KC Unbound

One by one on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, some 60 people of varying size, shape, and age will step atop a scale at the Kansas City Public Library’s L.H. Bluford Branch to measure the returns from 12 weeks of sweat and self-discipline.

To the top three finishers in the branch’s annual weight-loss challenge will go prizes ranging from a $100 Visa gift card to a Library gift pack. But the rewards go far beyond that.

With healthier diets and participation in Bluford’s weekly fitness classes, “I’ve literally watched people shrink. It really has impacted their lives,” branch Manager April Roy says. “They’re so grateful. They’re, like, ‘We love being able to come here. It’s free. It’s safe.’”

It’s just one facet of a far-reaching health and wellness initiative sponsored by the Library branch at 3050 Prospect.

  • The first in a series of six-week, chronic disease self-management workshops, co-sponsored by Truman Medical Centers, wrapped up at Bluford earlier this month. They’re being held in various neighborhood locations through early 2015, moving to the Library’s North-East Branch, in August and September 2014 and returning to Bluford next January and February.

  • The Mobile Market, a traveling produce market making fresh vegetables and fruits available to low-income neighborhoods that otherwise have limited access to supermarkets or other sources of fresh food, stops at Bluford each Tuesday from 10:30-11:30 a.m. It will continue at least through the summer.

  • A vision fair, featuring free screening by the Lions Club, will be held at Bluford on Monday, April 28, 2014, and already has reached its ceiling of 50 signups — with a waiting list. Vouchers for eyeglasses, redeemable at local retail outlets, will be available for individuals needing them.

  • Bluford is one of four Library branches hosting a series of health fairs in the coming year, offering general health checks by Cleveland Chiropractic College and blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar screenings by Truman Medical Centers. The first of three at Bluford is May 10. Other participating branches are Southeast, I.H. Ruiz, and North-East.

Roy, who arrived at Bluford in 2012, is making the wellness initiative a branch signature, complementing the permanent Health and Wellness Center it houses in partnership with Truman Medical Centers.

The soon-to-be-completed weight-loss challenge saw 61 entrants shed almost a collective 200 pounds in the first eight weeks. Last year’s winner lost 32 pounds over the full 12 weeks.

The challenge is held in conjunction with Tuesday evening cardio-kickboxing classes at Bluford. The branch also offers strength and endurance training on Thursdays.

The chronic disease self-management sessions follow a Stanford University program designed to help sufferers feel less overwhelmed by their conditions. The first round at Bluford, which concluded April 10, had 18 participants.

“The other day, in the chronic disease self-management class, we were going around the room and all of these people who are suffering – I mean really suffering – from all of these chronic conditions were talking about things in their life that they were grateful for,” Roy says. “I was literally weeping.

“These people are suffering. They have chronic pain. One lady’s on oxygen. All these things, they could be totally down in the dumps about. And here they are, talking about what they’re grateful for.

“It’s so fulfilling for me to see. And to know that my community is responding.”

Stream the music you want. When you want it. No ads. No charge.

Who wouldn’t like the concept?

It didn’t take patrons of the Kansas City Public Library long to discover — and take advantage of — the upgraded offerings of Freegal Music. Its catalog of some 7 million songs was made available via online streaming in February 2014. By the end of that month, nearly 13,000 tracks had been accessed by Library card-holders.

The streaming is unlimited, available 24-7, and more flexible than other services that allow users to specify genres of music but not particular songs. With Freegal, patrons can create personal playlists. Or they can listen to an entire album of their choosing.

“To use an appropriate term, it’s a hit,” says Joel Jones, the Library’s deputy director of branch and library services. “Freegal’s downloads have always been popular – they’re yours to keep – but there are limits.

“There’s no ceiling on streaming. You can listen to as much as you want for as long as you want. I use it on my (smart) phone at the YMCA. Before I climb on the treadmill, I just go to the ’80s classic rock selections or whatever else I’m in the mood for and pick a playlist. It’s so easy.”

The Library has offered Freegal’s downloaded music since late 2012, recently raising its limit on downloads from three to five songs a week.

Freegal’s streaming service was added just as KCPL began featuring another service, Hoopla, that makes music, television shows, movies, and audiobooks available via online streaming. Between them, they give Library card-holders a wide-ranging menu of no-cost digital entertainment.

Hoopla’s ever-expanding digital collection counts some 100,000 music CDs; 10,000 audiobooks; 3,000 movies; and 500 TV series. Because the Library is charged each time an item is checked out on one of its cards, it limits users to 15 items per card per month (with each TV episode counting as an item).

Via Hoopla, Kansas City Public Library patrons downloaded more than 900 music albums, videos, and audiobooks in February.

Steve Wieberg, Department of Public Affairs

The Jackson County Spelling Bee continues Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 9 a.m. at our Central Library, and is open to the public. RSVP here.

