Library has to offer. The first videos will soon be released in both English and Spanish, and more will be released over time.

A third initiative involves producing science videos and other educational materials for children living in a Johnson County domestic violence shelter.

Carson lives near downtown Overland Park and enjoys gardening and spending time with his wife, Staci Carson.  His daughter Hazel is now 21 and in her senior year at Bard College in New York.

His father, Charles, lives in Gardner and is a loyal Gardner Library patron.

Carson says the work continues to be really engaging and fulfilling.

“The challenge is to reach more audiences as more and more content is available from so many sources,” he said. “I enjoy that. It’s a puzzle and I think we do a really good job of it.”

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Incarcerated Patrons Enjoy Library Cards, Other Services

Incarcerated Services Librarian Melody Kinnamon fervently believes Library services are for all Johnson County residents, including incarcerated individuals who can’t visit the branches. This year, Johnson County Library has expanded its outreach to Johnson County Corrections Department facilities on the New Century, KS, campus. Library staffers also assist Adult Residential Center clients serving alternative work-release sentences, and clients receiving intensive substance abuse treatment at the Therapeutic Community Center.

Kinnamon and other members of the Library’s incarcerated services team resumed in-person visits to the campus in April 2021. They’ve seen an uptick in the number of Library cards issued, called “justice cards.” And a pleasant Library space at the Adult Residential Center has been enhanced with additional books and more office hours. “The justice cards are Johnson County Library cards that are issued to the Corrections Department clients who reside within that system,” Kinnamon explained. “We are focusing more on this population and serving their specific needs better. I can see [the initiative] continuing to grow.” Kinnamon says about 100 new justice cards were issued in 2021, an increase over 2020. Clients can continue to use them at Johnson County Library locations even when they no longer reside at Corrections facilities.

Before the pandemic, Kinnamon and others offered in-person Library office hours on campus one day per week. From March 2020 through April 2021, they provided services virtually via Zoom. But they are now able to offer in-person Library office hours every Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. As many as 40 clients visit each time. “The Corrections Department is so amazing,” Kinnamon said. “They have welcomed us and accommodated us.” The department provides a lovely, sunny room with comfortable chairs. Johnson County Library arranges for local artists to display their work, and Johnson County Library Foundation grants provided thousands of dollars to purchase books, which clients can check out on site. ARC even added several children’s books in late 2021, after a client shared that they wanted to read to their child during their weekly video visit.

Library staffers also help clients find and check out up to three books each time from throughout the Library system, which are delivered to the campus by Johnson County couriers. “I really enjoy our conversations,” Kinnamon said. “We get to do a lot of readers’ advisory work.” Library staff and clients discuss favorite authors and books of all genres. Kinnamon recalls one man who visited the Library every Wednesday. He told her it was the best part of his week. “He could just be a Library patron for those 30 minutes and he said it meant a lot to him,” Kinnamon recalled. Other clients are equally appreciative.

Kinnamon and Information Specialist Scott Stone also lead a lively book club gathering with 8-10 clients once a month on campus. She said she learns so much from the clients, who are thoughtful and well-read. “It’s wonderful. I love that it’s voluntary,” she said “It says something that we have a waiting list. We have great, wonderful discussions.”

This partnership between Johnson County Library and county government is visionary and very worthwhile, Kinnamon emphasizes. “We are one of the few public Library systems in the nation that has an Incarcerated Services Librarian, that has realized the importance of serving that community,” she said. “We are very progressive and I just really appreciate both the [Library] Board’s support and Corrections’ support, and the partnerships within the County. The Library, Corrections, Johnson County Mental Health Department, Johnson County Library Foundation, everybody getting together to serve these people. We’ve got a lot of great people working to serve this population.”

You can find this story featured in the Spring 2022 Guide. The Guide is your source for Library news, upcoming events and programs, service highlights, Friends of Johnson County Library and Johnson County Library Foundation news and more. Pick up your copy at a Johnson County Library near you.
 

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Art Exhibitions a Vital Part of Library Branches

Creative exhibitions are finally back in Johnson County Library branches, and Local Arts Librarian Bryan Voell couldn’t be happier.

“We’re just excited to have art back and to be working with artists again,” Voell said.

For years, the Libraries have been great spaces for the public to view distinctive paintings, sculptures, ceramics and other works by local artists. The COVID-19 pandemic halted all that in March 2020.

But in 2021 the Library’s local arts committee determined that art was one positive way to resume providing in-person programming. The displays reappeared in September, with a new round of exhibits beginning in January.

“Exhibitions is a passive program,” Voell explained. “It draws people in but it’s not something where we are putting people in close proximity with each other. People can enjoy the art safely.”

It’s another way to make the Libraries welcoming and meaningful for patrons.

