The Amazing “Race” at the Black Archives
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Program: 6:30 p.m.
Black Archives of Mid-America, 1722 E 17th Terrace
RSVP: kclibrary.org * 816.701.3407

Teens can enjoy a night of games, food, fun, and challenges, including a team scavenger hunt inside and outside the Black Archives of Mid-America. Tap into the African American people, places, and events that have made the Kansas City region great.

There’s only room for 50 so arrive early. Activities last until 11 p.m.

We will be transporting teens from the following Kansas City Public Library Locations with a completed permission slip:

Trails, North-East, Central, Southeast, Plaza, Bluford

Click here for more information and for the permission slip!

Victor Appleton was actually the pseudonym for several uncredited authors of the popular Tom Swift series, which was published by the Edward Stratemeyer syndicate, a group which released several series of books for boys (especially Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys) and for girls (the Nancy Drew series.)

Released between 1910-1941, the 40 adventure novels in this series feature a young inventor named Tom Swift, whose story begins in the book Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle.

Tom lives in a small town in upstate New York with his father, Barton Swift, himself an inventor. Each of the books involve Tom inventing some new device, and having a series of adventures as he tries to perfect his invention, and/or keep it from falling into the wrong hands. In the world of boys’ adventure, inventing is a very perilous profession, it seems.

All of these books feature some recurring characters worth mentioning: Ned Newton, Tom’s best friend, who works for the local bank, an employer awfully generous in the amount of free time they give young Newton, as he spends well over half of his 40 hours hanging out with Tom; Mary Nestor, Tom’s sweetie (their love, always platonic, of course); the eccentric neighbor, Wakefield Damon, known for his peculiar expletives (e.g. “Bless my dynamite cartridge!”)

The two most controversial characters from our perspective are the black servants of the Swifts: Eradicate Andrew Jackson Abraham Lincoln Sampson (aka “Rad”), an elderly black man, fiercely loyal to the Swifts and to his mule, Boomerang; and Koku, an African prince of great height and strength, who does a lot of the heavy lifting required in Tom’s workshop. Both are presented in ways we could only characterize today as racially insensitive.

Read more of Bernard Norcott-Mahany's 2015 reviews of books about the First World War:

January 12, 2015
The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman

February 5, 2015
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

March 13, 2015
Tarzan the Untamed by Edgar Rice Burroughs

April 6, 2015
The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry

May 4, 2015
Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner

June 3, 2015
The Enormous Room by E.E. Cummings

Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship, number 18 in the series, has Tom working on a modified dirigible to which he plans on attaching a large gun from the gondola. When we first see Tom, he is stuck on the problem of how to reduce the recoil in the gun, which is too great, and which without modification will tear the gondola free from its mooring and send the gun and gondola to their destruction, and the gun crew to its death.

No sooner has Tom articulated his problem to Ned Newton than a suspicious fire breaks out in one of the storage sheds. The circumstances seem suspicious and, upon investigation, it is clear that the fire was deliberately set.

It turns out that some foreign government wants to stop Tom’s work on the dirigible and gun, for fear that its superior maneuverability and firepower might be used against the foreign power, either by the United States directly, or by its allies, if Tom or the government should choose to sell to another power.

When Lt. Marbury, the Navy man sent to coordinate with Tom in the selling of his invention to the Navy, is asked who might be behind the sabotage, he suggests that it would not likely be any of the Allied Powers, suggesting that Germany is behind the sabotage, but as it turns out, both sides of the European conflict have it in for Tom.

Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship is chiefly interesting as a time capsule of US views in the years before our entry into World War I. The book was written and published in 1915 when the United States had not yet entered the War. Woodrow Wilson later would win re-election in 1916 on the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” And United States business interests as well as a strong sense of isolationism in the Congress in 1915 would likely keep the US out of the war, but business interests might also convince the US to sell such an invention to one of the warring powers.