Saturday may not be quite what Bernie Norcott-Mahany imagined when he said yes three years ago to serving as the pronouncer for the Jackson County Spelling Bee.

A nice, typically modest and quiet event has blown up into something far bigger. Good Morning America, the Today show, Inside Edition, CNN, and other national media outlets are flying in. Local affiliates are plotting their own coverage. At the center of all the fuss: two unflappable young spellers who’ve stayed standing through 66 rounds and forced an extraordinary overtime.

Not far from the spotlight — and the attendant scrutiny — is Norcott-Mahany, a 15-year fixture at the Library’s L.H. Bluford Branch.

If there’s little to no margin for error for the spellers, the same goes for him. Norcott-Mahany delivers their words. Anschluss. Balalaika. Schadenfreude. Zeitgeber. He’s expected to get the pronunciations right.


“I don’t dread it,” he says. “I’ve done storytelling. I’ve done some acting. And I’ve taught for 30-odd years, either full time or part time. I’m used to being in front of a group so I’m not particularly worried about it.
“There’s part of me that would be somewhat saddened, I guess, if I weren’t here to see the end of the journey.”

Make no mistake. He’ll be prepared.

By Saturday, when fifth-grader Sophia Hoffman and seventh-grader Kush Sharma resume their duel at 9 a.m. in the Library’s downtown Central Library, Norcott-Mahany will have reviewed the entire list of 200 new words provided by officials with the Scripps National Spelling Bee and 60 or so backup words pulled by local officials from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. He sounds each of them out. If not entirely sure about a pronunciation, he goes to Merriam Webster’s online audio tool. If he’s still uncertain, the word is crossed from his list.

Note, for the record, that Hoffman, Sharma and 23 other spellers went the first 66 rounds two weeks ago without a pronunciation challenge.

If one comes Saturday … well, it’s part of the game. “We’ve got a procedure,” Norcott-Mahany says. “I don’t take it personally.”

He’s a man of letters, holding master’s degrees in Ancient Greek from Loyola University in Chicago and in English from Syracuse. A part of the Bluford staff since 1998, Norcott-Mahany also teaches Greek mythology at Johnson County Community College and is involved in Kansas City’s nonprofit Gorilla Theater – best known for its annual summer solstice productions of classic Greek plays. He writes program notes for each show, draws up pronunciation guides, and occasionally takes the stage as an actor.

It was Mary Olive Thompson, the Jackson County Spelling Bee’s co-coordinator, who pulled him in as the bee’s pronouncer. Now the Kansas City Public Library’s outreach manager, she was working with Norcott-Mahany at the time at the Bluford Branch.

“He’s been excellent,” she says. “He’s patient. He takes time to prepare. He’s really concerned that the spellers understand him. And every year, he says ‘yes.’”

This, as it turns out, is a year like no other. Saturday is expected to draw scores of family, friends, reporters, and other spectators to the Central Library. Only the contestants’ family members, other invited guests, and media representatives will be allowed in Helzberg Auditorium, where Hoffman and Sharma will compete for a spot in the Scripps national bee in Washington, D.C., in May. The proceedings will be live-streamed to a projection screen amid a watch party of sorts in the Library’s main-floor Kirk Hall.

“I haven’t felt particular pressure since I don’t know what to expect,” Norcott-Mahany says.

“We’ll see Saturday what it’s like.”

Free subscriptions to your favorite magazines? It sounds too good to be true, but patrons of the Library now have full access to the “online newsstand” Zinio.

“Zinio provides free magazines in digital format to our patrons, either in the library on our PCs, or on their personal computers at home, or on their mobile devices,” explains Joel Jones, the Library’s director of branches and outreach services.

“This isn’t a text-only thing,” Jones says. “It’s the actual magazine as you buy it on the newsstand. You get the layouts, the photos … it’s as if you had a physical copy of the magazine in your hand.”

Among the 110 magazines currently available through Zinio is a broad selection of mainstream and special-interest publications like Forbes, Utne Reader, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, Us Weekly, Smithsonian, Newsweek, The Economist, Car and Driver, Billboard, Field & Stream, Mother Jones, and The Nation. Magazines in Spanish are offered as well, such as the Spanish-language versions of Seventeen and Cosmopolitan.

Magazines downloaded to an individual’s devices remain there until deleted.

“Almost anything you’ll find on a normal newsstand you’ll find on Zinio,” Jones says. “And we’re taking suggestions for additional publications to add to the service.”

To subscribe library patrons need only go to kclbrary.org/zinio and follow the instructions.

According to Jones: “This requires creating two accounts, one with the library and one with Zinio. If you’re doing this from outside the library you will need your library card number and PIN.”

Patrons who encounter a learning curve in subscribing to Zinio are encouraged to seek assistance at the service desk at their local branch library.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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Relatively few Kansans have gone on to be immortalized in the movies.

