Foundation Stories

written by Shelley O’Brien, Executive Director of the Johnson County Library Foundation

Summer reading is the busiest time of the year for public libraries. For example, one day this past week at the Central Resource Library, we had story time, the County Manager’s Office hosting an information session on the 2025 budget, and Catholic Charities feeding children – all in the same noontime hour and space. It was great to see so many people, even if I had to dodge a couple of strollers.

Later in the afternoon, the American Red Cross hosted a blood drive, people were in the Genealogy section digitizing their family photos, and teens were using public computers. One high school student asked me to help him print information on getting a Kansas driver’s license. **Jackson — good luck on the driving test. My fingers are crossed for you.

Screenshot of a post from @candicemillard on Instagram with a photo of the Quiet Reading Room in a library. Caption reads: "In Hutchinson, KS, today and of course found the perfect place to work at the public library. Lots of kids in the children’s section, happily picking out books. Outside they’re offering free lunches for kids all summer long. Tell me libraries don’t matter."

Public libraries are our community. They provide access to information and resources that people need and want. In short, they are amazing. Of course, I’m just a librarian and not always eloquent with my words. If you don’t believe me, how about this social media post from the wonderful author Candice Millard.

“Tell me libraries don’t matter.” Boy, that sums up my feelings, Candice.

Occasionally, someone will say to me, “Shelley, people don’t use libraries anymore. Not like when we were kids.”

Umm, what? Many people use public libraries, both in person and online. Johnson County Library had over 1.7 million physical visits last year. That’s more people than saw a Chiefs game at Arrowhead in the 2023-2024 Superbowl season.

Over 8.3 million ebooks and eaudiobooks were checked out online from Johnson County Library in 2023. Yes, you could buy a book from Amazon, but why are you giving Jeff Bezos your hard-earned money? It’s the exact same book. In fact, by using the Libby app, you get the book via Amazon.

If you don’t know that libraries matter and are very popular, you are missing out. Come by this summer and see everything we have to offer. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised.

**But do be careful dodging the strollers around story time. Some moms and dads are moving pretty fast.

written by Shelley O’Brien, Executive Director of the Johnson County Library Foundation

If you are like me, I spend more time in the summer with a good book in hand. Be that at the pool, in my backyard, or on vacation; I’m always reading in the summer. Adults should embrace summer reading just like when we were kids. Maybe we should even celebrate by ordering a pizza for every 5 books you read? Just a thought. So, place a pause on Netflix and check out my summer book recommendations.

Have a terrific summer and enjoy reading!

Fiction – The Women by Kristin Hannah

I believed nothing would be as great as Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale”. I just didn’t think she could outdo herself. Then came the book, “The Women”.  Vietnam War story of Frankie who enlists in the Army as a nurse to serve her country and please her father. This is an epic tale of her journey that tells the story of women’s roles in the war – during and after. A book I will never forget.

Non-Fiction – Burn Book: A Tech Love Story by Kara Swisher

My current journalist crush is on Kara Swisher. I regularly listen to her podcast “Pivot” on Vox Media, where she is smart, well-connected, and sassy. On the podcast she trades barbs and banter Scott Galloway (Prof G — NYU) for a humorous take on the daily news through the lens of tech. Swisher has creditability within Silicon Valley to get access and insider scoop. “Burn Book: A Tech Love Story” is part personal memoir, part 2000s-tech memoir. New stories and insights are shared; many funny stories about the tech-bro leaders.

Fiction – Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era by Laurence Learner

If you have not watched FX’s “Capote vs. The Swans” as part of the Ryan Murphy FEUD series, get to Hulu immediately. This show is captivating, and the casting is magnificent. There is only one thing better than the show – the book “Capote’s Women” by Laurence Learner. Many more stories and unique characters from Capote’s world in Manhattan.

After Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, Capote had writer’s block and an amazing social life with the rich and famous of New York. Relationships were damaged when he disclosed their personal secrets as thinly veiled fiction.

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