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From the Director

Personal Property Tax: A Critical Source of Library Funding

Several weeks ago, I wrote about library funding threats with the proposal to eliminate personal property tax. The issue continues to receive media attention across the state but most of the coverage does not mention that personal property tax (PPT) is a critical source of local library funding.

The legislature will take up this issue in January. The library community is committed to informing our legislators and our patrons of the importance of this revenue source and what it would mean if it was eliminated and not replaced.

Personal property tax is a tax paid by businesses, not individuals or homeowners. It is based on the tangible or physical assets of a business such as office furniture, computers, industrial machinery and equipment, copy and fax machines. It is not a tax on land and buildings.

About 10%, $1.2 million, of our revenue is from personal property tax. If PPT was eliminated and not replaced by a guaranteed, stable funding source for libraries, KPL would be forced to make significant reductions in our programs and services, in addition to those we have already made. We would further reduce services hours at all locations, eliminate adult programming and reduce youth programming, have fewer public computers , buy fewer new materials…..basically all services would be reduced, with some eliminated.

KPL, like most libraries, is increasingly busy. Our circulation is up 31% in the first six months of the year; computer use, patron assistance, attendance at events – all up.

The library community is advocating “replace, don’t erase” the personal property tax. If eliminated, it needs to be replaced. Our board of trustees has adopted a resolution supporting that approach.

Please ask your state representative or senator to fully replace the tax, consider writing a letter to the editor, and share this library threat with others.


Replace Don't Erase

2011 Favorites

The “best of” lists are out in full force. Along with these lists, nominations for awards for 2011 books, music, and movies are also being announced.

Many KPL staff are sharing their favorite books, movies, and music from the year to support our priority of “reading, viewing, and listening for pleasure.” Our lists, along with ones from previous years, are on our website.

I freely admit I am not current on music or movies, but I think I am current on books until I see these lists. I realize how many titles I haven’t even heard of that are staff favorites. I’ve also learned whose reading interests are similar to mine – I’ve likely to enjoy the book if it is on their list.

What was your favorite from the year?….a new book, an older one you had missed….doesn’t matter. Please share!

I hope the new year provides time and opportunity for reading, viewing, and listening for pleasure for you. Best wishes.


Best of 2011

Year-End Donations

It is the time of year when we all received many solicitations for a wide range of good and worthy causes.

The library does not conduct an annual fundraising campaign nor send out a solicitation request but, of course, donations are always welcome and greatly appreciated.

Unfortunately, from our perspective, charitable contributions to nonprofits, like the library, were eliminated in Michigan’s tax reforms for 2012. That means this year, 2011, is the last year your cash donation to the library could earn up to a 50% Michigan tax credit.

Currently, a maximum gift of $400 to the library by a married couple filing jointly earns a Michigan tax credit of $200. With the similar federal deduction, the actual cost of that $400 gift is just $76.

A donation to the library can be designated for a specific collection, such as large print or children’s; a location such as your neighborhood branch; or a service such as Ready to Read, Reading Together, adult programming. Undesignated gifts are directed where they are needed most.

We appreciate if you think of the library when you are considering your year-end giving, keeping in mind the change in the tax laws for next year.


Support the Library

Best of the Year

As year-end approaches, almost every publication has its “best of” list. Lists of best books, movies, and music, at least in some editor’s or reviewer’s opinion, are especially popular. When I see such list of books, I immediately want to begin checking off those I have read and adding those I haven’t read and sound good to my “list of books to read sometime.”

Some lists are divided by genre….travel , romance, historical fiction, mysteries….and on and on. Library staff are working on our lists to share. We are dividing ours by format: books, movies, and music to match our strategic priority of “reading, viewing, and listening for pleasure.” We want to share with you what we liked, no matter what the reviewers or critics might have said about the title.

Our lists are due December 5 so look for our “best of the year” shortly thereafter on our website. In the meantime, you can review our favorites from past years. When you see our lists, please share yours on one of our blogs.

I hope it has been a good year of reading, viewing, and listening for pleasure for you. As always, I’ve added more titles to my list than I read ; it gets longer each year. I need more reading time in 2012!


Best Of 2011

Spelling for Books

The 11th annual Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee was another night of fun and successful fundraising for our Ready to Read program.

Many folks with serious day-time responsibilities put on outlandish costumes and brightly colored wigs and acted “wild and wacky,” as we say, all for a good cause - to raise money to purchase books to give to at-risk children in Kalamazoo County.

Teams of eight adults – two courageous spellers and six outrageous cheerleaders – provided the fun. The spellers competed in two 60-second rounds of face paced spelling – some easy words, some definitely not easy! Their six cheerleaders inspired their spellers and entertained the audience with a 2-3 minute cheer.

And the winners are….

BUT the real winners are the kids who will get the books, often the very first book of their own. About $24,000 was raised at the Spelling Bee. That will buy a lot of books.

