Library Life

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.

Julie Robinson

Julie Robinson remembers the first thing Irene H. Ruiz ever said to her: "How long will you stay at my library?" Robinson's answer: "Until they tell me I'm going somewhere else." Now, eight years later, Robinson has built a reputation for her branch as a unifying force in the community it serves.

Wily reptile man Serengeti Steve brought his scaly friends to the Library for Summer Reading.

When the Library declared it would reach 16,000 kids and teens through this year's Summer Reading program, it quickly became an all-hands-on-deck proposition. Reaching more readers than ever would require advocacy at all the branches, with staff promoting it from the front desk to the childrens' areas and beyond.

It would also take the biggest Summer Reading Outreach campaign to date, with a team of librarians led by Outreach Manager Carrie McDonald conducting reading programs at 20 non-Library locations in hopes of signing up 2,500 kids.

It would be nothing less than Building a Community of Readers from the ground up. And when the numbers were tallied a few weeks ago, the Library found that it had built an even bigger community than it planned.

According to Children's and Youth Services, 20,770 children and 4,724 teens participated in Summer Reading through reading, program attendance, or both, for a total of 25,494. (Last year's total was approximately 15,000, according to Youth Services.)

"The results more than met any of our expectations," says Helma Hawkins, director of Children's Services. "We definitely brought in kids we hadn't reached before thanks to the Outreach program, and we also reached new children inside the Library."

Kindle - white

Kansas City Public Library cardholders will soon be able to check out e-books for the Amazon Kindle. Within the next week, the Library’s e-books catalog will be outfitted with Kindle-friendly downloadable e-books that also work on any device, such as a smartphone or PC, that is equipped with a free Kindle app.

Though Nooks, iPads, and other supported devices have long been compatible with public library e-books, Amazon’s Kindle — the most popular e-reader on the market — had famously not. That’s why e-reader fans’ ears perked up earlier this year when OverDrive, the library world’s biggest provider of downloadable e-books and digital audiobooks, announced an impending deal with Amazon to be finalized later in the year.

That time has finally come, and OverDrive is working quickly to convert its client public and school libraries with Kindle-formatted e-books – at no cost to libraries or patrons. Expect the Kansas City Public Library’s OverDrive e-books catalog to be updated within the next few days.

Get the audio Adventures of Tom Sawyer at kcbigread.org.

Did you know you can download the adventures of Tom, Huck, Becky Thatcher, and Injun Joe and listen to them on your iPod on the go? The Big Read Podcast is live, and it features The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as read by a huge cast of Kansas City luminaries.

Chapter 1 features Mayor Sly James setting the scene in St. Petersburg, Missouri. He’s followed by our own Library Director, Crosby Kemper III, rendering the Glorious Whitewashers scene in Chapter 2.

Other upcoming readers include KCPT host Nick Haines; Nelson-Atkins Museum Director Julián Zugazagoitia; Star writers and editors Steve Kraske, Miriam Pepper, Steve Paul, and Mary Sanchez; Missouri State Senator Jolie Justus, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts CEO Jane Chu, and many more.

The podcast also features dialogue performed by Park University theatre students, including Patrick Kastor (as Tom) and Mindy Reynolds (as Becky).

Your Library is now palm-sized.

Update (October 10, 2011): The mobile app is now available for iPhone, Android, and other mobile devices. Learn more.

Thanks to our brand-new mobile app, smartphone users can now access the Kansas City Public Library from anywhere. From searching the catalog to renewing items, placing holds, and downloading e-books, a bevy of services are available through this totally free app.

The app was built by to our specifications by Boopsie, a leading company in mobile development for libraries. The app is currently available for Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, and many other devices. It is not yet available for the iPhone, but it will be very soon. (Stand by, Apple fanboys!)

How to get the app:

  • Android: Launch the Android Market and search for "KC Library."
  • Others: Visit http://kcpl.boopsie.com on your mobile device, or scan the QR code below.
  • iPhones: Coming soon.

KC Library mobile app

Hoenig and Kemper

The grandson of Iowa farmers, Thomas Hoenig began working at the age of 9. Now, at 65, he is about to retire after 20 years as the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, where he was the longest-serving leader in Fed history.

Robert Butler

Robert W. Butler is a movie critic’s movie critic. He knows his early Buñuels from his later Godards and can talk Hollywoodese with the layman. When you prick him, he bleeds Peckinpah. It’s no wonder why, when Butler’s four decades at the Kansas City Star came to an end this past May, Roger Ebert summed up his feelings on Twitter in a single word: “Damn.”

Julie and PT

Thursday, August 11, 2011, marked the 10th anniversary of the Back to School Pep Rally at the Irene H. Ruiz Branch. And though it was a milestone for one of the Kansas City Public Library's biggest outreach-oriented events, according to Branch Manager Julie Robinson, the kids who came didn't care.

