Library Life

Halloween kids at Central Library

For Ashlei Wheeler, Teen Services specialist at the Waldo Branch, reading to children is an interactive experience. "It's so much fun to see them get into it and want to know what happens next," Wheeler says.

"They notice things differently than adults do. They notice things that get them psyched, and that gets me psyched, too."

"I like the creativity they bring to it," Wheeler adds.

Unfortunately, many children in the Kansas City Public Library's service area don't get to have this kind of creative, interactive reading experience on a regular basis.

According to a 2009 Jumpstart report, the average child growing up in a low-income family has only been exposed to 25 hours of one-on-one reading. (Compare that with 1,000-1,700 hours in middle-class homes.)

Early childhood literacy is a key indicator of future academic success.

According to the Jumpstart report, 37 percent of children arrive in kindergarten lacking the skills necessary for lifetime learning. If they haven't developed them by third grade, there's a good chance they never will.

If kids start behind, they'll stay behind.

Veronica Manthei photo

Veronica Manthei is one eclectic lady. Stop her the next time she reports for duty as a Library Technical Assistant at the North-East Branch, and you're likely to find her with a slew of books, audiobooks, and movies checked out to her account.

Some of them, quite likely, in Spanish.

"The rule in my house growing up was, 'You cross the threshold, you speak Spanish,'" Manthei says.

To give you an idea: When we visited with Manthei, she had 39 checkouts, including The Rum Diary on audiobook in her car, LL Cool J's Platinum Workout in her kitchen, a romance novel (ahem, Viking Heat) in her purse, The Discovery of Witches on playaway, a couple of indie movies on DVD, several graphic novels, and season two of Glee.

Her eclecticism doesn't end there.

Born in Boston to Argentine parents, she grew up in Florida. She then went to college first at George Washington University in D.C., where she studied political science and special education, then completed her schooling at the University of Texas at Austin, with a degree in biology.

Since then, she's lived in New York, New Jersey, and Iowa. In 2006, she and her husband, Gregory (who's of German-Czech descent), and their two children, Alexandra and Garion, moved to Kansas City.

"I've told my husband, 'We don't need a house, we need a covered wagon,'" Manthei says, and laughs.

Union Station neon sign photo

Like many great brainstorming sessions in the history of public libraries, it began with librarians gathered around a blackboard, pizza and drinks on hand. But, unlike most, it ended with the awarding of a $100,000 grant.

One night this past July, Youth Services librarians Crystal Faris, Jamie Mayo, and Kim Patton gathered in the home of their colleague Mary Thompson to form a plan that would rock Kansas City teens' world.

They imagined a place where community teens could access digital media production tools and software and create original content that showcases their imagination capabilities. All the while, the teens would be learning new skills with new technology.

Or, as cultural youth anthropologist Mizuko Ito famously put it, a place for "hanging out, messing around, and geeking out."

In June 2011, the Institute of Museum and Library Services put out a request for proposal for the creation of mentor-led, interest-based, youth-centered "Learning Labs" in libraries and museums around the country. The grant would be funded by IMLS and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign.

Ollie Gates and Crosby Kemper III

Ollie Gates thinks that you can beat him at barbecue. That’s what he told the audience at last night at the Kansas City Public Library's Central Library in a public conversation with Library Director Crosby Kemper III. Mr. Gates joined us to help celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, an initiative of the Kaufmann Foundation, as a part of our ongoing series, Kansas City: Cradle of Entrepreneurs.

Roasterie Coffee dispenser

As Library Director Crosby Kemper III pointed out early this morning at the Plaza Branch, Danny O’Neill is “the man who wakes Kansas City up.” For local coffee drinkers, this assessment is quite literally, elementally true.

Known to many by his superhero alias “the Bean Baron," O'Neill is the founder of The Roasterie, an 18-year-old Kansas City-based purveyor of air-roasted coffee that has built a national reputation for quality, sustainability, and, to a great degree, style.

O’Neill shared his invigorating entrepreneurial success story this morning at the Plaza Branch as part of the Library’s Cradle of Entrepreneurs series. The ongoing series, which features public discussions with Kansas City business leaders, has ramped up this week in conjunction with the Kauffman Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Cradle of Entrepreneurs continues tomorrow with a conversation with Ollie Gates of Gates Bar B.Q. and resumes on Friday with a visit from Clara Reyes of Dos Mundos.

Last November 7-13 was Food For Fines week at the Kansas City Public Library, and our food bins truly overran with donations to Harvesters: The Community Food Network. But while anyone could bring in food to reduce their late fees, only one person could win our recipe contest.

The guidelines were simple: Submit a recipe that called for at least one ingredient that you might donate to Harvesters. Our culinarily inclined librarians would go through and pick our favorite and award its creator a special cookbook prize package.

Meanwhile, patrons were bringing in armloads of canned and boxed, nonperishable, unexpired food times to receive $1 off existing fines per every item donated.

Now, fines in the Library’s service area have magically been converted to food for Harvesters, and we have a recipe to try out in the kitchen.

And the winner is...

Congratulations to chef and book lover extraordinaire Deanna Long who won for her take on peach cobbler – a hearty classic that involves one of our favorite things to eat from a can: peaches!

Peach Cobbler

2/3 cup flour
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup shortening
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup evaporated milk
Large can of sliced peaches in heavy syrup

Gigabit City report

Imagine it’s 75 years from now. Your grandson brings his son into Union Station. Before them stands a moving, smiling, talking, 3-D image of you and your son visiting the Station 50 years ago.

