Library Life

Tucked amid the other amenities of the Kansas City Public Library’s downtown Central Library — the shelves of popular new books in stately Kirk Hall, the inviting environs of the children’s library and the array of resources available in the business and career center — are a couple of gleaming art galleries.

Why not art? Today’s libraries are community gathering places, places of civic and cultural engagement open to young and old, rich and poor, students and professionals. That audience diversity has made them increasingly attractive destinations for both emerging and established artists who can expose their work to more than the usual arts-centric, big-gallery crowd.

So it was, as Kansas City’s arts-nurturing Charlotte Street Foundation planned a yearlong celebration of its 20th anniversary, that it collaborated not only with a number of traditional institutions including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. It connected, too, with the Library.

The Library is devoting its premier space, the Genevieve Guldner Art Gallery in the downtown Central Library, to a series of exhibits featuring the works of four former Charlotte Street award winners: painter Warren Rosser, visual artists Rodolfo Marron III and Jessica Kincaid, and photographer Mike Sinclair. Each has continued to work in the Kansas City area, underscoring the Library’s desire to feature more local artists.

The series runs through 2017.

Longtime Kansas City Art Institute faculty member Warren Rosser
created this oil painting, "Default #1," in 2015.
“It seemed like a great opportunity for us,” says Anne Ducey, the Library’s exhibit director. “You’ve got organizations like the Nelson and the Kemper. We’re really in very good company with people who want to celebrate what Charlotte Street has done for the art community here.”

The Charlotte Street series also strengthens the Library’s foray into Kansas City’s monthly First Friday observance, Ducey says. It hosts Art Starts at the Library every other month, billing itself as a First Friday starting point from which attendees can move on, via streetcar, to the Crossroads Art District. Interesting gallery offerings are a requisite.

Ducey, who oversees two formal galleries in the Central Library, wanted to be a part of the Charlotte Street anniversary celebration from the moment she heard about it last summer from Charlotte Street Foundation Executive Director Amy Kligman. The two had collaborated  previously on a Library exhibit when Kligman was involved with the Plug Projects collaborative.

Charlotte Street was founded in 1987 to support and recognize the city’s visual and performing artists, initially through annual cash awards. It still hands out the awards — now valued at $10,000 and going to three visual and two performing artists a year — and has expanded to include a residency program, exhibitions, public programming and other initiatives.

Rosser, who taught for more than four decades at the Kansas City Art Institute and served as chair of its painting department for 28 years, was a Charlotte Street Award recipient in 2000. Marron, a Charlotte Street winner just last year, grew up on Kansas City’s West Side in the early 1990s after moving with his family from Los Angeles. He’ll reflect that upbringing in a number of new pieces created for the Library exhibit.

Kincaid is best known for her small, beaded tapestries. A Charlotte Street award winner in 2007, she was diagnosed with epilepsy in 1991 and has incorporated images from her own radiological studies and visual phenomena accompanying seizures. Sinclair was a Charlotte Street winner in 1999 for “photographs documenting forays into the curious realms of leisure pursued by middle-class American society,” and remains known for documenting life in the Midwest.

Ducey chose them, and their works, from a list of 86 winners of Charlotte Street visual awards dating to 1987.

The Library also will feature Charlotte Street Foundation founder David Hughes in a Jan. 31 evening program at the Central Library as part of its Cradle of Entrepreneurs series. And it will host a presentation by another former Charlotte Street award winner, performance poet Glenn North, who’s now the director of education and community at Black Archives of Mid-America.

Each of the exhibits will run in the Guldner Gallery for a little less than 2 1/2 months. Kligman, a painter and mixed media artist, herself, who has directed Charlotte Street Foundation since 2015, lauds the space.

“A lot of libraries may have exhibition spaces, but they’re not always gallery quality or up to snuff,” she says. “But the Central Library certainly has that — now has two spaces — and it understands and respects artists and is working with them in a way that’s as good as most galleries in the city.

“That’s great on its own. But it’s more interesting when you pair it with the people who are coming in and out of the library. They’re very different from those who may come in and out of a gallery (focused solely on art). It’s a great opportunity for artists to intersect with people they may not reach otherwise.”

A version of this item originally appeared in KC Studio magazine.

Exhibit: Coloring Space
Saturday, January 7, 2017 to Sunday, March 19, 2017
Central Library, Genevieve Guldner Gallery

Art Starts at the Library
First Friday open house 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Central Library

Art in Place
Warren Rosser, Thomas Aber, Dwight Frizzell
Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Public Conversation with David Hughes
Cradle of Entrepreneurs
Thursday, February 9, 2017

‘To Make a Poet Black, and Bid Him Sing’
Glenn North
Tuesday, February 28, 2017



As a digital inclusion leader, the Kansas City Public Library provides many ways to engage in digital learning, including a Digital Media Lab for teens, over 300 public access computers available over a ten branch system, recurring computer classes and one-on-one tutoring through our new volunteer Tech Coach program as well as Career Online High School and a Hotspots program in partnership with the local school district.  When we discovered learning circles through Peer 2 Peer University, the doors opened to yet another exciting avenue for digital learning!

