Library Life

Calamity Jane

‘Bout time we got a lady in the game! Straight from the pages of Larry McMurtry’s Buffalo Girls comes Calamity Jane, American frontierswoman and Off-the-Shelf All-Star Third Baseman. Once Jane’s warmed up, it’ll be time to pick a Teen Idol for Center Field!

Born in 1852 in Princeton, Missouri, Martha Jane Canary was a wild one. She was christened “Calamity Jane” during her time spent fighting Native Americans for the military and later became friends with Wild Bill Hickock in Deadwood. In McMurtry’s 1990 historic romp of a novel, an aging Calamity travels to London as part of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show to perform for Queen Victoria.

Now, as the 2012 MLB All-Star Game hubbub ramps up in Kansas City, the Kansas City Public Library is proud to welcome Miss Jane as the first woman on our literary bookball team.

Ender's Game

In our closest contest yet, Ender Wiggin won by a single vote to become the Kid Genius Shortstop on our Off-the-Shelf Literary All-Star Team. And as today is July 4, we’re asking your help choosing an American Hero or Heroine to cover Third Base.

Instant Replay:

As we rolled out of bed this Independence Day morning (a bit later than usual, as the Library is after all closed for the holiday) the Facebook vote was tied for the OTS team’s key defensive position: Kid Genius Shortstop.

Would it be Donald J. Sobol’s plucky neighborhood boy detective or Orson Scott Card’s interstellar schoolboy turned decorated space strategist?

Ender’s zero-g laser tag skills must have kicked in at the last minute, because a vote flew in for the interstellar prodigy just in time to end the heat before its 9 a.m. deadline. Wipe your eyes, Encyclopedia fans – there can be only one.

Elsewhere in the race, Harriet the Spy came in at second runner-up, followed by dreamy little Charles Wallace of A Wrinkle in Time. Teenage criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl made a surprise cameo as a write-in from All-Star recruiter Kim Carter. (Thanks, Kim!)

Bond vs. Bourne

James Bond is the New York Yankees of bookball. He must be. Overexposure is surely the reason the world’s greatest pop-culture spy got fed to the sharks in the contest over Second Base on the Library’s Off-the-Shelf Literary All-Star Team.

Or maybe yesterday's Facebook voters wanted a younger, American spy. After all, second runner up – also trumping Bond – was John le Carre’s aging, bureaucratic MI6-er George Smiley of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy fame. And the poor old Pimpernel? He slumped into last place with 0 votes.

So it’s with open arms that we welcome Robert Ludlum’s whip-fast, young battering ram Jason Bourne (born: 1980) of The Bourne Identity & sequels as the spy who will come in from the cold to play Second Base.

Though he won’t have the swagger of 007 or sophistication of Smiley, Bourne will bring sheer a physical menace the other spies lack. You won’t see this second baseman skipping practice to seduce the other team’s sexy double-agent relief pitcher. Bourne means business. Let’s just hope his tendencies for amnesia don’t apply to the rules of bookball.

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

The Off-the-Shelf All-Stars challenge is officially underway, and the first baseman of the Library’s literary baseball team has been chosen. Wielding a mammoth magician’s glove at 1B is Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts!

The legendary wizard of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books narrowly beat out a spry contender in J.R.R. Tolkien’s elfin archer Legolas – who really is more of a shooter than a catcher anyway, if you think about it - and will be providing a studied, stolid defensive presence at first sack.

Harry's sage mentor rose atop a field of Fantasy-lit first basepersons that included The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and reader-submitted nomination Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings (thanks for that one, Nancy!).

The battle for the bag took off quickly when we posted the Facebook Question Sunday morning, asking you to vote for our suggestions or add your own using the fill-in form. We hope to see another close contest today as we announce the genre and nominations for …

Second Base: Famous Spies

OTS Logo

It’s the bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded. The game is tied. The sci-fi flyboy steps up to the plate. He grips his plasma bat and digs in. The 19th century mad scientist on the mound takes the signal from the pirate catcher and concocts a poisonous curveball.

The Off-the-Shelf All-Stars are playing for keeps.

