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Atlases Document 150 Years of Change

It’s another grand Throwback Thursday where 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: Historical Atlases of Johnson County

About this collection: Historical maps and narratives that trace the boundaries of land ownership and the development of townships and cities. Use these atlases to discover how Johnson County has changed over the last 150 years. These high-resolution images allow you to zoom in to view small details.

Sarah Stein Greenberg

Sarah Stein Greenberg

Meet the Presenter: Sarah Stein Greenberg

Sarah Stein Greenberg is the executive director of the Stanford and editor of our all-conference book, “Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways”. She leads a community of designers, faculty, and other innovative thinkers who help people unlock their creative abilities and apply them to the world.

Why would our conference planners choose a design book as an all-conference read? Mostly because it’s a cool book! We also wanted something every attendee, in addition to being writers, would have in common. “Creative Acts” offers something for everyone and can be used long after the conference is over. Greenberg says, “The experience of doing these assignments is the value you will take away. The emphasis is not on mastering tools or technique. . . and you’re in charge of how you do that: none of the assignments have to be used exactly as written.”

Unconventional choice for writers? Maybe. We’re hoping you use the assignments to challenge your processes, spark creativity, and unblock when you’re stuck.

Sarah speaks regularly at universities and global conferences on design, business, and education.  Our conference is no exception. Greenberg will close our Friday sessions at 4 pm. She’ll be back for open office hours with Justin Nogy on Saturday at 2:45 pm.

She holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA in history from Oberlin College. Sarah also serves as a trustee for Rare, a global conservation organization. Among other creative pursuits, she spends her free time as an underwater and wildlife photographer. She lives in San Francisco.

We hope you’ll pick up a free copy of “Creative Acts for Curious People” from the Central Resource Library and join us in sharing your response to an assignment on our blog. Read the responses other attendees and presenters have shared here.


—written by Helen Hokanson, local writers librarian


Tell Us What You Think! Please!

In a recent special edition of the Did You Hear? Podcast, librarian Helen Hokanson made a confession: our Writers Conference started with a planning committee of non-writers, and while our process since then has evolved, we are always looking for ways to improve.

One of the things we are certain of is that in order to create the best programming and conference possible, we need to hear from our patrons, especially those who have been coming to our writing programs and the Writers Conference. Did you know that all our adult writing programs were started in response to requests from people just like you? You wanted a writing group, and despite not knowing anything about writers or writing, we started one! We learned so much from you all and grew our programs (sometimes successfully, other times not so). One thing for sure . . . we’ve had a lot of fun along the way.

Now that we’re seven years into the Writers Conference, we really want to hear what’s been working, what can be improved, and most importantly what we need to keep doing. We want to hear what you’ve enjoyed attending and/or participating in, and what could have been better. We want to know which authors and presenters you want us to bring to the library. We want to know what your best-conference-ever looks like.

The more we know from you, the better we can plan programming and a conference that meets your expectations and helps you realize your goals.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey. And when you’re at an event, feel free to talk to us about your thoughts. We’re always eager to connect and to hear what you have to say.

Access the Local Writers Programming survey.

—written by Lisa Allen, adult services specialist, and Helen Hokanson, local writers librarian


2022 Elections

Several Johnson County Library locations are polling places in the 2022 Elections due to their central locations within the County. Whether you are a seasoned voter, or voting for the first time, we have all the latest information for you! Read on for the where'swhen's and how's of voting!

Overview of important dates for voters in the November 8th General Election:

  • Oct. 18, 2022  - Registration Closes - Last day to register
  • Oct. 19, 2022 - Advance Voting by Mail Begins
  • Oct. 22, 2022  - Advance Voting in Person Begins
  • Nov. 1, 2022  - Advance ballot application request deadline - 5 p.m.
  • Nov. 7, 2022 – Advance voting in person closes
  • Nov. 8, 2022 - General Election - Polls open 7 a.m. - 7 p.m
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Latest JoCoHistory Blog Explains Johnson County's Poor Farm


OVER the hill to the poor-house I’m trudgin’ my weary way—,  
I, a woman of seventy, and only a trifle gray—,  
I, who am smart an’ chipper, for all the years I’ve told,  
As many another woman that’s only half as old.  
Over the hill to the poor-house—I can’t quite make it clear!          
Over the hill to the poor-house—it seems so horrid queer!  
Many a step I've taken a-toilin’ to and fro,  
But this is a sort of journey I never thought to go. 

The story from the above 1872 Will Carleton poem “Adversity” was once a common tale for those living with poverty or disability in America. Anyone who could not find self-supporting work – due to age, physical or mental disability, dependent children, or other factors – and who had no family to care for them would find themselves facing the prospect of the poorhouse. Originating in the United Kingdom, poorhouses were institutions designed to employ the poor and disabled in exchange for food, housing and healthcare. As the British Empire spread, so did its ideologies; Colonial America’s larger cities featured poorhouses and, as the Union formed and expanded, so followed poorhouses or – as was more common in the U.S. – poor farms. County governments in each state oversaw poor farms where residents, then referred to as “inmates”, were expected to complete farm labor and housework for room and board. 

