Foundation Stories

Thank You, Volunteers!

written by Amber Bourek Slater, Volunteer Services Coordinator

Volunteers are an important part of the Johnson County Library. In 2023, there were 897 volunteers who provided 42,186 hours of service. To put these numbers into perspective, that is the equivalent of 21 full-time staff members. Absolutely amazing!

Did you know that Johnson County Library volunteers helped with 87 different volunteer opportunities in 2023? Teen volunteers account for almost half of those volunteers. Here are just a few of those opportunities from 2023.

  • Tutored children through Homework Help, assisted with Storytimes, monitored rooms during the Writers Conference, helped set up and then clean up fundraising events, and taught English Language Learners.
  • Processed over 600,000 books and other materials from the Library or donated by the community at the Friends of Johnson County Library sorting center.
  • Reviewed over 1,130 books in the Johnson County Library collection, which assists patrons in selecting materials.

Often, volunteers share their talents and special skill sets, such as the leaders serving on the three library boards or providing services like photography needed for special events. They bring a passion for libraries, and many consider it a privilege to give back to something that has been such a wonderful part of their lives.

April 21st to 27th is National Volunteer Appreciation Week. If you see a volunteer with a yellow lanyard in one of our libraries, please introduce yourself and say, “Thank You.” The Library is very appreciative of their dedicated service that makes our community even better.

Meet JCLF board member Kate Gasper

Meet Kate Gasper, 2024 Johnson County Library Foundation board member, and learn why she loves the library!

“The library is my happy place. The Johnson County Libraries have supported me in every stage of my life. Whether it was finding the perfect resources for my 2nd grade science report, needing a quiet place to study for the bar exam, or seeking a destination for my restless toddlers, I always found the Johnson County Library to be—above all else—welcoming. Libraries are a unique gathering place for the entire community, regardless of age, wealth, or politics. I am excited to offer my time and treasure to an institution that offers so much to so many.”

Kate O’Hara Gasper is a partner in the law firm of Lathrop GPM, LLP.  She focuses her practice on business litigation and, wherever possible, helping her clients avoid business litigation.  Kate is a proud alumna of Kansas State University and the University of Kansas Law School.  Meaning, she’s an avid fan of Wildcats, Jayhawks, and in-state tuition.  Born and raised in Johnson County, Kate is honored to support the Johnson County Library Foundation.  Kate and her husband Adam reside in Prairie Village with their two sons.

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

It must be spring because I’m thinking about baseball. If Johnson County Library had a baseball card, it might look like this infographic. Here are all of the major statistics the Library reports to the State Library of Kansas.

The bottom line: Johnson County loves its library.

Here are the highlights:

  • Physical materials – Over 1.7 million items are on our shelves. Of course, not at one time. A large percentage of our collection is always on the move. Items can be checked out, moving to another library, or being processed. This number is up since 2019. The library still purchases a lot of physical materials and keeps the stacks full.
  • Number of People with Library Cards – Almost 43% of people in Johnson County have a library card. That is amazing.
  • 8.3 million e-materials borrowed in 2023 – Johnson County Library made national news in January for having over 1 million Libby/Overdrive books checked out. Now we know the overall number for all digital resources being used. Whoa! That is a lot of access.

If anyone ever says that libraries are a thing of the past – show them this card, let them know they are missing out. Johnson County Library and most libraries across the U.S. are being utilized now more than ever before. It just may look a little different.

Celebrate Your Library on Library Giving Day

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

This Wednesday, April 3rd is Library Giving Day. Library lovers from across the country will be making donations to their favorite public libraries to enhance services and support library collections.

At the Johnson County Library, we are focusing this Library Giving Day on our 15th library branch – the e-Library. There are so many wonderful offerings on your home or library computer, including:

  • Libby for e-books and e-audiobooks.
  • Kanopy offers thousands of movie and documentary choices.
  • E-magazines with Flipster and e-newspapers like the KC Star and the Washington Post.
  • Udemy to learn about computer programs, project management and so much more.
  • Brainfuse for students taking standardized tests or in need of one-on-one tutoring.
  • Rosetta Stone and Mango to learn new languages.
  • The Great Courses, Kahn Academy, and Universal Express for lifelong learners.
  • And much, much more.

Your support of the Johnson County Library makes a difference because these e-resources are amazing. Brainfuse is a great example. Students from Johnson County can get one-on-one tutoring to complete their homework or get ready for the ACT or SAT. Brainfuse is easy to access and a great way for families to get high-quality resources for no-additional costs.

