Library Life

The Kansas City Public Library remains among a select group of public libraries across the country, earning a 4-star designation from Library Journal.

The Journal’s ratings, measuring the contributions that public libraries make to their communities, were released by the trade publication on Monday, November 2, 2015. Only two other Missouri libraries, the North Kansas City Public Library and St. Louis County Library, were accorded 4-star status.

Nationally, fewer than one in 30 public libraries — 261 of 7,663 — received 3-, 4-, or 5-star ratings from the trade publication. Only a little more than 2 percent earned four or five stars.

“Kansas City is lucky to have such a passionate Library staff, one that is so committed to its mission of literacy and lifelong learning,” says Library Director Crosby Kemper III. “This 4-star designation underscores that.”

The New York-based Library Journal bases its ratings on per-capita library use in four areas — circulation, library visits, internet computer usage, and program attendance — as reported to state library agencies and compiled nationally by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This year’s index uses that data from the 2013 fiscal year.

The Journal classifies libraries according to their yearly expenditures, and awards three, four, or five stars to the top libraries in each category. The Kansas City Public Library is among 112 libraries with budgets between $10 million and $30 million, the second-highest spending group. In that category, it was one of 20 earning four or five stars.

The Kansas City Public Library is one of 21 nationwide recipients to receive a $100,000 grant to help launch a two-year program aimed at improving financial literacy.

We have partnered with the Women's Employment Network and other local agencies to provide a range of services, including workshops, web resources, and individual financial coaching, to residents who are looking to enhance their money-managing skills but may lack access to reliable, unbiased education opportunities and resources. The Money Matters Workshop Series is projected intended to reach hundreds of residents in areas most in need served by our North-East, Bluford, and Southeast Branches.

Currently, workshops are being held at these three locations and we are looking to expand to local area community centers, social services agencies, and religious facilities. The Money Matters Workshops will cover banking, budgeting, credit management, and protection against identity theft.

The Women's Employment Network and other financial opportunity centers will also offer free individual financial coaching sessions to workshop participants. The Money Matters Workshop Series and coaching are open to anyone but specifically targeting:

  • Young women are entering the workforce and women newly assuming primary responsibility for managing household finances.
  • Immigrants—primarily Somalis and Latinos–living near the Library's North-East Branch at 6000 Wilson Rd.
  • Adults 55 and older who are preparing for retirement or managing income in retirement.

Workshops include:

Banking Basics focuses on empowering participants to utilize and develop relationships with either a bank or credit union, access banking products and successfully use money management tools.

Budgeting: The Money Diet focuses on creating a household spending plan. Participants will get an overview of the components of a budget, gain tools to help with expenses, and explore ways to save on everyday expenses.

Give Yourself Credit focuses on how lenders view credit, being smart about selecting a credit card, teaching participants how to read their credit reports, and improving credit scores.

Yes, I am Janice Brown: Be safe from Identity Theft focuses on education participants on how to identify the warning signs of identity theft, how to protect their children, and being proactive if identity theft occurs.

For a full list of upcoming workshops and to register, please visit

This program is made possible by a grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's Investor Education Foundation through the Smart investing@your library initiative, a partnership with the American Library Association.

About the Author

Amy Morris

Latoya Woods works with the Library's H&R Block Business & Career Center as a Financial Literacy Specialist. She develops financial literacy workshops as part of the FINRA grant offered at three Library branches and other community agencies.

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Food for Fines is the annual Kansas City Public Library program that allows patrons to donate food to Harvesters—The Community Food Network in exchange for credits towards their Library fines.

From Monday, October 12, through Sunday, October 18, every item donated will equal $1 off your existing overdue fines.

In 2014, Food For Fines brought in almost 8,900 pounds of food for those in need in our community, and we eliminated over $9,000 in overdue fines!

What items can you donate? Non-perishables like canned vegetables, boxed dinners, canned juices, peanut butter, soap, deodorant, shampoo, toilet tissue, facial tissues, paper towels, and cleaning supplies.

What can you not donate? Perishables, homemade or home-canned foods, soda, candy, glass containers, alcoholic beverages, and items that are damaged/opened/expired or that are missing a nutrition label.

What fines will be reduced? Existing overdue fines. We cannot forgive fines for lost items, printing/copy services, or give credits towards future fines.

Check out the FAQ for full details!

