With messages everywhere, teens can take back power by making their own voices heard.

It is impossible to go through the day without consuming information. In fact, there is so much competing for our attention that it can be dizzying. In 2014, spending on advertising in the United States was $180.1 billion. 1 With people being bombarded by messages, not necessarily for their own good, it can be tough to remember the value of our own experiences. Teens have important lives, important stories to tell. Sometimes, it is the job of adults in their communities to remind them of this. Librarians can be catalysts to their discoveries.

Teens can feel like their lives, which aren’t cut to thirty eye-popping seconds of air-brushed glamour, don’t matter. They DO matter. Teens who are validated are also empowered. Engagement isn’t a minor deal. There was a report in 2004 that said, “student engagement has been found to be one of the most robust predictors of achievement and behavior in schools, a conclusion that holds regardless of whether students come from families that are relatively advantaged or disadvantaged socially or economically.”2

So, getting students involved in their own learning can be like switching on a light bulb. Either they are into what they are doing or not. Don’t we all prefer when we can relate what we do to our own lives? I know that I do. If it seems distant or foreign, it doesn’t work for me. If it seems unattainable, like those images in ads that teens constantly see, it can actually be damaging. Teens telling their own stories replaces “Why can’t I be like that?” with “I am like this.”

Staff from The Kansas City Public Library recently teamed with MindDrive, an organization whose mission is “to inspire students to learn, expand their vision of the future and have a positive influence on urban workforce development. Our objective is to involve the adults of our community in the education of the children of our community.”

Here is what Linda Buchner, President of MindDrive, said. The Kansas City Public Library youth staff helped “the students create a poignant piece by guiding and gently encouraging them to dig deeper, helping them to create wonderful ‘moments in time’ when their lives seemed to change. The students took to the assignment right away, were very eager to record their audio piece and then lay the images and music in around it. It was magical to watch each story emerge.”

In three minutes or less per video, the teens conveyed moving, life-changing events. In the process, they came to know each other better and to appreciate their own abilities to communicate. What a great way for us to uphold the Kansas City Public Library’s mission to “support individuals of all ages pursuing a program of independent learning.”

1. MCPHERSON, DOUG. "U.S. Ad Spending Sees Largest Spike In Decade." Response 22.11 (2014): 7. Business Source Complete. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

2. “Students as Co-Constructors of the Learning Environment: Building Systemic Approaches for Youth Engagement.” Academy for Educational Development. (2011): 32. ERIC. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

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 a decade. Currently, Anna Francesca is Kansas City Public Library’s Education Librarian.

We're making it easier than ever to tap into the Library's vast array of electronic resources, from eBooks and audiobooks to streaming movies and television shows, magazines, newspapers, and more.

The Library now offers electronic library cards, just in time for all of you who will receive e-readers, tablets, and other new devices during the holidays. Sign up from anywhere and get immediate access to digital materials!

The Kansas City Public Library eCards are available to residents of the bi-state metropolitan area who are 13 or older and not registered for standard library cards.

"You don't have to come into the Library or wait for a card to be mailed to you," says Joel Jones, the Library's deputy director of branch and library services. "You apply, get a card number, and get access."

Already have a Kansas City Public Library card? There's no need to apply for an eCard! If you have a traditional card and live in the Kansas City metro area, you already have access to our digital resources.

The Library's entire collection of electronic resources — one of the largest and fastest growing in Kansas City — is free and likewise available to holders of standard Library cards. Among its offerings:

OVERDRIVE  |  Access more than 25,000 eBooks, 10,000 audio books, 500 videos.

FREEGAL  |  Choose from more than 7 million songs. Download (and keep) up to five a week or enjoy ad-free streaming.

HOOPLA  |  Enjoy hundreds of thousands of movies, television shows, albums, and audio books. Stream content online or temporarily download for remote viewing.

ZINIO  |  Download digital versions of 140 magazines, including Cosmopolitan, ESPN, GQ, Rolling Stone, and Harper's Bazaar.

TUMBLEBOOKS  |  Choose from a collection of nearly 900 children's story books, chapter books, non-fiction books, and more.

COMICS PLUS  |  View more than 7,000 comic strips, graphic novels, and manga.

DATABASES  |  Browse thousands of journals, magazines, newspapers, and books. Get help with homework. Prepare for a standardized test. Even create a business plan.

