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De Soto Library: Past, Present, Future

The De Soto Library, at 33145 W. 83rd St., is one of three small community branches on the outskirts of the Johnson County Library system, along with Edgerton and Spring Hill. These branches are seen as vital anchors and gathering spots, integral to the fabric and character of their close-knit towns. 

For Lori Ross, a lifelong De Soto resident and system-wide materials handling clerk with Johnson County Library, the branch is an institution and a wonderful resource for northwest Johnson County, west of Shawnee and Lenexa. 

“It’s a good staple of the community,” Ross said. “It’s very much a connection to the world.” 

For Branch Manager Christian Madrigal, De Soto is special because it’s a small branch where many patrons know each other and get to know the staff, talking about favorite books and developing positive relationships. 

Especially before the pandemic, many residents used the branch for access to the entire Johnson County Library collection. In 2019, the branch had 1,735 card holders and a collection of 15,373 materials. It had 30,000 visits that year and a circulation of 37,000 items.  

“I think the community really utilized the Holds system there,” Madrigal said. “Lots of people dropped in to use computers for job searching and to stay connected. We still have two regulars who come in every day to get the newspaper and stay current.”  

For years, the branch had an active book club whose members hope to resume meeting soon. It remains a popular hub for teens, families and retirees who check out materials and rely on the Library Wi-Fi. 

The branch has a storied history, and Lori Ross has an especially meaningful connection to its origins. Her great-grandmother, Edna Ross, started the first De Soto lending library in the mid-1950s, with books on shelves in the family’s store, Ross Electric and Plumbing Shop, on the town’s main street. That lending library lasted until Johnson County Library started providing a weekly bookmobile stop in 1957. By 1966, the bookmobile was so popular that it was parked in town and manned by volunteers.  

In 1967, the prominent Coker family built a 1,200-square-foot Library at a convenient downtown location, next to the Post Office, near an elementary school, and just down the street from the Ross family store. The original facility, which opened in October 1967, had 3,000 titles and was leased by Johnson County Library.  

De Soto continued to grow in population. By the early 1980s, it was clear the community needed a larger Library. A 3,776-square-foot building was constructed on the same site and opened in June 1982. That’s the Library that Lori Ross visited almost daily as a schoolchild for books and to hang out with friends. This year marks its 40th anniversary.   

Ross and her mother Kathy now run the De Soto Historical Society on the upper floor of the old Ross family store, a block from the Library. The proximity is wonderful; people often visit the Historical Society and then head to the Library just as it opens. 

Madrigal is excited that Johnson County Library is embarking on a renewal study for its community branches and is holding Listening Sessions to get patron suggestions. Working with Clark & Enersen architects, staff is looking at how to maximize the building for programs, possibly using temporary partitions to create meeting spaces. Other requests are to enhance the Spanish language collection, offer MakerSpace software and expand Library hours. 

Madrigal is optimistic about the future, with the renewal study serving as a roadmap. It will be, he says, “an opportunity to provide or extend Library services that can match or be taken into consideration with our staff and patron feedback.” 


Celebrate Children’s Book Week!

Join us May 2 - 8 as we celebrate Children’s Book Week! Challenge kids to talk about what, why and how they read! This year's theme is “How Do You Book?”

Need reading ideas? Here is a sneak peak at our Summer Reading booklist. Also, you'll always find booklists, recommendations and storytimes on our Birth to Six page


Mesmerizing Memes

We explore MESMERIZING MEMES AND MORE (supply your own echo effect) on the Did you hear? podcast.  Hear about some history, the behind-the-scenes philosophy, strategy and everything else when it comes to creating social media content for FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.


Let Landscape be Your Guide!

Let Landscape be Your Guide: A Workshop with Kansas City Veterans Writing Team and Johnson County Library 

While "landscape" may remind you of physical geography, for the artist, it refers to much more than a fixed physical location. Join the Kansas City Veterans Writing Team (KCVWT) and Johnson County Library as we examine all the worlds we inhabit: our personal landscapes.

