A Hush Falls: Kositany-Buckner Moving from Library to Jazz Museum

Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, Photo by Paul Andrews

Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner has never been a quiet presence at the Kansas City Public Library—happily so.

The Library's deputy director of strategic initiatives favors colorful garb and jewelry and tends to punctuate offices, hallways, and meeting rooms with bursts of full-throated laughter. She's every bit as bold in taking up causes in which she firmly believes, such as helping Kansas City's poorer, underserved residents gain greater access to computers and the Internet. The Library has assumed a central role in addressing digital inclusion, in no small part because its deputy director of strategic initiatives deems it a priority.

Kositany-Buckner is taking that passion and vibrant personality to the American Jazz Museum.

The museum—in Kansas City's historic 18th & Vine District—announced Thursday, January 21, that she will take over as its executive director March 2. Kositany-Buckner will wrap up her quarter-century tenure at the Library some two weeks earlier, on February 19.

"Cheptoo has done so much for the Library and been such an important part of our team that I can't deny this is our loss," Library Director Crosby Kemper III said in announcing the move to his staff. "But it is great for the city, the Jazz Museum, and of course for Cheptoo. Hooray for Cheptoo and KC Jazz!!!"

Said Trey Runnion, chairman of the Jazz Museum's board of directors, "While the competition was impressive, there was no question in the minds of the search committee and board that Cheptoo has the broad perspective, experience, and community knowledge to be able to help us hit the ground running and accelerate our progress."

Kositany-Buckner speaking at the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Summit in 2014

A native of Kenya, Kositany-Buckner arrived at the Library in September 1990 as a network administrator and later became its information technology director. She has been a deputy director of the Library for the past 10 years and assumed oversight of strategic initiatives in early 2015, reflecting the growing importance of digital programs and partnerships.

Beyond spearheading the Library's involvement in the community-wide effort to bridge the digital divide in Kansas City, she has supervised the design and renovation of several facilities—including the L.H. Bluford Branch and Truman Forum Auditorium at the Plaza Branch—and overseen the development and launch of the award-winning Civil War on the Western Border website. Kositany-Buckner also has been instrumental in the revitalization of the Black Archives of Mid-America, overseeing the first permanent exhibit in the Kansas City area on the history of African Americans in the city and currently serving as vice chair of the organization's board of directors.

Kositany-Buckner with Library Director Crosby Kemper III (left) and historian Michael Searles (right) during the Library's Big Read celebration of the western novel True Grit in 2013

She is active in numerous other local, statewide, and nationwide agencies and organizations, and was named by the Kansas City branch of the NAACP last November as the 2015 recipient of its Lucile H. Bluford Special Achievement Award.

Born and raised in a family of 11 children in the ranch town of Eldoret in western Kenya, Kositany-Buckner completed high school there and followed two brothers to the United States and Central Missouri State University (now the University of Central Missouri) in 1983. She speaks multiple languages including her native Nandi, Swahili, and English.