Our system includes ten libraries throughout the urban area of Kansas City.  We piloted two learning circles in November-December 2016 at the downtown Central Library, and the Lucile Bluford Branch on the city’s east side. Both locations are on or very near city bus lines and largely serve economically disadvantaged patrons. Our focus right now in digital inclusion is to reach as many people as possible in these populations, but we want to build a strong and sustainable foundation, so we selected these two locations as a good starting point to pilot digital literacy focused learning circles.

In mid-October, facilitators of Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) visited our library to host interactive training for 12 Kansas City Public Library staff members and thoroughly introduce the concept of learning circles. P2PU also provided guidance for two designated library staffers as they created a course plan, implemented a marketing campaign, and brainstormed a name for the course. The course, “Make the Internet Work for You!,” was conducted Tuesday mornings at the Central Library and repeated in the afternoons at Bluford.
We designed and distributed signage to promote the course opportunity and visited each library location to hand-distribute quarter-page flyers to patrons. Staff at each branch also helped get the word out by word of mouth, especially to patrons who came to them with computer questions. The first session of our course was November 15 and totaled 19 registrations, ten at Central and nine at Bluford.

COURSE TIME: Make the Internet Work for You!

We designed our own online course for digital literacy using components of, a source for content of many of our existing computer classes. We promoted the course as generally covering the internet but waited until Day 1 of meeting as a group to determine our precise content. We opened it up to discussion and surveyed our learners about their goals and what they wanted to learn!

The syllabus for our five-week course included:
  • Email
  • Mapping and directions
  • Social media
  • Internet safety and security

Following initial introductions and discussion about the direction of our course, we dove right in to getting everyone set up with a Gmail account. has a great set of modules that cover Gmail, and we started by going through them to get everyone to a baseline. This initial experience set the tone for all the following sessions. Nearly everyone in the class was at a beginning level regarding computer skills so we opted to go through activities and modules together as a group. No one in either learning circle opted to work on their own at that time. However, at the beginning of each session, we emphasized the availability of this resource outside of group time and encouraged participants to access from home or the library’s computers if they chose to progress through other modules or work through our course at a different pace.

Each week, the format was basically as follows:
  • The facilitator reviewed modules before group sessions to select the videos and narratives relevant to the skill level and goals of our learners.
  • We played videos and paused frequently for participation activities and discussion.
  • Participants took turns reading the narrative sections of the modules aloud. We again paused several times in each section to provoke discussion and activities.


Pre-assessment screening and adequate promotion time are crucial! While we did retain 70% of our participants over the course of five weeks, we were still sad to lose a few as the course progressed. We are very confident the reason was because those learners did not have the appropriate foundation of skills to participate and were quickly overwhelmed and discouraged.

By not giving ourselves enough time to get the word out about our learning circles, we were hasty to accept any person who registered. While the promotional materials and staff did convey the need for basic digital literacy skills, an assessment test would be more effective in getting this point across. There’s a risk when we rely on patrons to accurately rate their own skill level within an area they know little about.


Thirteen participants completed the “Make the Internet Work for You!” learning circle this fall. We designed certificates of completion with each participant’s name and awarded them as part of a “graduation package.” Other contents included a 30-day bus pass, $5 printing credit on their library card account, earbuds and an 8GB flash drive.

We promoted the “graduation package” as an incentive to register and complete our learning circle. Participants had to attend all five sessions to be eligible for the package. We understand that investing five weeks to participate in a learning experience is very difficult for our target population when they often seek more urgent and immediate answers to their life challenges. For example, when people struggle to pay their rent or utility bills, they probably understand that computer skills may eventually help their economic situation but simply do not have the luxury of time to invest in improving those skills. So, we wanted to offer something valuable and practical to keep them engaged in our course. Thanks to designated funding, we provided a graduation package valued at $60 for each graduate!

Graduation was “bittersweet,” as one participant declared. She was pleased to have completed something and learn about the internet but was going to miss coming together with her new friends each week. However, we used this as an opportunity to promote our next learning circle. It is our priority to retain members of our learning circles and keep them engaged in the experience to provide a continuum of digital skills learning, from computer basics to more advanced software navigation.

Despite their diversity in backgrounds and skill levels, participants in both learning circles gained new digital skills and an acquaintance with one another. Several became “Facebook friends” and plan to keep in touch through their newly acquired social media skills.


