Bruce Roach

For a while there, it looked as if Birnam Wood would not come to Southmoreland Park, toil and trouble would not bubble in view of the Nelson-Atkins’ shuttlecocks, and cries of “Out, damned spot!” would not sound across midtown Kansas City.

But thanks to a tempest of support from the community, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival was able to raise needed funds, and this year’s production of Macbeth will run from June 14 through July 3. It was just over a month ago that the Festival’s organizers announced they would need to raise $100,000 to keep the 19th season afloat. Luckily, the ducats came rolling in, and the show will go on.

That’s good news for the Kansas City Public Library, too. Not only are we fans of the Festival – which always brings veteran actors to top-notch productions of the Bard’s works – we’re also proud to host an annual Shakespeare lecture series that’s free and open to the community. In its 11th year, the series brings extra context and insight to the plays staged in the heart of our city.

The H&R Block Business and Career Center was designed, in part, to help people get their own businesses up and running. Now, one local entrepreneur has crossed to the other side of the help desk, where, as a Library volunteer, she works with customers not unlike herself.

Annie Sorensen is a seasoned self-starter. While working as a software designer at Cerner for seven years, she used her free time to carve a place for herself as an independent brand partner in the world of network marketing.

She became one of the top 30 earners in her company, and in January of last year, she was able to quit her day job.

“That was a business that I built up 100 percent around my full-time job – in evenings and on weekends, in the nooks and crannies of my life,” Sorensen says.

After leaving Cerner, she picked up a real estate license. Now, she and her husband own several investment properties.

Self-education – mainly through reading – has always been Sorensen’s driving force.

“I’ve always been entrepreneurially minded, but it kind of started in college,” says the University of Iowa graduate. “I really got into personal development books, which opened my mind to things like motivation, inspiration, and goal-setting.”

Three Cups of Tea may just be one of the most well-known works of non-fiction around today. It’s a tricky one to avoid hearing about. If you haven’t read it, someone you know has, or you’ve seen one of the thousands of interviews given by co-author Greg Mortenson.

And even if you’d managed to avoid all of that, the potential scandal unearthed by CBS’s 60 Minutes last month, alleging not just that portions of the book are fabricated, but that Mortenson mismanages the charity that allows him to build all these schools, has put the book and Mortenson directly into the public spotlight and headlines.

It was this hoopla, actually, that prompted me to pick up Three Cups of Tea. After hearing about it for so long, I wanted to decide for myself what to believe.

Andrei Codrescu has always been interested in the ways stories are told. As a poet, essayist, novelist, and founder of the avant-garde journal Exquisite Corpse – not to mention his hilarious NPR commentaries – Codrescu has made a name for himself as a master at both creating and exploding narrative forms.

On Thursday, June 2, 2011, Codrescu visits the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library to discuss his newest novel, a smart, dizzingly adventurous, and hysterical retelling of the Arabian Nights – Whatever Gets You Through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments. (Please RSVP if you wish to attend this free event.)

The day after a devastating tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, destroying a quarter of the city and resulting in 123 deaths, the Joplin Public Library was open for business.

Located about 12 blocks north of the six-mile-long path the F4 tornado cut through the town Sunday night, the Public Library has become a place of stability for a community in upheaval.

Library Director Jacque Gage reports that as citizens have begun to regroup and restart their lives, they’ve been using the Library’s computers, solid Internet connection, and charging stations. “We’re near police, fire, and the main grid,” Gage tells us. “Our fiber network hasn’t gone down once.”

Though the Library was undamaged, eight staff members completely lost their homes in the storm, and two others’ homes received significant damage. Two employees suffered injuries, including a broken arm.

“Five of the eight who lost their homes are only employed part-time, including a single mom (with a now-broken arm and no medical insurance),” Gage said in an e-mail sent earlier today to Missouri library directors.

The current popularity of knitting as a craft comes from its versatility and creativity. As a teenager in 1960s Japan, Kyoko did not view knitting in such positive ways. For her, it was a symbol of repression.

