Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Introducing LibX KPL Edition!

For most of us, using the KPL catalog is pretty simple- go to the catalog page, enter in some text to search for, and away you go. In most cases, that's good enough. But what if you wanted a more powerful way to search? What if you were surfing your favorite non-KPL website and saw an author's name or a book title and wanted to look it up in the KPL catalog right now? Well, now you can, thanks to the LibX extension for Firefox and Internet Explorer. LibX is an open-source extension that adds a toolbar or right-click menu to your browser which you can use to search any selected text directly in the library catalog. You can also search for keywords in other sites such as Google, Wikipedia, or, and you can even look up selected books in the MelCat database and find titles held at other Michigan libraries! LibX also adds a search option to popular sites like Amazon that let you see if KPL has a book before you buy, or find a title linked from the New York Times Book Review. While the LibX extension isn't written by KPL staff and we can't guarantee that it won't conflict with your browser or other installed extensions, we've tested it with Firefox and IE and it works great. See for yourself! Just head to the LibX KPL Edition page and click the "Install" link located halfway down for your particular browser.


LibX KPL Edition
Stewart F.

Preserving Food 101

A large, enthusiastic crowd gathered to learn the basics of preserving food on June 22. Mike Rowe, director of Food, Nutrition and Retail Services at Bronson Hospital, discussed equipment, procedures and safety considerations.

Home preserving yields delicious results, gives the cook more confidence in knowing where the food came from, and — if done in large quantities — can be more economical than store-bought.

kpl-programs-015-2-160.jpgHome preserving also can be the center of beloved family traditions. Co-presenter Heidi Butler spent her childhood learning how to can and freeze. Two things her family wouldn’t be without: home canned tomato soup and applesauce, the preparation of which continues to involve multiple generations. Labor Day is spent making tomato soup.

“We’ve been doing it forever,” Butler says. “It’s just something I know will happen.” Her young daughter now is involved and is learning how to select good fruit.

Summer’s harvests have just begun. Why not save some a bit of summer for next winter? Take a look at KPL’s book collection for recipes and instructions. And here are a couple websites: National Center for Home Food Preservation and MSU Extension.


Preserving Food 101

David Hajdu’s Untold Stories

Jerry Garcia said the trouble started with comics. Author David Hajdu, who visited KPL on June 4, quoted the late Grateful Dead guitarist who claimed rock and roll culture — a romanticizing and escalation of violence, a cynicism toward authority and formal institutions, governments, schools — shouldn’t be blamed on Elvis. No, it went back further, to the 1940s, in the pages of comic books.

Not just any comic books, but a pulpy breed with a mean streak that turned the notion of comic book hero inside out. Not only were these books filled with violence, but the protagonist often was a perpetrator of it. Readers had voracious appetites for these stories, which crossed boundaries of gender and class. In those days, some 60 to 100 million comic books were sold each week. Reading comic books and trading them with friends was the most popular form of entertainment.

As this new breed of comics came to the forefront, kids seemed to change and parents took notice, Hajdu said. Then came “the clash” and the comics controversy was caught up in the larger Post-War “red scare.” The details of these times are captured in Hajdu’s book The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comics Scare and How it Changed America.

Listed on many of 2008’s “best books” lists, The Ten Cent Plague is the third book for David Hajdu, music critic for The New Republic and a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Hajdu says he is drawn to untold stories.

The untold story in Hajdu’s first book Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn, was about the composer and arranger of jazz who worked with Duke Ellington for some 30 years. You may think “Ellington” when you hear “Take the ‘A’ Train,” but you should also think “Billy Strayhorn.” Strayhorn was pure genius, but the glory went to Ellington. 

After compiling this history of jazz musicians in Harlem and Paris, Hajdu went on to explore another facet of American music: the folk scene of early 1960s Greenwich Village. Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña dishes on these musicians and their contributions and examines how Dylan became Dylan.

Check out Hajdu’s books, all of which are in KPL’s collections, and read his music columns in The New Republic.


The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comics Scare and How it Changed America

Millish was marvelous in May!

On May 13, the Michigan based worldjazzCeltic, band Millish performed for fans of in KPL's 12th consecutive free concert. The guys are all award-winning musicians and it definitely showed as they skillfully entertained the audience with tracks from their first self-titled CD.

Millish's unique style of music gives the listener a sense of traveling in a place where the best sounds of music throughout the world all merges together. 

Check out out the video to see what I am talking about!


Kevin King

Why Read During Summer Vacation?

In a recent issue of Book Links (May 2009), Dean Schneider, in an article titled "Reading in an Electronic Age", said the following:  "Books are what draw kids to reading in the first place, and they need to have uninterrupted space in their lives to enjoy reading for fun.  As summer approaches, there's no better way to promote the all-important connection between kids and books."

Kalamazoo Public Schools encourages its elementary students to read twenty (20) minutes EACH day of their summer vacation.  As librarians, we, as well as educators, can point to any number of studies that indicate the fact that a child who doesn't read much or at all over a long vacation actually "forgets" how to read and has to re-learn the skill in the fall.  So, Kalamazoo Public Library, in cooperation with the schools, has incorporated the "twenty (20) minutes a day" into its summer reading program for children entering grades 1-4 this fall.

Built around the theme, "Be Creative @Your Library", the Kalamazoo Public Library is offering reading games for people of all ages, beginning on June 11th.  Check the library's website ( for more information, or give us a call at 553-7804.


Kids Summer Reading Game
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