For a work written before the United States declared war on Germany and entered WWI, the novel is remarkably prescient in some ways. Tom wants the United States to be ready in case it needs to go to war, a view that was not being broadcast in the public sector – the official line was that the United States could and should stay out of the conflict in Europe, and was not ready to go to war against European powers. But the authors are also careful not to link the United States with either the Allied or Central powers, as one of the potential saboteurs in the novel appears to be German, but another appears to be French. That way, no matter what side the US ended up on, if it entered the war at all, Stratemeyer Syndicate was covered.

The Tom Swift books are available in electronic form from Project Gutenberg. You can read the book on your computer, or download it in ePub or Kindle file formats to a device for more portable reading.

The Tom Swift books in the teens and twenties of the last century were a huge phenomenon. They frequently appeared high on lists of popular books, often right behind the Bible. And authors like Isaac Asimov credited the books with inspiring them to take up writing. Apparently, even the term taser is based on an idea presented in Tom Swift books, the letters of the acronym standing for “Tom A. Swift’s Electric Rifle”.

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

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Dress up in fancy clothes and play with perfect etiquette. Isn’t there something special about a tea party!

According to Emily Clede, hostess of the web series Teatime with Emily, joining to share tea has been “a symbol of friendship and hospitality” for generations. The practice dates back to the time of kings and queens, to ancient Roman emperors, and Chinese monks.” However, it is a tradition that we can enjoy, too.

There are famous tea parties in classic children’s literature. We read about the mad tea party in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, the inadvertently intoxicating tea party in Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and the tea party on the ceiling in Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers.

There are more recent books about tea parties, too.

A lovely one for children who want to throw their own tea parties is Fancy Nancy Tea Parties by Jane O’Conner and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. In it, Nancy displays several party themes along with matching crafts and recipes.

If invitees do not know how to be proper guests, the host may need to employ flexibility. Grudgingly, Julia accepts this in How to Behave at a Tea Party by Madelyn Rosenberg and illustrated by Heather Ross.

Another host who adjusts to her company’s needs is the girl in Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by K.G. Campbell. When a bear cub attends her party for access to cookies, the girl does not come unglued. Anyone who wants an example on how to be an amenable host can follow her lead.

Enjoying tea with a loved one can become a regular occurrence. Distance does not stop the daily ritual in Tea with Grandpa by Barney Saltzberg. As people have done for generations, it is over cups of tea that a grandfather and grandchild bond in this simple, touching story.

Just like all of these book characters, you can enjoy what Emily calls “a refreshing time of fancy tea and conversation.” As Fancy Nancy would say, your party will be “magnifique!”

About the Author

Anna Francesca Garcia earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences Degree from the University of North Texas. She has worked in public libraries in Nevada and Missouri for eleven years. Currently, Anna Francesca is Kansas City Public Library’s Education Librarian.

You now have more digital resources available for free through the Kansas City Public Library's collection! Magazines are now offered through OverDrive, and comics and graphic novels from publishers including DC Comics have been added to hoopla!

Wired, Vogue, ESPN, Smithsonian, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, Vanity Fair, Backpacker.

What do these magazines and periodicals have in common? These and many more are available for free with your Library card!

Digital magazines are now available through OverDrive, which already provides Kansas City Public Library cardholders with free access to over 25,000 eBooks and 10,000 Audiobooks.

To read these magazines and periodicals, you must first install the Nook Reading App, which is free and available for almost all smartphones and tablets as well as computers running Windows 8.



  OverDrive has expanded their content of eBooks and Audiobooks to include Magazines and Periodicals.

Hoopla recently expanded their already-great collection of music and movies to include eBooks and comics. And now with the acquisition of many series and graphic novels from DC Comics and its indy imprint Vertigo, their collection is even more robust.

From critically-acclaimed adult titles such as Watchmen, Sandman, Fables, and The Dark Knight Returns, to children's favorites such as Tiny Titans, there are many books to choose from.

And there are more comics available from IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, and many others, including titles just for kids.

You can also enjoy thousands of movies, television shows, audiobooks, and full music albums. Users may stream content online from hoopla or download it for remote viewing.


  Hoopla offers digital comics, eBooks, music, movies and audiobooks.

On hoopla eBooks, Comics, and Audiobooks check out for 21 days at a time, while most movie and TV content is available for 72 hours after borrowing. You are limited to 20 titles per month.

