Kansas City is a big reading town. The Library’s circulation stats from last year prove it. Our most checked-out book: Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1980 novel Housekeeping, the book featured in our NEA-sponsored, community-wide Big Read program. Find out what other books and movies were most checked-out by KC’s reading class in 2010.

Library patrons like thrilling reads and newer non-fiction, but it was a 30-year-old novel that crossed our circulation desks the most in 2010.

Thanks to our Big Read program, in which more than 1,300 people signed up to read Housekeeping (and attend book discussions, special events, and a film screening), Marilynne Robinson’s rich, carefully rendered masterpiece shot to the top, with just over 700 check-outs for the year.

In George Orwell's novel 1984, "doublethink" is the act of accepting two contradictory thoughts at once. It's a fitting notion for this month's line-up of free film screenings at the Kansas City Public Library.

After all, what could be further apart than a stark, futuristic, dystopian-themed film series and an enchanting, down-to-earth Faye Dunaway retrospective? Are we guilty of doublethink in bringing both of these series at once? Step inside our Durwood Film Vault and judge for yourself.

Independent: A Faye Dunaway Retrospective Film Series

Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. in the Stanley H. Durwood Film Vault

Faye Dunaway starred in some of the most influential independent films of the 1960s and 1970s while helping redefine audience expectations for lead actresses. Her screen presence often dominated leading men like Warren Beatty and even Steve McQueen, clearing a path for a generation of actresses to carry their own films.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967) on January 8. Dunaway and Warren Beatty star as the titular duo in a film that helped redefine Hollywood. Amid the Great Depression, two reckless bank robbers become minor celebrities as the press and the public become infatuated with their skill and daring. Directed by Arthur Penn. Rated R. (112 min.)

It's always encouraging to come across an inspirational book that discusses human relationships in relation to biblical perspectives. God Will Make a Way is one of the rare books that combine biblical wisdom, psychology, and practical suggestions on how to develop and improve relationships.

Chosen as the March/April reading selection for the Inspirational Book Group at the Westport Branch,  God Will Make a Way: What to do When You Don't Know What to Do recommends eight principles for dealing with persistent life problems that might at first appear hopeless. The eight principles are included in Part I of the book. Part II reveals the principles at work in areas of life such as dating, marriage, parenting, addictions, and depression.

Authors Henry Cloud and John Townsend have worked as clinical psychologists, motivational speakers, and radio hosts of the nationally broadcast program, New Life Live! Their book is packed with real-life stories drawn from their extensive experience in the field of psychology and counseling. The book also includes interesting anecdotes from the authors' own personal lives.

When January rolls around, I’m often tired already of winter. And, by then, it has dawned on me that there’s a long hard time ahead before spring. Wanting something to read that fit that spirit of desperation (with a determination to see it through), I decided it was the right time to read a Russian novel. Nothing says "heroic determination in difficult circumstances" like a long Russian novel.

The practice of making New Year’s Resolutions dates back to the ancient Romans, who not only established January 1 as the first day of the year but also invented the South Beach Diet (just kidding). Despite the timeless allure of starting over, it can be hard to stick to those year-end promises. The Library has many free resources that just might help you carry your best intentions well into 2011.

We’ve arranged this post by topic, focusing on some of the most popular areas of self-improvement. But that doesn’t mean you can’t research other goals like, for instance, quitting smoking, giving to charity, learning a language, improving your grades, or getting to know local history. Basically, If you can dream it, we can hook you up with a book, magazine, database, video, audio book, or maybe even a free class. Just apply the research techniques outlined below to your subject of choice.

Now, onto the Resolutions!

Librarians have always connected people to stories that inform and shape their lives. But for one Central Reference Associate, books aren’t the only tools of the trade. Jean DuFresne’s mastery of beadmaking has grown alongside her career at the Kansas City Public Library. And now she’s also using her craft to benefit the lives of children with serious illnesses.

I have an unusual relationship with the Liberty Bell. It almost got me arrested. I was in Philadelphia on business, and a group of us were walking around the city late at night when we passed Independence Hall. I wanted to take a picture of the patriotic relic and stepped up to the fence surrounding the enclosure.

I couldn’t get close enough, so I climbed the fence, swung a leg over to keep my balance, and perched to get a better angle.

And that’s when I heard shouts and heavy footsteps moving quickly in our direction and felt my buddy Andrew grab me and pull me off the fence.

Apparently, it’s a federal crime to get too close to national treasures. Or so the federal guards told me.

Every year, more than 2 million visitors line up to view this flawed mass of metal that is over 250 years old. This silent icon of American history captivates Americans and international fans, and Gary B. Nash's The Liberty Bell is an accessible and intriguing biography of a bell to satisfy any history buff.

At the Kansas City Public Library's North-East Branch, Christmas is in the air - sort of. As the gateway to knowledge for Kansas City's most culturally diverse neighborhood, the North-East Branch during the holidays takes on the spirit of its patrons. And with people from different lands come different ways of celebrating (or not celebrating) the season.

Visit the North-East Branch on any day of the week, and you'll likely see people from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East checking out books for themselves or their kids, making use of the free computer access, and interacting with librarians, who, because of their skills at finding information, become guides to a new world. In turn, these people bring to Kansas City their native customs and cultures, imbuing internationalism into the landscape.

To get the widest possible view of how people in Northeast KC spend their holidays, we hunkered down for just a few hours over a couple of days at the North-East Branch, right next to an internationally themed holiday display case designed by globetrotting patron Nancy Kramer. We asked Branch Manager Claudia Visnich to introduce us to a few of her customers.