Salina’s Dwight David Eisenhower has popped up as a character in nearly 40 films, the first time in the 1962 D-Day epic The Longest Day, which was released four years before the former President’s death.

On the other hand, hatchet-wielding prohibitionist Carrie Nation has never been portrayed on the silver screen, at least not according to the Internet Movie Database.

A couple of transplants to Kansas have enjoyed a long cinematic history. Wyatt Earp, an Illinois native who first gained fame as a lawman taming Kansas’ wide-open cattle towns, has been depicted in 55 films.

Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who lived in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, during the Indian wars, has made at least 50 movies and TV appearances.

And William Clarke Quantrill, the Confederate guerrilla leader infamous for the August, 1863, sack of Lawrence, Kansas, has been depicted on screen numerous times.

And if you add to the mix all the films referencing the Border War between Kansas and Missouri, not to mention innumerable Westerns in which the characters were former bushwhackers (anything with Jesse James, True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn, a former guerrilla played by Dean Martin in Bandolero!, and Clint Eastwood’s turn as The Outlaw Josey Wales), you’ve got well over 100 titles springing at least in part from our local history.

KU’s John Tibbetts looks at this cinematic heritage in Quantrill in the Movies on Sunday, August 18, 2013, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library. Through film clips, analysis, and anecdotes, Tibbetts examines Quantrill through films as varied as Dark Command (1940), Quantrill’s Raiders (1958), and Ang Lee’s locally-filmed Ride With the Devil (1999).


A broadcaster, journalist, artist, and scholar, Tibbetts has written and illustrated nine books, among them The Cinema of Tony Richardson, The American Theatrical Film, Dvorak in America, and His Majesty the American: The Films of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

His presentation is part of the Missouri Valley Sundays series, a program of the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Central Library. The series is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

As with all our events, admission is free, and Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.


On a related note, several of the films featured in Tibbett’s talk are being screened on Mondays this month in the Film Vault of the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. The shows begin at 6:30 p.m.

The schedule:

These events are all part of our A Quantum of Quantrill series, marking the 150th anniversary of the sack of Lawrence, Kansas by Quantrill and his band of “bushwhackers.”

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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After two years of study and implementation, the Kansas City Public Library’s new on-line catalog – known as Enterprise – hits the Internet this month.

Digital Branch manager David LaCrone, the man in charge of implementing the new system, says that while patrons will notice some new bells and whistles, most of the changes aren’t obvious – except that they make searches of the catalog more accessible and easier.

Q. Lots of us users feel that the current online catalog works fine. Why change it?

We'd like you to test our new catalog and let us know what you think.
Try it now! >>>

LaCrone: “From a purely technical standpoint, our current catalog has been so heavily customized over the years that we just could no longer update it effectively.

“It also bears noting that our current software isn‘t compatible with newer Internet Explorer browsers. If you are using Windows 7 or 8, major portions of our catalog are ‘broken.’ You can’t use them properly. That certainly doesn’t make us look very good. We needed to go to a next-generation platform that would serve the future, not just the present.”

Q. What about new bells and whistles?

LaCrone: “One of the things the current catalog doesn’t offer – something that people have been asking for – is the ability to create wish lists. Now you’ll be able to keep track of titles that interest you, even if you’re not ready to put a hold on them right now.

“This is a really practical feature. I’ve worked at a library desk and you are always getting people coming in who say they want to find a book they saw reviewed, but cannot remember the title or the author. Now as soon as you read about a book or CD or movie you think you’ll like, you can add it to your wish list. It will be there when you’re ready to order it.”

Q. Will the new catalog look or behave differently from the one we’re accustomed to?

LaCrone: “Visually, it will be less crowded. We’re getting rid of the word cloud feature that ate up a big part of the screen. It’s a much cleaner look.

“And we think the new search function is a piece of cake. There are dropdown functions that allow you to search in a particular branch, by subject, author, title…that allow you to limit the search to books, movies, music., e-books, young readers…

“Really, if you can use our current catalog, this shouldn’t pose many problems. There will be a bit of a learning curve, but people will find that navigating their accounts is now much more intuitive.”

Q. When can we take the new catalog out for a test drive?

LaCrone: “Very shortly we’ll have it up on the site, alongside the current web catalog. For a while you’ll be able to use both the old and new catalogs. There will be a link to a survey where patrons can provide feedback. We’re happy to do some tinkering to make it even better.”

June 21, 2013 – Editor's Note: Our new catalog is available to try out and provide feedback. Let us know what you think!

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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Bob Walkenhorst’s regular Wednesday night gig at the Record Bar in Westport is usually standing room only.

And in Norway he’s revered as a rock god who plays before crowds of avid fans.

But you don’t have to stand in line, pay a cover charge, or fly to Scandinavia to get an earful of fresh Walkenhorst.

All you have to do is show up on Tuesday, April 30, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.