The workshop will kick off with a discussion followed by workshops, critique groups and a panel discussion. We will end with a celebratory Open Mic. Our goal is to write, critique and share.

Kickoff Event
Friday, May 6, 2022
7 - 8:30 p.m.

Online event

Workshops & Discussion
Saturday, May 7, 2022

9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Online event



In Memory of Six Million - Survivors

In Memory of Six Million

Thursday, May 12, 2022
6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Online event

Join us for our 12th annual In Memory of Six Million Holocaust Remembrance program. Hear a survivor speak from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum via Zoom. As survivors grow fewer as the years go on, we are incredibly grateful to offer this opportunity to our patrons. The survivor will speak for 30 minutes allowing 30 minutes for audience questions at the end. The program will be recorded and available for viewing after the event.

This program will be hosted using the meeting software Zoom. A Johnson County Library staff member will contact registrants via email the day before the meeting with instructions on how to access the Zoom meeting. You do not need to download any software or create an account.


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!

Personal Branding and Networking Tuesday, May 3, 11 a.m. – noon

How do you present yourself? Join an ICG Professional Certified Coach as she talks about personal development, networking strategies, and ways to best highlight the qualities that make you an excellent employee and coworker.

Behavioral Interviewing Tuesday, May 3, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m.

Are you prepared to highlight your best qualities when answering questions about how you've handled situations in the past? Every interview includes at least a few behavioral interview questions – in this virtual workshop you will find out which are the most common and get tips on how to answer them.

Book Discussion: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line Wednesday, May 4, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

The only thing better than a good book is talking about it! This Summer we're offering both in-person and virtual book discussions. Register to save your spot. Registrants will receive a copy of the book that they will then return to us at the end of the session.

Recovery Conference: Strength through Perseverance  Friday, May 6, 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Individuals with lived experience with a mental health condition or substance use, along with caregivers and the community are invited to join Johnson County Mental Health Center for the 2022 Recovery Conference: Strength through Perseverance.

Let Landscape Be Your Guide: Kansas City Veterans Writing Team and Johnson County Library – Kickoff Event  Friday, May 6, 7 – 8:30 p.m.

While “landscape” may remind you of physical geography, for the artist, it refers to much more than a fixed physical location. Join the Kansas City Veterans Writing Team (KCVWT) and Johnson County Library as we examine all the worlds we inhabit: our personal landscapes. We will begin with discussion of landscape with Paul Darling and Mark Turcotte, followed by workshops, critique groups and a panel discussion. We will end with a celebratory Open Mic. Our goal is to write, critique and share.

And much more happening this week »


Why We Give: Leigh Anne and Bill Neal

The Library has always been a valued and important place in my life. My earliest and happiest memories of the Library are from childhood, when my mother would take me to Corinth Library to the children’s area on the lower level. We would select as many books as we could carry to take home and share together. Inside those books were adventures, places and lessons that would help shape me as I grew up.

My parents nurtured in us a love of reading from as early as I can remember. They also set me on a course for success with a strong foundation. On many evenings after dinner all through elementary, middle and high school, my parents and I would go to the Library and seek out the books or materials each of us liked to read. The Library was the setting for time spent together. 

As I grew up, the Library continued to be the place for study and research all through school. As a working adult, the Library has been a place where I could go to research or write to support my work in education and post-graduate studies. My husband grew up in a small town in Kansas, and his mother, who was an avid reader, shared a passion for reading and the value of the Library with their family. Today, Bill and I enjoy finding great books to read and enjoy at our local Johnson County Library branch.

Through my lens as an educator, daily I see the value of our Johnson County Library as a place of support for children and families.The 6 by 6 program offers families with young children tools and information to encourage early literacy development. Storytimes, interactive exhibits and book walks that families can enjoy together are so important to instilling a love of reading in children and helping parents partner in shared literacy with their children. The Homework Help program, along with wonderful youth-focused Library initiatives like the teen literary magazine, elementia, that allow students leadership experience and a platform through which to hone their creative writing and storytelling talents, positively support young people in our community.

