Library Life

KCResearch Map

It’s always exciting when we at the Library can inspire someone in our community to create something new. Especially something that speaks to the community in an innovative new way.

That’s what happened this week when our friend Carrie Wade of KCResearch used a recent contest held here on KC Unbound to create an interesting new map of Kansas City.

A project of the Kansas City Public Library, KCResearch is an online interactive repository of community information and resources created in and about Kansas City. As senior research coordinator for the project, Carrie has access to a lot of maps and data.

She recently attended a mapping and data visualization workshop where she learned to use a tool called Batch Geo. It’s a free, online application that lets you use Google Maps in conjunction with your own data to create interactive maps.

Well, as alert KC Unbound readers now, we recently solicited ideas from the public to create new maps of Kansas City as part of our Infinite KC Mapmaking Contest. The idea was to look at the landscape, compare the past with the present, and come up with maps that added an element of narrative to the local geographic.

ZaiTavian and Amaureion Kerr

School closings. Teacher layoffs. Low graduation rates. Superintendent upheaval. Battles with the mayor. It's been a rough year for Kansas City Public Schools. That's why a new partnership with the Kansas City Public Library couldn't come at a better time.

If all goes according to a Memorandum of Agreement signed into effect January 26, 2012, over the next year, the school district will receive an influx of Library cards, services, and resources. The Library, in turn, will receive an influx of new users, broadening our community of readers and making a direct impact in an area of great need in the city.

But first, every student in Kansas City Public Schools is about to get a brand-new Kansas City Public Library card.

"We want to make it easy for students to get access to Library resources, and the first step is to ensure that every child has a card," says Deputy Director Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner.


Nearly 14,000 student users have been added to the system, and under the direction of project leader Crystal Faris, director of Teen Services, our Outreach and Youth Services librarians have begun delivering cards.

Christopher Elbow Valentine heart

Tonight, Victorian love guru Jennifer Phegley visits the Central Library to discuss her book Courtship and Love in Victorian England. And today, right here on KC Unbound, we’ve got the results of our Victorian Valentines reader contest.

As alert readers are well aware, this past week we asked you to craft clever personal ads for characters from Victorian novels and post those ads to Facebook and Twitter. The winner, as chosen by a team of lovelorn librarians, would receive a copy of Phegley’s book plus a box of chocolates from local chocolatier par excellence Christopher Elbow.

Meanwhile, as the social media sphere around Kansas City saw an uptick in conversations with a 19th-century literary flare, we talked with Dr. Phegley about how real-life Victorians practically invented the newspaper personal ad.

Phegley will share more stories of how our Victorian forebears found love during her free 6:30 p.m. presentation tonight in Helzberg Auditorium. (RSVP now to attend.)

Black Archives facade

There’s a new joint down on 18th & Vine, and it’s not a jazz club. But that doesn’t mean that when it opens in June 2012, the Black Archives of Mid-America won’t get off to a swinging start.

With an upbeat blend of live programs, rich historic collections, and eye-catching exhibits – not to mention its recently renovated headquarters – the Black Archives will let Kansas Citians interact with a vision that has been decades in the making.

In its gorgeous, Silver LEED-rated home in the historic Parade Park Maintenance Building at 1722 E. 17th Terrace, the Black Archives will combine preservation with education and fun. Historians will visit to conduct research, and kids will come for the programs.

It’s a model not so different from a modern public library.

That’s no coincidence, either. The Kansas City Public Library has been helping to shape the Black Archives’ growth for decades.

The Library’s relationship with the Black Archives goes back to the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when founder Horace Peterson was housing his collection of regional African-American historic documents, artifacts, and memorabilia in a former firehouse at 2033 Vine St.

Script-in-Hand banner

Our sixth annual Script-in-Hand series launches this Sunday with a free performance and a brand-new look. Produced by Kansas City's Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, "Women of the Years" features six plays with insights into the lives of women, young and old.

One of the knocks against Hollywood is that as soon as an actress (Meryl Streep excepted) reaches an age where she has enough life and performing experience to really deliver the goods, she's considered too old to star in a movie.

The theater, though, loves its actresses. On the stage, getting older means getting better.

To see that you need only check the titles featured in the Library’s 2012 Script-in-Hand series, a program of free readers'-theater-style performances featuring local professional actors and directors.

Women of the Years is the topic this time around, and the six plays selected by the Metropolitan Theatre Ensemble’s Karen Paisley provide not only endless insights into the lives of women but terrific roles for actresses of all ages.

Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, for example, is a mid-70s hit that through poetry reveals the inner lives of 20 African American women – the joys, the pain, the triumphs and defeats.

Adult Library Card

The age-old question What’s in your wallet? just got a smarter answer. Starting today, newly redesigned Library cards are available to all Kansas City Public Library customers, new and returning.

The new cards will provide the same all-access pass to our bounteous resources – books, DVDs, databases – and best of all, they don’t cost a thing. Yet. Today through the end of February 2012, you can come in and swap out your old card for a new one, free of charge.

After that, a fee will apply if you want to get a new card: $1 for adults, 50 cents for youth, which is what we charge to replace damaged or lost cards. Or, if you’re one of those contrarians who shuns all things new and shiny, you can hang onto your old card as long as you want. (This may also be useful if you are a power-user* who has memorized your Library card number.)

Important note: We have issued two different card designs, one for adults and one for youth.

The design differentiation serves both an aesthetic and a practical purpose. First, kids and teens get a card designed especially for them. Second, adults will never be able to check out materials onto a kid’s card, thereby risking accruing late fees on an innocent young patron’s account. So, hands off, Aunt Augustine.

Tom Sawyer Penguin cover

It was a year of ice and fire in the book industry, of fallen leaders, marriage plots, and Paris wives. But amid the usual best-seller buzz, Kansas City Public Library customers were thrilling to a 135-year-old novel of a boy’s life in rural Missouri.

That’s right, Aunt Polly. When we ran the circulation numbers for 2011, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, this year’s Big Read selection, stood boldly atop the list.

Surpassing runner-up The Help by more than 200 bleeps of the barcode scanner, Tom Sawyer became the second Big Read selection to earn the most checked-out book of the year honors.

Carrie McDonald photo

It's the day before Thanksgiving. The Central Library is closed to the public due to a water main break. Down on the first basement level, Carrie McDonald is days from retirement. It should be a great opportunity for kicking back and reflecting on nearly 30 years of service.

But "kicking back" is not in Carrie's vocabulary.

Before we can ask what she's going to do with her retirement, the Library's Outreach Manager for the past 18 years jumps from her desk chair, strides between stacks of children's books, and scribbles labels on a stack of Books to Go boxes with a Sharpie.

Before the ink has even dried, she's back at her desk, giving directions to a confused delivery driver who has dropped in to pick up books.

"It's wonderful how a finite number of hours in my career has helped me focus," she says.

Carrie's working life was quieter 27 years ago when, as a student in Emporia State University's graduate library science program, she was hired part-time to maintain databases on a late shift in the old Main Library. After a few months, she moved up to the reference desk at the Plaza Branch.

Give Us a Gig photo Aaron Deacon Social Media Club

Unless you’ve been living in a hole out in the prairie, communicating with the outside world only through smoke signals and/or fax machine, at some point in the past few months you’ve heard murmurs about the impending arrival of Google Fiber to Kansas City.

But in case you haven’t, get ready – the gig is coming.

A thousand times faster than broadband, 20,000 times faster than your dial-up prairie fax machine, Google Fiber will bring an Internet connection so fast, powerful, and flexible it will feel more like a whole new utility.

Google is currently laying fiber optic cable under the streets of Kansas City on both sides of the state line, and sometime in the first half of next year, folks living in KCMO and KCK will have the option to subscribe to the service at home. It’s also expected to become available in many public buildings, such as libraries and schools.

For us, this is huge.

Indeed, here at the Library, we’ve been full-on obsessing over the potential benefits that a light-speed 1GB connection could bring to our city. Empowering entrepreneurs, giving the school district a shot in the arm, decreasing the digital divide, improving health care for the disadvantaged – there are few areas of life, it seems, that couldn’t stand to gain from a stronger, faster Internet connection.

Wick Thomas

Every November, amateur novelists around the world put their word processors where their mouths are in daring attempts to spit out 50,000-word tomes in a mere 30 days.

This year, a hearty group of Central teens led by Youth Services Associate Wick Thomas joined the ranks of flash novelists to take up the National Novel Writing Month challenge.

"NaNoWriMo," as it's known for short, began in San Francisco in 1999. Thanks to its founders' Internet savvy, it has spread to a worldwide phenomenon, with major literary blogs such as GalleyCat providing daily coverage. This year, NaNoWriMo organizers tallied a collective word count of 3,074,772,767.

Contributing 138,000 of those words: Wick's teens.

"I didn't know the teens would be so excited to participate," Wick says.

Wick found helpful support in NaNoWriMo's resources for young writers, including a free "Triumphant Chart of Noveling Progress," on which teens could write their names and track their progress.

