Foundation Stories

Growing up overseas, Ava Christie learned the value of libraries at a young age. She remembered finding the local library with her family as they moved around to different places. Libraries were special, familiar places filled with books and materials that inspired her.  “All you need is a library card, and the world is your oyster”, remarked Ava as the inspiration is ever-present for her today. 

In college in Douglas County, KS, Ava has fond memories of the library being a strong and important part of the culture and community. The Library would continue to play a significant role in her studies through her master’s degree and PhD programs as she utilized Inter Library Loan resources for her research and thesis.

As a mom, Ava raised her kids with her same love for the Library, which she referred to as “a best friend.”  Frequenting the Corinth and Central branches for books and programs, she noted the Library is a place which extends far beyond books, and is a place to meet people, access media and audio/visual materials, large print materials and travel books. Travel continues to play a key role in Ava’s life both personally and professionally and she visits libraries everywhere she goes.  She has noticed over time that newer libraries seem to be redefined as a focal point, accessible, and transparent with large windows to look in as well as see out.

Entering her 15th year as a volunteer on the Foundation’s board of directors, Ava credits the strengths of the Johnson County Library (JCL) system and its key role in our county and communities for her continued involvement and support.  She believes JCL has always been a place of diversity and inclusivity, citing the teen publication elementia as an example for young people of various ethnic, economic, and cultural backgrounds to be highlighted.  She adds that JCL is and exciting and fulfilling place to be and is reflective of the community it supports. Ava believes the community in turn supports the Library because we build and strengthen literacy and awareness, and to inform people is to empower them.

Looking to the future, Ava sees our Library system continuing to be modern and forward-thinking and to stay relevant and respond with ever-changing community needs. “Johnson County Library is not standing still”, says Ava enthusiastically, “and there isn’t another entity in the world of charitable organizations where you can make such a profound difference.  The Library provides equal access to information to everyone, and everyone is welcome.  Libraries are the key to helping people of all ages open and grow their world. The openness and availability 24/7 are unique to libraries as nothing else exists this way.”

  • Ava Christie

Johnson County Library Foundation Board members presenting a large check for the endowment of the Johnson County Library Collection in the total of $102,864.

At a recent Johnson County Library Board of Directors meeting, Foundation board members were thrilled and honored to present a grant check in the amount of $102,864!  This check represents the 2021 annual disbursement from the endowment for the Library Collection.  This is the largest amount to date! 

Pictured:  Library Board Member David Sims, County Commissioner Janee’ Hanzlick, County Librarian Sean Casserley, Library Board Chair Bethany Griffith, and Foundation Board members, Vickie Trott, Anne Blessing and Ava Christie.

This year’s Library Lets Loose is scheduled for Saturday, September 18. As we finalize all the details for our signature event, we’ve whipped up some fun summer activities as a peek at what’s to come this fall!

Be sure to join us for our Virtual Trivia Nights this summer:

Dates: June 9, July 14, and August 11

Time: 7:00 to 8:30 pm

Get your team together and join us for a fun evening of trivia hosted by none other than our Trivia king, Zeb Raines with Let’s Get Trivial! Have a blast, show off your smarts, & support the Johnson County Library. Winners will receive gift cards to the Golden Scoop ice cream and coffee shop! Registration is $50 for a team with up to six members. There is a maximum of 15 teams for each event. Participants will also be able to bid on two themed gift baskets.

Register for June 9
Register for July 14
Register for August 11

Books and libraries have always been a big part of my life. I remember being 5 or 6 years old and reading Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss all the way through by myself. I have a vivid memory of the joy and empowerment I felt in that moment… I’m a reader! It was a first step in my lifelong love affair with books and reading.  

My grandmother was a church librarian in Hesston, KS. My sister and I loved to hang out with her and browse the library shelves, on Sundays during our summer vacations. My grandparents and my parents were big readers. Their love of reading and books was instilled in me, a legacy my husband Gary and I passed to our children and now to our grandchildren. Storytimes are a must for our oldest grandson. When he could attend in person, we’d hear weekly chants of “Library, Library, Library.” The pandemic virtual programs are fun, but he misses other kids and listening to stories. Soon, we’ll take our 17-month-old granddaughter to Monticello storytime.

