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The day after a devastating tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, destroying a quarter of the city and resulting in 123 deaths, the Joplin Public Library was open for business.

Located about 12 blocks north of the six-mile-long path the F4 tornado cut through the town Sunday night, the Public Library has become a place of stability for a community in upheaval.

Library Director Jacque Gage reports that as citizens have begun to regroup and restart their lives, they’ve been using the Library’s computers, solid Internet connection, and charging stations. “We’re near police, fire, and the main grid,” Gage tells us. “Our fiber network hasn’t gone down once.”

Though the Library was undamaged, eight staff members completely lost their homes in the storm, and two others’ homes received significant damage. Two employees suffered injuries, including a broken arm.

“Five of the eight who lost their homes are only employed part-time, including a single mom (with a now-broken arm and no medical insurance),” Gage said in an e-mail sent earlier today to Missouri library directors.

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¿Puede usted ayudarme? A Hispanic customer surprised me with this question one day. My eyes popped out of my head. True, I recently took Spanish That Works, an eight-week course designed to help librarians learn basic Spanish. But could I put to use what I studied in class to assist this lady right away?

Nervously, I introduced myself to her in Spanish. Then, the No hablo mucho español I barely remembered from Mr. Orozco came in handy.

After that eye-opening day, I made up my mind that I need más Spanish to better communicate with Hispanic patrons. Fortunately, the Kansas City Public Library provides a wide variety of Spanish-learning resources in book, CD, DVD, and electronic formats. On this Cinco de Mayo, why not take your first steps toward learning Spanish – or if you’ve already studied it, brushing up?

My criteria for choosing language-learning materials are: conversational focus, practicality, and audio quality. These beginning-level books offer vocabulary, phrases, and sentences that will get you started conversing in Spanish in no time.

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Textile and needlecrafts are among the oldest crafts in human history. Along with the ability to craft rudimentary tools came the use of those tools to fashion draped skins and other natural fibers for protection from the elements. Humans are the only animal on Earth to wear clothing.

It might be argued that to both clothe oneself and one’s loved ones, as well as creatively and culturally express oneself through fashion choices, is a time-honored endeavor that reaches into the very roots of what it means to be human.

I suspect that it is no accident that as mass-produced clothing now overflows on department store racks across much of the industrialized world, a renaissance has taken place with a renewed enthusiasm for handcrafting in the textile and needlecraft arts. In addition, shows like Project Runway have spurred interest in the creative art of fashion design.

The Kansas City Public Library has a huge selection of books and videos to help you get started or expand your abilities in textiles and needlecrafts. So great is this selection, scattered throughout our Consortium system, (a Catalog search yielded more than one thousand titles on “quilting” alone), that I can only touch on some of the many materials available. But let’s survey some of the categories, along with some of the items available.

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