Foundation Stories

As a young girl – and only child- growing up in Raytown, MO, Saundra Johnson fondly remembers going to her local library, where books were a great companion to her. Among her favorite titles were the Nancy Drew books. As a student going through school, her library was the hub of resources to create term papers and other projects. She recalls how important having that access was for her and how helpful and wonderful the librarians were as well.

Husband Skip reminisces that he had always been a fan of technical articles and materials. Laughing, he added that before the internet, libraries were the place to go for information. The card catalog was our connection to the world – just as the internet is today!  He agreed with Saundra on the importance of libraries growing up.

As adults, they began to look at libraries through different lenses. “Unless people go to libraries, they may not realize all the access libraries provide now,” Skip observed. He added all the amazing resources available to library patrons from art displays, newspapers, magazines, movies, computers, access to Library programs and events, private study room spaces, and more. They have a friend who created a podcast in a library. Another friend goes to the library to attend Zoom calls with friends and family.

“Libraries have grown a great deal over the years!” exclaimed Skip. “And they’ve evolved to grow with the needs of our communities along the way.”

A personal eye-opener for the Johnsons regarding the benefits of a library came when Saundra’s mother, Kay, lived with them for many years. Kay was legally blind; however, she could listen to audiobooks – so they frequented the Library often to check out materials for her. The librarians would recognize the Johnsons, knowing the audiobooks were for Kay, and would inquire as to what she was listening to each time.

Kay could use a tape recorder to listen to the audiobooks which meant she could do that independently. They both recalled many times waking up in the middle of the night hearing Kay, a night owl, laughing out loud while listening to audiobooks. As her health declined and she physically did not feel well all the time, books brought her much joy and greatly improved her mental health.

As longtime Johnson County Library donors, the Johnsons are quick to respond when asked why they give and support our Library system: they choose to give as a way to honor Kay’s memory and theirs too someday. As charter members of the Foundation’s planned giving program the “1952 Society: Writing the Library’s Next Chapter”, Saundra and Skip believe that giving is to help the Library continue far into the future. Leaving a legacy gift is one way to help make that happen.

In April 2023, the Johnson County Library Foundation hosted an appreciation event featuring award-winning audiobook narrator and actor Edoardo Ballerini. He read a section from the book “The Angel of Rome” by Jess Walter and was interviewed by Deputy County Librarian, Kinsley Riggs. Guests filled the Carmack Room at Central Resource Library for an Italian-inspired afternoon.

Ballerini charmed the audience with his stories about studying in Italy, about his children – one book reader and one audiobook listener.  He shared a description of his home studio where he records, which he says is smaller than a closet. Ballerini ended the afternoon by thanking everyone for supporting libraries, especially during this time when books are being banned across the country.

See photos of the event and learn more about the 1952 society here.

Annual appreciation events are hosted by the Foundation to thank and celebrate donors, those who give annually and those who have made provisions in their estate plans for a future gift. If you are interested in more information about giving to the library or becoming a member of the 1952 Society, please contact Shelley O’Brien at [email protected].

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