By the early 20th century, most Kansas counties had a poor farm. Johnson County’s poor farm was built on a 160-acre plot at the corner of what is now 119th Street and Ridgeview Road in Olathe. While its specific origin date is unclear, it opened in the mid-1860s with 8 residents working the farm. With the assistance of a small staff, they grew corn, oats, black sorghum, hay potatoes, cow peas and apples. They raised hogs, cows and chickens. During its tenure, the farm housed an average of 15-40 residents, though times of widespread hardship saw higher numbers.  

In 1909, a visiting representative from the Olathe Mirror newspaper described the farm as clean, well-furnished and comfortable. Of its then twelve residents, it was said: “Some of these are too aged to be of any assistance and three of them are blind, so that as a whole, the inmates instead of being a help either on the farm or in the infirmary, must be helped.” This was true for many farms across the country. The circumstances leading people to poor farms often made them unsuitable for the hard labor of farm work. Over time, many county-appointed superintendents found it more financially viable to rent their farmland out, using the proceeds to provide for their residents, rather than rely on them for farm output.  

As management for poor farms was largely unregulated, quality of life varied greatly among different counties and states. Some superintendents received salaries while others made only what the farm earnings would allow. Ideologies differed too, on what poor farms were designed for, with some treating them as purely charitable ventures while others sought high profits – leading many residents to experience mental and physical abuse, overwork and unclean and inadequate surroundings. Residents of poor farms sometimes shared one razor, toothbrush and wash basin among themselves. Unsurprisingly, disease spread quickly in these places. To justify such conditions, superintendents would claim they did not want to provide what they saw as luxury items, believing that providing comforts would prevent residents from wanting to leave poor farms – but most never had the ability to leave, regardless of want. 

Poor farms were ubiquitous for over a century in the United States, but population and economic changes made the already shaky system untenable in the first half of the 20th century. The 1929 economic crisis that ushered in the Great Depression led to overwhelming need for poor relief. Poor farms lacked funding to care for their already existing residents and were unable to take on further economic burdens. By 1933 almost one-third of all Kansas farmland was tax delinquent, and the country was in crisis. In 1935 Congress created the Social Security Act and, with it, federal financial support for the elderly, disabled, dependent mothers and children, and unemployed. These changes, along with a series of housing reforms, allowed many who would have faced poor farms to live independently. Three years later, nearly a third of all Kansas poor farms had been repurposed or closed entirely. 

As methods of social relief changed, so did public opinion. Poor farms were increasingly viewed as inhumane and outdated, and public thought turned toward newer institutions designed to provide for people on an individual level – nursing homes, mental health facilities and schools for deaf and blind students. Many former Kansas poor farms were converted to nursing homes, community centers and hospitals. Operating through the end of World War II, the Johnson County Poor Farm became a senior care facility before the land was repurposed for government use. Gone but not entirely forgotten, the plot where the farm once stood still provides services to the county’s many residents; it now houses the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, MED-ACT and the K-State Research and Extension Office.  

-Sam S., Johnson County Library


This Week at the Library

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

Library OnDemand Available anytime you like.

Your doorway into live and archived programs. Arts & Culture, Career & Finance, Community Matters, Writers and more!

Online Bilingual Storytime / Hora De Cuentos Monday, Oct. 24, 10 – 11 a.m.

Tune in to our flexible online Storytime featuring stories, songs, fingerplays and movement activities on Facebook Live. Fun for the whole family! Visit JoCoLibrary on Facebook and be sure to ‘follow’ us to get notifications when we go Live. You do not need a Facebook account to watch our Storytimes. Due to copyright laws, live Storytimes will not be available to watch after they conclude.

Facebook Live Book Party: Winter Book Buzz!Thursday, Oct. 27, 7 – 8 p.m.

Join librarian Gregg Winsor in a presentation on Facebook Live where he will discuss some of the hottest titles that will be hitting the shelves of the Libraries! Looking for a great pick for your book club? What to know what the next bestseller might be before everyone else does? Or maybe you’re just looking for a good book to read? There will be something in this presentation for everyone. Be sure to join us!

One-on-One DNA & Genetic Genealogy Help Friday, Oct. 28, 9 a.m. – noon

Visit the Johnson County Genealogical Society at to schedule an appointment. A volunteer will contact you by email to set up an in-person or a Zoom session link for you prior to the scheduled date.

Teen Book Swap Café – Saturday, Oct. 29, 2 – 4 p.m.

Refresh your bookshelf and bring a stack of books, audiobooks, and advanced reader copies of books (ARCS/galleys) to swap with other teen readers at the Central Resource Library! Get to know your community as you grab a snack, chat, and trade new or lightly-used books. This program is trade only, no selling will be allowed. Limit of 10 books per person to trade. Registrants will get a free tote to carry all your new books.

