How to Build a Better New Year's Resolution Using the Library

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!

Eat Better

Devour a healthy cookbook.

The Library’s larder is full of books containing healthy recipes and tips for better nutrition. To get started, navigate to our catalog and, if you’re in the mood to browse, start with a broad search by searching for generic phrases like healthy cooking or healthy recipes.

Then, narrow the results by using the Refine categories on the right-hand side of the screen. Refining by Subject, for example (see below), can help you narrow your results to cookbooks only. Or, if you want to zero in on recently published books, refine by Year. (You can also do this via an Advanced Search; type in Subject: cookbooks and Year: 2010.)

Need culinary inspiration? Here are a few lists to get you started:

And a few to avoid: The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Worst Cookbooks of 2010

Get in Shape

Check out a fitness DVD.

The Library isn’t limited to books. Our video holdings are a boon to visually oriented health nuts, with DVDs that range from aerobics, to Tai Chi, to yoga, to zumba. (To find DVDs, do a search and refine by Format: DVD )

In most cases, these DVDs won’t cost a thing to rent – except in the case of “Feature” (read: brand-new) films, which cost $1. There’s no limit on how many items you can check out, and the loan period is seven days.

The only drawback: The Library cannot be held responsible for what happens if a spouse, child, sibling, neighbor, etc., walks in on you working out to Buns of Steel.

Save the Earth

Research green resources on the Web.

In addition to perusing our many books on sustainable living, check out our list of online resources for Green Living in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Public Library also offers many databases to patrons that would otherwise cost a subscription fee to use. To access them, all you need is a Library card number and PIN. Most of our databases can even be accessed from your home computer, but in order to do this, you must first go through our Library website. For green research, try our science databases.

Improve Your Finances

Stay out of the red at the H&R Block Business & Career Center.

Our H&R Block Business & Career Center is a well-known hotbed of entrepreneurship, nonprofits, and job searching. But it also boasts a lot of helpful resources on personal finance.

Don’t fumble around on Google, go straight to the Center’s treasure trove of hand-picked materials and online content on subjects like banking, budgeting, investing, and credit.

And if all else fails, you can schedule a free one-on-one consultation with a business librarian by calling 816.701.3717 or emailing

Join the 21st Century

Take a computer class.

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably not the sort of person who still sends letters via snail mail or places daily calls to the time and temperature guy on your rotary phone. But perhaps you have a luddite in your life who needs to get with the times.

Whether it’s something as basic as setting up an email account (which, in fairness, can sometimes be anything but basic) or as nuanced as staking a claim on Facebook, the Library’s computer classes can help your highly intelligent but computer illiterate Aunt Agatha harness the powers of 21st-century tech.

There’s a computer class pretty much every day somewhere in the Library system. Learn how to build spreadsheets, surf the web, master email, edit documents in Microsoft Word, and even tame that wily e-reader you got for Christmas. All classes are offered free of charge by our super-user-friendly staff.

Whatever path you choose, we wish you the best in the New Year.

And if you get frustrated, just head to the nearest Kansas City Library location. We're here to help, all year long.

-- Jason Harper