Radio Interviews

All Library locations will be closed on Monday, May 25 in observance of Memorial Day.

KCUR, Kansas City's local NPR station, hosts on its programs many of the authors and speakers that visit the Library. This page lists these interviews and provides links for you to listen to the programs.

  • Kenneth Armitage, an emeritus professor of behavioral ecology at the University of Kansas, knows more about the furry star of Groundhog Day than perhaps anyone. On its eve, he discusses the cultural influences of this unique celebration and offers insight into the marmot’s real life.
    Marmots on My Mind - Kenneth Armitage
    Sunday, February 1, 2015
    Central Library

    Nobody knows more about the four-legged star of Groundhog Day than Kenneth Armitage.

    An emeritus professor of behavioral ecology at the University of Kansas, Armitage has studied marmots — whose family tree includes the groundhog — for some 50 years. So great is his reputation that Sony turned to him when it released a 15th-anniversary edition of the movie Groundhog Day in 2008, enlisting the master of the marmot to talk on camera about the mammal’s “real life” for a DVD extra.

    Armitage visits the Library on the eve of the nation’s observance of Groundhog Day to discuss the cultural influences of this unique celebration and offer insight into the marmot itself. His presentation coincides with the publication of a new book based upon Armitage’s decades of research, Marmot Biology: Sociality, Individual Fitness, and Population Dynamics.

  • Nancy Peterson Hill discusses her book about the lawyer, activist, advisor – and largely anonymous but important American – who championed academic freedom, successfully challenged good friend Franklin Roosevelt’s attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court, and worked to promote civil rights in the 1950s and ’60s.
    A Very Private Public Citizen: The Life of Grenville Clark - Nancy Peterson Hill
    Thursday, January 22, 2015
    Central Library

    Behind Batman stood Alfred. Behind James Bond stood Q. And behind some of the most influential figures of the past century, from presidents to diplomats to Supreme Court justices, stood Grenville Clark.

    The New York-born lawyer, activist, and advisor championed academic freedom, fought a successful public battle with good friend Franklin Roosevelt over FDR’s attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court, and worked closely with the NAACP to uphold civil rights during the tumultuous 1950s and ’60s. He devoted his last decades to a quest for world peace through limited but enforceable world law.

    Writer Nancy Peterson Hill, administrator of the Diastole Scholars’ Center affiliated with UMKC, discusses her new book on this largely anonymous, but immensely important, American.

  • Twelve days before a football- obsessed nation tunes into the Super Bowl, best-selling author Steve Almond discusses his unflinching new book about the physical, social, and other concerns buffeting the sport. Joining the public conversion is longtime Kansas City TV sports anchor Frank Boal.
    Against Football - Steve Almond and Frank Boal
    Tuesday, January 20, 2015
    Plaza Branch

    Football’s evolution from sport to religion will be reconfirmed Feb. 1, 2015, when 85,000 fans in Glendale, Arizona, and a global TV audience of more than 100 million obsess over Super Bowl Sunday.

    We love football so much that best-selling author Steve Almond says we’ve become blind to the fact that it simply isn’t good for us. Players suffer brain damage. Children and teenagers are susceptible to the same injuries and the same debilitating, long-term effects. Beyond that is a question of whether our addiction to football fosters a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia.

    Almond, who contributes to The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Los Angeles Times, sits down with longtime Kansas City TV sports anchor (and former Villanova University football standout) Frank Boal for a conversation about Almond’s unflinching book about America’s most popular sport.

  • National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet unveils a reproduction of its latest addition, a 1945 portrait of Harry S. Truman purchased with support from the William T. Kemper Foundation. The gallery’s senior historian, David C. Ward, discusses portraiture’s value as both art and a window into history.
    Picturing Biography - Kim Sajet and David C. Ward
    Wednesday, January 14, 2015
    Plaza Branch

    The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has a unique mission among U.S. museums: to reveal biography and history through the portraits of the men and women who have had a decisive impact on American society from the country’s origins to the present day. From grand manner-style oil paintings to the latest video installation, Senior Historian David C. Ward gives a virtual tour of the Portrait Gallery’s collection, discussing the ways portraiture works both as an artistic statement and as a visual portal into past times and lives.

    Additionally, National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet outlines plans for the museum as it approaches its 50th anniversary and announces the latest addition to the America’s Presidents exhibition: a portrait of Harry S. Truman purchased with support from the William T. Kemper Foundation. A reproduction of the portrait, which will hang permanently in the Truman Forum, will be unveiled as part of the evening’s program.

  • Historian Sonny Gibson discusses his new coffee table-style book on Kansas City’s African American past, the product of a 25-year effort to “raise the cultural consciousness of the current generation and set right the history books for generations to come.”
    Kansas City Early Negro History - Sonny Gibson
    Tuesday, December 2, 2014
    Central Library

    Sonny Gibson began his 25-year effort to unearth Kansas City’s African American past with serious doubts. So much was unrecorded and seemingly unknown that he feared “the history of ‘Negroes’ was as good as lost.”