Our unique historical series Meet the Past with Crosby Kemper III landed its second regional Emmy Award in as many years over the weekend, for a program spotlighting preeminent African American writer, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston.

The episode—with longtime Johnson County Community College professor Carmaletta Williams in the role of Hurston—was produced in collaboration with KCPT-TV and broadcast by the public television station on March 19, 2015.

Meet the Past features Kemper, the Library's director, interviewing an actor or re-enactor portraying a famous individual with Kansas City connections. The Hurston episode was recorded live on February 25, 2015, at the downtown Central Library.

The Mid-America chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded the program an Emmy in the category of interview or discussion program. Library Director of Strategic Initiatives Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner and KCPT representatives accepted the award—"for excellence in a program, series or special consisting of material that is at least 75% unscripted"—during the chapter's 39th annual gala on Saturday, October 3, 2015, in St. Louis.

The chapter includes television markets primarily in Missouri, Arkansas, and Illinois and parts of Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa, and Louisiana.

"The Kansas City Public Library is honored to have received an Emmy from the Mid-America chapter of NATAS for the second year in a row," Kemper says. "Meet the Past is a unique contribution to the Library's mission of lifelong learning, bringing knowledge of our local, regional, and national history and culture to television audiences in an entertaining as well as enlightening way.

"Special kudos to Carmaletta Williams, whose portrayal of Zora Neale Hurston made this a special show."

Conceived by former Library Director of Public Affairs Henry Fortunato and launched in 2009, Meet the Past won its first Emmy in 2014 for a program spotlighting celebrated African American horse trainer and equestrian showman Tom Bass. The series' other subjects have ranged from Harry S. Truman to Walt Disney, Jesse James, Charlie Parker, and Mark Twain. Fortunato served as a producer.

The episode revolving around Hurston, who published her seminal Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937, drew a crowd of 261 to the Central Library. A dynamic presence in the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston published three other novels, two books of folklore, an autobiography, numerous short stories, and several essays, articles, and plays over a career that spanned more than 30 years.

Williams, recently retired from Johnson County Community after serving 26 years as a professor of English, has focused her academic interest in part on Hurston, the Missouri-born Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. Williams has performed a one-woman play, Zora Neale Hurston: Queen of the Harlem Renaissance, throughout the Midwest and took part in a series of presentations on classic African American literature at our Bluford Branch in 2011.

Major funding for this episode of Meet the Past was provided by the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee.

More episodes of the program can be viewed online at

Through an AmeriCorps VISTA grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Kansas City Public Library is working breaking the cycle of poverty with the support and service of four VISTA members.

VISTAs (Volunteers In Service To America) make one-year commitments to serve the community on a specific project at a nonprofit or public institution. They will expand the Library’s capacity to serve our homeless, refugee and immigrant, and teen populations by connecting them with quality services, resources, and lifelong learning opportunities at the Library.

Two VISTA members, Danielle Danforth and Mary Maxine Luber, will work closely with Refugee and Immigrant Services Outreach Manager Julie Robinson. Lyn Cook will work with Kansas City Digital Media Lab staff Andrea Ellis and Marcus Brown to develop a volunteer mentoring program. And Sam Melton will work with Mary Olive Thompson, the Library’s director of outreach and community engagement, and other Library staff members to develop programming and outreach for our homeless populations.

In addition to their duties on specific projects, the VISTAs also will contribute to the Library's social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) and write blogs lending the public more insight to their work. If you happen to see the VISTAs around the Library or in the community, make sure you stop to say hello and thank them for their efforts in Kansas City!

Lyn Cook will be building the framework for the volunteer program of the Kansas City Digital Media Lab. She is a digital director and producer by trade and she enjoys contributing to and celebrating the potential of today's youth. To unwind, Lyn enjoys nice music, good sushi, and great company.

Sam Melton will be focusing on outreach and community engagement. She was born and raised in Kansas City and has always felt a commitment to her community. During her year of service she hopes to create a pop-up library pilot and host a bi-monthly Coffee and Conversation program for patrons of the library. Her favorite book is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, and she can likely be found checking out plays at one of the city’s many local theaters.

Mary Maxine Luber will be working for Refugee and Immigrant Services. She is a recent alumna of William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where she studied nonprofit leadership and psychology. Mary Maxine spends every minute she can reading about urban gardening, community revitalization, and deep space. She loves a good graph and lives for dark roast coffee.