Walkenhorst, born in Norborne, Missouri, and famed as the singer/songwriter of the legendary rock band The Rainmakers, will be the guest artist at the next installment of America’s Music, the six-part film-and-discussion series that’s been unfolding on Tuesday nights this month at the Library.

Created by the Tribeca Film Institute, the American Library Association, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, America’s Music offers an hour of documentaries about pop music idioms followed by live performances and talks.

So far Library patrons have heard Lawrence bluesman Patrick Nichols hold forth on the National steel guitar, UMKC’s Chuck Haddix explain Kansas City’s place in jazz history, looked into the roots of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, and tapped their toes to the KC’s own Bluegrass Brigade.

Tuesday night’s program opens with a screening of Plugging In, an episode of the TV documentary The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll that looks at the mid-1960s, when singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan transformed rock from moon-June-spoon songs about teenage romance to a mirror reflecting the upheavals of American society.


Walkenhorst is just the man to illustrate the idea of the singer/songwriter. His songs – Government Cheese, Let My People Go-Go, Big Fat Blonde – combine the wit of Mark Twain with the rockin’ intensity of Chuck Berry.

He’ll play his tunes, talk about his music with our project scholar - UMKC’s Andrew Granade – and, heck, he may even take your requests.

Arrive early for the reception that begins at 6 p.m.

And remember…it’s at the Library. Which means it’s absolutely free.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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The joys of reading ebooks are not restricted to those who own Kindles, Nooks, or other ereaders. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you too can enjoy ebooks checked out from the Library or downloaded from a retailer like Amazon or a free-ebook site like Project Gutenberg.

The list below outlines some of the more popular ereading apps, including ones you’ll need if you do plan to check out ebooks from the Kansas City Public Library.

So read on, and be sure to post a comment if you use an app that’s not on the list.

I. Apps that work with the Kansas City Public Library’s ebooks collection.

Want to check out one of our e-books for your mobile device? You’ll need these apps.

Overdrive Media Console
For reading: All ebooks from the Library’s OverDrive collection
Works on: iOS, Android, and other supported devices (list)
OverDrive Media Console (OMC) is the default reader for our ebooks collection and works will all ebooks contained therein. Once you have it installed on your device, launch it and tap “Get Books.” Then find the Kansas City (MO) Public Library. Log in with your Library card and PIN, and download ebooks (and audiobooks) straight to your device. The ebooks will be automatically returned when due. (Watch a video tutorial.)

Kindle App
For reading: Kindle ebooks from the Library’s OverDrive collection
Works on: iOS, Android, Kindle Cloud Reader
Last year, Amazon began allowing Library patrons to download Kindle versions of most of our ebooks. In addition to reading them on your Kindle proper, you can read some – but not all – via the Kindle app on your iPad, Droid tablet, or other device. You must first check them out via our website before you can open them on your app. While browsing, if you find an item in our OverDrive library marked “Kindle devices via USB only,” then that means you can only read that one on your physical Kindle. Confusing? Blame publishers. Still, the Kindle app is a fine reading vehicle, plus the ebook can be accessed via your Kindle Cloud Reader on your computer.

Bonus Tip: Download the KC Library's App to renew your books, place holds, check out ebooks, and more!

II. Free apps for use with your own ebooks

These apps are free to download, but to use them, you may need to purchase ebooks from an affiliated store. A few of these apps will work with free ebooks acquired from sites like Project Gutenberg, ManyBooks, and other sources (see our article “How to Find Free Ebooks for Your Ereader”).

For reading: ebooks from the Blio store
Works on: iOS, Android, Windows (PC)
One of the main complaints about epublishing is its text-oriented, color-unfriendly nature. Blio aims to change that with a Technicolor app maximized for illustrated, interactive ereading. From cookbooks to crafts, Blio’s store features ebooks you wouldn’t even be able to read on your pixel-poor first-generation Kindle. There is also a non-mobile version for PCs (Windows only).

Bluefire Reader
For reading: ebooks (EPUB, PDF) from anywhere
Works on: iOS, Android
If you download ebooks from multiple sources and need an app in which to read them, Bluefire offers a clean, elegant interface and easy uploading. You can also use the “Get Books” feature to access more than a million free and commercial ebooks from a variety of online bookstores and free sites.

Google Play Books
For reading: ebooks from the Google Play Store
Works on: iOS, Android, PC, Mac, ereaders & many supported devices
An all-in-one media playground for anyone with a free Google account (and preferably an Android device), Google Play lets you access music, magazines, movies and of course, ebooks, from the cloud on multiple devices. The only catch is, unless you’re willing to settle for the modest collection of free books available in the store, you’re going to have to pay.

For reading: ebooks from the iBookstore; DRM-free ebooks and PDFs
Works on: iOS
For Apple loyalists only, iBooks is the digital-faux-woodgrain-enhanced gateway to the iTunes bookstore, which admittedly has some nice offerings, from $3.99 ebooks to expansive “multi-touch textbooks.” Savvy users will enjoy being able to upload DRM-free ebooks and PDF files gotten elsewhere (i.e., free).