Registration for an eCard requires only an Internet connection. Go to kclibrary.org/ecard to get started.

The Kansas City Public Library's board of trustees has returned to its full, nine-member complement with the recent appointment of two local business leaders, health care manager and longtime education executive Marilou Joyner and pharmacy owner and civic activist Kathryn Mallinson.

Joyner, named in November by Kansas City Mayor Sly James, took her seat with the board when it met Tuesday, December 16, at the Library's Trails West Branch. Mallinson was named in June to represent the Sugar Creek area.

Members are appointed to four-year terms by the mayors of their respective districts — the cities of Kansas City, Independence, and Sugar Creek — and oversee a Library system encompassing the downtown Central Library, Plaza Branch, and eight other neighborhood branches.

Joyner, who holds bachelor's, master's, and specialist's degrees in education from Northwest Missouri State University, an MBA from Bellevue (Nebraska) University, and a doctorate from the University of Kansas, is a former assistant commissioner in Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She spent four subsequent years as executive director of the Kansas City Higher Education Partnership, advising school districts on accreditation, and three years as president of the Blackwell Education Support Team, a Kansas City consulting firm.

She also is a member and past president of the board of Literacy Kansas City and serves on the Northwest Missouri State University Foundation board.

Mallinson has shown a similar commitment to community service. A native of Independence and graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, with a bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology, she and her husband, Matthew, have owned and operated a family pharmacy in Independence since 1987. She also is active in the Independence Junior Service League, Independence Kiwanis Club, Inter-City Sugar Creek Optimist Club, and numerous other local charities and organizations.

Matthew Mallinson is the mayor of Sugar Creek, elected in April 2013.

The Mallinsons have hosted five foreign exchange students, and Kathryn helped develop the Host Homes Program for the Independence School District. Through her family businesses, she has donated hundreds books to school libraries throughout the district. And she designed and remodeled the Little Theater at Van Horn High School, where Mallinson is the alumni association's first life member.

NASA hasn’t forgotten Pluto. In fact, the dwarf planet is due to have its picture taken. When the New Horizon spacecraft gets close to the mass 3 billion miles from Earth, around January 2015, it is set to serve as official space photographer.

Until then, you can brush up on your Pluto knowledge with some Kansas City Public Library books.

Why Isn’t Pluto a Planet? by Michael Portman tells about Pluto being reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006. This book is great for beginning readers. It includes a table of contents, a glossary of key terms, a list of places to find more information, and an index in the back to find exactly what you want in the book. The clear drawings help make up for the lack of photographs.

For students who want more information about space or who are ready to read something a bit meatier, the National Geographic Kids Space Encyclopedia: A tour of our solar system and beyond by David A. Aguilar is a great choice. It is full of bright pictures, and one of the best parts is the mini fact-chart, which lets readers make easy comparisons. To hone in on Pluto, just check out pages 66-67. However, once you see this article, it might be tough not to delve deeper into exploring outer space.

When the new photos of Pluto hit the news, you will be ready to show off to your friends. Not only will you be up on what's happening, you will be an expert in what it is all about.

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 a decade. Currently, Anna Francesca is Kansas City Public Library’s Education Librarian.

One of the best police procedural series, and the inspiration for many who’ve written police procedurals since the 1970s, is the amazing 10-book series written by Per Wahlöö, a Swedish journalist, and his partner, Maj Sjöwall. This series is often referred to as the Martin Beck series after the chief investigator for the Stockholm police. But like McBain’s 87th precinct, and even Creasey’s Gideon series, this is a series about the squad. The authors also intended to use the series to make a sociological statement about Sweden over the decade from 1965 to 1975.

Wahlöö and Sjöwall were both Marxists, who felt that the socialist experiment in Sweden was a failure. There was nationalization, but this didn’t lead to improved service, but rather to a mediocre sameness. The best policemen in the squad, Beck, and his friend Kohlberg, often find themselves stymied by the interference of politicians wanting to look good. The politicians and bureaucrats who interfere are almost all inept, so their interference has no good effect. And this situation gets worse through the 10 novels (each covering one year of a decade).