Danielle Danforth graduated from Drury University with degrees in fine arts and Spanish, and is currently in her second year of AmeriCorps service. She is passionate about lifelong learning and loves reading nonfiction, making art, and being active. You can usually find her doodling, sipping herbal tea, or sharing her latest culinary creations. Danielle will also be working in Refugee and Immigrant Services at the Library.

Clothes. Cars. Computers. They don’t last forever, succumbing to wear and tear, obsolescence, or shifts in interests and tastes.

It’s the same with library books. The Kansas City Public Library counts some 747,000 items in its collection, housing close to half of them in its downtown Central Library. They age. Some are torn or stained. Others languish on the shelves, unnoticed or unneeded by patrons for years. If not timeless classics, it might be time for them to go.

The formal term for removing materials that have outlived their usefulness is deaccession. Informally, libraries call it weeding. “It’s an essential part of maintaining and managing your collection,” says Debbie Stoppello, the Kansas City Public Library’s collection development manager. “If you didn’t weed your garden, it would get overrun. It’s the same premise.”

The Library uses a two-pronged approach. Librarians at its 10 locations keep an eye out daily for damaged or outdated books that might be candidates for removal from the collection – what Stoppello calls “a serendipitous type of weeding.” And there is active weeding, a more focused and concerted effort to evaluate the Library’s holdings and identify what perhaps should be culled. The Central Library is in the midst of its first such undertaking since moving into the former First National Bank Building at 10th and Baltimore in 2004.

Originally planned to take place over a couple of years, the thorough, long-overdue weeding at Central has been accelerated as the Library does some rearranging and makes room for a new, first-floor technology center. From February through the end of June, according to Central Director Lillie Brack, some 30,000 items had been removed. But the past year also has seen the addition of more than 39,000 items.

All told, the Central Library was home to more than 365,000 shelf-ready items at the start of its new fiscal year in July.

Weeding is no simple process. The Library carefully spells out its guidelines for evaluating and withdrawing materials. They must be deemed obsolete – the subject matter no longer timely, accurate, or relevant. Or they’re found to be damaged or in otherwise poor condition. Or they’re completely ignored by patrons, not checked out for years. Or there’s a space crunch.

Reference librarians do the evaluating, with five of the seven at Central pulled into its current weeding project.

Reference librarian Judy Klamm evaluates books while weeding at the Central Library.

“I’ll look at the dead list,” says Carol Bruegging, a reference librarian at Central for 25 years, “and pull some of those books out and say, ‘Yeah, that can go. It’s not being used; I see it hasn’t been checked out. It’s kind of ratty looking. Maybe the cover is gone. Others, they’re on the dead list and I think, ‘You know, that was an important author, (maybe) an important person in child development. I don’t care if it hasn’t been checked out. It’s staying. It needs to be part of the collection.’

“Everything on the dead list isn’t going to go. And some things that aren’t on the dead list are going to go.”

Says Stoppello, “We are not an aggressive weeding library. … We make every effort to keep a book and give it a long life.”

Or give it a new life.

A book that’s no longer fit for Central might find a home in one of the Kansas City Public Library’s nine branch locations. Many history titles are relocated to its Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Others have gone or will go to the National World War I Museum and Memorial, the Jackson County Family Court Juvenile Detention Center, the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, area nursing homes, senior centers, and smaller Missouri libraries. Many children’s books in good condition wind up in preschools and child-care facilities as part of the Library’s Books to Go program.

The remainder go the Friends of the Library to be featured, if usable, in their annual series of book sales. What they can’t use is shipped to the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City, which sells what it can—tens of thousands of books in the past 2½ years—and recycles the rest.

A candidate for weeding: a history of silversmiths’ art in Great Britain and Ireland, published in 1936
and showing its age.

“There are so many chances a book gets to have a new life,” Stoppello says. “And many of them do get new life.”

The Library’s aim is to complete its extensive weeding in Central by the end of August. The result should be a more vibrant, more relevant, more accessible collection.

Nationally, libraries often see circulation spike after a weeding project as their patrons no longer have to sort through aging or unwanted titles in search of something they want or like. “It’s like getting out the deadwood,” Brack says. “You can’t browse a popular area if every second or third book is something old and moldy and outdated.”