For reading: Audiobooks from the Audible store
Works on: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry
Amazon’s popular online audiobook retailer has an app that lets shop for 75,000 titles or transfer previously purchased books to your phone via wi-fi. Special features include the ability to win badges, track your listening habits, be alerted to author events, and connect to Facebook and Twitter.

Tell us:
What apps do you use to read on the go?

It’s Sunday night and your research paper on Hadrian’s Villa ain’t gonna write itself. You need fast, easy-to-digest, and reliable reference information, but the library is closed and you’ve already mined Wikipedia and Google for all they’re worth.

What if you could use your computer to search inside every book inside your local library? Then, once you’d found the information you wanted, download the article for your ereader, listen to it as an MP3, or email it to a friend, all without leaving home?

That’s exactly what you can do with the nonfiction reference ebooks available in the Kansas City Public Library’s newest database.

The Gale Virtual Reference Library consists of more than 200 nonfiction ebooks in the humanities. Search them instantly for handy articles that you can save, print, and download to an ereader such as a Nook or a Kindle or an MP3 player such as an iPod.

It’s 100 percent free, and you can access it from home with your Kansas City Public Library Card and PIN.

Let’s take that Roman history example.

A basic search for “Hadrian’s Wall” in GVRL yields 20 results from reference books including as Architecture of Italy (Reference Guides to National Architecture), World History Encyclopedia, New Catholic Encyclopedia, Storytelling: An Encyclopedia of Mythology and Folklore, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Homes through World History, Art and Architecture of the World’s Religions, and more.

Visit the Gale Virtual Library


With each of these articles, you can do things like:

  • Easily find every mention of the search term within each work.
  • Read the entire text of every article.
  • Bookmark specific pages from each book, save them forever, and send links to your friends (great for those group research assignments!).
  • Email articles.
  • Listen to an audio version of any article – you can even download it as an MP3!
  • Download PDF versions of articles to use on your ereader. (Hint, if you have a Kindle, e-mail the articles to your “@kindle.com” or “@free.kindle.com” address.)
  • Get fast MLA or APA citations for every article for your bibliography.


Watch this video tutorial for a more in-depth tour.

The Library’s collection of ebooks in the Gale Virtual Reference Library was purchased with funding from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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In honor of Bloomsday on June 16, the day Irish lit fans celebrate the novel Ulysses, our classics expert Bernie revisits James Joyce’s novel to determine what makes it so worthy of celebration.

When James Joyce published his novel Ulysses in 1922 (it had appeared in serialized form in the years 1918-1920), he sparked a great controversy. 

The work was initially banned in England and in the United States for “obscenity,” though that designation was struck down in the courts of the United States (United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, decided for the defendant in 1933, and affirmed on appeal in 1934) and the work was allowed to be published and distributed. 

In the time since its general release, the work has quickly risen in the estimation of scholars and adventurous general readers to its status as one of the greatest (some would say the greatest) novels of the 20th c.  

The work, as its title indicates, is inspired by Homer’s Odyssey (Ulysses is the Latin name for the protagonist Odysseus). Joyce’s hero is not Homer’s intrepid explorer, however, but Leopold Bloom, a Jewish Dubliner, who makes his living by getting ad space in the various Dublin newspapers for his clients (“What’s a home without Plumtree’s Potted Meat?  Incomplete.”)

Instead of traveling all over the Mediterranean and beyond, as Homer’s hero does over the course of 10 years in his attempt to get home, Bloom travels through the city of Dublin over the course of a single day: June 16, 1904. 

Where Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, remained faithful to her husband for 20 years, Bloom’s wife, Molly, a soprano performing popular songs and operatic arias in music halls around Ireland, is having an ongoing affair with her manager, Blazes Boylan, including a rendez-vous that afternoon. 

And where Odysseus has a son who joined him in a heroic battle to regain his kingdom, Bloom’s only son, Rudy, died soon after childbirth, a matter of great sorrow for him and something that has put a strain on his marriage.

Serving as a surrogate son is Stephen Daedalus, a young man trained by the Jesuits and a teacher of Classics in Dublin. Daedalus was the hero of Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  In Ulysses, Stephen’s dissatisfaction with his situation and with Ireland’s parochial outlook leads him to decide to leave, just as Joyce himself did in 1904. 

Speaking of travel, the book is a very detailed travelogue of Dublin in 1904, and if you go to Dublin you can take a tour, visiting the various sites mentioned. If you visit Dublin on, or around Bloomsday – which Joyceans around the world celebrate every 16th of June – you won’t be able to escape from such tours amidst all the festivities.

But the book does provide all sorts of travel – Bloom, Molly and Stephen spend a lot of the book thinking about the past, about loved ones, about language and literature, and these reflections are presented in stream-of-consciousness, a jumble of associations, much as thoughts often are. 