On OverDrive, eBooks and Audiobooks are available for 21 days, and you can have a maximum of 20 titles check out at a time. Digital Magazine issues are yours to keep, and do not count towards your 20 item limit.

On both of these services, items are automatically returned at the end of your lending period, so you never need to worry about overdue fines! These new offerings are just part of the Library’s ever-expanding digital collections.

And if you are a KC metro-area resident that does not already have a Kansas City Public Library card, you can get an eCard online to get immediate access to these resources that our cardholders already enjoy!

Math. I was never great at it. In fact, for a while math homework brought me to tears. Now, I watch my daughter face the same struggle. I am determined to break the cycle. Math is just another way to understand our world. Luckily, there are some authors who do a much better job than I do of making that clear.

Greg Tang has written eight books that the library has which all are about math. He has books of riddles and fables. While they have different illustrators, one thing that they all have in common is bright pictures.

Another author and illustrator who has been instrumental is Loreen Leedy. The library carries nine of her books. Every book focuses on just one math topic, like addition or fractions, so that kids can tailor their reading to exactly what they want to know.

While Brian B. Cleary has books about other topics, there are four, illustrated by Brian Gable, which each concentrate on a particular aspect of math. These stories feature simple math problems.

Laura Overstreet also has two books that have a place in this movement. Each page has a brief bit of information accompanied by easy, medium, and hard math problems. That way, kids can get in the habit of using math that connects to real life and build confidence as they solve the question at a level that is right for them.

Another great habit to get into is doing a little bit of math every day. This is the idea behind www.bedtimemath.org.

We are often afraid of what we don’t know. If I can make math accessible and fun for my daughter, she will be able to approach it with a better attitude than I ever could muster. Growing courage-- isn’t that what books are for?

About the Author

Anna Francesca Garcia earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences Degree from the University of North Texas. She has worked in public libraries in Nevada and Missouri for eleven years. Currently, Anna Francesca is Kansas City Public Library’s Education Librarian.

Independence Day is more than fireworks and barbecues. There is a reason for the barrage of red, white, and blue.

Yes, in the Revolutionary War American colonists separated from Great Britain. But here are a few facts you might not know:

  • The Governor of Massachusetts tried to bribe John Adams into being on England’s side. (It didn’t work).
  • Slaves fought in the military for freedom, even earning official commendations for bravery, but they were still treated as property outside of the army
  • France teamed up with the rebels because they both were fighting the British. Despite this, the U.S. army did not serve delicious French meals to their soldiers.
  • Since several Native American tribes fought with the British, the U.S. Army made boots out of the skin of Native Americans who they had killed-- all while calling the native people "savages."
  • If you want a unique way to gather trivia about the American Revolution, check out the graphic novel Taxes, the Tea Party, and those Revolting Rebels : a Comics History of the American Revolution by Stan Mack. Then wow your friends with what the cartoons taught you.

    About the Author

    Anna Francesca Garcia earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences Degree from the University of North Texas. She has worked in public libraries in Nevada and Missouri for eleven years. Currently, Anna Francesca is Kansas City Public Library’s Education Librarian.

    Comedy at the Edge by Richard Zoglin is a fantastic, comprehensive, and concise history of stand-up comedy during the late 1960 through the 1970s, from the death of Lenny Bruce to the ascendance of stand-up into the mainstream of American popular culture. It's well researched and compellingly presented.

    I've always had a soft spot for stand-up comics. I love watching them on TV and seeing them in person. The conversational aspect of this style of performance lends an intimacy that you don't get from any other form of popular entertainment. Stand-up comedy is a type of theatre—it's really the only form of theatre that has attained truly mass appeal in our culture.

    Despite my love of stand-up, I had never considered the history of it or thought too deeply about the differences between modern stand-up and the older styles that defined comedy in the middle of the 20th century. Consequently, Comedy at the Edge is revelatory.

    Beginning the late 1960s, in the aftermath of Lenny Bruce, stand-up comedy underwent an evolution that broke with past humorous traditions and established new styles of comedy that still dominate stand-up today. Moreover, Zoglin argues that this evolution was not merely a product of the rebellious culture of the '60s and '70s, but one of its most powerful driving forces.

