At the Kansas City Public Library's North-East Branch, Christmas is in the air - sort of. As the gateway to knowledge for Kansas City's most culturally diverse neighborhood, the North-East Branch during the holidays takes on the spirit of its patrons. And with people from different lands come different ways of celebrating (or not celebrating) the season.
Visit the North-East Branch on any day of the week, and you'll likely see people from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East checking out books for themselves or their kids, making use of the free computer access, and interacting with librarians, who, because of their skills at finding information, become guides to a new world. In turn, these people bring to Kansas City their native customs and cultures, imbuing internationalism into the landscape.
To get the widest possible view of how people in Northeast KC spend their holidays, we hunkered down for just a few hours over a couple of days at the North-East Branch, right next to an internationally themed holiday display case designed by globetrotting patron Nancy Kramer. We asked Branch Manager Claudia Visnich to introduce us to a few of her customers.
In shifting economic times, many men are finding themselves working a job they thought they’d never do: staying home with young children. For these fathers, planning activities for kids and socializing with other men in their situation can be hard. For the Kansas City At-Home Dads group, the Kansas City Public Library is a home away from home.
For the better part of the past two years, a diverse, rotating group of fathers and kids from all over the metro have been spending one morning each month in the Children’s Library at the Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library.
On a recent Friday morning, 10 or so of these KC Dads (as the group’s online shorthand goes) and their pre-school-aged kids stormed the Library for a session that included a visit from Santa, story time, crafts, music, and a movie – all of it tailored by Central Children’s Librarian Clare Hollander.
“As a children’s librarian, I’m these kids’ first teacher after their parents,” Hollander says.
For the KC Dads’ pre-kindergarten-aged kids, Hollander designs programs geared toward goals such as building vocabulary, improving narrative skills, and instilling a love for books and reading.
She also understands the unique character of this special group.
Ever wanted to know what your favorite rappers' lives are about? PLATINUM lets you into the lives of five of those rappers’ wives. Beth Saddlebroook is the wife of famous rap artist Z. Her life is perfect right? I mean with all that money and the Huge crib she has to be happy right? Wrong. Instead of living it up she's trying to save her husband from himself AND give him what he wants all at the same time. And at the same time her oldest son is trying to make a name for himself as an artist but will his abusive girlfriend and druggie father ruin his way to the top?
Beth can feel her family drifting away slowly. Can she deal with all the baby mama drama that Z stirs up at every town he tours at or will she crack? At this point Beth can only count on one person, her best friend Kipenzi Hill. Kipenzi Hill is a famous R&B artist. She's been managed by Puffy and Sung with Biggie. But at 30 years old she's tired of all the running from the paparazzi and getting mobbed and never having any privacy and just wants to retire. But with her best friend in trouble and everybody pressuring her will she get the rest she really wants?
Many of us have a time of year, a place, or a memory, which makes us feel quiet and introspective, no matter how busy our lives or our minds are spinning. Deborah Digges’ latest volume of poetry, The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart, is a book which captures a piece of that feeling in a way that is warm, passionate, and calm at the same time.
Through these poems, we are reminded that we have room to look at ourselves slowly, while the world around us may grow wildly and too fast.
The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart is a thin volume; the poems are lightly written in free-verse. But something familiar finds a connection here: birth as the process of a seed, a person, being given life too early, or perhaps too late; the perpetual mystery of losing someone who has become precious to you; different and beautiful ways of discovering peace.
Before the days of TV and radio, merchants caught customers' eyes with brightly printed, alluring advertising trade cards for all kinds of products in the new, manufacturing-driven economy. The trade card explosion of the late 1800s was a short-lived but significant phenomenon, and the Missouri Valley Room holds nearly 1,000 such artifacts, including more than a few that highlight that most wonderful time of the year for advertisers – the Christmas holidays.
In addition to providing a rich resource for researching the history of printing, advertising, medicine, and fashions in late 19th century culture, the Missouri Valley Room’s collection of advertising trade cards gives a glimpse into the history of early Kansas City companies. The Kansas City Public Library received a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant from the Missouri State Library to digitize these trade cards.
Read on for a few choice selections, and explore our digital collection to find more advertising trade cards from our city’s past.
Corle Cracker and Confectionery Company
Update, September 2011: Since this blog entry was posted, more e-readers and devices have become available for use with Library e-books, including the Amazon Kindle. Visit our e-reader tutorial page for the latest information.
With an estimated 10 percent of adults planning to give e-readers as gifts over the holidays, the season of the e-book is truly upon us. As you prepare to wrap – or unwrap – that shiny new Nook or Kindle, check out this guide to checking out e-books from the Kansas City Public Library.
Just as with printed books, when it comes to affordable e-reading, libraries are a bountiful resource. The Library has a growing collection of more than a thousand e-books that you can download and transfer to your e-reader. We also have many more that can be read online through NetLibrary. This blog post will focus on downloadable e-books, which are provided to the Library through a service called OverDrive.
It takes a little time and a teensy bit of effort to check out e-books, but once you’re familiar with the process, it’s a breeze.
Most people know little about the fates of survivors and refugees of the gruesome events of World War II. But in Day After Night, Anita Diamant’s 2008 novel, little known historical events are brought to vivid life. The Barista’s Book Club at the Plaza Branch read Day After Night in November, and found it brought out a lively discussion.