Harvesters food bin photo

Do you have the cooking chops to become the Kansas City Public Library’s resident Top Chef? In celebration of Food for Fines (Nov. 7-13), we’re holding a recipe contest to see who can come up with the best dish using nonperishable food.

The winning chef-testant will receive a lip-smacking prize package of hand-picked cookbooks from our gourmand librarians, and he or she will become Internet-famous when we post the winning recipe online.

If you’ve been following us on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll know that between Monday, November 7, and Sunday, November 13, we’re encouraging patrons to bring non-perishable canned and boxed food to any Kansas City Public Library location to be donated to Harvesters: The Community Food Network. Each item is applied as a $1 credit toward the reduction of your existing Library late fees.

Last year, our Food for Fines campaign brought in more than 17,000 food items to Harvesters. That’s the equivalent of 13,000 meals provided to hungry Kansas Citians. So if you’ve got outstanding fines, now’s the perfect time to open up the cupboard, grab a hefty bag, and get down to the Library.

Mary Carol Garrity Cradle of Entrepreneurs photo

Public libraries have always been beacons for entrepreneurs. Recent graduates and seasoned professionals alike need easy, affordable access to pertinent information that will help their businesses grow. Libraries charge neither tuition nor membership dues, and many of their resources, such as powerful databases, are available online.

Offering a free connection to a wealth of resources on subjects like obtaining financing, conducting industry research, and keeping up with trade publications – not to mention free wi-fi – the Kansas City Public Library (particularly the H&R Block Business & Career Center) is an entrepreneur’s office away from the office.

Kansas City: Cradle of Entrepreneurs

Bobby Gordon

It would be tempting to compare Bobby Gordon's all-boys book club at the Plaza Branch to the Kansas City Chiefs. Both are active for the duration of the football season (well, most of it). And, both generate lively discussion among the fans who get involved.

But unlike our struggling team at Arrowhead, Bobby's Books for Boys Reading Group rarely has a bad moment on its chosen field.

That's not always a given, though, considering the typical reading habits of boys aged 8 to 12.

"Boys tend to come to the Library for different reasons than girls," says Gordon, a Plaza children's associate of 13 years. "Girls like to hang around, but boys have more activities. They come and go faster and tend to be a little later with their reading. I just keep an eye on things they check out and are interested in."

Now in its second year, Bobby's Books for Boys meets every third Wednesday starting October 19 and runs through March 2012. Last year, Gordon had a core group of five regulars that swelled up to nine at various points throughout the season. He hopes this year's group will be bigger and better.

But how do you keep boys coming back to read every month? For Gordon, it's a matter of picking the right books and cultivating conversation.

Amy Morris

Amy Morris still remembers her first librarian. Growing up in Raytown, she rode her bike to the neighborhood branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library. There, she was greeted by Jean (Morris doesn't remember her last name), a librarian who broke the typical stereotype.

"She was loud and boisterous and had tons of makeup and crazy jewelry," Morris remembers. "She introduced me to lots of authors, taught me how libraries work with the Dewey Decimal System, and made me more excited about reading and libraries than I already was."

It would seem that such a monumental introduction to the value of libraries early in life would send a book-obsessed young person on the road to library school. Though that wasn't the case, Morris' path to the Westport Branch never strayed far from her love of reading and writing.

After completing her undergrad in business, Morris worked as a benefits administrator for MetLife before finding her way into teaching reading at an elementary school in Raytown. Then, she returned to school, studying English and creative writing at Avila University.

After a dispiriting stint as a writer for a direct marketing company, Morris found her way to the Kansas City Public Library's Westport Branch, where she's been happily working the service desk and running children's and adult programming (among many other tasks) for the past five years.

Molly Raphael lecture

American Library Association President Molly Raphael began her address at the Central Library with an invocational reading: "The best restaurants in the world are, of course, in Kansas City. Not all of them; only the top four or five."

As any Kansas Citian worth his or her celery salt knows, those are the opening lines of native son Calvin Trillin's American Fried, the book that put Arthur Bryant's on the map. In fact, Raphael claims that she and her husband still have -- and still occasionally consume -- sauce from a two-gallon jug purchased at Bryant's 30 years ago.

"Lest you worry that the 30-year-old sauce might have spoiled," she told the audience of nearly 200 in Kirk Hall, "I assure you that nothing could possibly be living in that sauce. It's so hot!"

But Raphael didn't come to KC just to praise our food.

The Missouri Library Association's annual conference was held in Kansas City October 5 - 7, 2011, with most events and activities taking place at the KCI Expo Center.

KC Library mobile app logo

Apple users rejoice! Two weeks after rolling out our KC Library mobile app for Android and most other mobile platforms, it is now available on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. It’s a free download from the App Store – just search for “kc library.”

The KC Library app puts the Library’s digital services in the palm of your hand. With it, you can:

  • Search for books, music, and more in the catalog.
  • Place and manage holds.
  • Renew items you have checked out.
  • Get hours, locations, and maps for all locations.
  • Find the latest special events, classes, story times, and other programs.
  • Ask a librarian a question via phone or email.
  • Read our blogs for book reviews and stories from behind the scenes.
  • Connect with the library on social networks.

So far, we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback about the app. In fact, Droid-using patron @CallMeFin tweeted this message over the weekend.

Gigabit City

10.3.11 – As patrons browsed the shelves and logged in to the public computers at the Central Library, elsewhere in the building, a cadre of community-minded business professionals discussed how information moving at light speed could change life in Kansas City.

The wait is over. Kindle e-books are now available at the Kansas City Public Library. Users of the Amazon Kindle e-reader and mobile or web-based Kindle apps now have their choice of more than 2,000 titles, all free with a Library card.

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