The police were nationalized (local control given over to centralized control in Stockholm) in 1965. The move was intended to make the police more efficient, but bureaucratic interference from those outside the professional police gummed everything up. This bothers Beck somewhat, but he continues to slog through. Kohlberg, who is a more passionate figure, and who seems to value excellence and who hates mediocrity, leaves the series in the ninth book, Cop Killer, because he cannot take it anymore. More than any other character in the books, Kohlberg seems to be the authors’ representative in the book, so when he leaves, it is clear that the series was coming to a close (as it does with the tenth novel, The Terrorists).

The squad has several interesting characters, such as Frederik Melander, the resident memory bank, who recalls old police records verbatim, the volatile ex-soldier Gunvald Larsson, and his good friend, the laid-back Einar Rönn, who comes from a rural area and is Larsson’s best (and only) friend on the force. Wahlöö’s favorite character in the series was the easy going Rönn, while Sjöwall had a fondness for the volatile and abrasive Larsson.

One amazing thing about the series is that Wahlöö and Sjöwall, after developing an outline for each novel, would then work on alternating chapters. And yet, the style remains consistent throughout, so that one cannot detect a difference between Wahlöö’s and Sjöwall’s work. I used to think this was because the translator had equalized the two into his own style. And that may be true to some extent, but I’ve heard that even in the Swedish original, the style remains even and consistent throughout, which is a pretty remarkable thing.

The Laughing Policeman, the fourth in the series, is perhaps the best, and certainly the best known, thanks to a 1973 film version relocated to San Francisco that starred Walter Matthau as Beck (Watch the original film trailer). The title of the novel comes from an English music hall number (you can hear Charles Penrose performing it here). In the book, Beck’s daughter gets him a recording of the song — it was very popular in Sweden — for Christmas, but Beck doesn’t find it funny. The set-up for the novel is that on a November night, someone boarded a Stockholm bus, and opened fire with a machine gun, killing eight, including a policeman. The Swedish media want to see in the sensational killing the act of a mass murderer, something all the Swedes associate with America. In doing research into mass murder, Larsson turns to the American authorities, as the only group that has hands-on experience in the area of mass murder.

The book gives us our best view of the machinery of Beck’s squad at work — everyone has jobs to do, and they set to making sense of what looks like the act of a madman. There are several snide comments made about the Swedish bureaucracy, and about the public press, which always seems to misquote the police, taking the police’s words and forcing them to fit into the news organization’s own narrative — some things never change. Beck’s squad, though, works well together without too much interference. That interference will only get worse in later novels, though novel six (Murder at the Savoy), set in Copenhagen, with Beck away from home and the bureaucratic headache of Stockholm, and novel eight (The Locked Room), which is more of a personal investigation of Beck’s into what seems to be a locked room mystery. Those two novels are less bureaucratically claustrophobic.

For an amazing mystery series that serves not only as a great example of police procedural writing, but also serves as a social commentary on Sweden in the 1960s and 70s, one cannot do better than this series. A German beer company, Beck’s, used to have an ad campaign with the tagline: “Becks ist Becks!” as if to say, they needed to say nothing more than its name — that alone was a guarantee of excellence. The same might be said of the Martin Beck series of novels.

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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Think of it as an early holiday present.

We are working to make our DVD collection more accessible by removing the $1 fee for feature films and limiting all DVD checkouts to one week with no renewals. The changes took effect on Friday, December 5, 2014.

Read all about it over at our KC Unbound Blog!

Think of it as an early holiday present.

We are working to make our DVD collection more accessible by removing the $1 fee for feature films and limiting all DVD checkouts to one week with no renewals. The changes take effect on Friday, December 5, 2014.

“With the Library now providing free video streaming through Hoopla, it didn't make sense for us to continue charging a $1 fee for DVD checkouts that provided access to much of the same content,” said Joel Jones, the Library's deputy director of branch and library services.

The $1 fee dates back to an era when VHS was the prevailing technology, and the cost of obtaining movies, documentaries and television shows was much higher.

If you have any questions about our new DVD policy, or about your Library account, please contact us at 816.701.3400 or through our live chat. (Available Mon. - Fri., 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.)

“That was also a time when libraries did not consider video to be a core service,” Jones said. “In recent years, the cost of acquiring DVDs has declined and patrons have come to expect libraries to include them in their collection.”

The decision to limit all DVD checkouts to one week with no renewals will make it easier for Library patrons to find something that interests them.