In the short term, we will begin another round of learning circles in early February. Based on surveys and verbal feedback from our learners, course content will include Microsoft Word and Excel. Down the line, we envision a few scenarios taking place:
  1. The library will facilitate learning circles over a spectrum of topics, not limited to digital literacy. We plan to include advanced digital literacy courses like coding and web design but are excited to open the doors to all the possibilities afforded by massive open online courses!
  2. Patrons will acknowledge they have the capacity to become learning circle facilitators. Using the library’s space and resources, patrons will become leaders and begin to develop their own groups.
  3. We will continue to share our story within and beyond our own community to inspire others to engage in this method of learning and social development. Our experiences will help other organizations and communities access and get connected to vital resources they may not know existed.

Wendy Pearson, Digital Inclusion Fellow.

The Kansas City Public Library has been making a lot of changes recently that are improving the experience for you, our patrons.

First, we updated our website. Next, we began implementing a new tagging system for library materials. And now we've changed our online catalog system. 

The catalog allows you to search our materials, place holds on items, and manage your account. The system will allow you to interact with our library staff more easily, create themed lists, review books, and share your recommendations within the library community.

The same software is used in neighboring Johnson County, Olathe, and Mid-Continent libraries (coming early 2017) which will facilitate an exciting digital collaboration coming to fruition next year. 

Starting immediately, you can gain access to the new system by logging into an existing library account. You’ll then be asked to register by creating a username and entering an email address. If you have accounts at more than one of the partnering libraries and have used the same email address, you’ll be asked if you’d like to link the accounts, allowing you to easily toggle back and forth between search results for each library. Learn more about account linking here

Registration is simplified for children under 13. They are asked to pick a favorite animal and favorite color, and the system combines the two to create a unique username.

Once registered for our new online catalog, you’ll be able to do all sorts of fun and interactive things:
  • Create and share reading lists.
  • "Follow" your friends and coworkers and get updates about what they are reading.
  • Keep track of books you want to read.
  • Rate and review titles that you've read.
  • See activity from all other system users across North America.

The catalog can easily be viewed on mobile devices.

The new library catalog system is called BiblioCommons, and it isn’t just regional. It is used by some of the largest and most prestigious public library systems in North America – from Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and Austin to Hennepin County (Minnesota), Multnomah County (Oregon), Brooklyn, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Other regional libraries in Lawrence, Columbia, St. Louis, and Omaha use the same product.

To begin using our new catalog, click here.

Image courtesy KCPT

, a new program from KCPT-TV, is an ongoing conversation about ideas, books, characters, and the absorbing issues of our times. The title comes from William Gilpin, a 19th-century mapmaker and early booster of Kansas City, who believed that civilization’s capital would be an area of greater Kansas City he called “Centropolis.”

Each week, the host of Centropolis, Kansas City Public Library Director Crosby Kemper III, and his guests explore topics ranging from current events to arts and culture. In the first episode, Mike Allen, outgoing chief political reporter for Politico, discusses Politico and his “next big thing.” Other guests include Candice Millard, author of the best-selling River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic; Whitney Terrell, Kansas City novelist and journalist; and David Von Drehle,  TIME magazine editor-at-large.

The series airs Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. from Oct. 27 through Nov. 17 on KCPT.


Mike Allen | October 27

Less than 100 days before Americans were scheduled to go to the polls, Kemper sat down with former Politico writer Mike Allen to discuss what has been one of the most extraordinary election years in our nation’s history.

David Von Drehle | November 3

Journalist David Von Drehle talks about politics, the history of media in elections, and his book Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year.

Candice Millard | November 10

Best-selling Kansas City author Candice Millard talks about her books The River of Doubt, about a perilous journey taken by Theodore Roosevelt, and Destiny of the Republic, about a medical debacle and the assassination of President James Garfield.  And she spotlights her latest book, Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill.

Whitney Terrell | November 17

Whitney Terrell, an assistant professor in creative writing at UMKC, discusses his three novels The Huntsman, The King of Kings County, and his recently released The Good Lieutenant.

Full episodes:

Or watch them on YouTube.
Kansas City Public Library has been selected by Peer to Peer University to participate in the next phase of its global expansion. They successfully piloted a learning format called Learning Circles in the Chicago Public Library system in 2015. Based on the successes and lessons learned from that program, it’s our turn now!
Learning Circles are lightly-facilitated study groups for learners who want to take freely available online courses together, in-person. As part of the Library’s plan to narrow the digital divide for Kansas City adults, we will facilitate digital skills Learning Circles at select Library locations this fall—Bluford and Central.
The course is called “Make the Internet Work for You!” Each Tuesday we will learn a different topic including, basic internet navigation and searching, how to use tools like email, maps, and social media and internet security and safety. Our primary source of content will be, an open access education source featured on Kansas City Public Library’s website.
Learning Circles will meet for 1.5 hours weekly on Tuesdays in the mornings at Central (from 10-11:30 a.m.) and in the afternoons at Bluford (from 1-2:30 p.m.) We will provide a facilitator, computers, and other necessary equipment for learners. (BONUS: Learning Circles will be the first program to utilize our mobile digital learning lab - a fleet of laptops and projectors - made possible through a recent state library grant.)
We are accepting applications from now to November 11 for our first LC’s that will begin Tuesday, November 15 and run through Tuesday, December 13. Successful applicants will have an understanding of basic computer skills—using a mouse, clicking on icons, etc. We will notify applicants that they have been accepted within 3 business days of their application via the phone or email they provided in the process.