The Library has played an important role in my professional life. I do research for clients, and Library study rooms are a perfect landing place between meetings or for a virtual call. I look forward to being back.

As a past Foundation Board member and continuing member of the Fund Development Committee, my passionate belief is that libraries are invaluable in our community. Books and access to information are essential.  I take a great deal of pride and satisfaction in having helped, over the years, to establish the Foundation’s planned giving initiative, The 1952 Society: Writing the Library’s Next Chapter, and the Readers Circle (donors who have given $10,000 or more.)  I’ve had a lot of fun helping with Foundation events including Rare Conversations, the Pinnacle Awards, and now Library Lets Loose. It is more important than ever to ensure our Library’s success in benefitting future generations. That’s why the Library is, and will continue to be, one of my personal philanthropic priorities.

  • Lynne Brown

Be sure to join our Honorary Hosts, Rick and Denise Mills, Saturday, September 18, for an evening of fun and entertainment at our signature event Library Lets Loose!

Library lovers everywhere will enjoy this festive, FREE, family-friendly event.  Better yet, register now! And in the meantime, here’s a look at some of the fun from last year’s event.

Rick and Denise Mills, 2021 Library Lets Loose Honorary Hosts.

Your Sponsorship supports life-long learning resources and programs for patrons of all ages including:

  • Library collection enrichment
  • Youth homework assistance online
  • Art and community engagement programs
  • Early literacy initiatives
  • Summer Reading
  • Youth-at-risk programs
  • Teen literary programs
  • Local writers’ workshops
  • Incarcerated services books and services
  • Race Project KC
  • Online programming for education and entertainment
  • STEM education through the Black & Veatch MakerSpace

The driving force behind the creation of the Johnson County Library Foundation was County Librarian Mona Carmack. In the early ‘90’s, Mona began speaking about a JCL Foundation that would be devoted to raising donated funds for the Library collection and its programs.  This was a new concept for the Library at that time and in 1994, planning for the Foundation began and in 1996, the Foundation was established as a separate nonprofit organization.

Fred and Carol Logan

As a separate nonprofit, the Foundation needed the governance of a board of directors and distinguished community volunteers rose to the occasion. “The founding Board had a lot of heavy hitters,” said founding board president, Neil Shortlidge.   “Names that come to mind are Fred Logan, former Congresswoman Jan Meyers, former County Commissioners such as Bill Franklin and David Wysong, several mayors and a number of former Library Board members. “

Foundation founding board member Fred Logan has remained a strong donor and supporter over the years with wife, Carol.  “I believed that people would be very supportive of a foundation that was devoted to supporting the Library,” said Logan.  “Time has proven that to be the case.”

Caroline McKnight also served as a founding board member and continues to this day as a volunteer. She explains that the Foundation is relevant today because all strong and thriving institutions deserve to have a way for those who see their value support them financially. “Yes, of course, we all pay a pittance in taxes that accrue to build and maintain a wonderful library system, “ said Caroline. “But there are those who choose to offer more support, and a charitable arm makes that possible.”

Caroline McKnight and Neil Shortlidge
Caroline McKnight and Neil Shortlidge

We all know what 2020 was like and the Library kept going strong!  We had to rethink how to deliver services and materials during the pandemic and our donors kept rolling with the changes.   Online resources were as popular as ever and the Library buildings closed and re-opened with safe access books, materials, and computers.

Your support and charitable gifts were, and are, as important as ever as we adjusted and united. Highlights from 2020 included a pre-pandemic event: “A Conversation with Kevin Willmott and Steve Kraske,” a fundraiser to benefit Race Project KC.

Shortly after that, our gatherings went virtual and we celebrated the 1952 Society, the Foundation’s planned givers, and the Readers Circle, the donors who are the Library’s most loyal and generous donors.  We took to ZOOM with special guest Dr. Schuyler Jones, a renowned explorer and retired Oxford professor. 

Library Lets Loose- Virtual edition brought more brave Library lovers to a new adventure in events with 44 sponsors rallying with their support and more than 500 viewers joined in the fun online.

Throughout the summer and through the Black Lives Matter movement, Race Project KC came into the spotlight with donors making a point of supporting this program dedicated to social justice.

As the year wrapped up, our annual year-end donors came out in force and reminded the Library how much it is valued in the community.  Every dollar donated to the Library benefits our community through lifelong learning resources.

