Growing up in the small town of Osawatomie, KS, Mike Zakoura was destined for a life filled with words, paper, books – and giving, above and beyond. His journey has included majoring in journalism and radio at the University of Kansas; being an editor at The Kansas City Star until 2000; and working in the Interlibrary Loan Department at Johnson County Library for 16 years, until he retired this past summer.
The Foundation sat down with Mike shortly before he left JCL to learn more about his dedication to literacy and his loyal giving to the JCL Foundation through Johnson County’s Employee Payroll Deduction Program. For him, giving back to the community is a lifelong priority.
When asked why it was meaningful to give to the Library in addition to working here, he replied, “We tend to focus on necessities versus charities. Sometimes charities take a back seat. Giving is a commitment.”
Children’s literacy holds a special place in Zakoura’s heart. He has been married for 43 years, raised daughters, and has grandchildren. “I think it is important to give to kids’ literacy and help provide opportunity. I see a life wider than my own. People need to consider children.”
Another example of Zakoura’s giving: his volunteering for literacy. He gives time to his granddaughter’s school reading to the students. “It is important to help influence young people to read. For kids, you can’t dictate a road, but you can help influence their path.”
Reflecting on his decade and a half working at the Library Mike said, “Libraries are on the short list of places people can be comfortable asking questions. Libraries are safe places. The Library is a place where you can be free and read a book, be it sci-fi, history, children’s literature – there is something for everyone.”
A big reason he enjoyed the Interlibrary Loan Department is the ability to connect materials to libraries in smaller communities, similar to where he grew up. He easily drew a parallel between his work at The Star to working at the Library: books, paper and words. Mike said he’ll miss the people the most, the relationships he’s built.
What does Mike see as the future of libraries? “More tech!” he declared. “The Library will continue to metamorphose to stay relevant in the community. Libraries will always have an important role and just take different forms as they evolve.”
“Why do I give to the JCL Foundation? I believe people should choose an organization to give to because it’s the right thing to do. You don’t have to save the world, but you do have to save a small part of it. It doesn’t have to be much, but it does have to be something. Find your passion – be it children’s literacy or whatever is meaningful to you – and give to it.”
Johnson County Library – Nurturing the Community’s Collective Wisdom