“This is a model we began using about a year ago with our New & Notable book collection,” Jones said. “We have found that a lot of people like to come to the Library to browse the shelves - for books or DVDs. By not allowing renewals, we can get materials back on the shelves where they can be discovered and checked out again and again.”

The Library has a collection of 39,000 DVDs. While the collection includes many mainstream films, the collections policy emphasizes the acquisition of award-winning and culturally significant titles that are difficult to find in today's retail DVD rental market. The collection also includes many popular children's and educational titles, instructional and documentary videos, and popular television shows.

Items on DVD checked out before December 5 will still be eligible for renewal. Overdue fines for DVDs will remain $1 per day and top out at $3 per item.

The 22nd Annual Young Writers Contest is brought to you by the Reading Reptile Bookstore, the Kansas City Public Library, and the Johnson County Library. If you're between the ages of 5 and 12 and you have a story in your heart, we want to see it!

Print out the entry form, attach it to your story, and drop off at any branch of the Library or at the Reading Reptile Bookstore by January 28, 2015.

Stories will be judged by a panel of nationally published children's book authors and illustrators! A reception for all contestants will be held at the Truman Forum at the Plaza Library on Friday, February 20, 2015 and the winning stories will be presented.

Individual and classroom submissions are welcome so get started writing!

Click here to download the entry form!

Join us! Youth across the world are participating in the Hour of Code. More than 15 million students in 170 countries learned some computer coding during last year’s event. This year, the goal is to reach 100 million worldwide participants.

Several of our Library locations will host Hour of Code activities. Youth are invited to join in fun, challenging, hands-on computer science lessons and activities that introduce concepts of logic, analysis, and problem solving.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own WiFi-enabled devices, however there will be shared Library devices available as well as non-tech activities.

All sessions are free. More information, including a list of locations and times, is available at kclibrary.org/hourofcode. Sign up for your desired sessions on Eventbrite. Questions? Contact andreaellis@kclibrary.org.

Join youth across the world for the Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week,
December 8 - 14, 2014.

More than 15 million students in 170 countries learned some computer coding during last year’s event. This year, the goal is to reach 100 million worldwide participants.

Want to get involved?
Get all the info here!

Save the Enemy, by Arin Greenwood

Teen Reviewer: Abigail Borne

Zoey Trask’s life is a mess. A year ago her mother was killed and her father still isn’t out of mourning and gets more depressed with each day. Her brother has to be monitored constantly and the burden is left to her. She feels like it is impossible to put her life back together until a boy named Pete takes a sudden interest in her.

Excited to have made a new friend, life is finally starting to look up. When her father disappears without a trace, she is thrown into a world where she is faced with decisions that she should never have to make, and she learns a dark and startling secret about her family that she never could have guessed.

In a world where she doesn’t know who to trust, Zoey has to learn how to survive and to live with the truth that she uncovers about her family. In this stunning thriller where there are twists and turns that you never would have expected you better prepare for the ride.

Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss introduces The Slow Regard of Silent Things with a warning that it's not a proper story. It doesn't do the things a story is supposed to do.

And it's wonderful. It's unlike most anything else I've read and I treasured every word of it.

This isn't a story so much as it's a contemplation. Reading it isn't an act of reading so much as it's a meditation.

Even more so than in the novels of his Kingkiller Chronicle series, this novella displays Mr. Rothfuss' delight in language. He plays with words here in a way that's both elegant and giddy. The book is lyrical, bursting with alliteration, homophones, and rhyme, but it never comes off as contrived or self-conscious. Rather, his language is a search to find just the right words for each thing that needs to be said.

There are moments when The Slow Regard of Silent Things reads as a tone poem as much as a story. There are moments when the language acts almost as a chant, initiating something akin to a meditative state in the reader.

This is beautiful writing.

In the simplest terms, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of six days in the life of Auri, the mysterious girl who lives in the Underthing—the tunnels underneath the University—who Kvothe befriends during his time as a student and who we meet in the pages of the Kingkiller Chronicles. We follow Auri as she goes about her daily business, preparing for a visit from the man who gave her her name.

To talk about the plot of The Slow Regard of Silent Things feels almost irrelevant. This isn't a traditional narrative, as Mr. Rothfuss takes great pains to make clear in his introduction and closing author note. The story isn't so much about what Auri does during this time but rather why she does it, how she interacts with her subterranean world. It's less about the geography of the Underthing and more about the geography of Auri's mind.