Yarn: Remembering the Way Home is New York Times noted author Kyoko Mori’s memoir of her life in Japan, her decision to leave Japan the first chance she had, and how she developed a successful life in the United States.  

In her seventh grade home economics class, Kyoko was required to knit a perfect pair of mittens. With mismatched stitches and uneven knitting, Kyoko’s mittens earned only a D-. She had little use for knitting and for many other skills taught to teenage girls; skills she saw as symbols of repression thrust upon Japanese women. She had witnessed how the strong patriarchal society had destroyed her mother, leaving her with suicide as her only means of escaping an overbearing husband.

Throwing Like A Girl by Mackey, Weezie.

When Ella suddenly transfers from her Chicago hometown to Dallas, Texas, she feels alien in her new private school. With her clunky Midwestern clothes she feels like she doesn't even compare to the girls in flowing skirts that go to Spring Valley Day School. And without her friends to help guide her she feels so lost. But then on an impulse she decides to try out for the softball team, and she makes it!

During the Pre-Season Ella learns alot about herself and who she really is on the inside. During Regular Season she learns more about her friends and learns more about how to be comfortable with herself and stand up.

And as Softball changes her life for good and for the bad she has to learn how to be herself even when most of the girls at SVD are giving her the evil eye. But with her news friends to support her she learns that being yourself is probably the greatest thing you can ever do.

Some people look at big cities and see dirty streets, crowded subway cars, and muggers lurking around every falafel truck. But Harvard economist and author Edward Glaeser sees the American metropolis as more innovative, greener, and healthier than the leafy suburb.

Glaeser’s new book, Triumph of the City : How our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier shatters many myths about American cities.

For one thing, the human density of big cities drives innovation and competition – the more people, the more possibility for change and growth, Glaeser argues.

“Cities play to mankind’s greatest asset, which is being able to learn from each other face to face,” Glaeser recently said on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Glaeser finds that far from being plagued by crime and filth, people in big cities are healthier and wealthier than other Americans, and they use 40 percent less energy than their suburban counterparts.

Roger Ebert is an indisputable expert on film. But cult film expert? Rather than offering a comprehensive index of Ebert cult film reviews, there is a more compelling piece of evidence to support his cult film bona fides: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

This question (“cult film expert?”) follows the announcement of the theme and line-up for the Kansas City Public Library’s 2011 Off-the-Wall Film Series, which is operating under the banner Ebert Presents Cult Films from the Balcony. This series is curated by Ebert (exclusively for the Kansas City Public Library) and kicks off with a screening of The Cell (2000) on Friday, May 20, at sundown (no earlier than 8:45 p.m.) on the Rooftop Terrace of the Central Library.  

The notion of what makes a cult film can be somewhat nebulous and easily debatable, but whatever your standards, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (BTVD) meets them. Ebert developed the story and the screenplay with producer/director Russ Meyer – and his role as a principal author of this film should be enough to convince any skeptic of Ebert’s cult credentials.

Volunteer Renee VanErp shares the Joy of Reading with 10-year-old Parijat Mondal in the Plaza Kids' Corner.

Construction snarled traffic across midtown on a recent, steamy May afternoon in KC. But inside the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, a moment of quiet was being shared over a book.

Joy of Reading tutor Renee VanErp and her student, Parijat Mondal, bent over a science book spread out on a table in the Kids' Corner. Though his voice was soft, Parijat blazed through paragraphs on astronomy and physics, stopping only when he found an unfamiliar word.

The pauses were rare, considering that English is the boy's third language.

"Parijat speaks Bengali and Hindi, and he's learning Spanish at Carver Elementary," VanErp says. "I was fortunate to be matched with a young man who loves learning."

VanErp approached the Library two and a half years ago about volunteering. Like many in the Library's fleet of volunteers, VanErp came in looking to help, and she was put to work.

Coming from all walks of life and bringing a bevy of reasons for wanting to pitch in, volunteers are a welcome aid in helping staff run the Library system.

"Volunteers are here to make the librarians' lives easier," says Katie Taylor, volunteer coordinator for the Library.