“We want to keep our collection viable so it is meeting our patrons’ needs with material that is relevant, up to date, of interest, and in reasonably good physical condition. … It’s a continuous cycle.”

Steve Wieberg, Department of Public Affairs

Just how does a Library book find its way onto the shelf? With the recent release of the highly-anticipated Go Set a Watchman, this is a good opportunity to give you a behind the scenes look at how things work at the Kansas City Public Library.

Purchasing decisions start in the Collection Development department, run by Debbie Stoppello. The Library is always adding new titles: It could be a newly-released crime novel or a perennial favorite children’s book. High demand titles and bestsellers are almost always purchased, but the Library also tries to acquire a good selection of award-winning books, significant cultural or literary works, as well as 'in-fill' or replacement copies of books that are already in the collection.

A classic like To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect example of a book that is consistently in print and in demand. As existing Library copies are lost or damaged beyond use, they are replaced with newer editions. The Library also has to keep up to date on so-called 'serial' releases, such as travel books, software manuals, and other items that need to be updated regularly to keep the information correct and current.

Each location in the Kansas City Public Library system is also different in its reading habits, so you may notice different types of books available at the branches. You might find more children’s books at a branch frequented by more families with young children, or perhaps more books in languages besides English at branches near larger immigrant populations, but patrons can always request items from any location in the Library system for pick up at their preferred branch. (And books not available at the Kansas City Public Library may be borrowed from libraries throughout the country through Inter-Library Loan.)

Ordering new releases pose an interesting challenge. How does the Library know how many copies they’ll need to order for the different branches? It's demand that drives the ordering, according to Stoppello. Even before the book has been delivered, it is listed in the Library’s online catalog allowing users to ‘place a hold’ on the item, putting them in line to check it out once it is available. We've found that for most titles, ordering additional copies at a ratio of one copy per every five holds gives the Library enough copies to fill holds in a timely manner and meet demand over time. So if a book has 20 holds in the system when it comes time to finalize the order, four additional copies will be purchased on top of the quantity the Library had planned to purchase.

For blockbuster books such as Go Set a Watchman, Stoppello has the book added to the Library's catalog as soon as possible, in this case a full six months in advance, giving users plenty of time to place their holds.

Once the order is placed with the distributor, it's a matter of waiting for the release date. Publishers strictly enforce releases on new and popular books at both bookstores and libraries. With Go Set a Watchman, the boxes from the distributor arrived in the morning on the release date, Tuesday, July 14.

At this point, they're ready to be processed and put into circulation. Delivery Service staffers like Hannah inspect the new book shipments and add the items to the Library's computer system, so their locations can be tracked at all times.


From here, books are ready to go to their destination (out to the branches to go on the shelf, or to the hold shelves to fill individual users' hold requests.) They are marked accordingly and put into totes awaiting delivery drivers to take the books to their destination branches.

By mid-afternoon, all the books had arrived at the appropriate locations, ready to be picked up by readers.

With so many holds placed on a popular book, it can be a long time before you might actually see a copy sitting on the shelf. To address this, the Library created the Browsing Collection, also called "New & Notable." These are additional copies of books set aside in displays at our Central, Waldo, Trails West, and Plaza locations.

Browsing collection books can be checked out, but only for two weeks at a time, and they cannot be renewed. Items in the browsing collection also cannot be placed on hold, in order to make sure that as many copies as possible of new titles are available for patrons to check out when they visit the Library.

If you need longer to finish reading a book, these titles are still available through the regular catalog system, with standard check out times (21 days) and the possibility of renewal.

Want to read Go Set a Watchman?

It’s currently available from the Kansas City Public Library in multiple formats: as a print book, an audiobook, an eBook, and a digital audiobook.

You can place a hold through the online catalog links above, or call us at 816.701.3442 or visit your favorite Library location to speak with a librarian who will be happy to help you.

About the Author

Liesl Christman

Liesl Christman is the digital content specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.

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You now have more digital resources available for free through the Kansas City Public Library's collection! Magazines are now offered through OverDrive, and comics and graphic novels from publishers including DC Comics have been added to hoopla!

Wired, Vogue, ESPN, Smithsonian, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, Vanity Fair, Backpacker.

What do these magazines and periodicals have in common? These and many more are available for free with your Library card!