When Molly encounters the word “metempsychosis” in a graphic romantic novel, she asks Bloom what the word means (“transmigration of the soul” or “reincarnation”).  Throughout the book, the word recurs and when Bloom thinks of it, his thoughts bounce from thoughts about his dead son, about Molly’s salacious taste in literature, about his own epistolary romance, even about advertising jingles.  So where the external travel of the book is minimal (Molly never leaves their flat at 7 Eccles St.), the internal travel in the mind of characters encompasses life, death, philosophy and graphic romance novels. 

James Joyce in 1915
James Joyce in 1915

So what makes this such a classic and such a fascinating work?  Well, when I reviewied Homer’s Odyssey, I maintained that Homer, more than simply telling Odysseus’ story, was demonstrating the power of story itself, and the power of the spoken word.  In the case of Ulysses, Joyce is doing more than telling the story of one day in the life of an ordinary (and somewhat underachieving) man. He is presenting us with all sorts of ways of thinking (in an episode called “Proteus,” we see Stephen thinking of all sorts of things – his life, his academic work, the world beyond Dublin, and even on death and beyond); ways of categorizing information and analyzing the world around us (in an episode called “Ithaca,” the discussion of Bloom and Stephen at Bloom’s home is recast as a “catechism” or FAQ, and deals with high philosophy but also with the urinating force and trajectory of the two men as they pee in the garden); and with the whole majesty of language and literary style (in an episode called “Oxen of the Sun” the account of Bloom, Stephen and Buck Mulligan having a royal drunk is told in a variety of English styles, from an Anglo-Saxon directness, to the flights of fancy of Medieval English to the measured and reasonable prose of 18th and 19th c. essayists to a crazy and invented slang).

So in this one day, in this one place, we have a prism through which we get a glimpse of much of human knowledge (at least as viewed in the West) and of much of the nature of language (what it can and cannot express), and, in the final section, an extended internal monolog by Molly Bloom, a glimpse into the nature of the human heart, with all its foibles and mysteries. 

So, this Bloomsday, do yourself a favor.  Find yourself a quiet spot, have yourself a pint (of Guinness, ideally; or some soft drink, if you are not yet 21), and read a section from this work. Or find a group of people and take turns reading the work aloud. In fact, the Irish Center of Kansas City at Union Station is doing this very thing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow, along with other festivities.

Or listen to a recording of the work – Joyce is so much better aloud than silent! The one done by Donal Donnelly and Miriam Healy-Louie is excellent. Don’t worry about taking on the whole work – just a section – and one day, you’ll know that you’re ready, and in you’ll plunge.  Happy Bloomsday, all!

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

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If you’re an online news junkie, chances are the Gray Lady’s paywall is your bête noire. For the past year, The New York Times has been allowing readers limited access. But now, the Library is providing digitized microfilm of the Times and the Wall Street Journal for free, and from home, too.

In March 2011, the New York Times announced it would be imposing a paywall between its readers and all that wonderful content they’d previously been enjoying for free. With the new paywall, readers could view only 20 nytimes.com articles per month without a digital subscription.

Then, a year later in March 2012 the paper declared success on the paywall model and got even stricter, shrinking the number of free articles to 10.  Subscriptions now range from $15 to $35 a month, which is kind of pricey when you’re used to getting all the news that's fit to print for free.

At the Kansas City Public Library, we’re certainly not going to fault newspapers for taking steps to survive in a changing digital economy. That’s why we’re happy to provide the Proquest digital microfilm collection, which lets you read, download, and print back issues of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal – without paying a cent, and from any computer with an Internet connection. All it takes is a Kansas City Public Library card.

With your card number and PIN in hand, head to kclibrary.org and navigate to Databases section under the Research Resources menu on the homepage. Under the Newspapers & magazines category, you’ll find links to the New York Times’ and Wall Street Journal’s digital microfilm portals, along with the other free news resources we have already been offering (such as the Kansas City Star’s post-1991 archive and the ProQuest periodicals search).

Just as with traditional microfilm, you’ll need to know what issue you’re looking for. There is, unfortunately, no search box. Also, we only have access going back six years, to 2008, and it takes ProQuest a month or so to digitize new issues.

But that’s still a lot of content, and it’s the type of stuff you’re likely to encounter while browsing sites like Google – and then be unable to read because of the paywall.

Fortunately, Google will show you the date a story was published, so you can use that to your advantage.

For example, if you wanted to find the first reports from Capt. C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger’s heroic crash-landing in the Hudson River a few years ago, just add “site:nytimes.com” to your Google search query to get the results and note the issue date in the URL (sometimes articles are posted online the day before they appear in print).


Then simply pull up the Jan. 16, 2009, edition from the digital microfilm collection.

Sullenberger article

Or, if you wanted to see the front page of Election Day 2008, all you have to do is plug in the coordinates for November 5, 2008, and there’s page one in all its grainy glory.

