Event Video

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

To view a video recording of a previous Library special event, click the icon. The Library offers recordings only with the permission of the presenter.

  • National Book Critics Circle Award winner and 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist Leo Damrosch explores the enigmatic man behind Gulliver’s Travels and explains why the public version of Jonathan Swift’s life — the one accepted until recently — was deliberately misleading.
    Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World
    Wednesday, May 14, 2014
    Central Library

    Jonathan Swift is known today as the author of Gulliver’s Travels, the classic satiric fantasy. But during his lifetime, Swift was famous as a major political and religious figure and as a national hero who fiercely protested English exploitation of his native Ireland.

    In a discussion of his new book, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography, Harvard’s Leo Damrosch shows how Swift’s public version of his life — the one accepted until recently — was deliberately misleading.

  • As he prepares to repeat his solo canoe trip down the Mississippi, author Eddy Harris discusses his first trip 30 years ago and the changes the intervening years have wrought – on the river, on the country, and on himself.
    An Old Black Man Meets Old Man River
    Tuesday, May 13, 2014
    Plaza Branch

    Thirty years ago Eddy Harris took a solo canoe trip down the Mississippi River. The result was the acclaimed Mississippi Solo: A River Quest.

    As he prepares a second journey down the big river, Harris discusses his past and present and the changes the intervening years have wrought — on the river, on the country, and on himself.

    Harris’ penetrating accounts of his travels — among them Native Stranger and Still Life in Harlem — center on his own identity and the identity of blacks in general, and how places either embrace or alienate black culture.

  • Doug Dorst discusses the creation of S., a layered literary mystery in which the story on the printed page dovetails with the scribblings in the margins and the various objects – photos, maps, telegrams, postcards, letters – found between the pages.
    S. - Doug Dorst
    Thursday, May 8, 2014
    Central Library

    A writer and a filmmaker join creative forces to craft a unique work that can only be read the old-fashioned way, by turning the pages. A layered literary mystery, S. uses the story of a nameless man without a memory to tell another story of two college students’ romance and their life-threatening pursuit of an author’s carefully hidden secret identity.

    In a conversation with Kaite Stover, the Library’s director of readers’ services, Doug Dorst explains how he and co-creator J.J. Abrams (TV’s Lost and Alias) conceived of and created S., in which the story on the printed page dovetails with the scribblings of two readers in the margins and the various objects — photos, maps, telegrams, postcards, letters — found hidden between those pages.

  • Seventy-five years ago, on April 30, 1939, amid the billowing clouds of lingering economic depression and imminent war, the New York World’s Fair heralded “The Dawn of a New Day.” Historian Robert Rydell discusses that landmark event.
    The New York World’s Fair and the "Dawn of a New Day"
    Wednesday, April 30, 2014
    Central Library

    Seventy-five years ago, on April 30, 1939, amidst the billowing clouds of lingering economic depression and imminent war, the New York World’s Fair, with its sleek modernist designs, heralded “The Dawn of a New Day” and promised a better “World of Tomorrow.”

    Why, with the American economy still in the doldrums and the rest of the world seemingly hell-bent on going to war, did millions of Americans flock to, of all things, a world’s fair?

    Robert Rydell, professor of history at Montana State University and a leading scholar on the history of world’s fairs, explains why it is important to remember the New York World’s Fair, most especially for understanding how it shaped our world of today.

  • In a discussion of his new book, Stanford University’s Ian Morris takes the provocative position that despite its horrors, armed conflict has made humanity both safer and richer.
    War! What Is It Good For? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robot
    Tuesday, April 29, 2014
    Central Library

    “War! What is it good for?” Motown singer Edwin Starr asked in his 1969 hit record. The musical answer: “Absolutely nothing.”

    But in a discussion of his erudite new history of war, Stanford University’s Ian Morris takes the provocative position that, despite its horrors, armed conflict has made humanity both safer and richer. From the aggressive instincts of chimpanzees and early “protohumans” to ancient civilizations and the “American Empire,” he looks at war and notes that in terms of lives lost (as a percentage of national population), its impact has lessened while the long-term effects have been “productive.”

