In the fall of 2019, the $1.3 million addition, Claire’s Courtyard opened. In this new outdoor space you can relax and dine alfresco while enjoying fresh air and the soothing sounds of a water feature. Even when the skies aren’t blue, you can slip into the four-season sunroom. The courtyard has expanded the library’s pubic area for reading and events for all ages.
The courtyard was funded entirely by private donations raised by The Library Foundation, and thanks primarily to a generous donation from Dr. Glenn Swogger. The name Claire’s Courtyard honors Swogger’s late wife Claire.
The library’s brand is “Stay Curious” and playful learning is what you’ll experience in the new all-ages Learning Center. You are never too old (or young) to learn. Don’t be surprised if you see electric race cars being built or teams trying different strategies on an escape box. Learning new technology skills is a standard offering, but so is designing a mini roller coaster, talking about books, playing board games, building with LEGOs and creating art.
“At the new Learning Center everyone is invited to have a good time and find something that fascinates them. We call it sneaky learning. Try it.” said library CEO Gina Millsap.
The third year of the facilities master plan (FMP) repaired tiled flooring and removed line-of-sight barriers that kept customers asking, “where are the books?” The updated lobby now called the Plaza, invites customers to browse the new releases in books and movies first. Removing walls revealed the Large Print books collection offering convenient access and comfortable reading spots. It’s the library’s quick shop where you can check out books, use the copy center, and chat with our rock star customer service staff.
Other projects completed in 2019 are the Copy Center and new flooring. The new Copy Center, located on the northeast side of the Plaza, gives you space to copy, fax, print and scan. You’ll find beautiful and durable new flooring in the Plaza, main hallways, entrance, atrium and rotunda.
You floored us!
597 bricks raised $64,000 for Claire’s Courtyard furnishings
A big part of 2019 was spent building Claire’s Courtyard and filling its amphitheater seating with bricks and pavers engraved with lasting tributes and sayings from 475 donors.
The library connected readers to bestselling authors of biographies, history, sports, sci-fi, romance and thriller books. We uncovered each author’s unique perspective and writing journey.
Karin Slaughter has been publishing bestselling mystery thrillers since 2001. WIBW’s Melissa Brunner led an enthralling conversation with Slaughter for a large crowd in Marvin Auditorium. Slaughter was so welcoming that she asked us to put an open chair by her at the book signing table so she could easily take photos with fans.
Christina Lauren is the pen name for writing duo and best friends Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, who write bestselling romance, young adult and women’s fiction novels. Christina Lauren launched their 23rd book together, The Unhoneymooners, at our library in May. The authors had a conversation with fans, answered questions and signed many, many books.
For spring 2Book Topeka, three baseball experts shared stories with library fans. Joe Posnanski, author of The Soul of Baseball—A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America, discussed sports and social injustices with President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick. At a separate event, author and co-founder the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Phil S. Dixon shared his expertise on the Kansas City Monarchs.
Nancy Sprowell Geise, author of Auschwitz #34207: The Joe Rubinstein Story, visited the library on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Her book is based on the true story of Joe Rubinstein and his experience in the Holocaust. She discussed Rubinstein’s story and her role in sharing it with the world.
Ben Montgomery discussed his book Grandma Gatewood’s Walk for fall’s 2Book Topeka. His book follows the story of Emma Gatewood who at 67-years-old made history as the first woman to complete a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Montgomery, Gatewood’s great-great-grandnephew, used her diaries, trail journals and correspondence to tell her story.
Two authors shared their wisdom and experience though writing workshops at the library. Kij Johnson led a workshop for beginning sci-fi writers. Johnson has won many major sci-fi and fantasy awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon and World Fantasy awards. Poet Melissa Fite Johnson led a library workshop on examining our truths to become better writers. Johnson explores truth and life experiences in her debut poetry collection While the Kettles On.
Enriching the lives of children by inspiring a love of reading and learning is what Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library strives to achieve. The Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children birth until their 5th birthday, to their homes monthly. At the end of 2019, the Imagination Library had a total enrollment of 5,481 or 49.8 percent of the 11,005 children under 5 years old living in Shawnee County. The program costs about $30 per child per year. The Library Foundation and United Way of Greater Topeka raise funds for the program.
In July 2019, the Kansas Health Foundation (KHF) announced it’s support of our Imagination Library with a grant of $228,000 over three years, to support local participation in the Imagination Library. The KHF grant helps, but community fundraising continues. The goal is to create a large enough nest egg through donations that the program will be financially secure well into the next generation of early readers. Ultimately, all partners want to see every Shawnee County child enrolled as soon as they are born. There are no income requirements or restrictions, and no family pays to receive books.
For someone who is a new parent, it was helpful to me. Inside the books there are suggestions and tips on how to interact with your child while reading the book. Some suggest to point out shapes and make fun sounds to relate the book with words and everyday things in life. It is something to look forward to each month. They are free and good quality books. This helps build our home library. It is not just one book per family, each child gets their very own book each month to keep. It helps them become a lifelong reader.
Library on the Go!
We began rolling into community events on the new Book Bike in the fall. The bike is an environmentally friendly way to increase awareness of the library’s materials, events and services.