It’s All-Star summer for Kansas City and Major League Baseball, but here at the Library, we’re picking all-stars of our own – from the pages of our favorite books.

And you’re going to determine who makes the cut.

Off-the-Shelf All-Star Poll: July 1 – 10, 2012

Every day starting this Sunday, July 1, and leading up to the big game on Tuesday, July 10, we’ll ask fans on our Facebook page to nominate a fictional character from a specified genre to be an honorary Off-the-Shelf All-Star.

Each day of the series will bring a surprise genre. We might ask for an otherworldly wizard to pluck would-be homers off the left field wall, or an evil genius to snag grounders at short.

Rain Garden at the Ruiz Branch

The I.H. Ruiz Branch has long been an oasis of learning in the Westside neighborhood. Now, with help from Kansas City's leading environmental nonprofit, that oasis has gotten greener.

Horace Peterson portrait

Every great collection has to begin somewhere. For the Black Archives of Mid-America, it was in the trunk of Horace Peterson’s car in 1970s Kansas City.

Mayor Sly James

Summer Reading is upon us. The Library's branches are bustling with children piling into puppet shows and raising the roof at musical hoedowns, with teens texting and tweeting book reviews, and families dutifully logging reading hours to win prizes.

Ray Bradbury

It’s a famous, elemental creation story. Los Angeles, the early 1950s: Ray Bradbury sojourns to the basement of UCLA’s Lawrence Clark Powell Library armed with a bagful of dimes to bang out his now-classic lines like “It was a pleasure to burn” at ten cents an hour on a rented typewriter.

Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 over nine days – approximately one-ninth the time it takes readers to blaze through the dystopian firestarter – on a dime-driven typewriter in a library basement. Bradbury described himself as a fantasy author, with 451 being his only “science fiction” book. But like most of his 11 novels and 600 short stories, the book transcends its appointed genre. It burns, it jangles nerves, it frightens, and most of all, it teaches.

Lois Dodd - Self-Portrait in Green Window (1971)

Children who visit libraries early in life are more likely to return as they grow up. The same goes for art museums. This summer, the Kansas City Public Library is partnering with the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art for a program designed to enhance young readers’ love of listening – and looking.

Titled A Look and a Listen, the program will pair picture books with paintings in the gallery at the Kemper Museum. This June and July, children's librarians will read and talk about books that complement works in the brand-new exhibition Lois Dodd: Catching the Light.

Running every Wednesday, June 6 - July 25 (except for July 4), A Look and a Listen is part of the Library’s broader Summer Reading Program for children and teens.

Programs will begin at 10:30 a.m. and run for approximately half an hour. In addition to the readings from librarians, museum docents will provide discussions of Dodd’s paintings.

A breathtaking retrospective of a 60-year career, Catching the Light features 51 works by a plein-air painter with a brilliant eye for colors and shapes — two things that are important to the development of early literacy skills.

Wick Thomas

In an age of texting, tweeting, and LOL-inducing memes, putting out a print zine may sound a little 20th century. But there’s something to be said for publishing a story you can have and hold.

Elena McVicar and Meghann Henry

One is a master at getting kids revved up at programs. The other knows children's books like an old pro. Find out how our two newest additions to the Library staff are taking reading to all corners of the city.

Geek vs. Geek

What happens when you put trained engineers and science-savvy kids in a room together for two days and ask them to battle it out with LEGO robots? We found out the answer on a recent Saturday at the Plaza Branch.

Sue Sanders

Kansas City atheists may not believe in God, but they definitely believe in Sue Sanders.  Find out how our meeting room scheduler is making connections all over the city.

Publitzer Medal

 The readers have spoken. Voting in the finals for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction has closed, and a worthy novel has been democratically awarded the highest prize in mock American literary awards. Where the real Pulitzer Prize committee left off, you, the public, picked up.

Congratulations to Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, the landslide victor of the Publitzer Prize readers’ vote. Now, in addition to being a New York Times Notable Book of 2011, Plot has the official stamp of approval of the Kansas City Public Library’s uppermost echelon of fiction connoisseurs.