By taking on a wide variety of responsibilities, volunteers make it easier for librarians to do what they do best: provide professional, personalized service to Library patrons.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

When Nora Grey gets a new biology partner, her life completely changes; she thinks someone is stalking her and her guess is Patch, her biology partner. She thinks she’s seeing things, hearing things, and when the police get there everything is back to normal, then she starts questioning herself; did she really hit the guy in the ski mask with a car??

She’s still drawn to Patch but scared too since her friend, Vee, (and mother and her new psychologist, Ms. Green)warns her about him .
She finds out little about Patch when he knew almost everything about her (even knows what she's thinking and TO her mind). Nora swears she heard Patch’s voice inside her head, speaking to her!

She also meets this new guy who has a bit of a history, not that Patch doesn’t have any but not any she could find on the internet.
The guy is Elliot Saunders and he “allegedly” killed his girlfriend from his old school, maybe the reason he transferred.

So who’s the stalker/killer? Patch? Elliot? Or is it just Nora’s imagination?

Find out more in Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush!

Being a runaway is hard enough as it is – leaving behind friends, family, and the life you’ve always known just to get away. Survival is always a concern, and it gets even trickier as a runaway in Unwind. In Neal Shusterman’s dystopian young-adult novel, they’re not just after you. They’re after your body parts.

In the future, in order to satisfy both sides of the pro-choice and pro-life war, the American Government has approved the Bill of Life.  The Bill of Life states that parents may choose to retroactively abort a pregnancy when their child is between the ages of 13 and 18.  In doing so, the child is technically kept alive by the dismemberment and “recycled,” with 100% of the child’s body material getting repurposed. The child’s life is never taken, just...“redistributed.” This process is known as “unwinding,” and the unfortunate children and teens fated for this are known as “Unwinds.”

Our three main characters are all on the run for different reasons. Connor is a troubled boy whose parents decided to unwind him after multiple fights in school. Risa is a ward of the state who feels she was never really given a chance to shine. And Lev is along for the ride with Connor and Risa after being kidnapped on his way to his own tithing – he is his family’s religious contribution to the unwinding system.

¿Puede usted ayudarme? A Hispanic customer surprised me with this question one day. My eyes popped out of my head. True, I recently took Spanish That Works, an eight-week course designed to help librarians learn basic Spanish. But could I put to use what I studied in class to assist this lady right away?

Nervously, I introduced myself to her in Spanish. Then, the No hablo mucho español I barely remembered from Mr. Orozco came in handy.

After that eye-opening day, I made up my mind that I need más Spanish to better communicate with Hispanic patrons. Fortunately, the Kansas City Public Library provides a wide variety of Spanish-learning resources in book, CD, DVD, and electronic formats. On this Cinco de Mayo, why not take your first steps toward learning Spanish – or if you’ve already studied it, brushing up?

My criteria for choosing language-learning materials are: conversational focus, practicality, and audio quality. These beginning-level books offer vocabulary, phrases, and sentences that will get you started conversing in Spanish in no time.

Sometimes in our lives, we set our own limitations. We are too afraid to follow our dreams. We tell ourselves that we don’t have enough skills, talents, or physical abilities to do a certain task. These fears prevent us from utilizing the full potential that we have.

By changing the way Americans eat out, Fred Harvey changed the way we eat, period. As founder of America’s first interstate restaurant chain, the English-born entrepreneur filled bellies all along the westward-expanding Atchinson, Topeka & Sante Fe railroad at the turn of the 20th century.

Not only were Harvey House meals of consistent quality and value, they were served up by the refined, morally upright, and danged cute Harvey Girls  –  quite possibly the Platonic ideal of what it means to be a waitress. They even inspired a “gay and lusty” 1946 Judy Garland musical. (Watch the trailer.)

Harvey also had a major impact on Kansas City. In 1914, Union Station opened and became a nerve center for the American railroad. With the Fred Harvey company headquarters located in the building, alongside a 525-seater Harvey House, Harvey's enterprise was feeding the growth of Kansas City and the West. (Harvey died in 1901, but his name lived on through the company and its owner, his son Ford Harvey, who helped shape KC in his own right.)