The Book Bike is piloted by a team of Book Riders who coast through the crowds at the events and happenings in the community. The library can now participate in some of the smaller parades that were off limits for the bookmobiles due to the size of the vehicles – the Book Bike is a perfect fit!
The bike is equipped with a Wi-Fi hotspot for instant access to digital library materials, library card sign-ups and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library enrollment. It is stocked to cater to each event and may contain materials for checkout, information on library services and events, and fun giveaways. Our Book Rider may present an impromptu storytime and other fun activities.
Shawnee County kids experienced new adventures on an new mobile kids’ library – the Adventuremobile. Thanks to a generous gift from the Security Benefit Foundation Charitable Trust to The Library Foundation, this new bookmobile replaced the original 26-year-old vehicle. The new Adventuremobile holds more (4,500 vs. 3,000) books, DVDs and music. It also has an awning for outside programming and room for new curiosity kits.
During summer the Adventuremobile was stationed at 11 locations to keep kids reading. They checked out and returned materials, and explored different STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math) activities weekly. During the school year the Adventuremobile visits participating elementary schools every other week.
“This bookmobile is an important library for the children of our community,” said library CEO Gina Millsap. “For many children this is their first experience using the public library.”
Gina Millsap, Library CEO
We’re making it easier for students to access accurate information with TSCPL@School. All students at Hayden High School, Shawnee Heights, Topeka Public Schools, and Washburn Rural Middle and High School automatically have a library card. Typically, their student ID numbers work as a library card number. At the end of 2019, 16,000 students were enrolled in TSCPL@School.
“When our schools and the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library work together, students thrive,” said Gina Millsap, library CEO. “With TSCPL@School, school-age kids have access to thousands of books and online resources 24/7. We’re making learning and reading happen now and for a lifetime.”
Students have access to complete information from trusted sources for homework and reports. Most of these resources are available digitally so they can be accessed anytime from anywhere with an internet connection – home, school or a coffee shop.
“Literacy is the foundation for a successful academic life,” said Dr. Tiffany Anderson, superintendent of Topeka Public Schools. “The partnership with the library provides opportunities for every student and staff member to have greater access to a world of literature beyond the classroom. Together we have expanded access to the library to 14,000 families who will gain library cards through our school enrollment process and we have expanded the classroom curriculum resources exponentially. This is a model of excellence in public education that extends learning by partnering to remove barriers for families and by investing in public education.”
Community of Readers
Community members played a big role in recommending and discussing books in Library News, web articles and on social media. The popular article series “Book Fix” included recommendations from community members Nicola Babcock, Emily Corby and her daughter Lily, Lindsay Freeman, Marty Hillard, Jennifer Kirmse and her daughter Aubrey, and Becky Nutter. Look for even more reader recommendations in 2020.
Library fans found a new source for advice on good eats in 2019. Volunteer Adrianne Evans started an online article series “Foodie Finds” to highlight recipes, cookbooks and other food related reading.
Facebook friends regularly share what they’re reading each week and comment on each others’ reading. Our reading librarian, Miranda, frequently turns these Facebook comments into booklists you can find in the catalog.
2Book Topeka continued to entice community members to read the same two books and discuss them .
We also launched a new reading recommendation podcast, The Bookmark, in the fall. Each week, regular readers Miranda Ericsson, Chris Blocker and Autumn Friedli, along with other librarians discuss books you’ll want to add to your reading list. This podcast is the perfect length (right around 30 minutes) to enjoy with your morning coffee, on your commute to work or during your lunch break.
A Great Library takes great People
Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees
Liz Post, Chair
Jim Edwards, Vice-Chair
Beth Dobler, Secretary
Kacy Simonsen, Treasurer
Kristen Brunkow O’Shea
Kerry Onstott Storey
Gina Millsap, Chief Executive Officer
Thad Hartman, Chief of Staff
Kim Strube, Chief Financial Officer
Jesse Maddox, Chief Human
By the Numbers
Net Promoter Score
NPS can be generalized as measuring customer loyalty. The high and positive NPS indicates people were satisfied with their recent experience at the library and are willing to tell others.
Expand Reading & Learning
The library is always working with partners in the community to reach more people and expand learning opportunities. New partnerships include Westridge Mall and the KU TRIO Educational Opportunity Center.
Westridge Mall provided space for a kids’ reading area, Book Nook, on the mall’s lower level. The Book Nook gives parents and caregivers a place to read a book with their child. We provide books and learning toys.
TRIO Education Opportunity staff are providing free college and career assistance in Team Room 4 every Tuesday from 1-6pm. TRIO staff assist with financial aid applications, school applications, career exploration, GED referral and English as a second language referral.
With Security Benefit Foundation Charitable Trust gift to The Library Foundation for the Adventuremobile, they became our second literacy partner.
After 18 years, Doug Petrie retired from running the Millennium Café at the end of 2019. Engroff Catering took over Café operation in January 2020. Engroff’s maintained all the previous Café staff as well as the recipes and quality partons expect.
Bond Initiative Paid
In September 2019, the library made the last payment on the debt financed through a bond issue to build the new library which opened in 2001. The refinancing of the building debt in 2015 resulted in a savings of over $900,000. The library is now debt free and committed to a pay-as-you-go strategy for future maintenance and improvements.