Foundation Stories

Tell Me Libraries Don’t Matter

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.

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