Derrick Barnes photo

In just three years, talented and industrious Kansas City author Derrick Barnes has published eight books through youth publishing giant Scholastic. But when his fourth son was born, Barnes needed extra income to pay the bills.

So he, like many professional, published authors, began looking for work.

“I was looking for a job that was in line with what I do as an author,” says Barnes.

When a friend forwarded Barnes a job listing for a part-time position in the Library’s Outreach department, he saw the opportunity to ply his skills as a crafter and reader of stories for children. Soon, he will begin conducting reading programs on behalf of the Library through the Stories to Go program.

“It’s a nice little marriage,” he says.

Barnes is best known for his Ruby and the Booker Boys series of books about a quick-witted underdog girl trying to stand out in a family of boys. He’s also published several teen novels, including the recent We Could Be Brothers, which he discussed earlier this year at the Kansas City Public Library as part of the Guys Read program.

As a working author, Barnes frequently visits schools and libraries to read his books and share his experiences as a writer. The Library job will provide him practice in the off season – and afford him the chance to do a little market research.

Halloween kids at Central Library

For Ashlei Wheeler, Teen Services specialist at the Waldo Branch, reading to children is an interactive experience. "It's so much fun to see them get into it and want to know what happens next," Wheeler says.

"They notice things differently than adults do. They notice things that get them psyched, and that gets me psyched, too."

"I like the creativity they bring to it," Wheeler adds.

Unfortunately, many children in the Kansas City Public Library's service area don't get to have this kind of creative, interactive reading experience on a regular basis.

According to a 2009 Jumpstart report, the average child growing up in a low-income family has only been exposed to 25 hours of one-on-one reading. (Compare that with 1,000-1,700 hours in middle-class homes.)

Early childhood literacy is a key indicator of future academic success.

According to the Jumpstart report, 37 percent of children arrive in kindergarten lacking the skills necessary for lifetime learning. If they haven't developed them by third grade, there's a good chance they never will.

If kids start behind, they'll stay behind.

Veronica Manthei photo

Veronica Manthei is one eclectic lady. Stop her the next time she reports for duty as a Library Technical Assistant at the North-East Branch, and you're likely to find her with a slew of books, audiobooks, and movies checked out to her account.

Some of them, quite likely, in Spanish.

"The rule in my house growing up was, 'You cross the threshold, you speak Spanish,'" Manthei says.

To give you an idea: When we visited with Manthei, she had 39 checkouts, including The Rum Diary on audiobook in her car, LL Cool J's Platinum Workout in her kitchen, a romance novel (ahem, Viking Heat) in her purse, The Discovery of Witches on playaway, a couple of indie movies on DVD, several graphic novels, and season two of Glee.

Her eclecticism doesn't end there.

Born in Boston to Argentine parents, she grew up in Florida. She then went to college first at George Washington University in D.C., where she studied political science and special education, then completed her schooling at the University of Texas at Austin, with a degree in biology.

Since then, she's lived in New York, New Jersey, and Iowa. In 2006, she and her husband, Gregory (who's of German-Czech descent), and their two children, Alexandra and Garion, moved to Kansas City.

"I've told my husband, 'We don't need a house, we need a covered wagon,'" Manthei says, and laughs.

Union Station neon sign photo

Like many great brainstorming sessions in the history of public libraries, it began with librarians gathered around a blackboard, pizza and drinks on hand. But, unlike most, it ended with the awarding of a $100,000 grant.

One night this past July, Youth Services librarians Crystal Faris, Jamie Mayo, and Kim Patton gathered in the home of their colleague Mary Thompson to form a plan that would rock Kansas City teens' world.

They imagined a place where community teens could access digital media production tools and software and create original content that showcases their imagination capabilities. All the while, the teens would be learning new skills with new technology.

Or, as cultural youth anthropologist Mizuko Ito famously put it, a place for "hanging out, messing around, and geeking out."

In June 2011, the Institute of Museum and Library Services put out a request for proposal for the creation of mentor-led, interest-based, youth-centered "Learning Labs" in libraries and museums around the country. The grant would be funded by IMLS and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign.

Ollie Gates and Crosby Kemper III

Ollie Gates thinks that you can beat him at barbecue. That’s what he told the audience at last night at the Kansas City Public Library's Central Library in a public conversation with Library Director Crosby Kemper III. Mr. Gates joined us to help celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, an initiative of the Kaufmann Foundation, as a part of our ongoing series, Kansas City: Cradle of Entrepreneurs.