“It’s being inspired by what they see on the walls, it’s learning about the artists and it gives the artists themselves another place to share their work.” Voell said. “We do provide an honorarium to the artists. That was important as well. Artists especially have been hurt drastically by the COVID experience, the shutdown. So this was a way for us to open that avenue of sharing their work.”

Johnson County Library has partnerships with the Kansas City Artists Coalition at the Blue Valley and Oak Park Library branches; with InterUrban ArtHouse at Leawood Pioneer; and with The Arts Asylum at Antioch. Those organizations curate exhibits from artists in their networks.

The Library also currently has gallery displays at Cedar Roe, Gardner, Lenexa City Center and Shawnee Libraries, with Corinth resuming exhibitions in January. And art will reappear on Central Resource Library’s brand-new gallery wall after it reopens.

The Lenexa City Center Library hosted a particularly significant exhibit in the fall. It featured a photographic series of decommissioned Minuteman Missile silos by Nate Hofer that was named a winner of one of five Global Peace Photo Awards, presented in Austria in September 2021. The award honors works internationally that capture humanity’s quest for a peaceful world.

“It was good timing for us. That was really cool,” Voell said.

While galleries were closed during the pandemic, Voell and the committee started a virtual program called Artists In Sight, in which he interviewed local artists about their work, their creative process and what inspires them. Those interviews are available on the Library OnDemand portion of Johnson County Library’s website. With the galleries back open, it’s another great way to promote the shows.

New exhibits are up from January through April 21, with featured artists including Kathy Liao, Brittany Noriega and Angie Pickman.

“It will be an awesome display,” Voell said of next year’s exhibits. “We have a pretty incredible list of artists.” 

Johnson County Library also celebrates student art work at the Blue Valley branch. In the past, work by  Blue Valley School District students has been posted in the gallery space. In 2022, it will be in the area frequented by young readers. The student display is coordinated by information specialists Jess Wagner and Rachel Novotny, who are part of the Library’s local arts team.

“There’s plenty of wall space outside what used to be the Storytime room and then as you go into the youth area,” Voell said. “It will be viewable by kids who may not go by the gallery.”

You can find this story featured in the Spring 2022 Guide. The Guide is your source for Library news, upcoming events and programs, service highlights, Friends of Johnson County Library and Johnson County Library Foundation news and more. Pick up your copy at a Johnson County Library near you. The Spring 2022 Guide is also available to view online at jocolibrary.org.

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Leawood Pioneer Library Closed for Building Maintenance

Leawood Pioneer Library will be closed Monday, Jan. 10 through Friday, Jan. 14 for building maintenance and will reopen as scheduled at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 15.

Holds ready for pickup but not checked out by 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8 will remain on-shelf until the building reopens. Check your library account for specific dates. Please contact us no later than Thursday, Jan. 6 if you would like to pick up your available holds from another branch during the closure period.

Returns will be accepted at the branch during the closure. For other Library needs, such as public computers and access to the collection, please visit one of our other Johnson County Library locations. Corinth Library (8100 Mission Rd., Prairie Village) and Blue Valley Library (9000 W 151st St., Overland Park) are the closest in proximity to Leawood Pioneer.

Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we work to improve your facilities! Visit jocolibrary.org and follow @jocolibrary on social media for updates.

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Resolution: Catch up on the News with eNewspapers

You’ve made New Year’s resolutions. Good for you! We resolve to help you learn whatever you want to learn, do whatever you want to do and be whatever you want to be. Do you want to catch up on the news? We have local and national eNewspapers!

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Resolution: $$$

You’ve made New Year’s resolutions. Good for you! We resolve to help you learn whatever you want to learn, do whatever you want to do and be whatever you want to be. Is it time to get your finances in order? We can help with that! Start with our Personal Finance section of our website. We have resources for everyone from people just getting started to veteran investors.

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Resolution: Read More

You’ve made New Year’s resolutions. Good for you! We resolve to help you learn whatever you want to learn, do whatever you want to do and be whatever you want to be. Do you want to read more? We make it easy for you with these shortcuts:

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Give Your Books New Life with the Friends

Your gently-used books, DVDs and CDs might be yearning for a change of scenery in the new year. Luckily, the Friends of Johnson County Library can help them find their next adventure while helping you with your own resolution to clear out unused items.

The Friends host a donation drop-off event every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. You can find more information, including a list of accepted items, on the Friends website. And while you’re there, check out their online shop for great deals on books that are looking for new life in the new year. The funds raised from these purchases help support your Library!

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Johnson County Library! We hope that 2022 brings you fun facts, new skills, the answers to your toughest research questions, and of course—great things to read, watch, and listen to. We have tons of resources for you to explore as you write your next chapter. What will you discover at your Library?

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