Digital magazines are now available through OverDrive, which already provides Kansas City Public Library cardholders with free access to over 25,000 eBooks and 10,000 Audiobooks.

To read these magazines and periodicals, you must first install the Nook Reading App, which is free and available for almost all smartphones and tablets as well as computers running Windows 8.

  OverDrive has expanded their content of eBooks and Audiobooks to include Magazines and Periodicals.

Hoopla recently expanded their already-great collection of music and movies to include eBooks and comics. And now with the acquisition of many series and graphic novels from DC Comics and its indy imprint Vertigo, their collection is even more robust.

From critically-acclaimed adult titles such as Watchmen, Sandman, Fables, and The Dark Knight Returns, to children's favorites such as Tiny Titans, there are many books to choose from.

And there are more comics available from IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, and many others, including titles just for kids.

You can also enjoy thousands of movies, television shows, audiobooks, and full music albums. Users may stream content online from hoopla or download it for remote viewing.

  Hoopla offers digital comics, eBooks, music, movies and audiobooks.

On hoopla eBooks, Comics, and Audiobooks check out for 21 days at a time, while most movie and TV content is available for 72 hours after borrowing. You are limited to 20 titles per month.

On OverDrive, eBooks and Audiobooks are available for 21 days, and you can have a maximum of 20 titles check out at a time. Digital Magazine issues are yours to keep, and do not count towards your 20 item limit.

On both of these services, items are automatically returned at the end of your lending period, so you never need to worry about overdue fines! These new offerings are just part of the Library’s ever-expanding digital collections.

And if you are a KC metro-area resident that does not already have a Kansas City Public Library card, you can get an eCard online to get immediate access to these resources that our cardholders already enjoy!

Twenty-five Kansas City households with school-age children will get free wireless Internet access at home—or wherever else they choose to connect—as part of a pilot program allowing them to "check out" the service from the Kansas City Public Library.

The plan targets residents in underserved areas who now lack home access to the Internet, allowing them to utilize free Wi-Fi hotspots at least six months. The pilot program will serve students attending two Kansas City public schools, East High School and Faxon Elementary School, and their parents, guardians, or caregivers, offering training in addition to the wireless connections.

The program could launch as early as the start of the 2015-16 school year in August. The Library, which is partnering with Kansas City Public Schools and local nonprofits Literacy Kansas City and Connecting for Good, hopes to expand the innovative lending service in succeeding years.

"The mission of the Library is to be a doorway to knowledge for all," says Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, its deputy director of strategic initiatives. "With this program, we hope to open the door for students and their families to be able to operate in today's digital society.

"This is a continuation of our effort to connect kids to services they need. And it furthers a community-wide initiative to close the digital divide in Kansas City."

The Library's leadership role in digital inclusion efforts was underscored by its selection by broadband service provider Mobile Beacon as a pilot site for Wi-Fi checkouts. Mobile Beacon, based in Johnston, Rhode Island, will donate 25 wireless Internet devices and unlimited data plans for the duration of the program, plus a matching number of Lenovo laptop computers, plus end-to-end support.

The announcement was made at last week's Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition conference in Arlington, Virginia. The Kansas City Public Library will join a handful of libraries nationwide, including the New York and Chicago public systems, in lending mobile wireless service to households in underserved neighborhoods.

"Having a low-cost, high-speed broadband Internet connection is absolutely essential to participating in today's digital economy and society," says SHLB Coalition Executive Director John Windhausen, noting that 30% of American households still lack one. "The Kansas City Public Library is one of the nation's leaders in reaching outside the library walls and working with the community to address this critical need. No one is more deserving of this award."

Says Deb Socia, executive director of Next Century Cities, a coalition of more than 90 cities and counties advocating widespread availability of fast and reliable broadband Internet service, "The Kansas City Public Library's deep commitment to addressing digital inclusion is a shining example of the type of work we champion. They are a leading model of how to engage the community to provide Internet access and show the benefits of broadband, and we applaud the recognition they have received from Mobile Beacon."

The Library's foray into mobile wireless lending comes amid growing attention to digital literacy barriers and a national digital divide. Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler called this week for the expansion of a government phone subsidy program to help low-income Americans pay for Internet access. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal on June 18, 2015.