    Richard Zoglin will be at the Kansas City Public Library on Wednesday, June 17, to discuss his most recent biography Hope: Entertainer of the Century on the life of Bob Hope.

    Don't miss out: RSVP now for this free lecture!

    The evidence he presents in Comedy at the Edge is enough to convince me. Comedy has always been an essential tool for people to critique and analyze ourselves and our culture. Comedy can speak truth to power in a unique way that's easy for everyone to hear. In tumultuous times, comedians help us understand what's going on and warn us when we start down the wrong path.

    What made the comedy revolution of the '60s and '70s so unique is that it brought stand-up to a level of mass popularity that it had never seen before and that continues to this day. It saw an explosion of creativity and inventiveness that has yet to be equaled. The comedians who came to prominence in this era—George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Richard Lewis, Albert Brooks, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Andy Kaufman, et al—forged the blueprints that stand-up comics still follow. They elevated stand-up comedy from mere entertainment to a fully expressive and nuanced art form.

    I admit that I'm biased—I grew up on the comedians Zoglin profiles in this book. They will always rank as my favorites. I'm an easy sell for anyone who wants to call them geniuses.

    The book is structured with each chapter profiling one comedian (or sometimes two) who best exemplifies a specific aspect of the stand-up comedy culture of this time period. It's packed with quotations, interviews, analysis, and commentary from many comedians, club owners, and critics who were there and lived it all first-hand. Zoglin ably captures the vitality and excitement of it.

    There are times, though, when the conciseness of the book feels a little too concise. Twelve chapters (plus a short prologue), examining just over a dozen comedians, packed into a meager 225 pages doesn't leave room for much depth. The broad strokes are vivid enough to paint a compelling picture, and all the important thesis statements are made and supported—but I'm also frequently aware of how much is getting left out.

    Perhaps, though, that may be one of Comedy at the Edge's greatest accomplishments—it leaves me eager to learn more. There are plenty of biographies that have been written about the comedians in this book, and I want to go read all of them now.

    How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

    publication date: 2014
    pages: 325
    ISBN: 978-0-8050-9869-3

    How It Went Down, a topical recent book by NAACP-award nominee Kekla Magoon, examines what happens to a black community when a young person is shot by a white man.

    How It Went Down began with sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson, recently shot, bleeding on the sidewalk. His shooter, Jack Franklin, was soon apprehended but was released on a theory of self-defense. The facts surrounding the shooting quickly became muddled and contested. Was Tariq causing trouble? Was he carrying a gun? Was he a good kid trying to make his way through the neighborhood, or was he a colors-flying, drug-selling gang member? Does it really matter?

    The book explored the shooting and its aftermath from many different, and sometimes conflicting, points of view. By presenting varying narrators, Magoon showed that we probably can never know exactly what happened in incidents that were a lightning rod for a community.

    Magoon sprinkled the book with poetic and intriguing descriptions of the lives of her characters. An example is this passage by Tariq’s mother, Redeema:

    Cops got a special way of knocking at the door. With the meat of the fist. Sets the whole wall a-shaking.

    Next thing that comes – it ain’t never good news.

    I also liked this description by Jennica, a server at a local diner, who changed her nametag to read Jen because:

    People always wanted to strike up conversation about it. Oh, that’s pretty, and so forth. Especially some of the jerks who come in and think I’m into them because I smile and bring them food. Like they don’t even get that it’s my job; they think I’m doing it for fun or something, like I’m doing something special just for them.

    Because the main action in the book, Tariq’s fatal shooting, happened before the book even began, Magoon spent time establishing side characters and their lives and peculiarities. She introduced love stories, night wanderings, and gang politics. Most of these were soggy and uninteresting. They were also scattered and random, which meant I didn’t really care about what was happening to them. Relatedly, none of the characters were fully-developed or deep enough, except maybe the one character the reader didn’t get to hear from, Tariq.

    In How It Went Down, Magoon presented a needed examination of her devastating topic, but it wasn’t as powerful or compelling as it might have been in more capable hands.