This is a character study, a linguistic excursion, spelunking through an utterly fascinating part of an utterly compelling world that Mr. Rothfuss has created. It’s about language and not story, it’s about place and feeling and not events.

When an author creates a world as vibrant as that of the Kingkiller Chronicles, they undertake all sorts of world-building exercises, envisioning the environment in as much detail as possible to properly inform their characters' actions and to make the world fully believable. Most of this world-building never makes its way into the finished work—it's necessary for the author to know but not for the reader to see.

From a lesser author, The Slow Regard of Silent Things would be such a world-building exercise. Sharing it with readers would serve no useful purpose beyond stroking the author's ego.

But Mr. Rothfuss isn't a lesser author. He's self-aware enough, exacting enough, to recognize a world-building exercise for what it is. This story called out to him as something more than that and he was wise enough to see that it was worth sharing.

Nate Taylor's spare illustrations are pitch-perfect. They show just enough of Auri's world, but not too much. They're composed of as much mystery as explication, shadows revealing the light. They interact with the text in a way that heightens the whole narrative—visual poetry to counterpoint the poetry of language.

This story is sweet, gentle, and comforting. For all that Mr. Rothfuss protests that it's not a proper story, it's quite proper true for what it is.

I'm very happy that I got to spend a couple of hours living in Auri's world. It's a special place.

About the Author

John Keogh

John Keogh is the Digital User Specialist for the Digital Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. He grew up in Fargo, ND, (too small) and lived in Chicago for several years (too big) before he moved to Kansas City. He calls KC his "Goldilocks town" because it's just right.

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Sometimes it is about people.

About fifty high school students came to the Kansas City Central Library to do research for their National History Day projects. I took someone who was researching Walt Disney up to our Missouri Valley Special Collections area to see the unique primary sources we have about someone famous from the Kansas City area. Another student used WorldCat to find a foreign language book from somewhere else in the country. For a student who did not know how to spell her subject’s name (which was decidedly challenging), we used what she knew about how he fit into history to locate him—and in turn the correct spelling of his name--in the index of several books.

Still, I didn’t think about writing this blog until someone texted herself something that she had found in our catalog. She sounded so excited, and that’s contagious. “The Library reaches teens through technology.” The blog was already bubbling in my brain. I showed someone how to narrow a database search to magazine articles and someone else how to e-mail a digital finding to herself. Yes, this was it. All I needed was some solid quotations.

This is where the teens surprised me. I asked what they liked about using the library. What did we offer that helped them? A girl named Kailyn Peterson replied, “Librarians here are very sociable and kind and made me feel welcome.” This was reiterated by two students who hadn’t heard Kailyn. “All the people are very helpful and friendly,” Lily and Carly attested.

These are teens who fall on the “have” side of the digital divide. Many (if not most) had smart phones with them that they were using to assist with their research. One even took a photograph of our computer catalog’s result page so that we could see it to help him. Other students set up laptops with Wi-Fi capabilities. Our being able to meet them electronically was paramount to our success with these students.

But it wasn’t everything.

Good customer service means something. Smiling, asking helpful questions, and listening to what people really need still matters. It matters a lot. We know that and keep providing it even when we forget that connecting as people can trump other fantastic offerings. So, thanks, teens, for reminding me that the human element is something special that we still bring every day to library service.

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 a decade. Currently, Anna Francesca is Kansas City Public Library’s Education Librarian.

Many of our most loved plays and movies started as books. According to its website, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre is going to produce its annual treat, A Christmas Carol, for its 34th season! Originally, though, the story was a book. In 1843 Charles Dickens first published his book about how stingy, inconsiderate Ebenezer Scrooge overcame his distaste for Christmas. Since then, this much beloved novel has come out in many editions, with The Kansas City Public Library owning 14 versions of the text geared towards kids. So, you might want to prepare for a visit to the play by cozying up with the words of A Christmas Carol from Dickens as The Ghost of Christmas Present did recently at The Kansas City Public Library’s Central Youth Services department. @KCRep #24daysofbobble

For other festivities on KCMO stages this December, The Kansas City Public Library has materials to get you ready, as well.


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 a decade. Currently, Anna Francesca is Kansas City Public Library’s Education Librarian.