"What the kids care about is that this is for them -- and for them, it's a really big deal," Robinson says.

It's a big deal for the entire neighborhood. Each year before the start of school, a network of Westside community organizations and individuals circles around the I.H. Ruiz Branch. They put on a giant block party and give out scads of school supplies and books to students in grades pre-K through 12.

This year, the neighborhood schools that benefitted were Primitivo Garcia Elementary, Our Lady of Guadalupe School, Alta Vista Middle and Charter High Schools, and Cristo Rey High.

Around 2,000 people came out for the event, and 189 backpacks stuffed with grade-specific supplies were given to 72 families. Even more backpacks were given out in the ensuing days to families who had registered to receive them.

Amanda Barnhart

Who says you can't rock out in a library? At least, don't tell that to Amanda Barnhart, young adult coordinator at the Trails West Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. And certainly don't tell any of her teens.

Last Friday at Trails, Barnhart organized a teen lock-in to celebrate the end of Summer Reading. Even though the kids present had all been born around the turn of the millennium, they came prepared to celebrate the party's theme, "You Weren't Here: The '80s," wearing headbands, heavy-metal tees, and neon accessories.

Between turns on Rock Band, the kids engaged in activities such as making wallets from felt fabric and cassette tapes and testing their librarian skills on a scavenger hunt through the stacks.

Like much of Barnhart's teen programming, the evening mixed fun with a little learning.

"Teens really keep you on your toes, they're always challenging you, asking, 'Why do you do that?'" Barnhart says. "It's a different outlook on life that I like to be reminded of. It's like being a kid again."

John McDonald

We want to hear from you! What local business owner has inspired you, uplifted your community, or provided a model for doing business? The Kansas City Public Library is hosting a series of public conversations with entrepreneurs who have made KC a better place to do business – and to live. We want your input.

John McDonald

Last night a crowd of 538 gathered in Kirk Hall at the Central Library to hear the entrepreneurial story of Boulevard Brewing Co. founder John McDonald and drink his beer – 20 cases of Wheat, Pale Ale, and Pilsner, to be exact. In the words of Public Affairs Director Henry Fortunato, we effectively “put the pub in 'public library.'”

But we also learned a thing or two about the beer business.

The August 3, 2011, event was part of the Kansas City Public Library’s Cradle of Entrepreneurs program, a series of public conversations with prominent members of the Kansas City business community.

Boulevard at Night

If beer, as Benjamin Franklin is sometimes believed to have said, “is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” then it’s hard to think of a Kansas City entrepreneur who has made more people happy than John McDonald.

The founder of Boulevard Brewing Co., McDonald presides over the largest specialty brewery in the midwest and the second-largest brewery in Missouri. McDonald will visit the Kansas City Public Library tomorrow night, Wednesday August 3, for a public conversation with Crosby Kemper III. The event is part of our ongoing Cradle of Entrepreneurs series of talks with local business owners. The event is free; please RSVP online if you wish to attend.

Disquiet

In a world of blogging, vlogging, and tweeting, anyone can broadcast their thoughts, creativity, and  identity to the world. But that wasn’t always the case – and for some even now, a pixellated platform isn’t enough. Thank heaven for zines.

If you’ve been to a locally owned coffee shop, record store, or music venue in the past quarter to half-century or so, you’ve probably seen them lying around or being passed from hand to hand. Self-published and resolutely independent, these paperbound notes from underground tell as many different stories as the lives of those who made them.

For example, the mini-comic Junk Yard Buddha by Jeremy McConnell, founder of Kansas City's Hip-Hop Academy, mixes philosophical musings with community-focused themes.

Kansas City has been home to a thriving zine culture over the years, and thanks to the efforts of librarian Stephanie Iser, the Kansas City Public Library has begun collecting zines, mail art, and mini comics produced by local authors, artists -- and, in a few cases, anarchists.

Nick Holmes

Nick Holmes has one of the best summer jobs ever: traveling around town, reading books to kids. While reading for a group of children on a recent July day, Holmes got some of the best feedback imaginable.

Working on behalf of the Kansas City Public Library's Summer Reading program, Holmes was sharing a book with a group of kids at Palestine Missionary Baptist Church. As is usually the case with Summer Reading, prizes had been given out to the kids for reading a prescribed amount of hours (up to 12 total), and one of those prizes was a toy sketch pad.

Midway through Go Away Big Green Monster, a girl in the audience wrote a message on her sketch pad and held it up for Holmes to see. 

I love this book, her message read.

Young book lovers at local church activity centers aren't the only kids the Library is reaching this summer. In what is probably the biggest Summer Reading Outreach initiative in Library history, from June 13 through August 5, Holmes and his crew are taking the love of reading to 20 non-Library locations. Their goal: to enroll 2,500 kids in the Summer Reading program.

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