    4/6: worth reading

    About the Author

    Jill Anderson

    Jill Anderson has a business degree and JD from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She's lived in Kansas City for several years and has worked at the library since 2014. She loves to read anything and everything and you can find YA reviews and more on her book blog at www.thebookbabble.com.

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    June 6th - 6:00-11:00 p.m.
    Open to those ages 11-18!The Biggest Smash Bros Tournament in the World! - Plaza

    Join us for a massive tournament where 8 players will go head-to-head at a time. Smash your friends on the big screen and root for your friends! Be the champion and win some amazing prizes!

    For more info call (816) 876-6637.

    The famous American poet, E.E. Cummings—a conscientious objector and not much taken with the war fervor in the United States in 1917—nevertheless signed up that year for the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, a volunteer ambulance brigade working under the auspices of the Red Cross, joined by John Dos Passos and another Harvard friend, William Slater Brown. In letters Cummings and Brown wrote home, the pair made statements critical of the French war operations. And Cummings himself expressed no personal animosity towards the German enemy.

    The military censors, consequently, kept an eye on their letters for some time, and on September 21, 1917, Brown was taken into custody on the charge of espionage, with Cummings picked up as Brown’s friend and possible accomplice. The two were taken to a Dépôt de Triage at La Ferté-Macé, in Normandy. There they were held for 3 months. Cummings was finally released on December 19, 1917 and returned to the United States on New Year’s Day, 1918.

    The captivity in La Ferté-Macé served as the basis of Cummings’ autobiographical novel, or rather fictionalized autobiography, The Enormous Room.

    The title comes from the holding area for the dozens of prisoners: a large, barn-sized room on the top floor of the detention center, where the inmates spent most of their time. In the fall of 1920, Cummings' father suggested that his son reflect on his experience and set it down. William Slater Brown came to the Cummings’ family farm in NH and over the course of two months they set down on paper the bulk of the material which became The Enormous Room.

    Read more of Bernard Norcott-Mahany's 2015 reviews of books about the First World War:

    January 12, 2015
    The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman

    February 5, 2015
    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

    March 13, 2015
    Tarzan the Untamed by Edgar Rice Burroughs

    April 6, 2015
    The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry

    May 4 2015
    Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner

    The work describes the boring, day-to-day existence in La Ferté-Macé and the occasional solitary confinement of one or other of the inmates for violating the rules (the rule against fraternization with the women prisoners, kept in separate quarters, and even against gazing at them, being the one most frequently broken). Cummings, though, is not writing a war or prison diary. His approach is much more impressionistic. In the circumstances where he had not been formally charged, and had been given no definite duration of imprisonment, Cummings felt he was in some sort of limbo, a place where time had no meaning. Cummings paints a series of character sketches of a rather bizarre group of inmates (whom Cummings likes) and officials (whom Cummings disdains as unimaginative rule-bound idiots). This gives the work something of a fantastic quality, almost as if Cummings were describing a sojourn in a madhouse, or in Wonderland.

    Cummings also viewed his suffering in spiritual terms, consciously evoking John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, naming his chief opponent in the prison Apollyon, after Christian’s foe in Bunyan’s work, and he refers to some of his fellow prisoners as “the Delectable Mountains,” referring to a location in Bunyan’s work where Christian gains particular insight. It is, perhaps, not surprising that Cummings chose to view his experience using some of the figures and images of Bunyan’s work. Cummings’ father was a Unitarian minister (Cummings wrote a poem about his spiritual father), and Bunyan’s work was especially popular among Protestants, Unitarians included. Just look at the fascination the work held for Meg, the sickly March girl, in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

    Rev. Cummings also saw his son’s (and his own) travails in religious terms. The Enormous Room was published with an introduction consisting of letters the elder Cummings sent to American officials in France and even to President Wilson to learn what had happened to his son and to demand his release. The introduction opens with a quotation from the story of the Prodigal Son from the gospels, all in caps: “FOR THIS MY SON WAS DEAD, AND IS ALIVE AGAIN; HE WAS LOST; AND IS FOUND.”