Here are the application links for Bluford and Central
Graduation packages will be provided for learners upon completion of the course and will include a 31-day KC bus pass, $5 library printing credit, a flash drive, and ear buds. Learners must be able to attend ALL 5 SESSIONS to be eligible for the graduation package. No exceptions. IF applicants think they cannot attend all sessions, they should wait for the next learning circle opportunity so someone else can have the slot.
From the outside, Herman Lang’s scrapbook looks like any other nondescript, old book.  He created it a little over a century ago as a record of one his hobbies.  However, this is no ordinary scrapbook.  Inside, it contains a story of adventure, suspected espionage, and balloons. 

Yes, balloons.

Piloting hot air balloons had become a popular hobby by the beginning of the 20th century, leading to the creation of “aero clubs” in many of the larger cities in Europe and North America.  Kansas City was no exception.  Founded in 1909, the Kansas City Aero Club was one of the more active ballooning groups in the country at the time.  It routinely organized competitions and publicized the sport.  In 1912, Herman Lang, a member of the club, was asked to serve as the aide to H. E. Honeywell in Honeywell’s balloon, Uncle Sam, at the Gordon Bennett International Balloon Race in Stuttgart, Germany.  Lang would use his scrapbook to chronicle the journey, inserting photographs, postcards, maps, documents, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and ephemera collected along the way.
The race began October 27, 1912.  The rules were simple: The balloon traveling the farthest from the launch point in Stuttgart would win.  Up to three balloons per country could enter, each staffed by a pilot and an aide.  Twenty balloons competed that year, representing the U.S., Belgium, Denmark, Germany, England, France, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland.  

Uncle Sam was the last balloon to launch from the Stuttgart field.  According to Lang, “It is considered the later you get up in the race the luckier you are… It was a beautiful sight to see, some in this direction, some in that, seeking for air currents they hoped to find, that would carry them in the desired direction.”   
Lang and Honeywell floated along easily for the next couple of days.  They regularly called out to people on the ground to track where they were, enjoyed the lovely scenery, and signaled to other balloons with search lights at night.  However, after 38 hours and 10 minutes in the air and covering 1116 miles, Uncle Sam crashed landed onto a group of trees in Russia.

The landing was the result of a storm.  Wind and rain covered the balloon in ice until it could no longer stay aloft.  Lang and Honeywell attempted to communicate with the locals who gathered at the crash site, but they could not speak Russian and none of the Russians spoke English or German.  So they relied on sign language and drew pictures to get their point across.  One of the locals walked them to the nearest train station, which was run by the Russian military.
Their luck changed a bit at the station.  The woman who ran the café there happened to speak English and was more than happy to translate for them.  Lang and Honeywell presented their passports for examination and went back to pack up the balloon to be shipped back to Germany.
The Uncle Sam crew was allowed to board a train heading west out of the country later that day.  That is, until a few hours later, when they were awakened, arrested by the Russian military, and placed on another train heading east.  Upon arriving at the next station, they were questioned and searched.  Officers found and confiscated Honeywell’s Kodak camera and Lang’s revolver and, suspecting they were spies, detained them until their passports could be cleared by the office in St. Petersburg.  Finally, on November 1, 1912, after spending three nights in various train stations, Lang and Honeywell received word that they were free to go.  They took a train to the Russian border, crossed into Germany, made their way to Berlin, and sent telegrams home announcing they were safe. 
Uncle Sam took third place in the Gordon Bennett Race, and the crew received a warm welcome when they returned to the U.S.  Lang became something of a celebrity, often speaking in front of large groups around the country about his adventures.  And then, of course, he also recorded them in his scrapbook.

The Herman Lang Scrapbook was donated to Missouri Valley Special Collections in May 2016 by a grandson of Herman Lang.  It is extremely fragile and is currently available by appointment only.  Please contact or 816.701.3427 for more information.

Written by: Kate Hill, Senior Archivist, Missouri Valley Special Collections.