These digital programs, like Brainfuse, are often supported by community members like you. They are bonus items the Library is able to purchase for everyone in Johnson County thanks to donations from the community.

Please consider making a donation to support the Johnson County Library Foundation this Wednesday during Library Giving Day to support the e-Library. All amounts are welcome!

Meet the Author: Matt Stewart.

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

There is nothing better than the beginning of the baseball season. When I was a college student at KU, we often went to Opening Day. Usually, I needed a raincoat or my winter jacket, but we braved the cold day as the first major sign of spring. It was always an optimistic day, with nothing but potential and a wonderful summer ahead of us.

Going to see the Royals always reminded me of my grandmother Ruby Wilson from Pittsburg, Kansas. She was the closest thing I knew to a baseball expert. She would listen to at least three games a week on the radio in the 1970s and 1980s. It brought her so much joy, especially the 1985 World Series; she was bursting with pride that year. My grandmother always had strong opinions about the team and the coaching staff. Way before fantasy baseball leagues, she knew exactly what changes the roster needed to be made to make it to October.

If you are a baseball expert or a casual fan, celebrate the beginning of the Royals season with your Johnson County Library.

Matt Stewart, Local Emmy award-winning TV anchor and reporter at Fox 4 News, will be with us on Thursday, March 21st at 6:30 pm to discuss his newest book – The Kansas City Royals: An Illustrated Timeline. In his book containing more than 160 color pictures and insight into the Royals organization, Matt details every big moment and profiles your favorite players through the decades, from George Brett to Bo Jackson to Eric Hosmer to Bobby Witt Jr.

Joining Matt will be Curt Nelson, Director of the Royals Hall of Fame. Nelson has worked in various roles for the Royals organization for the past 25 years.

They will be presenting at the Lenexa City Center Library, in the main room. This event is free, open to the public, and sponsored by the Johnson County Library Foundation. We hope you will join us and think of all the wonderful spring and summer days you have experienced at the K.

Why I Give: Joan Cabell

Growing up in a small town, our trips to the library were a high point. I remember sitting down on the floor amongst the shelves of books and reading until my parents were ready to help me check out my books. Some of my earliest memories involve snuggling in bed with my sister and reading our library books. Our whole family were voracious readers and after the lights were out in the neighborhood our lights still burned bright.

In college, the library became my refuge for researching, studying, and bringing groups together to work on projects. The librarians were knowledgeable, and kind and it always felt like a safe environment.

As an adult, I continued my journey with the Johnson County Library by joining the Library Foundation Board and learning about all the great initiatives that the Foundation and the library provided to the community. I also worked at several of the Friends of the Library book sales and really enjoyed meeting people and watching them fill their sacks full of wonderful books.

Today, I am retired and can now do what I love best. And that is perusing the shelves and taking my time in picking out all my favorites which include suspense and historical fiction novels. I am currently reading The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict. 

I cannot imagine my life without libraries and the joy, excitement, and knowledge that they have brought me. Please support the Johnson County Library Foundation and bring that joy of reading to everyone in our community.

I Heart Libby!

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

A couple of years ago, I visited a public library just southwest of Topeka on a rainy afternoon. As I was walking in, it hit me. The smell of my childhood library. I don’t know if it was the paper alone, or the moisture in the air; but this was the smell I loved as a child. A smell that brought me so much happiness.

Sometimes I see library patrons walking into Cornith or Cedar Roe with that same look on their face. The happy smell of books waiting to be checked out. The rows and rows of interesting stories. The nostalgia of hours as a child in the library.

I say all of this, and yet, I’m one of the people who never check out physical books anymore. Yes, I’m exclusively a digital book reader now. I even Marie Kondo’d my book collection before moving back to Kansas. I only buy books at Rainy Day Books for gifts.

My Kindle and the Libby application gets used single every day. The font is on a larger, pleasing setting. Most of the time it is connected to my Wi-Fi, but occasionally, I have to go to airplane mode to finish an expired book. Most days you will find my Kindle on my nightstand or sitting quietly on a pillow. Patiently waiting for me to get home to travel to our next adventure. This past week we were in Jamaica with Safiya Sinclair and “How to Say Babylon”. This week with Curtis Chin and “Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant.”

Many of you are digital readers or listeners, too. In fact, the Johnson County Library had over 1 million digital checkouts in 2023. This was the first year for our library to go over the one million mark. I bet it will only be a couple years till we start moving in on 2 million. Why? Because we love our computers, and we love convenience.

For those of you who are digital users with me, consider what your local library is giving you. No driving to the library, checking out is a breeze, thousands and thousands of choices in the palm of your hand, fairly short waiting times, and a book with larger font that is backlit to not strain your eyes.