Johnson County Library continues to evolve to support the needs of a changing society and community. The Library-as-community-hub, where people can come to support their needs no matter their age or stage in life, is a mission to which our Library has been very committed. Offering access to technology for those who may not have it for workforce needs or to connect with critical resources can be life-changing.The Black & Veatch MakerSpace provides opportunity for individuals of all ages to explore a hobby, create an invention or launch a small business concept.

It is the diversity, not only of whom the Library serves but also what the Library offers, that makes our Johnson County Library such an important part of our community. It is not only a love of books and the Library and nostalgic memories of special times spent with family, but it is also the valuable programs and services offered that are making a difference in our community that inspire my husband and me to support the Johnson County Library Foundation.

-- Leigh Anne Neal


There are tools and then there are research tools. 

JoCoHistory Research Tools

Welcome to another fabulous Throwback Thursday! You know that JoCoHistory is the place to time travel through local history with its Blog and collection of photos and historical documents. But did you know, about the JoCoHistory Research Tools? Here you'll find a portal to local history projects, local history on the web, a comprehensive list of Johnson County museums and historical sites and other regional museums. 

JoCoHistory Projects

On the Web

  • Kansas Memory - Johnson County
    A project of the Kansas Historical Society, this site contains digital images of letters, diaries, photographs, government records, maps, museum artifacts and much more.
  • Missouri Valley Special Collections Digital Gallery
    Over 11,000 images of archival material such as letters, photographs, postcards, advertising cards and maps from Missouri Valley Special Collections at Kansas City Public Library.
  • Territorial Kansas Online
    A virtual repository of archival documents dating from Kansas' territorial period, 1854-1861.
  • Missouri Digital Heritage
    Digitized collections from libraries, archives, historical societies and museums all across Missouri (formerly Virtually Missouri).
  • Map of historic sites
    Map of local historic places, museums and historical societies.

Local History Museums and Sites

In Johnson County:

  • Gardner Historical Museum
    The museum occupies the 1893 Folk Victorian house built by Herman B. Foster. Exhibits feature topics important to Gardner history: the Grange, the Overland Trails, schools, a turn-of-the century kitchen, as well as historical memorabilia and photos of Gardner's past.
  • Johnson County Museum
    Includes the Johnson County Museum of History, the Lanesfield School, and the 1950s All Electric House. The museum also features a research room with access to documents, maps, photographs and manuscripts related to the history of Johnson County, Kansas from 1820s to present.
  • Legler Barn Museum
    The Legler barn was built by Adam Legler in 1864, razed in 1972 and restored in 1983 as a community Museum. It features permanent and temporary exhibits about Lenexa and the surrounding area.
  • Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm
    Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm Historic Site is the last remaining stagecoach stop on the historic Santa Fe Trail still open to the public. Three original buildings are preserved: The Mahaffie Family Home/Stagecoach Stop, two-story Ice House, and Wood Peg Barn.
  • Oxford Schoolhouse
    Built in 1877, this one-room schoolhouse operated until 1955. In 2003 it was moved from 135th and Mission to its current location at Ironwoods Park. The school is now restored and interpreted as a circa 1910 schoolhouse.
  • Shawnee Indian Mission
    The manual training school attended by Shawnee, Delaware, and other Indian children from 1839-1862. The Shawnee Mission also served as an early territorial capitol, a supply point on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails, and as a camp for Union soldiers during the Civil War. The Mission was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968. The Mission also has a research library that is open to the public by appointment.
  • Shawnee Town Museum
    Shawnee Town is a living history museum that opens a window to life in a small farm community in the years leading up to the Great Depression. Visitors can stroll through the 3-acre park and visit historic buildings that include a school house, farmstead, chapel, fire station, local businesses and gardens.

Other Regional Museums

  • Kansas Museum of History
    Museum operated by the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka.
  • Kansas City Museum
    Located within the Corinthian Hall mansion, the Kansas City Museum offers exhibits on regional history and natural history, as well as a planetarium and authentic 1910 soda fountain.