    Though he makes use of biblical and religious allusions, it is clear that Cummings saw his whole experience as something of a farce. He and his friend, Brown, were guilty of nothing more than being free-thinkers in a time of war, a time when governments—the French government especially—had little patience for such thinking, as can be seen in the following selection where he is equally critical of the U.S. government:

    “After all, it is highly improbable that this poor socialist suffered more at the hands of the great and good French government than did many a Conscientious Objector at the hands of the great and good American government; or—since all great governments are per se good and vice versa—than did many a man in general who was cursed with a talent for thinking during the warlike moments recently passed; during, that is to say, an epoch when the g. and g. nations demanded of their respective peoples the exact antithesis to thinking; said antitheses being vulgarly called Belief.”

    This work may prove frustrating to those who want a more conventional narrative of Cummings’ experience. For that, you’d have to go to a biography of Cummings such as that by Susan Cheever or Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno. For Cummings has to be Cummings, or as he himself says:

    “There are certain things in which one is unable to believe for the simple reason that he never ceases to feel them. Things of this sort—things which are always inside of us and in fact are us and which consequently will not be pushed off or away where we can begin thinking about them—are no longer things; they, and the us which they are, equals A Verb: an IS.”

    For any who reading the work, I’d also recommend the annotations provided by Prof. Michael Webster at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

    About the Author

    Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

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    Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day are flag-waving celebrations when we all think about those who serve are country. For some kids, though, this awareness is part of their lives every day. They have a family member deployed. On Sesame Workshop’s website, it details their initiative to support families with members in the military.

    Your library is a resource too. We have several books about kids who have family members serving overseas. These are great not only for kids who are experiencing this but also for their friends who want to understand what it is like.

    Melinda Hardin wrote, and Bryan Lango illustrated, two books for young kids with parents who are deployed. One is called Hero Dad, and the other is Hero Mom. These both show realities of life for parents who are soldiers. They also depict the love these parents have for their children.

    A book with a similar message but that is geared for older kids is Love Lizzie, Letters to a Military Mom by Lisa Tucker McElroy with pictures by Diane Paterson. There is an introduction to this book by Senator Dianne Feinstein and an informational page at the back with tips on ways to cope if your family has a member who is deployed. The book itself takes the form of letters and drawings that Lizzie send to her mom as well as the letters that her mother writes back to her.

    While these books all feature a parent in the military, Miriam Cohen and Ronald Himler’s book My Big Brother is about a boy whose role-model, his big brother, joins the military to pay for college. It shows how the younger brother takes on some of the responsibilities that had belonged to his brother when he was home. For example, he is now the one who helps their little brother prepare food. The book expresses how he misses his brother, but it also respects the wonderful ways that his brother has been special in his life.

    Even scary situations are less scary when you are prepared for them. The library takes pride in providing information to kids and families so that they can face the challenges of life.

    About the Author

    Anna Francesca Garcia earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences Degree from the University of North Texas. She has worked in public libraries in Nevada and Missouri for almost 11 years. Currently, Anna Francesca is Kansas City Public Library’s Education Librarian.

    End-of-the-Year Celebration: Hogwarts House Cup Award Ceremony Program: 6-11 p.m.
    Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.
    Enjoy food and fun at this magical event presented by the KC Keepers chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance and Plaza Branch Teen Services. Awards go to the House with the most points from the school year.

    Transportation to the event is available at our North East, Central, Bluford, Trails West, and Southeast Libraries with a completed permission slip!

    Twenty-five Kansas City households with school-age children will get free wireless Internet access at home—or wherever else they choose to connect—as part of a pilot program allowing them to "check out" the service from the Kansas City Public Library.

    The plan targets residents in underserved areas who now lack home access to the Internet, allowing them to utilize free Wi-Fi hotspots at least six months. The pilot program will serve students attending two Kansas City public schools, East High School and Faxon Elementary School, and their parents, guardians, or caregivers, offering training in addition to the wireless connections.

    The program could launch as early as the start of the 2015-16 school year in August. The Library, which is partnering with Kansas City Public Schools and local nonprofits Literacy Kansas City and Connecting for Good, hopes to expand the innovative lending service in succeeding years.