Thank you, Johnson County Library, for embracing the Libby app and loving digital AND physical books. We are grateful for the library staff in the collections department who make the selections, do purchasing, catalog the titles, and make all these wonderful digital materials possible.

We Need Taylor and Travis - written by Shelley O'Brien

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

I’ve been fundraising for a couple of years. I’ve seen lots of fundraising events and trends come and go. But one comment that always comes up is the philanthropic rich person of the moment.

“We need Taylor and Travis! They should give to Library Lets Loose.”

“Why can’t you ask Makenzie Scott to support our library?”

There is this fantasy of the philanthropic wealthy person who is on Instagram or on the cover of US Weekly who is going to come to save the day. In reality, it almost never happens.

And yes, I know Travis Kelce has a home in Leawood, just minutes away from our Leawood Pioneer Branch. And yes, if I run into him at Trader Joe’s, I promise I will tell him about our amazing public libraries. I will take selfies, I promise.

But who really makes a difference by giving to the Johnson County Library Foundation?

You do.

You are the donor who sends a donation to the Johnson County Library every year.

You are the library supporter who buys two tickets to Library Lets Loose every year.

You are the employee who asks their boss to make a bigger gift to the library this year.

You are the library patron who leaves the library foundation in your will or trust.


Because the Johnson County Library means a lot to you. You love to drop by and browse the new books section. You remember when your kids were little and loved story time at the library. You see people every day who access computers and meeting rooms to get jobs and make our community better.

We don’t need Oprah to support the Johnson County Library. We need you.

Thank you for all your support now and in the future. Johnson County Library Foundation is a great place to invest in our community and in lifelong learning for everyone.

Why I Give by Mike Sherry

Have you ever heard of Harmon Killebrew? What about Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean?

No? That’s OK. It takes a pretty in-depth knowledge of baseball to know those men are legends enshrined in Cooperstown.

For me, those names bring back childhood memories of a storefront in a south Kansas City strip shopping center. The space sat between a large hardware store and a veterinary clinic. It had rectangular fluorescent lights in the drop ceiling, thin gray carpeting, and rolling step stools with squeaky wheels.

This was the Mid-Continent Library’s Red Bridge branch, where I cemented my love of reading by checking out books about baseball immortals. My interests have broadened since then, but my appreciation for libraries is why I serve on the Johnson County Library Foundation board.

My parents’ volunteerism taught me the importance of giving back to the community. As a teen, a friend of mine and I spent part of our summer sprucing up the youth lounge of our synagogue. My volunteer activities as an adult have included walking dogs at an animal shelter (with my mom), delivering groceries to home-bound individuals, and working at fundraising events.

Community service is always rewarding. I sought a seat on the foundation board because it helps fund the library’s array of programming. The library is so much more than books and magazines.

The branches provide essential access to computers for patrons who don’t have one at home, and if you can’t find an activity that interests you, then you just aren’t trying. Offerings range from an intro to soldering, to book discussions and homework help for elementary students.

Libraries also exude calmness. It seems as if my anxieties drain away when I enter a branch.

It has been that way even before my time at the Red Bridge branch. I still remember filing down metal stairs in the boiler room of my elementary school to reach the library. Dinosaurs were my special interest back then.

Baseball chapter books came a little later, and just to fill you in:

Killebrew was a slugger for the Minnesota Twins in the 1960s, and Dean was a strikeout king while pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930s.

Why I Give: Vicki Denk

My love of the library goes back many years.  It started when I paid my way through college by working at the KCK Public Library.   Then I volunteered at the Gardner branch of the Johnson County Library, and recently I served two terms as a member of the Friends of the Johnson County Library Board of Directors.  Beginning this January, I will be serving on the Board of the Library’s Foundation.

Ironically, as I was planning to write this, I saw a lady reading a book, and someone walked by her and said, “I saw that movie.”  Her response was, “Books are better,” and she encapsulated why I give in one succinct phrase.

It is so important that books are available to everyone in the community.  Multiple, uncensored sources of information and points of view are essential, especially in our world today.  Books educate us, expand our world and ideas, and bring us so much joy.  I cannot imagine a world without all that books and reading have brought to me and others.

That is why the work of the Foundation is so important.  It supports early literacy initiatives and service programs that are dedicated to the library and are intended to benefit all ages and interests in our community.  It is so fulfilling to give to a cause that does so much good and that I believe in so passionately.

As for what I’m reading, I just finished reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and now I’m reading Horse by Geraldine Brooks.

Your investment in Johnson County Library generates a 300% return.