    He pressed on, however, scouring libraries, archives, flea markets, and old book stores. He waded through old magazines, newspapers, and other memorabilia. What Gibson found was a trove of materials – photographs, handbills, advertisements, newspaper clippings, social announcements, and other artifacts dating to the 1860s – that he features in his new coffee table-style book, Kansas City Early Negro History.

  • UMKC’s Joan FitzPatrick Dean discusses her new book on the extravagant public pageants staged in Ireland in the early 20th century to mark significant historical, political, and religious events – a sort of precursor to today’s opening ceremonies at the Olympics.
    All Dressed Up: Modern Irish Historical Pageantry
    Thursday, November 20, 2014
    Plaza Branch

    In the early twentieth century, publicly staged productions of historical events became increasingly popular—and increasingly grand—in Ireland. These pageants, not unlike the opening ceremonies of today’s Olympic Games, could mobilize huge numbers of citizens in elaborate presentations that offered the Irish a sense of their own past.

    Joan FitzPatrick Dean, the Curators Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, looks at the historical significance of these spectacles in a discussion of her new book, All Dressed Up. She presents a nation forging an identity by reimagining its past.

  • Noted pedestrian Henry Fortunato, the Library’s director of public affairs, recounts his recent 500-mile trek on foot across Kansas – his night spent at Truckhenge, the chili cook-off he judged in Wilson, encounters with county sheriffs, and other tales of the road.
    A Long and Winding Walk Across the Sunflower State
    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    Johnson County Community College

    For four years, noted pedestrian Henry Fortunato, the Library’s director of public affairs, has been planning and preparing for his trans-Kansas trek, a 500-mile expedition on foot starting at his front door in Overland Park.

    In September and October 2014, he finally did it. Fortunato spent the night at Truckhenge and climbed to the top of the Capitol dome with the lieutenant governor. He judged a chili contest in Wilson and walked in darkness for nearly half an hour on a dirt road in blind faith that he would find the rural farmhouse where he was supposed to stay. He also had numerous encounters with county sheriffs, visited a family living in a former missile silo, and gained first-hand experience with the unique qualities of Kansas mud.

  • Judy King, Bruce Mathews, and other contributors to their book, Kansas City’s Historic Union Cemetery: Lessons for the Future from the Garden of Time, recall the early pioneers, service veterans, and additional notables now interred in the city’s oldest public cemetery.
    Kansas City’s Historic Union Cemetery
    Tuesday, November 11, 2014
    Plaza Branch

    Established in 1857, Union Cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Kansas City. Buried there are early pioneers, veterans, and others who have left lasting and unique legacies. Judy King and Bruce Mathews – along with other civic-minded contributors to their book, Kansas City’s Historic Union Cemetery: Lessons for the Future from the Garden of Time – present poignant recollections of people now interred there whose hard work and persistence helped push the nation’s move west while strengthening social equality.

    This Veterans Day event underscores the value of preserving the cemetery and the history it encompasses, and serves as the launch of the new book.

    A 6 p.m. reception precedes this event.

  • Local historian Joelouis Mattox examines the role of African Americans in World War I, focusing on the 92nd Infantry Division popularly known as the Buffalo Soldiers. Among its ranks was a Kansas City private for whom the American Legion’s Wayne Miner Post 149 is named.
    The Buffalo Soldiers in World War I
    Sunday, November 9, 2014
    Plaza Branch

    Despite their country’s institutionalized prejudice, hundreds of thousands of African Americans fought in the U.S. military during World War I. They manned two combat divisions, one of them the 92nd Infantry Division popularly known as the Buffalo Soldiers.

    Besides fighting Germans “like devils from hell,” members had to deal with racism, character assassination and the myth that they were “subhuman.”

    Joelouis Mattox, a frequent Library speaker, discusses the role of African Americans in World War I, focusing on the 92nd Division. Mattox is the historian for the American Legion’s Wayne Miner Post 149, named for the Kansas City serviceman who served in the 92nd. Miner was one of the last Americans killed in World War I in 1918.

  • Philip White retraces Harry S. Truman’s remarkable (and ultimately successful) effort to salvage the 1948 election in a discussion of his new book, Whistle Stop: How 31,000 Miles of Train Travel, 352 Speeches, and a Little Midwest Gumption Saved the Presidency of Harry Truman.
    Whistle Stop - Philip White
    Wednesday, November 5, 2014
    Central Library

    His approval rating low and his own party disenchanted, Harry Truman had the look of a one-term president — unlikely to win a return to office — in the summer of 1948. With ingenuity born of desperation, his aides hit upon a plan: Take to the rails, crisscrossing the country and putting Truman in front of as many voters as possible.

    Philip White, a guest lecturer at MidAmerica Nazarene University, recalls the remarkable journey in a discussion of his new book Whistle Stop: How 31,000 Miles of Train Travel, 352 Speeches, and a Little Midwest Gumption Saved the Presidency of Harry Truman. The trek, of course, ended with an election-day upset of Republican Thomas E. Dewey.