    "The mission of the Library is to be a doorway to knowledge for all," says Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, its deputy director of strategic initiatives. "With this program, we hope to open the door for students and their families to be able to operate in today's digital society.

    "This is a continuation of our effort to connect kids to services they need. And it furthers a community-wide initiative to close the digital divide in Kansas City."

    The Library's leadership role in digital inclusion efforts was underscored by its selection by broadband service provider Mobile Beacon as a pilot site for Wi-Fi checkouts. Mobile Beacon, based in Johnston, Rhode Island, will donate 25 wireless Internet devices and unlimited data plans for the duration of the program, plus a matching number of Lenovo laptop computers, plus end-to-end support.

    The announcement was made at last week's Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition conference in Arlington, Virginia. The Kansas City Public Library will join a handful of libraries nationwide, including the New York and Chicago public systems, in lending mobile wireless service to households in underserved neighborhoods.

    "Having a low-cost, high-speed broadband Internet connection is absolutely essential to participating in today's digital economy and society," says SHLB Coalition Executive Director John Windhausen, noting that 30% of American households still lack one. "The Kansas City Public Library is one of the nation's leaders in reaching outside the library walls and working with the community to address this critical need. No one is more deserving of this award."

    Says Deb Socia, executive director of Next Century Cities, a coalition of more than 90 cities and counties advocating widespread availability of fast and reliable broadband Internet service, "The Kansas City Public Library's deep commitment to addressing digital inclusion is a shining example of the type of work we champion. They are a leading model of how to engage the community to provide Internet access and show the benefits of broadband, and we applaud the recognition they have received from Mobile Beacon."

    The Library's foray into mobile wireless lending comes amid growing attention to digital literacy barriers and a national digital divide. Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler called this week for the expansion of a government phone subsidy program to help low-income Americans pay for Internet access. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal on June 18, 2015.

    The Kansas City Public Library was instrumental in the formation of the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition and hosted a first-of-its-kind Digital Inclusion Summit in October 2014 that addressed troublesome gaps in residents' access to computers and the Internet. Kositany-Buckner is a member of the founding council of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

    The Mobile Beacon-backed Wi-Fi lending program addresses concern in Kansas City about the high concentration of school-aged children, ages 4-18, in homes that do not use the Internet - the school district says 70% of its students do not have online access where they live. Library and school officials are scheduled to meet next week to begin identifying the 25 students and other household members who will participate in the pilot program.

    The program is designed to help students access online resources and pursue educational activities at home. Parents and other caregivers will be required to take part in training with the students to enable them to provide support - and to augment their own digital literacy skills.

    Officials also will work to determine how to measure the impact of the program and the enhanced Internet access.

    Computers and the Internet, including high speed connectivity, are essential in today’s digital society. Without this access, people face major hurdles in conducting business, completing school assignments, searching for a job, securing government services, or even communicating on a day-to-day basis. Those on the wrong side of this digital divide are being left further and further behind.

    While there have been numerous efforts at the local level to address this problem, the newly-formed National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) is among the first organizations to address the issue nationally.

    Modeled after efforts in Kansas City to bridge the digital divide through the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition, the NDIA plans “to be a unified voice for local technology training, home broadband access, and public broadband access programs” and join in the federal policy discussion to increase broadband availability in the U.S.

    The Kansas City Public Library has been a leader in local efforts to bridge the digital divide and will bring this experience to the NDIA through the Library’s Deputy Director of Strategic Initiatives Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, who serves on the NDIA’s Founding Council.

    For more information on the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s goals and how you can help, please visit their website.


    The NDIA Founding Council is:

    Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, Kansas City Public Library
    Amina Fazlullah, Benton Foundation
    John Windhausen, SHLB Coalition
    Kami Griffiths, Community Technology Network
    Luke Swarthout, New York City Public Library
    Bill Callahan, Connect Your Community
    Nicol Turner-Lee, Multicultural Media & Telecom Council
    Amy Sample Ward, NTEN
    Angela Siefer, NDIA Director




    Join us for our Summer Reading Kick-Off at the Central Library this Saturday! Pickup will be available at many KC Public Library locations with a completed permission slip. Talk to your local teen librarian or call (816) 876-6637 for more info!

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