And much more happening this week »


Executive Assistant Brings Rich Background, Skills to her Job

Patti Kangethe is marking her first anniversary as Executive Assistant to the Johnson County Librarian. She still feels surprise and joy at the opportunity to serve the Library’s vital mission. 

“This is where I never knew I was meant to be,” she says. “It uses all the things that I love. It supports all the things that I love.” 

Kangethe brings an impressive set of experiences and skills to the job, as well as a special perspective. As a child, she struggled to learn to read. That gives her extra empathy for others with literacy challenges, and a real appreciation for the Library world of books, audio books and free access to information and services. 

This is her first Library job, but she has been an administrative assistant in many capacities, so she is used to helping her professional colleagues do their jobs well.  

That’s the role she fulfilled for Sean Casserley, just retired as Johnson County Librarian, and now for his successor, Tricia Suellentrop. Kangethe also serves as liaison between the staff and Library Board.  

She grew up in Rockford, Illinois, where her mother taught art. Kangethe loved art and math, but reading strained her brain. She worked hard at spelling and comprehension to overcome those difficulties. 

Eventually she and her mother moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin. For her high school senior year, Kangethe commuted daily by train to the Chicago Academy for the Arts, a fantastic experience. Many of her teachers were Kansas City Art Institute graduates, so that inspired her to attend there as well. 

From 2003-2007 she reveled in art, majoring in sculpture. She also gained valuable experience as administrative assistant to the sculpture department chair.  

After college, she worked briefly for Stephany Leedy, daughter of her teacher, legendary Art Institute professor and Crossroads Art District founder Jim Leedy. She continues to volunteer and support their gallery, the Leedy Voulkos Art Center. 

For 10 years, she was an administrative assistant for the SFS Architecture firm in Kansas City. She got married in 2013 and in 2018 earned a master’s degree from Avila in organizational development, learning a lot about management and strategic planning. 

She also has a heart for volunteering, and was a crew leader from 2008-2016 with Kansas City Habitat for Humanity, putting her artistic and building skills to use. 

“The best part of that,” she said, “was it wasn’t necessarily about building the best house but giving the best experience to the volunteers while making sure the house was safe.” 

She and her husband Tony have two sons, Isaiah, 5, and Ezra, born in April 2020, right after the pandemic shutdown. Fortunately, everyone stayed healthy and it was a nice family time.  

The family lives in Olathe, and in 2018, Kangethe became development services coordinator with the Olathe Planning Department. She worked closely with developers and the Planning Commission. 

When the Library position came open, Kangethe realized she had the right skill set, and she was hired in September 2021. Working with Casserley and now Suellentrop has been wonderful. 

“This organization is so committed to supporting its employees,” she said. “They are so forward thinking and allow people the time to think about things and plan for the future.” 

She and her family love visiting the Lenexa branch and she can also flex her artistic muscles at Central’s re-opened MakerSpace. 

After a year, she’s thriving and learning to anticipate the Library Board’s needs. “They are so supportive,” she said. “They support the work that our staff does and they want our mission to succeed.” 


Quarterly Newsletter of the Johnson County Museum

It’s another grand Throwback Thursday where 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: Album, the Quarterly Newsletter of the Johnson County Museum

The ALBUM newsletter, a quarterly publication from Johnson County Museum, introduces Johnson County's history through articles and photographs.


What’s Up with This Conference Book?

We can’t have a Writers Conference without books, can we? 

Sure, the conference will happen in a library, a place full of books and people who can help you find even more books. And faculty members have books that they’ve written that you can buy. But there’s something special about having one book that you know others have read (or at least skimmed) before we’re all in the same space. (There’s also something special about getting a copy of your own, for free, when you register for the conference!)

A little background on our philosophy about an all-conference book: last year was the first year that we included free copies of books for attendees. We tied those books to a particular session, and attendees had to be registered for and attend those particular sessions to be eligible for a copy of the book.

That was great. So great, in fact, that we wanted to expand that idea. This year we wanted all attendees to get a conference book. And we wanted them to get the book just for coming to the conference, not because they were interested in a certain session or discussion.

Why? Our leader, Helen Hokanson, explains: “The subtitle ‘How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways’ pretty much sums up why we chose Creative Acts for Curious People as our all conference read. We were looking for a book that would resonate with everyone, which is a tall order. The exercises offer something for everyone and it's a book that our conference attendees can use far into the future. It's not a book you read cover to cover, come to discuss and never pick up again. Our hope is that it will stimulate creative thinking, spark brilliant conversations, and remain a resource long after the conference is over.”

Some people have asked if the book is really free. It is! Others have asked if they have to attend a certain session to qualify. You don’t! All you have to do is register for the conference and then stop by our Central Resource branch to grab your copy. Of course, this is a first-come, first-served situation; once the books are gone, you can certainly borrow a copy from our collection or order one on your own, but once our supply is gone, it’s gone.


—written by Lisa Allen, adult services specialist