In shifting economic times, many men are finding themselves working a job they thought they’d never do: staying home with young children. For these fathers, planning activities for kids and socializing with other men in their situation can be hard. For the Kansas City At-Home Dads group, the Kansas City Public Library is a home away from home. 

For the better part of the past two years, a diverse, rotating group of fathers and kids from all over the metro have been spending one morning each month in the Children’s Library at the Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library.

On a recent Friday morning, 10 or so of these KC Dads (as the group’s online shorthand goes) and their pre-school-aged kids stormed the Library for a session that included a visit from Santa, story time, crafts, music, and a movie – all of it tailored by Central Children’s Librarian Clare Hollander.

“As a children’s librarian, I’m these kids’ first teacher after their parents,” Hollander says.

For the KC Dads’ pre-kindergarten-aged kids, Hollander designs programs geared toward goals such as building vocabulary, improving narrative skills, and instilling a love for books and reading.

She also understands the unique character of this special group.

Platinum

Platinum by Aliya S. King

Ever wanted to know what your favorite rappers' lives are about? PLATINUM lets you into the lives of five of those rappers’ wives. Beth Saddlebroook is the wife of famous rap artist Z. Her life is perfect right? I mean with all that money and the Huge crib she has to be happy right? Wrong. Instead of living it up she's trying to save her husband from himself AND give him what he wants all at the same time. And at the same time her oldest son is trying to make a name for himself as an artist but will his abusive girlfriend and druggie father ruin his way to the top?

Beth can feel her family drifting away slowly. Can she deal with all the baby mama drama that Z stirs up at every town he tours at or will she crack? At this point Beth can only count on one person, her best friend Kipenzi Hill. Kipenzi Hill is a famous R&B artist. She's been managed by Puffy and Sung with Biggie. But at 30 years old she's tired of all the running from the paparazzi and getting mobbed and never having any privacy and just wants to retire. But with her best friend in trouble and everybody pressuring her will she get the rest she really wants?

Many of us have a time of year, a place, or a memory, which makes us feel quiet and introspective, no matter how busy our lives or our minds are spinning. Deborah Digges’ latest volume of poetry, The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart, is a book which captures a piece of that feeling in a way that is warm, passionate, and calm at the same time.

Through these poems, we are reminded that we have room to look at ourselves slowly, while the world around us may grow wildly and too fast.

The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart is a thin volume; the poems are lightly written in free-verse. But something familiar finds a connection here: birth as the process of a seed, a person, being given life too early, or perhaps too late; the perpetual mystery of losing someone who has become precious to you; different and beautiful ways of discovering peace.

Before the days of TV and radio, merchants caught customers' eyes with brightly printed, alluring advertising trade cards for all kinds of products in the new, manufacturing-driven economy. The trade card explosion of the late 1800s was a short-lived but significant phenomenon, and the Missouri Valley Room holds nearly 1,000 such artifacts, including more than a few that highlight that most wonderful time of the year for advertisers – the Christmas holidays.

In addition to providing a rich resource for researching the history of printing, advertising, medicine, and fashions in late 19th century culture, the Missouri Valley Room’s collection of advertising trade cards gives a glimpse into the history of early Kansas City companies. The Kansas City Public Library received a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant from the Missouri State Library to digitize these trade cards.

Read on for a few choice selections, and explore our digital collection to find more advertising trade cards from our city’s past.

Corle Cracker and Confectionery Company

Update, September 2011: Since this blog entry was posted, more e-readers and devices have become available for use with Library e-books, including the Amazon Kindle. Visit our e-reader tutorial page for the latest information.

With an estimated 10 percent of adults planning to give e-readers as gifts over the holidays, the season of the e-book is truly upon us. As you prepare to wrap – or unwrap – that shiny new Nook or Kindle, check out this guide to checking out e-books from the Kansas City Public Library.

Just as with printed books, when it comes to affordable e-reading, libraries are a bountiful resource. The Library has a growing collection of more than a thousand e-books that you can download and transfer to your e-reader. We also have many more that can be read online through NetLibrary. This blog post will focus on downloadable e-books, which are provided to the Library through a service called OverDrive.

It takes a little time and a teensy bit of effort to check out e-books, but once you’re familiar with the process, it’s a breeze.

Most people know little about the fates of survivors and refugees of the gruesome events of World War II. But in Day After Night, Anita Diamant’s 2008 novel, little known historical events are brought to vivid life. The Barista’s Book Club at the Plaza Branch read Day After Night in November, and found it brought out a lively discussion.

Best known for retelling the stories of biblical women in her 2007 book The Red Tent, Diamant again tells the story of a group of women – this time basing her story on the actual historical events surrounding the mass breakout of a detention center for Jewish refugees who were attempting to enter Israel as that country was being established in late 1945.

The Trailblazers book group has called the Trails West Branch of the Kansas City Public Library home for almost ten years. They started gathering to discuss reading in April of 2001 at the behest of then-branch-staffer Jackie Brown. Brown has since joined the Facilities team at the Central Library, but she left behind a loyal group of readers who have welcomed their new facilitator, Nancy Oelke.

The eclectic band of readers are open to almost any kind of books (except for horror, they freely admit) and have definite favorites from the past years. Stand-out titles include The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry (“Jackie brought cucumber sandwiches and fresh-squeezed lemonade!” one clubber remembers), Portrait in Sepia by Isabelle Allende (flan!), and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

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