Best known for retelling the stories of biblical women in her 2007 book The Red Tent, Diamant again tells the story of a group of women – this time basing her story on the actual historical events surrounding the mass breakout of a detention center for Jewish refugees who were attempting to enter Israel as that country was being established in late 1945.
The Trailblazers book group has called the Trails West Branch of the Kansas City Public Library home for almost ten years. They started gathering to discuss reading in April of 2001 at the behest of then-branch-staffer Jackie Brown. Brown has since joined the Facilities team at the Central Library, but she left behind a loyal group of readers who have welcomed their new facilitator, Nancy Oelke.
The eclectic band of readers are open to almost any kind of books (except for horror, they freely admit) and have definite favorites from the past years. Stand-out titles include The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry (“Jackie brought cucumber sandwiches and fresh-squeezed lemonade!” one clubber remembers), Portrait in Sepia by Isabelle Allende (flan!), and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
Dark, twisted and strange, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary is the newest offering by humorist and author David Sedaris. A collection of short stories in which all the characters are animals that personify human failings, it reads like Aesop meets Quentin Tarantino.
Some readers may love this book, but be warned, if you are a Sedaris fan, this is not your typical Sedaris book (if there is such a thing). While his other writings, like Naked and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, often focus on his funny, off-beat personal and family situations, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is vulgar, violent, bizarre, and at times even stomach-turning.
This small compilation of 16 stories begins with “The Cat and the Baboon,” which centers on a gossiping baboon beautician and her cat client who needs a good grooming. What is the point of this opening piece? In Sedaris’s own words (albeit, toned-down for this blog), it’s to determine the “fine line between licking” – ahem, one’s posterior – “and simply kissing it.”
When the Kansas City Public Library’s annual Adult Winter Reading Program returns in January 2011, it will be sporting its new Altered States theme – which has already inspired several readers amongst Kansas City Public Library staff members.
Before getting to staff picks and recommendations for Winter Reading, a definition of the Altered States is needed:
The timeline of human history presents innumerable crossroads, junctions where individual actions proved decisive – perhaps even more so if these actions were altered even slightly. This premise has proved irresistible for authors of such stature as Mark Twain, Margaret Atwood, and Ray Bradbury. Novelists habitually manipulate time and transform our world, twisting its shape and cultures and characters to conform to their own imaginations and authorial ambitions. The resulting conflicts are insightful and rewarding – and the best examples ring true.
The Altered States theme has already inspired several readers amongst Kansas City Public Library staff members.
When we’re coming up to the Christmas season, my wife and I spend a lot of our TV time watching Christmas-themed movies – I bet we have about dozen such films we watch every Christmastime. For this month’s Classics Reviewed blog, then, I wanted to pick something that was seasonally appropriate – but not too obvious.
Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol, was out; most people are already quite familiar with it. Racking my brain, I came up with this epyllion (mini-epic) of the 14th c.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight comes to us from a single manuscript (Cotton Nero A x [contact me for more information on the name]), owned by the same man who owned our only copy of Beowulf (a.k.a. Cotton Vitellius A xv), Sir Robert Cotton. In addition to this poem, the manuscript also contains some short poems, “Pearl,” “Purity,” and “Patience.” The unknown author of Gawain is sometimes called the Gawain poet, and sometimes the Pearl poet.
Riddle us this: How many librarians does it take to change a light bulb? At the Kansas City Public Library, it takes exactly zero. That’s because we’ve got folks like Operations Manager Jerry Houchins to keep the lights on, the buildings warm, and all the facilities clean and running smoothly.
Whether it’s trimming the trees at North-East, replacing the book drop at Sugar Creek, checking the sprinklers at the Plaza Branch, or making sure the Missouri Valley Special Collections are protected in case of a disaster, no job is too big – or too small – for Houchins and his team.
In fact, it’s hard to think of areas that aren't affected by Operations in some way. Conducting renovations, ensuring fire and building safety, promoting energy efficiency, helping with events and exhibits, managing the janitorial staff – these are just a few of this department's charges.
“Anything that’s behind the scenes at the Library, that’s us. We touch more of everything than any other department,” Houchins says.
Houchins has worked backstage at the Kansas City Public Library for the better part of 10 years, a time that’s seen ups – and downs.
In July 2009, Houchins left his post as Plant Operations Manager for what he thought would prove greener pastures, working maintenance for a property management company. Houchins eventually found he’d made a bad move.
The recent release of Mark Twain’s uncensored autobiography has set the literary world ablaze. And that excitement was in the air a few weeks ago at the Central Library, when one of the editors of Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, Robert H. Hirst, came to give a presentation before a crowd of nearly 450 “Twainiacs.”
What’s fantasy, you ask? There’s no single, accepted definition, but the giveaway is usually magic. Whether it’s The Lord of the Rings or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, if the world described in the book features some difference from Earth that is the result of magic or other unexplained phenomena, you’re probably holding a fantasy novel.
For Garry Kasparov, life really does imitate chess. The top-ranked chess player in the world for nearly 22 years, Kasparov retired from international competition in 2005 and took on an even more challenging career. He entered Russian politics and became the leader of the opposition movement, playing democracy’s white against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s black.