Remember, ProQuest allows you to print, e-mail, and save PDFs of any page from any issue.

That'll certainly come in handy for you crossword buffs.


And if you need help with the answer to 57 down, you can always ask a librarian.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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Area high school students and their families receive an eyeful and an earful about design careers at the 2012 Design Futures/High School Program on Saturday, March 3, 2012 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.

This combined panel discussion/college fair is aimed at young people considering a future in the field. Design professionals talk about their specialties and representatives of colleges, universities, art schools, and design organizations hand out literature and answer questions.

The event is part of KC Design Week running Feb. 29 to March 7.

“We’ve got 13 events over eight jam-packed days,” says organizer Kathy Kelley of Kelley Design. “Last year the college fair drew nearly 200 students and we’re hoping to top that number this time.”

The 10 a.m. panel discussion features Peter Sloan of 360 Architecture, Jonathon Kemnitzer of KEM STUDIO, Terry Berkbuegler of Confluence and Lori Schiefen of NSPJ Architects.

Among the participating schools are the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, the Kansas City Art Institute, Truman State University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City/Planning, the University of Missouri-Kansas City/Art and Design, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Avila University/Art + Design.

Representatives of the American Institute of Architects, AIGA (the professional association for design), and the Industrial Designers Society of America will be on hand to talk to students and their parents.

“I don’t think people realize the diversity of design,” Kelley says. “Our hope is to provide one-stop shopping so that high school students can learn about all these design fields in one place.”

The main idea behind KC Design Week (now in its third year) and the panel discussion/college fair (in its second year) is to stress the importance of design to our culture, Kelley says.

“As a designer you’re contributing in a very positive way to the world. You’re solving problems, communicating, making people comfortable, adding beauty and fun to our lives.

“Our hope is that by getting this information out there, high school students can discover design earlier so that when they get into college they can hit the ground running, getting into the curriculum right away.”

For a complete list of KC Design Week events, visit www.kcdesignweek.org.

Admission to the 2012 Design Futures/High School Program is free. Advanced registration is requested. RSVP at kcdesignweek.org or at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes the Library's From the Film Vault blog. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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We’ve got a strict policy at the Kansas City Public Library: No matter how old you look, we’ll card you. But we don’t want to see your driver’s license or ID. If you haven’t seen your card since the Clinton era, now is the perfect time to get a brand-new, shiny, redesigned Library card.

Through the end of February 2012, come into any branch and get a new Library card free of charge. (After February 29, a $1 replacement fee will apply.) The new cards come in two designs: blue for adults and orange for children and teens.

Why bother getting a new card? Here are three good reasons.

1. Security
If you come into the Library to use a public computer but don’t have your card handy (or your number memorized), our circulation staff will be happy to write your account number and PIN on a piece of paper for you.

Then, when you accidentally leave that scrap of paper lying around, a miscreant or ne’er-do-well (likely from out of the district), will be happy to check out books to your account. And never return them.

2. Speed
Skipping the lines at the circ desk is easy with a Library card. Simply scan the card’s barcode into one of our self-checkout machines and follow the directions to check out your materials.

Get out the door and get reading in the time it would take us to look up your account if you didn’t have your card in hand.

3. Savvy
Forget the Benjamins and Players Club cards. When picking up the tab on some pho or hot wings, nothing looks more sophisticated than opening your purse or wallet to reveal your Library card tucked inside. It tells onlookers, “I read and therefore am a citizen of the world. Emulate me.” And don’t forget – we have keychain versions too!

So, don’t wait ‘til spring comes to get a bright, clean new card. Head to your nearest branch or apply for a new card online before February 29 to avoid the charge. Then be sure to remember to bring your card into the Library. What’s the point of getting a new card if you leave it at home?

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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In Chinese zodiac lore, the dragon is stately, proud, fiery, and passionate. And if you’re turning 12, 24, 36, 48 (or another multiple of 12) this year, congratulations, noble dragon, 2012 is all you! Here are some ideas for how you can celebrate the Chinese New Year on January 23 in Kansas City.

1. Join Winter Reading

Our annual Adult Winter Reading program began on January 9, and if you haven’t signed up yet, this is the perfect way to get started on your New Year’s resolution to read more great literature – and celebrate the Chinese New Year in one swoop. The theme this year is Destination: Anywhere!, and the reading list will take you to far-flung places, including, of course, China. Start off with Pearl S. Buck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of pre-revolutionary China, The Good Earth, or delve into Jung Chang’s multigenerational family history, Wild Swans. Get more suggested readings and sign up for Winter Reading here.