  • Mary Roach, called “America’s funniest science writer” by The Washington Post, joins the Library‘s director of readers’ services, Kaite Stover, for a tour of the alimentary canal, that much-maligned tube from mouth to rear end.
    Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
    Thursday, April 24, 2014
    Central Library

    Mary Roach, designated as “America’s funniest science writer” by The Washington Post, takes us on a tour of the alimentary canal, that much-maligned tube from mouth to rear.

    In a public conversation with Kaite Stover, the Library’s director of readers’ services, Roach will discuss her latest book and ask questions others fear: How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? Can wine tasters really tell a $10 bottle from a $100 bottle? Why is crunchy food so appealing? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? She examines a pet food taste-test lab and delves into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal.

    Roach is the best-selling author of Stiff (about the human body after death), Bonk (the science of sex), and Spook (the afterlife).

  • A panel of education experts moderated by KCPT’s Nick Haines examines a series of developments that could have a profound effect on the Kansas City, Missouri, School District.
    Make or Break: Decision Time for KCMO Schools
    Monday, April 21, 2014
    Plaza Branch

    After months of contentious debate, the Missouri State Board of Education has finalized a plan to address the state’s unaccredited school districts. Squarely in its sights is the Kansas City, Missouri School District, which has been operating without state accreditation since 2012. Coupled with a school transfer law set to go into effect this summer, the impact on the beleaguered Kansas City district could be immense. But just as enormous is the ripple effect these two events could have on neighboring districts throughout the metro.

    The implications of these developments are explored by KCPT-TV‘s Nick Haines and a panel of experts including Chris Nicastro, Missouri education commissioner; Stephen Green, superintendent of the Kansas City Public Schools; state Sen. David Pearce, chair of Missouri Senate Education Committee; John Martin, Missouri State Board of Education; and Missouri State Senator Jason Holsman.

  • Before and after it made military history, becoming the first submarine to sink an enemy warship, the Confederate-flagged H.L. Hunley was beset by tragedy. Historian James L. Speicher tells her story.
    The H.L. Hunley and Her Crews
    Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Central Library

    What was termed the last Confederate funeral took place exactly 10 years ago — the burial of eight crew members of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley. The 25-foot underwater craft was raised from the sea floor outside Charleston, South Carolina, a little more than 136 years after becoming the first sub to sink an enemy warship and then mysteriously going down itself.

    The Hunley had exacted a heavy toll before that, seeing 13 crew members perish during training exercises and acquiring the nickname the Peripatetic Coffin.

    Historian James L. Speicher, formerly a military science professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth, recounts the alternately fascinating and tragic stories of the historic vessel and the lost souls who served her.

  • In a discussion of his new book, Dean Starkman exposes the failure of America’s business press to cover the systemic corruption in the financial industry and other events leading up to the 2008 financial collapse.
    The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism
    Wednesday, April 16, 2014
    Central Library

    Does the 2008 financial collapse lie at least in part at journalists’ feet?

    Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Dean Starkman, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, exposes the critical failure of America’s business press to cover the systemic corruption in the financial industry and other events leading up to the 2008 economic meltdown.

    He maintains that deep cultural and structural shifts — some unavoidable, some self-inflicted — eroded journalism’s appetite for its role as watchdog, and the result was a deafening silence about questionable, even dishonest practices. Tragically, that silence grew more profound as the mortgage madness reached its apogee from 2004-06.

  • Florida State University’s Darrin McMahon recounts the lives of civilization’s true masterminds in the first comprehensive history of the elusive concept of genius.
    Divine Fury: A History of Genius
    Tuesday, April 15, 2014
    Central Library

    The concept of genius is a bit cheapened today, invoked too easily in assessments of football coaches, rock musicians, and savvy market traders. But history’s true masterminds — the Michelangelos, da Vincis, Shakespeares, and Einsteins — still inspire awe and a hint of mystery, a sense that these men have had almost otherworldly power to divine the secrets of the universe, to create, even to destroy.

    Darrin McMahon, the Ben Weider Professor of History at Florida State University, details their stories in a discussion of his book, the first comprehensive history of the elusive concept of genius and how it has evolved over the centuries.