You can watch the fun on Public Media Network, Channel 95:

  • Monday, November 21, 7 pm
  • Wednesday, November 23, 9 pm
  • Sunday, November 27, 2 pm

We know how to have fun for a good cause!!



Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee

American Education Week

As I have often written, each day and week has some special designation, many relevant to libraries. This week, November 13–19, is the 90th anniversary of “American Education Week.”

The goal of this designated week is to “inform the public of the accomplishments and needs of schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs.”

KPL is particularly proud of our relationship with Kalamazoo Public Schools. As I previously wrote in this blog and in our newsletter LINK, all KPS first graders recently visited one of our libraries and were given their own library card. We are now in the midst of their second visit to return the books they checked out and hopefully to begin a pattern of regular library visits.

We are now preparing for the “Global Reading Challenge,” a battle of the books type program for fourth and fifth graders; we just concluded this year’s “Youth Literature Seminar” focusing on teen literature; and, of course, we have many resources for students at all grade levels, both in print and online.

We applaud our colleagues in education and join them in supporting student learning and achievement.


American Education Week

Conference Take-aways

The annual conference of the Michigan Library Association (MLA) was held here in Kalamazoo a week ago. The facilities at the Radisson, downtown restaurants, and ease of finding their way around seemed to work well, at least from the perspective of those who mentioned it to me. Many walked down the street to the library; I hope some visited and shopped in our Friends Bookstore too.

The conference sessions were arranged by tracks. Most of the ones I attended were on the “ask the expert” track and focused on library millages, tax captures, legislative lobbying, employment issues. More fun than those though, was one presented by our Youth Services staff on “Won’t You Be My Neighbor – Getting Volunteers from the Community Involved in Storytimes.”

As expected, there were sessions and conversations about ebooks, technology opportunities and challenges, personal property tax threats.

It was a worthwhile conference. I came away with confirmation that KPL is a strong player in the state library scene but there is always something new to learn from others, that funding threats are a real concern but we are stronger when our voices are combined, and that reading and books are still our brand but the delivery is changing quickly.

Thanks MLA and downtown Kalamazoo for hosting a good conference.


Michigan Library Association

Library Funding Threat Continues

The proposal to eliminate personal property tax in our state has been well covered in the media. Most of the articles or opinion pieces have not mentioned however, that personal property tax is a critical source of local library funding.

If personal property tax is eliminated and not fully replaced, KPL will lose about $1.2 million or about 10% of our revenue. Some Michigan public libraries depend on this tax for up to 50% of their funding.

KPL has not yet determined the exact reductions we would make to accommodate a revenue loss of this magnitude. Certainly we would reduce staffing, programming, and materials purchases but we would likely also be forced to eliminate entire services, reduce hours, and perhaps close branches.

The library community is advocating to “replace, don’t erase” the personal property tax. If it is eliminated, it needs to be fully replaced by a guaranteed, stable source of funding for all libraries.

Please ask your legislators to fully replace the personal property tax, consider writing a letter to the editor, and share this library threat with other in our community.

Contact your Michigan Representative | Contact your Senator


Replace Don't Erase

Now Read This

As I have often written, “reading, viewing, and listening for pleasure” is one of our priorities. Many services to readers are described on our website... ...Book My Favorites, eBooks, New Fiction, New Nonfiction, Hot Picks, Book Club in a Bag for book groups, and others. We now have a new one—Now Read This for personalized reading recommendations from our staff.

We are available to suggest titles that match your reading interests. Complete the form on our website telling us books or authors you love, titles you have enjoyed or not enjoyed, genres you enjoy or would rather avoid, subjects about which you would like to read more widely. Within 7 business days, our staff will email you a list of 5 recommendations based on your interests. If you aren’t happy with those recommendations, we’ll try again!

Staff members haven’t read every book in our collection but we are familiar with most of them, we read lots of reviews, and we talk about what we have read among ourselves and with patrons.

We hope you use and enjoy this new service for readers. Let me know with a comment on this blog or email to


Now Read This!

We All Need Friends

We all need friends and KPL is fortunate to have very good ones….Friends of the Kalamazoo Public Library….and this is the week to recognize them.

October 16 – 22 is “National Friends of Libraries Week.” The description encourages “library lovers everywhere to join their local friends of the library group.” I would add to that, in the case of KPL friends, shop their bookstore on the lower level of Central Library to show your support too.

The Friends of KPL contribute $50,000 - $60,000 per year to the library, all from the proceeds from their bookstore. That represents a lot of books….most are priced from 50¢ to $2.50. As their slogan states….“gently used books, gently priced.” Our community is generous in donating books to the Friends for them to sell to benefit the library.

The Friends contribution funds our summer reading games for all ages and provides support for some signature ongoing programs: Global Reading Challenge, Reading Together, and concerts among others.

Happy “Friends of Libraries Week.” They would welcome you as member.


Friends of Kalamazoo Public Library

2011 State History Award

The Historical Society of Michigan presented its 2011 State History Awards at their recent 137th annual meeting and conference. I’m pleased to report that KPL won the award in the “newsletters and websites” category for the local history section of our website “All About Kalamazoo History.”

The announcement described the 600 interconnected web pages covering more than 20 categories with basic as well as detailed information. It was cited as “an invaluable resource for researchers ranging from middle school students competing in history day to genealogists.”

Of course we are pleased to receive this recognition but even more importantly, we are pleased and hopeful that the announcement of this award and the accompanying publicity, will prompt even more use of the resources our staff has created.

I congratulate and thank our local history and website staff for their work and foresight in developing the local history section of the KPL website. I’m confident you will find something of interest there even if you don’t consider yourself a genealogist or a local history enthusiast.


2011 State History Award

Banned Books

We will be celebrating the 30th annual Banned Books Week (BBW) with Art Hop and a Read Out on Friday evening, October 7, from 5 to 8 pm.

BBW celebrates the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. It draws attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the country.

Again, as in recent years, we are partnering with the local chapter of the ACLU to sponsor an art contest inspired by one of the six books most frequently challenged or banned. The submissions will be on display during Art Hop. The winner will be announced at the event and later posted on the KPL and ACLU websites.

In addition to the art, the Read Out will focus on read aloud passages from challenged or banned books. You might be surprised at some of them: Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic, Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, to name a few.

Many authors whose books have been challenged are participating in Read Outs around the country. Authors as well as readers are raising awareness of book censorship by posting videos on YouTube of themselves reading from their favorite banned books.

Celebrate and appreciate your freedom to read whatever you want to read!


Banned Books Art Contest

National Library Card Sign-Up Month

September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month as declared by the American Library Association. It is the logical time of year for libraries to remind parents that a library card is the most important school supply of all.

For the first time this fall, all 1st grade classes from the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) will visit one of our locations. They will visit twice in the fall, and hopefully, once in the spring. Classes will visit the nearest KPL location; some will walk, some will come on school buses.

On their first visit, we will have library cards ready for all students who do not currently have one. They will hear a story from a librarian, find a book to take home, and check it out on their very own card. A few weeks later they will come again to return the book and check out another. The hope is the third visit will be with their family and will establish a routine for regular family visits.

The spring visit will be to sign-up for summer reading.

We are excited to have over 1,100 1st graders visit one of our four branches or Central Library. KPL and KPS are partnering to make this happen – it takes a lot of coordination as we work together to emphasize the importance of reading and regular family library visits.


The Smartest Card

Funding Threats

Our state legislature is considering the elimination of personal property tax (PPT), a tax paid by businesses on industrial equipment. PPT is a critical source of funding for municipalities and public libraries.

The average public library receives 11% of its revenue from PPT, some libraries as much as 30%. KPL is at the average with about 11% of our revenue from PPT.

The decline over the past few years in property taxable values has reduced library budgets, including ours. As library users know, we eliminated bookmobile service, reduced hours at branches and law library, reduced staff by about 10%, and cut expenditures in most all budget categories.

If PPT is eliminated, it must be totally replaced by a guaranteed, stable source of funding if library services are to continue at even near their current level. Without a replacement, we will be forced to consider a further reduction in hours, closing branches, reducing or eliminating programming, reducing staff.

Library use is soaring. We had record breaking circulation of library materials during our summer reading games and strong program attendance. Our public computers are full during most open hours and library visits have increased.

The Michigan Library Association is lobbying on behalf of libraries. They are reminding our legislators the PPT is a critical source of funding for public libraries and if it is eliminated, it needs to be replaced. I urge you to contact your legislator too.

Contact your Michigan Representative | Contact your Senator


Replace Don't Erase

International Literacy Day

Most every day, week, and month has some designation. September 8 is International Literacy Day, a designation with particular relevance to libraries and to Kalamazoo.

Of course libraries care deeply about literacy – that’s a given. Our community does too with the recent announcement of The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo, as well as The Kalamazoo Promise, Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo, The Kalamazoo Literacy Council, and the emphasis this year in the Kalamazoo Public Schools on reading and writing.

International Literacy Day has been designated by the United Nations to raise awareness of and concern for literacy issues in the world with particular emphasis on the importance of literacy for a healthy society. The UN estimates that one in five adults worldwide cannot read and two-thirds are women.

September 8 will be a good day to pause and appreciate that you can read, but also to consider how you can get involved and truly make a difference. Communities in Schools and Kalamazoo Literacy Council both are in need of volunteer tutors.


International Literacy Day

Summer Reading Reflections

I have often written about summer, beach, vacation reading... what I am reading, asking what you are reading, the angst of having the wrong or not enough books along on a trip, how reading sometimes changes in the summer.

I recently read an essay in which the writer reflected on summer reading. He reminisced about the decision of what books to take along on a trip and the worry of making a bad choice or not having enough books along, especially if you were traveling to a remote area. He remembered vacation was not a time to challenge himself with a particularly heavy book, not in weight or tone.

Well, times have changed. Now books travel easily in a variety of formats and you can have hundreds of books practically in your pocket and definitely in your suitcase. No worry about the wrong title or not enough.

This is not a new idea of course, but like a lot of essayists, the writer said it well and gave me pause to reflect on the changing world of books yet again.

I hope you had a good summer of reading in your format of choice.


Summer Reading

Celebrate Summer Reading!

Summer has gone fast, too fast as usual. We’ve had a great summer of reading games. Registration for the games has been strong AND we’ve had record-breaking circulation on several Mondays, our busiest day of the week.

Programs have been fun – Bubbleman and Chemical Kim entertained kids; tweens and teens watched the Harry Potter movies, adults celebrated the world premiere of local author Bonnie Jo Campbell’s new book, music fans enjoyed Joe Reilly at the Oshtemo Township Park and Steppin’ In It at our 50th free concert.

It’s been a good summer of reading for all ages and now we are ready to celebrate! I hope you can join us at the end-of-summer concert on Sunday afternoon, August 28 at 4:00 in Bronson Park. The Verve Pipe will entertain with catchy songs and melodies from A Family Album, their critically-acclaimed collection of music for the entire family. One reviewer says it is full of “insanely fun, playful and memorable songs that will turn your smile upward.”

I hope to see you in the park for the concert!

Family Album illustrations


The Verve Pipe, A Family Album

You Could Win a Prize!

Later this year, we will stop mailing paper hold and overdue notices and move to email, phone, or text message.

We have been mailing over 2,000 notices per month. That’s a lot of paper, ink, and postage AND it takes a few days to reach you. Email, phone, or text is much faster and increasingly preferred by our patrons.

To reach you by email, phone, or text we must have your correct information. Please enter our “Verify My KPL Record!” contest by the September 3 deadline and have a chance to win some great prizes, including the grand prize of an iPad®! Only one contest entry per person.

We always need your current info; this contest is just an added incentive to verify your library record now. Whenever you move, change your email address or get a new phone number, please remember to update it at the library too.


Verify My KPL Record!

Publishing Pace

It has long been the rule of thumb within the publishing industry that the hardcover edition of a book was released first, followed by a large print edition and audio version, then a paperback edition about a year or so later, depending upon the pace of sales for the hardcover. That’s changing.

The first change I noticed was the release of the large print and audio versions soon after the hardcover. Now the ebook version is in the mix too. The ebook is released with the hardcover and sometimes before the hardcover OR sometimes just an ebook and no hardcover.

There is now an urgency to release the paperback sooner, following the model of Hollywood which has shortened the time between the theatrical release of a film and the DVD release. Publishers now watch each title’s sales quite closely to determine the best time to release the paperback and continue the momentum of the title. That could be just a few months to more than a year.

The entire publishing cycle is faster. Hardcovers have less time to prove themselves; ebooks sales are strongest at initial publication and do not spike again with the paperback release.

We purchase popular titles in all of these formats, some simultaneously, some staggered as they are released. In addition to various formats, we also purchase for special collections such as Hot Picks and Book Club in a Bag.

Come visit soon – I hope we have the title you want in the format you prefer.



Various Ways to Travel

Summer is often the time of year for trips near and far. We have many materials to help with trip planning but a case can be made for staying home too.

I recently read an article that made the case that Picasso was particularly prolific because “he never went anywhere.” The author wrote that Picasso only left France twice and got up every morning, including during the Nazi occupation of France, and worked. He didn’t hold with the idea that to understand life it was vital to travel. His inspiration came from museums in his area, reading books and magazines, and watching films. The author concluded that “the greatest artist of the 20th century was basically a shut-in.”

Everyone has a different travel philosophy. ...some want to travel widely, some hardly at all, some want to return to favorite travel destinations and not venture elsewhere.

Our summer reading games this year have a travel theme as participants read for at least 20 minutes each day. I hope you have signed up and are “traveling” though your summer reading. We have materials to help plan a trip, find inspiration for a new destination, or “travel” from your armchair by reading, viewing, and listening with items from our collections.


Novel Destinations: KPL Summer Reading Games

Library Computer Use

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) recently issued a report on library computer users: Who Is In the Queue: Public Access Computer Users. It provides an analysis of public access computer users and demonstrates that public libraries provide much more than basic technology access.

A few key findings:

• One third of the American public used a library computer last year. Libraries are at the crossroads of public computer use serving young and old, rich and poor, people with little formal education to those with graduate degrees.

• 86% of public access computer users reported they also had regular access to a computer and the internet at home. Those who lacked home access reporting using the library computer at least weekly and often daily.

• Young people between 14-19 were most likely to use the public computer s for educational purposes; users 25-54 for employment and training; older adults for health information.

• Libraries have responded to this demand by increasing their investment in hardware, the necessary infrastructure, and databases.

As our regular computer users know, we replaced ours earlier this year, updated the software, and added some new capabilities. KPL resident cardholders may use the computers up to two hours per day. There are often tech interns on duty at Central to help; staff at other locations and information desks can help too.


Public Computers

Winning Cookbooks

Cookbook awards were recently announced by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. More than 500 titles were entered in seventeen categories.

I’m pleased we already have many of the winners in our collection. To name a few you might want to put on hold or look for next time you are here:

• In the “American” category: The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern

• “Baking: Savory or Sweet” category: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies

• “Children, Youth and Family” category: Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners

• “Compilations” category: The Essential New York Times Cookbook

Cookbooks are popular. We are restocking our current display of “grilling” books daily. Although the many food and cooking sites on the internet make it easy to find a particular recipe, it’s not the same as leafing through a new cookbook with mouthwatering photos as you get inspired to try some new recipes and make the grocery list.

Browse our cookbooks on line or on the shelf.


Simple fresh southern : knockout dishes with down-home flavor

Too Many Good Books!

My list of books-to-read-sometime is growing fast. It seems as if every magazine or newspaper I read has a list of “best summer reads.” The titles range from beach reads to classics. I seldom read such a list without adding at least a handful to mine.

NPR recently had a commentary about reading. The point was if you could read two books a week and started that pattern when you were fifteen, still going strong at eighty, you would have read 6,500 books! That’s a lot of books, BUT only a tiny fraction of all the books published EACH YEAR!

None of us readers will ever read all the good books out there, all the books on our own lists. We need to relax about that – I’m talking to myself here too! – and enjoy the ones we do read. As one writer has said, “each book is a wonderful gift and you’re never going to run out of such gifts! That should be a cause for celebration, not frustration.”

Well said, I agree!

I just finished reading Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell and Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch. Next on my reading pile is Room by Emma Donoghue followed by Please Look After Mom by Kyong-suk Sin.

What are you reading?



4th of July Thoughts

There are a few times during the year when it seems logical to pause and consider the role of public libraries – National Library Week and Banned Books Week come immediately to mind but the 4th of July is another one as we think about our country’s history. The public library is an American invention. Early European libraries were subscription based. Supposedly it was the citizens of Peterborough, NH, who introduced the radial concept of a truly public library in 1833. By the 1870’s, eleven states had 188 public libraries, including Michigan and Kalamazoo with the establishment of KPL in 1872.

Fast forward to today. Nationally 2/3’s of the population carry library cards, about half visit a public library at least once a year.

Business is strong for public libraries, including KPL. During economic hard times people turn to the public library to borrow books, DVDs, attend programs, and use computers for job searching. Library use is increasing as funding decreases. KPL has had record breaking use this past year; as we begin our new year on July 1, our primary source of revenue, local property tax, is reduced.

Come visit soon. We continue to offer a wide range of materials and array of programs and have a staff ready to help you.


The History of the Library 

State Funding for Libraries

With the approval of the state budget last week, appropriations for library support, including MeL, the Michigan eLibrary, are now in place.

State aid to public libraries remains about the same as does support for the Library of Michigan - the same, that is, as last year, but reduced substantially over the past several years.

The best news for library patrons is that funding for MeL will continue. We expect a similar array of databases for the next three years, October 2011 through September 2014, as has been offered, including continuation of the recently added Job and Career Accelerator.

Funding for MeLCat, the interlibrary loan system, is also now in place. KPL patrons borrow about 1,500 items per month through this system; KPL loans just as many to patrons of other libraries across the state. I’m pleased this popular, well-used service will continue.

Thanks to patrons who contacted their legislators to advocate for library funding.



Did You Know...

….. if you miss a library program, or just want to enjoy it again, you can often see all or part of it on the library’s YouTube channel?

….. some magazines are available online AND that back issues of magazines can be checked out at our branches?

….. our staff has a wide range of reading interests and they share them on our book blog and in “staff picks” displays?

….. the world premiere of award winning, local author Bonnie Jo Campbell’s new book, Once Upon a River, will be at the Central Library on July 6?

….. all library-sponsored programs are listed on the calendar on our website?

….. you can renew library materials online?

….. you can download an ebook through our website?

….. about the local history photo gallery?

….. summer reading games for all ages are underway?

….. “Steppin’ In It” will perform on July 20 - our 50th free monthly concert?

Come visit soon…..Central Library, any branch, our website.


Library events

Summer @ KPL

If you’ve been by one of our buildings recently, you may have noticed we have our “SUMMER @ KPL” banners out of winter storage and ready for another great summer. And indeed we are ready!

Summer reading games for all ages – youngest to oldest patrons – begin on Wednesday, June 15, the last day of school for KPS, and run through Friday, August 26. The rules are simple: read 20 minutes per day, mark it on the game board calendar, win prizes.

For school age children, the goal is to maintain reading skills over the school break. Teens and adults can be encouraging to children by also signing up for the game and reading with children – read out loud or silently together.

We also have many events planned for the summer – concerts, an acrobatic team, Zoomobile, cartooning, storytimes and more. Full information is on our website.

We will celebrate the end-of-summer reading with a family concert in Bronson Park on Sunday afternoon, August 28.

Thanks to our very good friends, the Friends of KPL, for sponsoring all of our summer reading games. Their generous funding is made possible by the proceeds from their bookstore.

Have a safe and fun summer and leave plenty of time for reading!


Summer @ KPL

Get Job and Career Support Here!

In a previous blog posting, I wrote about the new “Job and Career Support” information on our website. Now I want to highlight one of the new resources, “Job and Career Accelerator” available through our website and available to Michigan residents through the Library of Michigan MeL resources.

The accelerator provides software tutorials, GED preparation, workplace skills improvement, occupation practice tests, and skill building for adults. Information is provided on over 1,000 jobs with local and national job postings and advice on resumes and interviewing.

“One stop” seems like an overused term, but this database really can be a first stop, at least, to improve job skills and begin the job search. The practice tests are a particularly useful resource. New ones are added, most recently electrical, plumbing, air traffic control, and military aviation.

This database is available 24/7 from the library or anywhere you have internet access BUT you must first register at any library in Michigan and create an account with a user ID and password... first time at a library, then log in from anywhere.

If you are looking for a job, considering a career change, or want to update your skills, start here.


Job and Career Accelerator

Browsing the KPL Website

If you frequently browse the KPL website, you know we add new sections often. There are several new ones I want to call to your attention to:

• We have revamped the Job and Career Support section with links to Michigan Works and Goodwill Industries as well as to some library databases and resources of particular interest to job seekers.

Summer Reading Games for all ages will begin June 15. We now have the information on our website with fun graphics for each game.

• There is some new information about eBooks on that section of our website. We are pleased that later this year, OverDrive will be available for the Kindle. We’ll share information as it becomes available.

Our Blogs aren’t new but they are updated frequently. The varied reading, viewing, and listening tastes of our staff mirror those of our patrons. I’ve discovered several recent favorite books from our staff blogs... books that wouldn’t have come to my attention otherwise.

Several staff have a particular interest in Local History and add to the growing list of essays about Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan places and people.

And it’s a big weekend for the Friends of KPL – the Super Saturday Sale on Saturday, June 4, 9 am – 3:30 pm in front of Central Library. Books are 10¢ each or a bag full for $2!

Browse our site. We hope you will find information of interest; we always welcome your feedback.


KPL Website

Reading Together: On to 2012

Reading Together (RT) 2011 ended last week with a visit by Deogratias (Deo) Niyizonkiza and Dziwe Ntaba, co-founders of Village Health Works, and the focus of this year’s RT book, Strength in What Remains. As I wrote on the RT blog, it was a powerful finale to this year’s program.

And now we are ready to think about next year’s RT title. Library staff are exchanging possible titles and themes and will soon meet to begin considering the suggestions, narrowing down the choices, and making a decision. Most likely the title will be announced in late summer or early fall.

We’d like to add your suggestions into the process. What would you like our community to read and discuss next winter?


Strength in What Remains

Remembering the Tornado

For those of us who were in Kalamazoo when the tornado hit downtown in 1980, it is hard to believe it has been 31 years – at least it is hard for me.

When it hit downtown, I was with other library staff at a meeting of the Friends of KPL in the auditorium of the 1959 library building. I remember hearing the sirens, I remember most of the attendees just dismissing it, and I remember one of the Friends saying something like “I grew up in Kansas, I know this could be serious, I’m leaving.” With that comment, we all followed her and went to the basement to join staff and patrons who were gathering here.

I guess it was only a few minutes until the sirens stopped. We all emerged from the basement and saw the devastation as we looked out from the adult reading area of the library – cars parked along South Street with the windows blown out, trees down in Bronson Park and across the streets, curtains flapping and papers blowing out of the shattered windows of the Comerica Building.

The library closed shortly thereafter. It wasn’t until I got home and watched the news that I realized the devastation along the path to downtown AND the further damage downtown.

With this tornado in our memory and all the recent ones south of us, I think we have all learned to take the warnings seriously and move promptly to a safer place.

Our local history staff has compiled photos and video, along with an essay, about the tornado. It will bring back memories to those who were here, interesting Kalamazoo history for those who were not.


TWISTER! The 1980 Tornado

Sunday Service @ KPL

Last week the Friends of KPL and the Friends of WMU Libraries held a joint annual meeting. The program was “Founding Friends.” Lynn Houghton of WMU Archives and Regional History Collection, spoke about Edwin and Cynthia Van Deusen who donated the funds that built the first dedicated building for the Kalamazoo Public Library.

Lynn mentioned that one stipulation of Dr. and Mrs. Van Deusen was that the public library be open on Sundays so that working men, most of whom worked six days per week, would have a day to come to the library.

Of course I have heard or read a fair amount of our history but I had never known about this early requirement for Sunday service. We are currently open Sundays during the school year and have been for many decades. I don’t know if there was ever a break in Sunday service or if the library has been open on Sundays since its founding in 1872.

Our Sunday service for the current school year will end on May 22 and resume in the fall on September 11.

Come visit Central Library on Sundays from 1 pm – 5 pm for two more weeks, but even when we are closed on Sundays over the summer, we are still open six days, and our online branch is always open!


KPL Locations & Hours

Have Brunch with Friends

...the very good FRIENDS OF KPL, that is.

The Friends of KPL and those of WMU University Libraries will hold a combined special meeting on Saturday, May 7, beginning at 9:30 AM at the WMU Fetzer Center.

The event begins with brunch, followed by “Founding Friends,” a historical view of Kalamazoo libraries.

Sharon Carlson will share the history of the Ladies Library Association. Lynn Houghton will talk about Edwin and Cynthia Van Deusen whose gift built the first Kalamazoo Public Library building. Shirley Clay Scott will discuss the Edwin and Mary Meader Rare Book Room at WMU’s Waldo Library and Paul Smithson the A.M. Todd Rare Book Collection at Kalamazoo College’s Upjohn Library.

If you are interested in attending, contact the Friends of KPL at 553-7821 to inquire about the availability of tickets.


Brunch with Friends

New Connection to the Online World!

“Connecting to the online world” is one of our five strategic priorities. As a major step in meeting that priority, we installed over 100 new PCs earlier this month at Central Library and all branches.

New features include, among others

  • A wide screen
  • Microphone and headphone jacks
  • Microsoft Office 2010 Suite
  • Browser choices of Internet Explorer and Firefox
  • Assistive Technology – Windows Eyes and ZoomText

At central, all public PCs have been relocated to the second floor rotunda. We often have a tech aide on duty to help. At branches, staff can assist patrons. Patrons with a valid KPL library card are eligible for up to two hours of computer time per day; guest passes are available for one hour of computer time per day for those without a KPL card who might be visiting our area.

Come visit to use this new equipment; watch for changes in the former Tech Center at central.


Public Computers

Redefining Libraries

Library directors from around the state gathered last week in Grand Rapids for the twice a year summit called by the Michigan Library Association. The theme was Redefining Michigan Libraries for the 21st Century.

The first of two keynote speakers outlined national trends in population, jobs, and talent that are driving economic prosperity. It was a sobering message for Michigan and not encouraging in the short term. He stressed the long term solution is a college educated workforce to compete in the global, knowledge-based economy.

The second speaker, a librarian futurist, addressed the trends in how information is being accessed and used, and the importance of libraries adjusting to these new realities.

After these two presentations, we met in small groups to address related topics, then reported out to the larger group.

Most all libraries report budget reductions, quite substantial cuts for some. As a profession, we are retaining our core values of patron-focused service as we work to expand our relevancy in the knowledge-based society and the move from print to digital.

These are challenging times, but the energy and commitment in this room of library directors was encouraging and heartening.


Redefining Michigan Libraries for the 21st Century

Celebrate Libraries!

This is our week to celebrate – its National Library Week!

NLW, as it is known in the library world, was first observed in 1958. It is sponsored by the American Library Association as a celebration of the contributions of our country’s libraries and librarians, and to promote library use and support.

The first year’s theme was “Wake Up and Read!”….still a good message, 53 years later.

This year’s is “Create Your Own Story @ Your Library.”

We’ve been collecting “your stories” for several years and we’d like to add yours to our collection. There are about 50 on our website and room for yours too. Think about your best library memory, how a library book changed your life, what you’ve learned at the library, how library staff have helped you, then share it with us. It can be from any library that has been important to you, not just KPL.

Your story might introduce someone else to a library service, inspire them to read a particular book, remind them of the importance of reading to children.

We’ve love to hear your story and happy National Library Week to you!


National Library Week

Happy Poetry Month!

Poetry is in the news – April is National Poetry Month.

This celebration was first introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the US. Over the years, free books of poetry have been distributed, a postage stamp of Langston Hughes was issued, a gala honoring Poets Laureate was held at the White House, and poetry readings have been held across the country.

National Poetry Writing Month, also celebrated in April, encourages writing a poem a day in celebration of this literary form! Many teachers focus on poetry with their students this month, both reading and writing.

Whichever is your preference – reading or writing poetry – this is the month and we have many resources.

Come visit soon for materials on poetry or most any other topic.