We are delighted and deeply grateful for your unwavering support.

Donors, Friends, and volunteers gathered virtually for a special appreciation event with author and cowboy storyteller, Jim Hoy, on Sunday, January 17.

Jim and his family are native to the Flint Hills of northeast Butler County Kansas.  His recently released book, My Flint Hills is his eighteenth book.  He taught literature and folklore at Emporia State University for 45 years in addition to a range of other endeavors and awards he’s received. 

Guests enjoyed his recollections of this home in the Flint Hills.   He has made a study of them—their tough terrain and quiet beauty, their distinctive folklife and cattle culture—and marshaled his observations to bring the Flint Hills home to readers in a singular way. My Flint Hills features essays describing Hoy’s Flint Hills, combining family lore and anecdotes of ranching life with reflections on the region’s rich history and nature. 

The appreciation event was organized by the Development Department that includes the Johnson County Library Foundation, Friends of the Johnson County Library, and Johnson County Library Volunteers.  Donors, Friends, and Volunteers contribute their time, talent, and financial support to further strengthen the Library’s lifelong learning resources.

View the recording of the author’s talk hereMy Flint Hills, and all of Jim’s books, are available at the Library. For more information on Jim and/or to purchase your own copy of his book, click here.

This year has been filled with challenges and the Library continues to rise to meet them. Online resources have expanded to meet patrons’ interests and the buildings are open with safe access to books, materials and computers.

Your financial support is more important than ever to meet the needs of our community. Every dollar donated to the Library benefits all Johnson Countians through lifelong learning resources.

Learn about a few of the programs and resources your charitable contribution supports.

Honorary co-chairs Cindy Wallis-Lage and Kent Lage greeted people from their home

Johnson County Library Foundation President Vickie Trott summed up one craving in 2020 as she addressed attendees at this year’s annual Library gala: “In these unusual times,” Trott said, “we need to let loose however we can until we can let loose in person again.”

And that’s exactly what happened Sept. 12, with the “virtual” Library Lets Loose celebration and fund-raiser. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event could not be held in-person and pivoted to online. Using the On24 platform, the Foundation hosted an event that still featured fun activities, capped off by a virtual dance club where people were encouraged to get their groove on from the comfort of their own homes.

“I am truly amazed at the ingenuity and willingness of so many people to look at the possibility to keep our Library Lets Loose event an ongoing tradition,” Trott told participants.

Honorary co-chairs Cindy Wallis-Lage and Kent Lage greeted people from their home. “Even in this time where we are sheltered in place a lot and we don’t get to go out to the places that we like to go, the Library is still there as a great resource,” Wallis-Lage said. “We hope you have a fantastic night and really remember how much the Library means to all of us.”  

In past years, the gala has attracted 44 sponsors and about 500 participants. This year, the event still garnered 44 sponsors and more than 500 attendees.  Feedback was very positive. The event was free to register but many people and companies still made generous donations. “As a Foundation, we are grateful for the brave Library Lovers who were willing to try an online fundraising event,” said Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Stollsteimer. “We are thrilled with the outpouring of financial support as well.”

The event, moderated by DJ Stann Tate, began with a reception and music by local acoustic guitarist and singer/songwriter Sean McNown. Andrew Olsen, beverage director with the J. Rieger and Co., demonstrated how to mix the “Library Lets Loose” cocktail. Participants could choose from a variety of experiences including a behind-the-scenes introduction to Library staff, activities for kids, and Trivia games. Some people had trouble finding the breakout rooms at first but tech support was quickly available.

The MakerSpace staff demonstrated the fascinating process of creating a wood block relief print, using an industrial roller and design by artist Shawn Sanem. The celebrity reader room featured local notables reading from favorite books; former Chiefs Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields read from Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom.” “We love Libraries and believe every child should learn to read and have access to books,” Shields’ wife Senia said.

Author Candice Millard shared how, when she was about 10 years old, she got a free book from a small town Library, which she has treasured ever since. She chose the book because of its wonderful title: “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou. “I had never experienced books that could be incredibly moving, that could take you somewhere you have never seen or imagined and are beautifully written,” she said.

With fundraisers like Library Lets Loose, the Foundation continues to help provide Library resources to open people’s eyes, as Millard’s were, to the power of great books to transform lives.

Lynn Horsley

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