Library, Arts & Heritage Center Team Up for Hispanic Heritage Celebration

Johnson County Library and the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District (JCPRD) each strive to serve a growing Hispanic population with great outreach and enrichment resources.

Now, the Library and Culture Division of JCPRD are collaborating for the first time on a Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration event, highlighting the Hispanic community’s rich diversity and amazing cultural contributions.

The celebration, free and open to the public, will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave. The Library will present a Walk & Read exhibit on the front lawn and will have a table with Library card applications and other patron information.

Attendees can savor delicious food from local restaurants and enjoy a community arts activity and musical entertainment. The Johnson County Museum will be free to explore that evening. 

This is JCPRD’s fourth annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration but the first to involve the Library. Representatives of both agencies are thrilled to work together.

“We love working with the Center,” said Elissa Andre, the Library’s external communication manager. “It’s really great to have County partners. We share a mission about education and bringing exciting things to the community.”

Susan Mong is Superintendent of Culture for JCPRD, which includes the Johnson County Museum, Theater in the Park, Fine and Performing Arts and Public Art. She worked for Johnson County Library from 2007 to 2017. She was so impressed with the Library’s intentional relationship-building in the Hispanic community and has that same vision for JCPRD’s Culture Division.

“We had been looking for partnership opportunities with the Library out of this building,” Mong said. “Really trying to make sure we complement and cross-pollinate audiences.”

The event is open to all ethnicities and ages and no reservation is required.

“There’s a desire for us to not only make the Latino community feel welcome here, but also help members of our community that don’t have exposure to that to learn, celebrate and engage,” Mong said.

The Library hosted a well-attended Walk & Read exhibit and informational table at the Arts & Heritage Center’s Juneteenth celebration June 11. Both agencies hope the Oct. 12 collaboration will prove just as successful.

Other key partners for the Oct. 12 event include El Centro, the La Mega Radio Station, the Olathe Leadership Lowrider Bike Club and the Olathe School District.

Edgar Palacios, founder of the Latinx Education Collaborative, will emcee the event. Performers will include Voces Festivas, a new adult Spanish language choir led by Leilani Velasco.

Johnson County’s Hispanic population has grown from about 39,000 in 2010 to about 54,000 in 2020, now comprises nearly 9 percent of the county.

Mong said the Johnson County Museum has established a Latino Collecting Initiative to make sure that segment of the population and its cultural contributions are represented.

“There is a very intentional desire to reflect that story better in the Museum,” she said.

The Library also has a specific team of professionals devoted to serving Hispanic patrons, with robust bilingual services, early literacy programs and a Spanish language collection.

The Library’s Walk & Read will be on display Oct. 12-16 and will feature the books Pepe and the Parade by Tracey Kyle and Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera. The Library has also compiled suggested reading lists and other resources to celebrate the month.