The Kansas City Public Library was instrumental in the formation of the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition and hosted a first-of-its-kind Digital Inclusion Summit in October 2014 that addressed troublesome gaps in residents' access to computers and the Internet. Kositany-Buckner is a member of the founding council of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

The Mobile Beacon-backed Wi-Fi lending program addresses concern in Kansas City about the high concentration of school-aged children, ages 4-18, in homes that do not use the Internet - the school district says 70% of its students do not have online access where they live. Library and school officials are scheduled to meet next week to begin identifying the 25 students and other household members who will participate in the pilot program.

The program is designed to help students access online resources and pursue educational activities at home. Parents and other caregivers will be required to take part in training with the students to enable them to provide support - and to augment their own digital literacy skills.

Officials also will work to determine how to measure the impact of the program and the enhanced Internet access.

Computers and the Internet, including high speed connectivity, are essential in today’s digital society. Without this access, people face major hurdles in conducting business, completing school assignments, searching for a job, securing government services, or even communicating on a day-to-day basis. Those on the wrong side of this digital divide are being left further and further behind.

While there have been numerous efforts at the local level to address this problem, the newly-formed National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) is among the first organizations to address the issue nationally.

Modeled after efforts in Kansas City to bridge the digital divide through the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition, the NDIA plans “to be a unified voice for local technology training, home broadband access, and public broadband access programs” and join in the federal policy discussion to increase broadband availability in the U.S.

The Kansas City Public Library has been a leader in local efforts to bridge the digital divide and will bring this experience to the NDIA through the Library’s Deputy Director of Strategic Initiatives Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, who serves on the NDIA’s Founding Council.

For more information on the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s goals and how you can help, please visit their website.

The NDIA Founding Council is:

Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, Kansas City Public Library
Amina Fazlullah, Benton Foundation
John Windhausen, SHLB Coalition
Kami Griffiths, Community Technology Network
Luke Swarthout, New York City Public Library
Bill Callahan, Connect Your Community
Nicol Turner-Lee, Multicultural Media & Telecom Council
Amy Sample Ward, NTEN
Angela Siefer, NDIA Director

The Pulitzer Prize winners for 2015 were announced this week. While the journalism awards are probably the most well-known, the Pulitzer board also honors works of Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, and more each year, many of which we have available for checkout in the Library's collection. Catch up on some Pulitzer Prize-winning reading!

2015 Pulitzer Winners

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Anthony Doerr, author of About Grace and Four Seasons in Rome, tells the story of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy whose stories intertwine and finally converge in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, in this year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

In the category of General Nonfiction, Elizabeth Kolbert took top honors, for her work on how man-made climate change and and the advancement of our civilization is triggering the next major mass extinction of species on Earth.

Kolbert is one of today's leading journalists, writing on environmental issues for The New Yorker Magazine.

Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn

The Mandan Indians of the North American Plains were once a dominant culture in the region, residing along the banks of the Missouri River, trading with Europeans, and aiding the Lewis and Clark expedition through the winter of 1804/1805. But Small Pox and warfare took their toll on the culture. Elizabeth Fenn, in her Pulitzer-winning History, pieces back together the history of the Mandan, through intense and in-depth research from a surprisingly wide range of sources.

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer

This Biography from David Kertzer traces the sometimes-secret and complex connections between Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini in the 1920s and 30s, which aided the rise the Fascism in Italy and advancement of Hilter, connections that the Pope would come to regret in the final moments of his life. Kertzer has created a strong narrative work, directly from records in the Vatican's archives.

2015 Pulitzer Finalists

Many of this year's Pulitzer finalists for Fiction, Biography, and General Nonfiction and are also available for checkout from our collection. These titles may not have taken the top prize, but they are still thought-provoking books well worth a read! (Book summaries below from

Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford
“An unflinching series of narratives, set in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, insightfully portraying a society in decline.”

The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami
“A creative narrative of the ill-fated 16th Century Spanish expedition to Florida, compassionately imagined out of the gaps and silences of history.”

Lovely, Dark, Deep by Joyce Carol Oates
“A rich collection of stories told from many rungs of the social ladder and distinguished by their intelligence, language and technique.”

Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert
“A work of staggering scholarship arguing that slavery was crucial to the dynamism of the industrial revolution.”

Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism by Thomas Brothers
“The masterfully researched second volume of a life of the musical pioneer, effectively showing him in the many milieus where he lived and worked in the 1920s and 1930s.”

