JCPL Column: Foundation makes our libraries better

At public libraries, patrons are empowered to freely learn and broaden their horizons. They are one of the last institutions that everyone in the community from the cradle through retirement can enjoy.

I’ve always loved libraries, and for several years now have had the honor of serving on the board of the JCPL Foundation. This term, I was elected as the foundation’s president. It’s been a whirlwind of a year.

Many facets of JCPL have expanded thanks to community support of the JCPL Foundation and Friends of JCPL. Six special projects were funded coinciding with the opening of the new Clark Pleasant Branch. Among those: a state-of-the-art STEAM lab where we can experiment with robotics and 3D printing; an Early Childhood Development Zone where kids and their adults can get hands-on with all sorts of shape, color, and motor skill activities; and numerous community art and nature installations. Dear to me is the Adult Learning Center also within the Clark Pleasant Branch Library.

I started shelving books and helping out with circulation at my middle school’s library, and I eventually found myself working at my college’s library shelving and moving books in the summer. As a language fanatic, when an opportunity to volunteer to tutor English with JCPL’s Adult Learning Center (ALC) cropped up in 2017, I couldn’t pass it up. The ALC embodies empowerment. It is a place dedicated to enhancing the quality of life by improving literacy and providing basic education for adults. Being an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor continues to yield lifelong friendships and provides the knowledge that the work we’re doing simultaneously helps people and strengthens our community.

Going from volunteer to board member to president of an entity that impacts my entire community has been surreal. It’s been eye-opening seeing the good that’s being done by our librarians and the staff behind the scenes, getting to know the people who visit the branches and securing the financial stability of JCPL programs for generations to come.

In 2023, you’ll see the return of several popular events as well as some fresh ones sprinkled throughout the year. Meet The New York Times bestselling authors throughout the year as part of the Authors at JCPL series. Keep summer learning loss at bay with the Explore Summer program, this year residents logged 3.1 million reading minutes. You will be able to take a step back in time and explore pioneer life at the Trafalgar Branch’s Library on the Prairie festival.

The JCPL Foundation and the Friends of JCPL help the library to be more than a place to borrow books. It’s a place to learn, grow and engage with your family, friends and neighbors. We appreciate the support that so many Johnson County residents and businesses have given to the foundation. If you would like to learn more about the foundation, please visit You can also donate to support life-long learning at the Johnson County Public Library at to

Caleb Drake is the president of the Johnson County Public Library Foundation. JCPL staff members share in writing this bi-monthly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected]