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From the Director

We Have Good Friends!

This week, October 19 – 25 is National Friends of Libraries Week.

KPL is pleased to celebrate our good friends, the Friends of KPL. They are major contributors to our library’s success through their community advocacy for the library and their donation of about $50,000 annually to enhance our programs and services.

In their advocacy role, they were the primary funders of our very successful spring millage campaign and, of course, they helped us get the word out about the vote and the library services it supports.
Their annual donation comes from the revenue from the bookstore, located on the lower level of Central Library. They sell “gently used books, very gently priced” that have been donated or have been withdrawn from the library collection.

Their 2013-14 donation funded our summer reading activities, supported the Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee, and provided an enhancement to many programs: Global Reading Challenge, Reading Together, Youth Literature Seminar. They thanked the library staff with years of service recognition and honored retirees.

We have very good friends; they would welcome you as member and as a bookstore patron.
Thank you, good FRIENDS OF KPL, and happy Friends week.

142 Years and Going Strong!

We are in birthday mode!

We trace our founding to October 12, 1872, which makes us 142.

Each year at this time, I pause to consider our long, strong history and appreciate that only about eight years after the Civil War, folks in Kalamazoo were opening a library.

Of course we have considerable information about the library’s history on our website and while you are reading that, enjoy the many essays and other information about Kalamazoo and the area that our staff has compiled.

Please stop by – any of our five locations or our website. We think our founders would be proud of how the library has developed over the years and we acknowledge we are only the current “caretakers;” many others will follow us.

Library Satisfaction & Use

Earlier this summer, a Harris Poll was conducted nationally to determine the level of library satisfaction and use of public libraries.  Here are a few interesting results:

  • 66% of adults are extremely or very satisfied with their public library, a 7% increase from the 2008 survey
  • Parents are more likely than those without children to be extremely or very satisfied
  • 64% of Americans have a library card, down from 68% in the 2008 survey
  • Women are more likely than men to have a library card:  71% vs 57%
  • Higher levels of education coincide with higher likelihood of having a library card; those with a high school education or less are the least likely to have a card
  • 89% of adults believe it is important for children to have their own library card
  • Eight out of ten adults with library cards have used the library in the past year; 18% visit every other week or more
  • The top reason for visiting their library is to borrow a book (56%), borrow a DVD (24%), or borrow / use digital content (15%)
  • Men are more likely to borrow CDs than women (12% vs 7%), to use reference materials (also 12% vs 7%), and to check email (14% vs 5%)
  • 89% feel the public library is a valuable education resource; 65% believe the library is an entertainment resource

None of these results are particularly surprising to me. Based on what I hear from our patrons and the results of our millage vote in May, I am guessing our percentage of adults extremely or very satisfied might be higher than this national poll. I’d also guess that the other findings are in line with those of our patrons.

I hope you are using KPL services, both online and at our five locations. If you haven’t been here in a while, come visit soon.


Read Whatever You Choose

We are joining with libraries, bookstores, and publishers across the country to affirm the freedom to read during Banned Books Week, Sept. 21 – 27.

You may be surprised to learn there are hundreds of reported attempts to remove materials from libraries and schools for content deemed by some as inappropriate, controversial or even dangerous. This year the spotlight is on graphic novels which are often the target for censors.  Two graphic novels appear on the Top 10 List of Most Frequently Challenged Books compiled by the Intellectual Freedom Office of the American Library Association:  Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series at #1 and Jeff Smith’s series Bone at #10.

Banned Books Week is to remind us of the importance of preventing censorship and ensuring everyone’s freedom to read any book they choose.

As in recent years, we will celebrate the week during Art Hop on Friday evening, October 3, with our partner the SW Michigan Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. Local celebrities will read from frequently challenged books.

Join us for this program and exercise your right to read whatever you choose.

Bargains with your Library Card

Libraries promote library cards as the “most powerful card in your wallet.” For the month of September, your KPL card has even more power…. the power for discounts at some popular restaurants and retailers.

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month across the country. In celebration, many Kalamazoo merchants are offering discounts for showing your library card. The ever-growing list is on our website.