No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal
“A remarkable work of nonfiction storytelling that exposes the cascade of blunders that doomed America’s misbegotten intervention in Afghanistan.”

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
“The story of a vast country and society in the grip of transformation, calmly surveyed, smartly reported and portrayed with exacting strokes.”

Which author would win in a (literary) fight?

That’s the question you get to help answer during Bareknuckle Books, our Author Cage Match - “Paperweight” Division. Vote for your choice of author in each round April 13-17, and those winners will advance until we have our 2015 Bareknuckle Books Champion!

Who are the authors? And what’s with the “fighting?”
Glad you asked! We chose some of our favorite authors, living or dead. And everyone loves a competition, so we thought it would be fun to see which you think are the best.

Authors will be paired up, and you vote to decide who wins. (Whether they’re competing for the title of best author, or who would actually win in a knock-down, drag-out fight is up to you...)

UPDATE (4/18/2015):

We have a winner! Thank you everyone who played Bareknuckle Books. After many rounds, our victor is MAYA ANGELOU! Click here for more information on how each fight turned out.

And now, the competitors:


May the best writer win!

How do I vote?
Visit Monday, April 13, through Friday, April 17, and choose your victors. There will be new matches every day, and the winning authors will advance to the next rounds until we have a champion! Half of our authors will battle it out on Monday, the other half on Tuesday. After that, it’s winner-take-all as the previous days’ victors are pitted against each other until only one is left standing.

What’s in it for me?
Bragging rights! Also, it’s fun. (But don’t worry; there will also be a random drawing for some fun Library swag. Full contest information is below.)

Awesome! What can I do?
Vote! Tell your friends! Share #BareknuckleBooks on social media! Start arguments in bars over whether Ernest Hemingway had bigger <insert euphemism here> than Hunter S. Thompson! (Just know that we won’t be there to help bail you out afterward… Libraries are underfunded as is.)

Remember to visit every day this week to choose your victors, and have fun!

Contest Details:

To show our appreciation for participating in Bareknuckle Books, we are also hosting a random drawing for prizes. All you need to do is submit your name & email at and you will be entered into the raffle. (Heck, you don’t even have to vote in Bareknuckle Books to enter the drawing. That’s how much we like you!) The winners will be chosen at random and announced on April 20, 2015. Winners will be contacted via email, and their names published on the Library’s website.

One Grand Prize:
* One copy of a book written by the Bareknuckle Books “champion”, one Kansas City Public Library canvas tote bag, and two tumbler glasses from the Library’s recent Love on the Rocks reading program.

Two Runner-up prizes:
* One Kansas City Public Library canvas tote bag.
* One signed book by a previous Library presenter. (There have been some awesome authors who have come to speak at the Library over the years. We found some of their signed books that we had squirreled away, so why not give one away?)

Anyone is welcome to enter the drawing, but prizes must be picked up from one of our Kansas City Public Library locations.

The Kansas City Public Library has received a $100,000 grant to help launch a new, two-year program aimed at improving financial literacy.

The Library will partner with the Women’s Employment Network and other local agencies to provide a range of services—workshops, web resources, and individual financial coaching—to residents who are looking to enhance their money-managing skills but may lack access to reliable, unbiased education opportunities and resources. The program will be open to anyone but specifically target:

  • Young women entering the workforce and women newly assuming primary responsibility for managing household finances.

  • Immigrants, primarily Somalis and Latinos living near the Library’s North-East Branch.

  • Adults 55 and older who are preparing for retirement or managing income in retirement.

The services—expected to be available by summer—are projected to reach hundreds of residents in areas of need served by the Library’s L.H. Bluford Branch, and Southeast Branch, in addition to North-East.

“Our goal,” says project principal Eric Petersen of the Library’s H&R Block Business and Career Center, “is to provide basic information and services to help people begin to improve their financial outlook.”

The program is made possible by a grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation through the Smart investing@your library initiative, a partnership with the American Library Association. The Kansas City Public Library is one of 21 grant recipients nationwide in 2014.

The Library will make financial literacy resources available on its website and in its print collection. Workshops, held at the three branches and at area community centers, social services agencies, and religious facilities, will cover banking, budgeting, credit management, and protection against identity theft. The Women’s Employment Network and other Financial Opportunity Centers will offer individual sessions with a financial coach.