The Kansas City Public Library will begin temporarily closing its branches in early November 2016 to upgrade its checkout system. The staggered closures will allow staffers to install new Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on books and other materials available to patrons. The process will last into early 2017.
RFID tags allow the library to:
  • Enhance the customer experience: Checkouts will be faster and more streamlined. Patrons can check out multiple items with a single swipe.
  • Make better use of staff time: RFID tags will reduce the amount of time it takes for staff to scan materials, allowing librarians to spend more time serving customers.
  • Implement a more effective inventory control system: RFID tags enhance our data collection efforts and with that, help us to be better informed in selecting new materials.
All told, some 800,000 items must be tagged. During this time, patrons may see a delay with their library holds, but all e-books and other digital materials will still be available. Patrons will not have to change anything about their account once the changes are in place.
“We really do hate closing Library branches for any amount of time, but leaving branches open would prolong a process that now takes only a few weeks to a few months or would cost us more by hiring temporary staff to complete the tagging,” says Joel Jones, Deputy Director of Library Services. “It is important to remember that we are only closing one location at time and even if a patron’s home branch is closed for a few days other KCPL branches will be open and ready to serve.”

During this time, Library staff will also be evaluating, updating and refreshing collections at all locations. Expect to see new titles, better organized shelves and updated, topical selections when libraries re-open.
Tagging will be completed in early March. The Central Library will not completely close; instead staff will close individual sections for brief periods of time while they tag materials.

These dates for location closures are subject to change:
Branch Location Closing Dates
Irene H. Ruiz Branch, 2017 West Pennway St. November 1 - 3
Sugar Creek, 102 South Sterling, Sugar Creek January 11-12 (branch will not close)
Westport Branch, 118 Westport Rd. January 17 – 19
Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St. January 23 – 29
Waldo Branch, 201 East 75th St. January 31 – February 4
Trails West, 11401 East 23rd St., Independence February 7 - February 11
Lucile H. Bluford Branch, 3050 Prospect February 14 – 16
North-East Branch, 6000 Wilson Rd. February 21 – 24
Southeast Branch, 6242 Swope Parkway February 28 – March 4
The Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., will remain open during the tagging period from November 8 – January 6, however, sections of the building will be closed to the public for brief intervals. The children’s section will be closed December 12 -14, and the AV section will be closed January 2 – 6.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What are RFID tags?
A: Radio Frequency IDentification is a combination of radio frequency-based technology and microchip technology. The information contained on microchips in the tags affixed to library materials is read using radio frequency technology regardless of item orientation or alignment.
2. Why are you moving to this new system?
A. Besides the increased efficiency and speed, RFID tags last longer than barcodes because nothing comes in contact with them.
3. Do I have to change my account log in or get a new library card?
A. No. Your account information will stay the same with the new technology.
4. Will I still be able to access my library holds during the shutdown?
A. During this time, patrons may experience delays with items placed on hold. Pickup times will be extended in line with locations’ closing periods.
5. Why can’t my branch be closed at a different time of year?
A: Our Library Services team examined our checkout data, and we tend to have the lowest amount of physical materials checked out from our branch locations during the cold weather months.
6. Do other libraries have this same technology?
A. RFID tags are used in many libraries across the country, including Johnson County Library, Mid-Continent Public Library, and Kansas City, KS Public Library. By having the same technology, RFID opens up opportunities for increased cooperation and material sharing between these library systems.                   
What is an archivist? What do archivists do? And what exactly are the Missouri Valley Special Collections? If you have ever pondered these questions, now is your chance to #AskAnArchivist! 

Archivists turn this:     

Into this:

And turn this:

Into this:

What is #AskAnArchivist Day?

It is an opportunity for the public to ask about the what, how, and why of being an archivist in the Missouri Valley Special Collections, as well as any questions about visiting the room or doing research using our local history resources. It also provides us with a valuable opportunity to hear about your interests and discover new ways to serve our patrons.

How does it work?

On October 5th, as part of American Archives Month, archivists around the country will take to social media to respond to questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. If you are interested in participating, please send us your questions on Facebook and Twitter on October 5th by including the #AskAnArchivist hashtag and tagging @KCLibrary.

Not sure what to ask? 
Here are some examples to help with the brainstorming:
  • How do I take care of my old family photos?
  • I drive by this old building every day at [address] and have always wondered about it.  What did it used to be?
  • How do I research the history of my house?
  • My grandmother went to high school in Kansas City in the 1920s.  Do you have her yearbook?
  • What’s the strangest item in Missouri Valley Special Collections?
  • How does someone become an archivist?
  • What’s the deal with all those gray boxes in the photos?

By Kara Evans, Kate Hill, and Joanna Marsh, Special Collections Librarians/Archivists

On Tuesday, September 27, 2016, the Kansas City Public Library is proud to serve as a registration location for National Voter Registration Day.

National Voter Registration Day is a nationwide initiative designed to enhance awareness of voter registration opportunities. Staff members and volunteers will be on hand at all Library locations to register Missouri residents in the weeks leading up to the October 12 registration deadline.

Registrants must meet Missouri guidelines, and need to provide a Missouri driver's license or state-issued ID, Social Security Number, and birthdate.

