Johnson County Library Foundation President Vickie Trott summed up one craving in 2020 as she addressed attendees at this year’s annual Library gala: “In these unusual times,” Trott said, “we need to let loose however we can until we can let loose in person again.”
And that’s exactly what happened Sept. 12, with the “virtual” Library Lets Loose celebration and fund-raiser. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event could not be held in-person and pivoted to online. Using the On24 platform, the Foundation hosted an event that still featured fun activities, capped off by a virtual dance club where people were encouraged to get their groove on from the comfort of their own homes.
“I am truly amazed at the ingenuity and willingness of so many people to look at the possibility to keep our Library Lets Loose event an ongoing tradition,” Trott told participants.
Honorary co-chairs Cindy Wallis-Lage and Kent Lage greeted people from their home. “Even in this time where we are sheltered in place a lot and we don’t get to go out to the places that we like to go, the Library is still there as a great resource,” Wallis-Lage said. “We hope you have a fantastic night and really remember how much the Library means to all of us.”
In past years, the gala has attracted 44 sponsors and about 500 participants. This year, the event still garnered 44 sponsors and more than 500 attendees. Feedback was very positive. The event was free to register but many people and companies still made generous donations. “As a Foundation, we are grateful for the brave Library Lovers who were willing to try an online fundraising event,” said Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Stollsteimer. “We are thrilled with the outpouring of financial support as well.”
The event, moderated by DJ Stann Tate, began with a reception and music by local acoustic guitarist and singer/songwriter Sean McNown. Andrew Olsen, beverage director with the J. Rieger and Co., demonstrated how to mix the “Library Lets Loose” cocktail. Participants could choose from a variety of experiences including a behind-the-scenes introduction to Library staff, activities for kids, and Trivia games. Some people had trouble finding the breakout rooms at first but tech support was quickly available.
The MakerSpace staff demonstrated the fascinating process of creating a wood block relief print, using an industrial roller and design by artist Shawn Sanem. The celebrity reader room featured local notables reading from favorite books; former Chiefs Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields read from Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom.” “We love Libraries and believe every child should learn to read and have access to books,” Shields’ wife Senia said.
Author Candice Millard shared how, when she was about 10 years old, she got a free book from a small town Library, which she has treasured ever since. She chose the book because of its wonderful title: “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou. “I had never experienced books that could be incredibly moving, that could take you somewhere you have never seen or imagined and are beautifully written,” she said.
With fundraisers like Library Lets Loose, the Foundation continues to help provide Library resources to open people’s eyes, as Millard’s were, to the power of great books to transform lives.
— Lynn Horsley