Petersen and Mary Olive Thompson, who is assisting in coordinating the program as the Library’s director of outreach and community engagement, expect more than 450 people to take advantage of the workshops and 150 or more to engage in the one-on-one coaching sessions.

Petersen sees the two-year program as a natural extension of the Block Center’s personal finance offerings. The Center, housed in the downtown Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., also targets career development, entrepreneurship, and nonprofit development.

“With workshops in the three branches, this helps maintain the Block Center’s identity as a system-wide service,” says Petersen, who co-wrote the grant with the Central Library’s youth services manager, Jamie Mayo.

Partnering on the financial literacy program with the Library and the Women’s Employment Network are the Kansas City chapter of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC); Guadalupe Centers, Inc.; the Somali Center of Kansas City; and Arts Tech.

The Washington, D.C.-based Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the largest non-governmental regulator of securities firms doing business in the U.S. Now in its eighth year, the Smart investing@your library program has awarded a total of $10 million to public libraries, community college libraries, and library networks across the country.

The Kansas City Public Library has been selected as the Missouri stop for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s 2016 national tour First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Only 233 copies exist of the First Folio—the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays published in 1623—and we’re beyond excited to have the opportunity to exhibit one at our Central Library in downtown Kansas City.

Eighteen First Folio copies will circulate among the exhibit locations. They're among 233 copies of the book known to exist today, less than a third of the 750 thought to have been printed originally in 1623. A single exhibit location was selected in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Kansas State University was named in Kansas.

Published seven years after Shakespeare's death, the First Folio was the first compilation of his plays. Eighteen of the works, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It, had never appeared previously in print and otherwise would have been lost.

When the First Folio arrives in Kansas City, its pages will be opened to the most quoted line in the world: "to be or not to be" from Hamlet. Accompanying the 900-page book will be a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities.

The Kansas City Public Library will make the four-week exhibit the centerpiece of a months-long celebration of Shakespeare, partnering with local and national scholars and an array of area institutions and organizations in offering speaking presentations, stage productions, film screenings and discussions, workshops, and other activities for children and adults.

The Kansas City Public Library will be displaying the First Folio June 6 - June 28, 2016. Other dates and locations for the 2016 exhibit are available here. More information on the exhibit available in our press release.


This exhibit has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor and by the generous support of and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf.

Partnering with the Kansas City Public Library in bringing First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare to Kansas City are the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Department of Theatre and Department of English Language and Literature, the Kansas City branch of the English-Speaking Union, the Missouri Humanities Council, and KCUR-FM.

We could all use a little help preparing our income taxes, and there are two organizations coming to the Library to assist you for free.

AARP Tax-Aid provides free tax preparation and assistance services to low- and middle-income taxpayers, with special attention given to those ages 60 and older. And VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) provides assistance to those with an income of $53,000 or less.

Representatives from both organizations will be on hand to assist patrons with your federal and state (Missouri and Kansas) income tax returns at many of our locations. No appointment is necessary.

Please bring all necessary documents with you, such as your W-2s, 1099s, and previous year’s return. A full list of recommended documents is located here.

The days and times volunteers from VITA and AARP will be available are listed below. Please call the individual Library locations you plan to visit if you have any questions.


Central Library
14 W. 10th St. - 816.701.3433

Mondays and Tuesdays: 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
In the Multipurpose Room on the Vault Level
Saturdays: 10 a.m. - 4:30 p .m.
In Meeting Room 312 on the 3rd Floor

North-East Branch
6000 Wilson Rd. - 816.701.3485

Mondays, Tuesdays,
and Wednesdays: 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturdays: 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Plaza Branch
4801 Main St. - 816.701.3481

Mondays, Tuesdays,
and Wednesdays: 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Saturdays: 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Trails West Branch
11401 E. 23rd St. - 816.701.3483

Saturdays, February 7, 14, 21,
and April 4: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.


Waldo Branch
201 E. 75th St. - 816.701.3486

Mondays & Thursdays: 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Assistance is provided on a first come, first served basis. There are 25 slots available per day.

Southeast Branch
6242 Swope Pkwy - 816.701.3484

Wednesdays through April 1: 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Assistance is provided on a first come, first served basis. There are 20 slots available per day.

At the Library we also provide access to state and federal income tax forms, links to free online filing services, 2015 Tax Guides that are available for check out, and more. Take a look!