Registration is free, and will take place during the Library's normal business hours. For hours at specific locations, go to

National Voter Registration Day was established in 2012 to ensure that no intending voter is left out. Six million Americans said they hadn't voted four years earlier as a result of missing the registration deadline or not knowing how to register.

People need to (re)register to vote if:
  • They have not registered before
  • They change their name
  • They move
  • They want to change their party affiliation
  • They complete a felony sentence

If you're not sure whether you are registered to vote, or if your registration is active, here are the links to check for Missouri and Kansas voters. It only takes a second!

Special happenings at our locations:
  • Plaza: The League of Women Voters will be registering patrons to vote from noon-4 p.m.
  • Westport: Will have a Registration Hydration Station where staff will be handing out water to all registering voters. They will also be doing a special “voting” themed children's story time at 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • North-East: Look for special bottles of water advertising our Library's services! The Northeast Chamber may also have volunteers on-hand to help register voters at the branch.
  • Ruiz: Once you registers to vote, you could get a small American flag or special red/white/blue packaged Double Bubble gum. This branch will also have photo prop masks of several American presidents that participants can take pictures in and those pictures can go up on the library's bulletin board. Ruiz employees will also be compiling answers to a few questions: Why are you voting? Why do you think voting is important? 
  • Trails West: Just look for the red, white, and blue decorated table! After you register to vote, make sure to grab some candy or mints. Also check out the ballot for books/movies and adult coloring sheets.

By Laura McCallister, Digital Content Specialist, and Courtney Lewis, Media Relations Coordinator
After much hard work and planning, we are proud to unveil the Kansas City Public Library’s new and improved website.
Group celebration, yes!
Its official launch Friday, September 23, offers a more mobile-friendly user experience and reflects extensive research into what patrons are seeking from In short: we made it easier to help you find what you need, when you need it.
Our old website was created over eight years ago and needed a reboot to make it easier for patrons and staff to use. It also did not adapt well to mobile devices. The new website changes its layout to accommodate screens of any size and shape. Now you can access the full spectrum of the Library’s resources and services, search for events and activities, find books, movies, music, and more.  
Other notable features or improvements:
  • An enhanced Readers Services page, including a new personalized reading profile form that gives you custom recommendations curated by our rock star librarians.
  • A more robust Books section, where you can browse by new arrivals, genres, or your reading preference – hard copy, eBook, audiobook, or large print.
  • New Kids and Teens pages where parents and youth can find all sorts of great content.
  • Each Library location now has its own page highlighting its unique activities and events.
  • Improved access and organization of the digital databases and special resources.
  • The entire site is now easy to use with your phone or tablet; no special apps needed.
  • You can look forward to a brand new online catalog and updated local history website in the coming weeks. 

The Library actually has offered a “sneak peek” at the new website since August 30, soliciting feedback from users. Three-quarters were happy with the change, saying it bettered their browsing and searching experience. Many appreciated the cleaner, less cluttered, more up-to-date look. “The layout is wonderful, much more inviting and engaging!” said one. “Thank you all!”
To those worried about losing content from the old site: Do not fret. Everything’s still there and then some. And the old site will still be accessible for a limited time, because we recognize change can be hard. You can still pay respects at until December 1, 2016.
The Library is doing so many great things, and we needed a more flexible website to navigate its array of programs, services, and initiatives without overwhelming users. We believe the new does that, and we hope you do too. 

By Laura McCallister, Digital Content Specialist

After a too-short, 23-day stay in Kansas City, a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio is moving on for display elsewhere. Since its arrival in our city on June 6, it has drawn crowds daily, filling the Library with people eager to catch a glimpse of history through this rare book as it makes its way from state to state.

Although each state gets its turn with a Folio, one thing that will not be found outside Kansas City are the University of Missouri-Kansas City-trained docents that have accompanied the book during its stay here. It has been our job as docents to share the story of the Folio with visitors, to share lesser known facts and fascinating information about the book, about print culture, and about Shakespeare. While it was our goal to give patrons the best experience possible during their visit, it truly has been special to be a part of this exhibit and all of us have gained much from the experience ourselves.

As the exhibit, First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, wraps up Tuesday, June 28, I would like to join two other docents in sharing what we've drawn from this unique experience.

Amy Strassner, a senior at UMKC, focuses on the printing process of 1623. "The materials we have for use in our presentations—such as samples of the cotton-based rag paper used in the First Folio, reproductions of movable type pieces, examples of folio and quarto publications, and depictions of a 1623 print shop—have enhanced the experience," she says. "These materials have helped to put the laborious printing process of the First Folio into perspective for myself, as a student, and for library patrons who are interested in how the Folio remains in existence today."

For Danica Otten, a UMKC junior, the greatest joy of being a docent has been seeing others interact with Shakespeare. She highlights an introductory letter found in the Folio that reads "to the great variety of readers."

