Culture, education, recreation and diversity

A library staff member in a yellow vest hands books through a car window

Johnson County Library expanded its popular Curbside Holds Pickup service to Oak Park and Spring Hill Libraries in 2021.

…continuing to educate, entertain, program and serve during a pandemic

Services and programs may have looked a bit different in 2021, but the amenities that make Johnson County a premier community were consistently provided in a manner to optimize the health and safety of patrons, visitors and audiences.

Johnson County Park and Recreation District was a strong collaborator in the effort to vaccinate our community – providing facilities and staff for this important effort. Johnson County Library shared important information about vaccinations on its website.

In 2021, while JCPRD largely transitioned back to in-person activities, some programs have continued virtually. Virtual offerings have remained popular with 50 Plus participants, and both the Johnson County Museum and Ernie Miller Nature Center have presented educational outreach programs virtually.

While library branches for the most part remained open in 2021, library patrons could use drive-thru windows, material return drop-offs and curbside service, where staff brings items directly to patrons. While a few events and programs took place in person, Library OnDemand, an interactive online events platform for live and previously recorded programming, launched in spring 2021. The Library had more than 78,000 views of its pre-recorded programs between Library OnDemand and Facebook Live story times.

A bright spot related to the pandemic: the Johnson County Museum earned a National Award of Excellence from the American Association of State and Local History for their COVID-19 response.

A Latino family works on arts and crafts during a Hispanic Heritage Month event

The Third Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration took place at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center on Oct. 13. An advisory committee was convened to make sure this event was created for the community by the community.

…collaborating on fun, fitness and finding an activity just for you

2021 was a great year to visit a park or trail, try a new skill or experience some culture – many opportunities made possible by JCPRD, the Library and its wonderful collaborations. Just to name a few:

  • Those into competitive athletics had two new adventure races to try in 2021 – the Shawnee Mission Park Adventure Race and the TimberRidge Adventure Race. Each race offered two- and six-hour options. While the two-hour course was entirely on foot, the six-hour course also involved biking and canoeing.
  • JCPRD’s 50 Plus department celebrated its 50th anniversary through a series of programs and events throughout 2021.
  • After being shut down in 2020 because of COVID-19, Theatre in the Park produced a full season of three indoor productions and five outdoor productions in 2021. A fan favorite of the 2021 summer season was HALF TIME – Gotta Dance, the incredible true story of 10 determined dreamers who audition to dance at half time for a major basketball team.
  • The new Gary L. Haller Memorial Golf Tournament at JCPRD’s Tomahawk Hills Golf Course celebrated the life and accomplishments of JCPRD’s former director and raised funds for the foundation in order to continue to support his vision.
  • JCPRD partnered with the Kansas City Symphony and the Lyric Opera to present a series of free concerts in district parks during the spring and early summer of 2021.
  • Five JCPRD parks were among 21 sites in Johnson County where a new Walk and Read project was offered by the Johnson County Library. The 10-day traveling program involved a series of panel signs that provided an interactive reading experience for children and their parents.
  • The Library introduced a new drop-in program to meet a Johnson County Genealogist Society member and ask genealogy questions, obtain information on how to get started, learn about genealogy databases on library computers.
  • A collaboration between the Library and Johnson County Department of Corrections serves adult clients on site two days a week. A new Justice Card program enables Corrections clients to have their own Library profile. Their card remains active after they leave the Adult Residential Center.
County staff and leaders gather to issue a BOCC proclamation honoring Juneteenth

County staff and leaders gather to issue a BOCC proclamation honoring Juneteenth. A few months later, the county would designate it as a standard, fixed holiday.

…recognizing diversity, celebrating differences and examining history

Important work was done by Johnson County Government departments, agencies and offices, the Board of County Commissioners and community partners in 2021 in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, as well as acknowledging our history in new ways. While they can’t all be mentioned, here are a few 2021 activities of note:

The county helped facilitate the work of a committee to review the history of Negro Creek, a small waterway that meanders through several neighborhoods and small parks in southern Overland Park and Leawood. The committee is researching historical information, learning about federal guidelines surrounding naming waterways, presenting to community groups and seeking community feedback.

In October, the BOCC unanimously voted to add Juneteenth to the standard, fixed holidays for Johnson County Government for the year 2022 and subsequent years. In making the decision, the BOCC took into consideration the interests of the public in having access to the services of the government and the value of honoring and recognizing dates of importance to our country, community and employees.

Johnson County Library partnered with the Division of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Missouri, Kansas City to present a Martin Luther King, Jr. lecture series, bringing more than 1,300 participants together virtually for a lecture by Ibram X. Kendi. In addition, the Library’s Civic Engagement and Local History committees collaborated with Race Project KC team members to develop the “Dividing Lines” 360 degree virtual tour, to complement the existing “Dividing Lines” audio tour. The purpose of the video is to share the history of segregation in Kansas City and teach about the forces that have shaped the Kansas City community.

Johnson County Government introduced Voices of Inclusion, Belonging and Equity. VIBE was created as an internal organizational effort to positively impact the work environment, talent pipeline, county services and greater community through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

The Johnson County Museum initiated Sensory Friendly Mondays, which feature limitedoccupancy sessions designed specifically for children with sensory processing differences and Autism Spectrum Disorders, and their families. The Museum also partnered with Congregation B’nai Jehudah for the first-ever Passover display in the All-Electric House. It marked the first time a Jewish holiday was celebrated in the All-Electric House.

Johnson County Library partnered with the Johnson County Developmental Disabilities Organization to co-host a four-day Resource Fair aimed at connecting individuals with an intellectual and developmental disability with service providers and other resources. As part of an ongoing effort to make ADA-related (Americans with Disabilities Act) improvements in JCPRD parks, Phase I improvements at Ernie Miller Park were completed in 2021, and involved replacing and improving the park’s outdoor amphitheater, adding an outdoor classroom on the pond just north of the amphitheater and adding a new accessible parking area and bus loop closer to the nature center.