written by Shelley O’Brien, Executive Director of the Johnson County Library Foundation
2023 was a year of change for the Johnson County Library Foundation. In January, Executive Director Stephanie Stollsteimer retired after five years working with the Library and the Foundation. She led the organization to new heights, and we are so grateful for her leadership.
In March, I started as the new Executive Director. As a consultant with the Northeast Kansas Library System, I had worked with the Johnson County team previously on their strategic road map, and I knew this was a great opportunity. Every day, I am grateful to work for Johnson County Library. It is truly an honor.
April 2023 brought lots of activities, including the volunteer appreciation luncheon, honoring over 800 volunteers who keep the Johnson County Library and Friends of Johnson County Library running. We appreciate all of your hard work and dedication.
Additionally, the 1952 Society event was in April with award-winning audiobook narrator Edoardo Ballerini. He was interviewed by Deputy County Librarian Kinsley Riggs. The afternoon was endlessly fascinating with Edo’s stories. A huge thank you to Caroline McKnight for coordinating this event.
As more legislation was passed in other states that prohibited some books in libraries, the more we learned about the right to read from Johnson County Library’s own Lacie Griffin. She gave many presentations this spring and summer locally and regionally explaining the importance of intellectual freedom. It truly is the basis of our democracy and our libraries.
The end of the summer means planning for Library Lets Loose in September. It was our best attendance ever with over 600 guests. It was such a fun evening and a great way to celebrate our library system. A BIG thank you to Black & Veatch for being the Library Lets Loose Presenting Sponsor and Julie Steiner and Stann Tate for co-chairing the event.
In October, the Writer’s Conference took place at the Central Resource Library. We want to thank the Berkley Family for sponsoring the conference in memory of the late Joan Berkley, another Johnson County Library lover and advocate.
Here at the end of the year we want to thank Foundation President Leigh Anne Neal for all of her hard work. It has been a true pleasure to work with Leigh Anne. Additionally, Vickie Trott, Ava Christie, and Ben Struby are leaving the board in 2023. We thank all three of you for your dedication and service. You have made a big difference in our library system.
We are not to the end of the year yet for final impact numbers, but I want to thank everyone who donated to the Johnson County Library Foundation this year. It means a lot to me. We are on track to give another $225,000 to the library this year from our donors and grantors. In addition, we extend gratitude to wonderful people like the late Marjorie Sams, who contributed estate gifts to the library foundation endowment. This year, we are adding over $80,000 to the library endowment fund.
Shelley’s Book Recommendations
At the end of every year, I make book recommendations for my family and friends.
(Once a librarian, always a librarian.)
For 2023, I loved the non-fiction book “The Book of Charlie: Wisdom from the Remarkable American Life of a 109-Year-Old-Man” by David von Drehle. Dr. Charlie White was a fascinating member of the Prairie Village and Kansas City community. Though until this book few knew his name. Von Drehle shares Charlie’s life lessons and a life of resilience.
A fiction book that I loved this year was “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin. Two friends grow up to become video game co-creators. From the outside, it looks like the perfect life; your game becoming internationally popular and then comes wealth and fame. But the reality is that life is complex for the two friends and reaching your professional goals may not solve all of your problems.
At the end of 2023, I wish for you and the world more peace and prosperity. Thank you for continuing to support the Johnson County Library and the library foundation. We appreciate everyone who is a part of our community.