Danica has seen this "great variety" firsthand. "From the young, aspiring actor to the retired Shakespeare film aficionado, I have loved hearing of others' love for the Bard and have so enjoyed celebrating, with each visitor, the book that preserved his works," she says. Seeing others interact with Shakespeare "has strengthened my admiration for Shakespeare and ... encouraged me to continue in exploring the vast world of his plays and times."

As for myself, the best part about being a docent for this exhibit has been watching people connect with Shakespeare in ways that they never have before. Almost everyone knows at least a bit about Shakespeare, yet few are familiar with the First Folio or the impact it has had on the modern image of the Bard.

It has been a joy to see the amazement of patrons when they find out that their favorite play would have been lost without the Folio or that a phrase they use every day was coined by Shakespeare. I have loved seeing children who are just as excited to see the book as AP literature teachers and actors and the enthusiasm of security guards who use spare minutes to steal a glance. Everyone has been able to pull some new bit of information from this exhibit, even the Shakespearean experts. Helping them discover how Shakespeare and the Folio impact their lives has been the best experience I could have imagined.

I believe I speak for all the docents when I say that I will always be grateful to the UMKC English Department and the Kansas City Public Library for providing me and my fellow students with such an amazing and unique experience. We never would have had access to such a great opportunity without the hard work of multiple people in these institutions. It will be with a heavy heart that we say good bye to the First Folio, but the impact it has had on the people of Kansas City during its stay should be a great comfort to us all.

Big thanks are due to the Folger Shakespeare Library for providing us with this exhibit for the month of June. You can always check out information about the Folio and photos of copies owned by the Folger at its website (

By Rebecca Adams, Library intern

When I am acting as a docent for the Library's First Folio exhibit, I often find myself emphasizing one fact: The Folio marked the first time that 18 of Shakespeare's plays appeared in print, thus preserving half of his complete collection. When I talk with visitors, we celebrate the Folio for giving us the gifts of All's Well that Ends Well, The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, and numerous other plays that we have come to know as our own.

However, there is more to be said of Shakespeare's First Folio beyond that gift of preservation. Not only does the Folio contain an impressive number of plays, it also has amassed quite a collection of interesting facts regarding its production, history, and existence.

• John Heminge and Henry Condell, the persons responsible for the compilation and construction of the First Folio, were named as beneficiaries in Shakespeare's will. Shakespeare afforded 26 shillings and eight denarii to each to "buy them ringes" to wear in his remembrance. Heminge and Condell, however, conceived of an additional way to remember and memorialize their colleague. In publishing the complete collection of Shakespeare's dramatic works, they ensured that his legacy would endure for hundreds of years – "a live-long monument" as John Milton wrote in "An Epitaph on the Admirable Dramatic Poet, W. Shakespeare."

• Heminge and Condell likely gathered the text of the Folio from myriad sources. They possibly used handwritten manuscripts from Shakespeare himself, known as the "foul papers" because they were typically full of corrections, marginalia, and amendments. It is possible that the "fair copy," the cleaned-up, handwritten copy of the manuscript that was sold by the playwright to the theatrical troop, was part of their source material. The prompt book, small sheets of paper with an individual character's lines, could have informed the process, or Heminge and Condell might have drawn upon their own personal memories of the productions. None of that material remains available today.

• The first recorded purchase of Shakespeare's First Folio was by Edward Dering. He bought two First Folios. Dering's personal records and accounts show a vested interest in the theater, and he had also amassed an impressive literary collection. Dering's accounts demonstrate the Folio's cultural value, as his records show his propensity to purchase "social assets."

• Despite its social status, pages of the Folio have been used in interesting and shocking ways over the course of time. Loose pages were once used to wrap fish!

• Publishing in a folio format spoke to the status of the content of the publication. For poets and playwrights, folios were unheard of – with the exception of Ben Johnson. Johnson, while still alive, published his collection of writings in his own Folio, Workes of Benjamin Jonson. Critics joked at his inclusion of a play, writing "Pray tell me Ben, where doth the mystery lurke / What others call a play you call a worke."

• The First Folio is called the "First" because second, third, and fourth printings followed. The Second Folio was printed in 1632, the Third in 1663 or 1664, and the Fourth in 1685. Each subsequent publication was presented as more valuable, adding plays that are not credibly attributed to Shakespeare. First Folios were, at times, discarded and replaced by the Second. Notably, the Folger Library's first purchase of a Folio was a Fourth Folio.

• William Jaggard, owner of the shop where Shakespeare's First Folio was printed, had previously attempted to produce a complete collected works of Shakespeare on his own. It came to be known as the "False Folio" even though it is not printed in folio format. Heminge, Condell, and others successfully stopped the project and began a complete collection of their own, involving Jaggard in the printing.