2. Attend the Greater Kansas City Chinese New Year Celebration

A day of free family activities will be held on Sunday, January 22, at the Carlsen Center of Johnson County Community College (12345 College Boulevard). Beginning at 9 a.m. with a Chinese speech contest, the Greater Kansas City Chinese New Year Celebration also includes a dance competition, children’s activities, and performances by students from Beijing China. Last year, 3,000 people attended this all-day event, which ends with a ticketed New Year Gala at 7 p.m. It’s sponsored by our friends at the Kansas City Chinese American Association, the Edgar Snow Memorial Fund, and the Confucius Institute of KU.

3. Watch a Hong Kong Action Flick

With leading men such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Chow Yun Fat, Hong Kong cinema has for years churned out a brilliant miasma of flying fists and ricocheting bullets. Head down to the Stanley H. Durwood Film Vault at Central – or the A/V collection at any branch – and load up on cheap (and in most cases, free) DVDs to ring in the New Year with cinematic film-fu.

4. Make a Paper Craft

If you’re looking for the right way to make a paper lantern or firecracker for Chinese New Year, skip the Google how-to crapshoot and check out a book. Karen Bledsoe’s Chinese New Year Crafts, for one, contains 32 pages of craft-project goodness. You’ll find it right next to Making Chinese Papercuts, Traditional Crafts from China and more user-friendly guides to Chinese-themed crafting for kids.

5. Check out a Chinese Children’s Book

Speaking of kids, don’t be caught without a seasonally appropriate story to tell this Sunday to the little ones. Over on the Library’s "Keyword: Kids" blog, Westport librarian Sukalaya Kenworthy has assembled a list of Chinese New Year-themed reads for kids, alongside some memories of celebrating the holiday in her native Thailand.

6. Find a Dragon at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Chinese art collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum is among the finest in the nation. Read up on the dragons in the gallery, and check out the museum’s own Chinese New Year celebration. On Friday, January 27, from 5 to 9 p.m., the museum offers an evening of events, including a performance by the Shaolin Lohan Pai Lion Dance Troupe, traditional music, Chinese yo-yos, and more. It’s free, but tickets are required.

7. Read Red Star Over China and Plan to Attend Meet the Past: Edgar Snow

On March 1, 2012, see local history come to life on the set of the the Lyric Opera’s production of Nixon in China at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, where actor Robert Gibby Brand will portray famed journalist Edgar Snow for a new edition of Meet the Past with Crosby Kemper III. A native of Kansas City, Snow authored Red Star Over China, the 1937 book that introduced Mao Tse-Tung and his Red Army to westerners. (This performance will offer a new version of the Meet the Past: Edgar Snow production that took place last fall.)

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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Since launching the Kansas City Public Library mobile app a couple of months ago, we’ve been hearing stories of how people are using the app in interesting ways. This doesn’t surprise us. Library patrons, after all, are the smartest people on the planet.

Now, if you don’t yet have the app, it’s available as a fast, free download for just about every smart phone and tablet PC. Search your device’s app store for kc library, or go to the device’s browser and type in kcpl.boopsie.com to download the app directly to your device.

Here are five ways our customers are using the app to enhance their Library experience.

Test-Driving Books

Our friend John finds himself pulling out the app whenever he visits the bookstore. As a self-described “test driver” who uses the Library to try books before he buys 'em, John searches the Library catalog through the app and places a hold on the book to check it out later. Don't worry, bookstore owners of Kansas City: if he ends up liking the book enough to buy it, he'll be back. (Tip: You can also do this with DVDs you’re thinking about buying, such as highly coveted TV-on-DVD collections, which we check out for free.)

Fine Prevention

Whenever the highly proactive Jordan is checking her email on her phone and sees the message notifying her that her books are due, she clicks through to the app and hits “renew” on the items that are due, extending their checkout period so she doesn't get fined. Clever, Jordan!

No Library Card? No Problem.

Mandy, like many book-obsessed people, can be a bit absent-minded – even when it comes to something as important as her Library card. She loves the app because having signed in once, she doesn’t have to look for her card number to sign in again. She says this makes her more likely to renew books, thus preventing dreaded fines – and increasing her reading. (Of course, she’ll have to get her account info eventually, but she can always call Customer Service at 816.701.3422.)


Steve hasn’t read a book in six months – a physical book, that is. “Since we started reading on our phones, my wife and I probably read five times as much as we used to,” he says, between glances to the book on his phone. Naturally, he uses the app for accessing the Library’s e-books collection. E-books (and digital audiobooks) can be checked out, downloaded instantly, and read in the Overdrive Media Console app. The e-books return automatically, too.

Remembering Recs

Lastly, whenever I would get a book or author recommendation, I used to fire up my notes app on my iPhone and punch it in. (And then likely forget to look at it ever again.) Now that we've got app, I can search the catalog and place a hold on the book – or a book by the author – on the spot. A few days later, I’ll get an email that the book’s waiting for me at Central.

Now it’s your turn: How are you using the KC Library app? Figured out a trick? Share it in the comments!

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library. He has been tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, and YouTubing for the Library since 2010.