Have your KPL library card in hand, visit these local businesses, and enjoy a discount.

Thanks to these restaurants and retailers for partnering with us to promote library card month.

Homework Resources

As usual, summer has gone fast and it is back to school.  Although homework may not be assigned immediately, it will be soon.

KPL subscribes to more than 70 databases, many with a homework help perspective for students at all grade levels, including college. They cover an amazing variety of topics and have been researched and compiled by subject specialists.

Depending upon the format and the licensing agreements with the vendor, some are available through our website for home access, while others are available only within the library. Most require a KPL library card to log-in.

Links on our website for Databases and Homework Help will take you to these resources. Our staff are also available to help guide you to these databases as well as to other materials, both online and in print.

I hope back-to-school has gone smoothly at your home.

Ebooks @ the Library

Amazon recently rolled out “Kindle Unlimited” and described it as 600,000 ebook titles, 1000’s of audiobooks all for $9.99 per month. Read and listen unlimited. It sounds good, but wait…..are the books you want to read and listen to included??

I just read an informal “study”. The author identified about 15 titles, some current some classics, and checked the availability in Kindle Unlimited, in several other ebook services, and at two public libraries.

Hands down, more of the titles, both current and classics, were available through the libraries than from the vendors.

Yes, I realize there are differences…..ebooks through libraries are the library model: place a hold if not available, wait your turn, return the title at the due date BUT more publishers have made their titles available in ebook format to libraries than to Amazon.

KPL participates in a consortium of Michigan public libraries who share ebook services through OverDrive. The price is right… to resident cardholders….and there is a good selection of titles. Information is on our website and our staff are available to help get you started.

My advice….browse our ebook holdings before your subscribe to a commercial ebook service.

Test Prep / Career Help

I often use this blog to promote our services and events. It has been a while since I have called attention to one of my favorite services and one that amazes patrons when I happen to mention it:  Learning Express Library.

Learning Express Library is a database of online classes and video tutorials available to public libraries through the Library of Michigan. It has several components: Job and Career Accelerator; Computer Skills; Adult Learning Center; Career Center; High School Equivalency; College Prep.

If you are preparing to take an exam for a job, college, or even graduate school there is a good chance a practice test is available. If you are considering a career choice or change, there is some good info here. Want to brush up on your computer or math skills or business writing before a job interview? This is the place.

Many folks look to Google for everything. You won’t find the type of learning, practice tests, and career information through Google you will find here. Even if you don’t need it now, we all know family or friends who might find it useful. Help me spread the word about this state-provided service.

Proposition 1 - Personal Property Tax

Many governmental agencies, professional organizations, and businesses are urging a “yes” vote on Proposal 1 on August 5. This week the library board followed the lead of others and passed a resolution of support.

This proposal accomplishes two major goals without raising taxes:

  • Provides a tax cut for small businesses by ending the personal property tax they are required to pay
  • Creates a stable, reliable funding system for such services as police, fire, roads, libraries, and other community services as a replacement for personal property tax revenues

Many organizations and media outlets have published FAQ’s, impact statements, and informational bulletins.  Here is a link to the one complied by the Michigan Library Association.

The library community is hopeful this proposal will pass and eliminate some of the funding uncertainty for libraries.  

Where Have You Read?

I seldom leave home without something to read, usually a magazine, a book, or my e-reader in my purse. Although my phone is also in my purse, I don’t read on it to any substantial degree. Most times I don’t read when I am out and about, but unexpected waiting does occur and then I am glad to have reading materials with me.

Not surprisingly, when I recently came across the “Reader’s Bill of Rights” all ten of them spoke to me:

  1. The right to not read.
  2. The right to skip pages.
  3. The right to not finish.
  4. The right to reread.
  5. The right to read anything.
  6. The right to escapism.
  7. The right to read anywhere.  (My favorite!)
  8. The right to browse.
  9. The right to read aloud.
  10. The right to not defend your tastes.

My motto: Don’t leave home without something to read. Where is the most unlikely place you have read? It might be in line at the grocery store for me.