Shakespeare's First Folio is a wonderful book in for preservation purposes alone. However, looking beyond the plays, one finds a book that is magnificent for many more reasons. The Folio contains 36 treasured plays, and its history is indelible.

By Danica Otten, Library intern

Thousands of visitors have made their way to the Kansas City Public Library to revel in a rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, which is on display in the downtown Central Library through June 28.

Shakespeare scholars, students, and everyday library patrons have enjoyed seeing this 393-year-old piece of history in the Library's Missouri Valley Room, some traveling across the state and country and even from Canada. One family has driven three times from Topeka, Kansas, to Kansas City to attend events in conjunction with the Folio, and wrote in the guest book that all "plan to come again" for programming that extends into July.

Another visitor from Leawood, Kansas, expressed thanks to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., for making the Folio available through the special traveling exhibit, writing, "I may not get to the Folger so this was a treat."

The exhibit has been a wonderful opportunity for many teachers from the Kansas City area and beyond. "Fabulous!! An English teacher's dream!" wrote one from Florida. Another from Kansas City shared that sentiment. "As an English teacher, I was so excited and impressed to see this gem in my city," she said.

A teacher from St. Louis traveled with her husband and son for Family Day activities on June 12. They made it a day of Shakespeare fun, stopping along the way at Shakespeare's Pizza in Columbia before seeing the First Folio. They also paused for a photo (Twitter).

Tina Packer, the author of Women of Will: Following the Feminine in Shakespeare's Plays, talked about her book on June 13, and made sure before her presentation to see the First Folio. She had great things to say about the exhibit. "I've been in several of the towns/cities where you [The Folger Shakespeare Library] have sent the First Folio," she wrote. "I loved all the sites, but I think this is my favorite surrounded by (the Missouri Valley Room's extensive collection of books about) Civil Rights, local history, and Civil War."

She added that "the young docents were terrific!"

While the Folger Shakespeare Library is placing copies of the Folio on display around the country—choosing a single site in each state to serve as host—Kansas City's docent program is believed to be unique. More than a dozen University of Missouri-Kansas City students prepared for their duties by taking a semester-long, for-credit class arranged by Joan FitzPatrick Dean, UMKC's Curators' Professor of English.

By Amy Strassner, Library intern

Have you ever testified to a restless night by saying, "I have not slept one wink?" Or claimed, "All’s well that ends well?"

When is the last time you found yourself befuddled and commented, "It’s all Greek to me?" Do certain tasks leave you believing they will take "forever and a day?"

These phrases and many others in our common vernacular are credited to William Shakespeare and would arguably be lost to our phraseology if not for the First Folio, the first printed collection of his plays. A rare copy is on display at the Library through June 28.

A sampling of other phrases credited to Shakespeare, all preserved within the Folio:

  • "In a pickle." From The Tempest.
  • "Be-all and the end-all." From Macbeth
  • "A dish fit for the gods." From Julius Caesar
  • "Break the ice." From The Taming of the Shrew
  • "For goodness sake." From Henry VIII.
  • "My mind’s eye." From Hamlet.
  • "With bated breath." From The Merchant of Venice.
  • "The laughing stock." From The Merry Wives of Windsor


The First Folio contains 36 plays written by Shakespeare. Half of them, including The Tempest, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, The Taming of the Shrew, and Henry VIII, had not been previously published. So without the Folio, many expressions coined by Shakespeare would arguably be lost and our language would lack numerous popular and pithy phrases.

Prior to the printing of the Folio in 1623, the acting company in which Shakespeare was a shareholder withheld the printing rights of numerous plays, hoping to prevent competing theater companies from producing them and stealing patrons. Seven years after he died, with a number of his plays having fallen out of theatrical circulation, fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell set out to catalog his works.

Without that, mixed martial arts champion Ronda Rousey would not have had the words to reflect upon the first loss of her professional career in January. After months out of the public spotlight, she posted a quote from A Twelfth Night on her Instagram.

Beyoncé's 2011 Billboard Music Awards performance

Beyoncé, in her performance at the Billboard Music Awards show in 2011, also looked to Shakespeare for inspiration. Drawing from As You Like It, she introduced her song "Run the World," an anthem of female empowerment, with the line, "I am women, I must speak."

Supermodel Cindy Crawford received a birthday wish via Twitter from Piers Morgan, British journalist and television personality, that might lack poetic charm if not for Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. The opening line of the February tweet quotes from the play—and adorns many birthday cards today.

And so, may all of us—including Beyoncé—salute Heminge, Condell and of course the Bard the next time we "play fast and lose," lament "too much of a good thing," or "kill with kindness." We owe it to Shakespeare (and those respective phrases to King John, As You Like It, and The Taming of the Shrew).

We owe it to the First Folio.

By Danica Otten, Library intern

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.