National Poetry Month

Even More Blogs

If you are familiar with the KPL website, you probably know we have a variety of blogs written by our staff. There are links from our homepage. The blogs – books, movies, music, @ your library (news and events), parenting & kids, tweens, teens, and technology – are an opportunity for our staff to share with patrons what they are reading, viewing, and listening to and what is going on at the library in various areas. We welcome patron comments on all of them.

In addition we have some blogs with helpful information that are not quite as visible to a patron who might be browsing our website.

Our three tech interns each have a blog: Alex has recently written about the internet, Cheryl about creating a strong password, and Ryan about protecting your computer. I always learn something from the blogs of these young tech savvy staff interns.

Local History staff share interesting information about southwest Michigan. A recent post is on historic schoolhouses. They also blog about genealogy, most recently about Canadian genealogy research.

The Friends of KPL share the bookstore specials of the week on their blog; the ONEplace@kpl blog offers news and advice for nonprofits, and a Reading Together blog provides highlights of that program. 

See all the latest posts on our Blogs, News & Reviews page and bookmark the blogs of interest to you, or just scroll through our site from time to time AND please do comment….we welcome and appreciate your feedback.


Blogs, News & Reviews

March is Women’s History Month

March has several designations that relate to libraries – March into Literacy Month and Women’s History Month in particular. We promote and celebrate literacy year round of course; our support for Women’s History Month is not quite as obvious.

National Women’s History Month traces its origins to March 1857 when a group of female New York City factory workers staged a protest over their working conditions. It wasn’t until 1981 that Congress designated the second week in March as National Women’s History Week. In 1987 it was expanded to the entire month.

Each year a Presidential Proclamation is issued in recognition of the month. This year it also commemorates the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the “economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present, and future.” It is to remind us that although progress has been made, there is still much work to be done before women achieve true parity with men.

In keeping with this 100th anniversary and as an emphasis of the current administration, the first federal report since 1963 on the welfare of women in America has recently been issued.

We have many materials in our collection that provide historical background and perspective. Most are in the subject headings of Women history and Women’s rights – history.


Come visit soon for materials on this topic or most any other!


Caroline Bartlett Crane, a KPL Women’s History essay

Funding Threats Continued

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the funding threats to public libraries in the governor’s proposed 2011-2012 budget: the potential reduction in state aid by 40%; threats to other funding streams, particularly personal property tax and renaissance zone reimbursements; and matching funds for Michigan eLibrary.

Michigan eLibrary which includes MeL databases and the popular MeLCat interlibrary loan service, are both threatened. Michigan is not meeting its “maintenance of effort” requirement to receive the federal funds which partially fund MeL. We have received two waivers, a third is not guaranteed. In addition, because of the magnitude of potential funding cuts to public libraries, many may need to pull out of MelCat, even if it is continued. Some of us will just not have the money to continue to offer MeLCat service.

Those who support public libraries and the continuation of services, are urged to contact their state representative and state senator. Ask them to hold state aid to libraries harmless at last year’s level; reimburse libraries for renaissance zone tax credits; and do not eliminate the personal property tax without a revenue neutral replacement.

The Michigan Library Association (MLA) is launching a campaign to protect Michigan libraries; information is on their website. photo: Lawrence Technological University Library


Michigan Libraries for the Future

Book Bargains!

The Friends of KPL will hold a booksale at Oshtemo Branch on Friday and Saturday, March 11 and 12. Many of the books will be discards from the library; like all libraries, we buy many copies of a popular title, then discard some to the Friends when demand has dropped. There are children’s as well as adult books in the sale.

These are great books at bargain prices - 50¢ each or 3 for $1.00!

Periodic booksales and the bookstore on the lower level of Central are the primary revenue sources for our very good Friends. They give the library $50,000+ each year to support our programs and services. Just think how many books pass through the hands of their many dedicated volunteers to generate that level of funding - most books they sell for 50¢ to $2.00. That’s a lot of books handled and sold to generate $50,000+ each year!

Build your home library, support the Friends of KPL as they in turn support the library.


Friends Oshtemo Book Sale

Library Funding Threats

The governor’s proposed 2011-2012 budget reduces state aid to libraries by 40%.

In addition to the potential reduction in state aid, other funding sources for public libraries are also threatened: renaissance zone reimbursements, tax capture of dedicated library millages, elimination of personal property taxes, federal funds.

The Michigan eLibrary databases and MeLCat, the popular and heavily used interlibrary loan system, are funded through a combination of state and federal money. The amount proposed in the governor’s budget is not sufficient to maintain these services at their current level and the entire system could collapse.

The Michigan Library Association (MLA) is advocating for libraries on behalf of our patrons. MLA’s news release(pdf) provides some additional insight to the implications of such a reduction in funding.

Of course these are challenging financial times for our state. Contact your state representative or senator to voice your opinion on library funding as well as other statewide issues. photo: East Lansing Public Library


Perfect Storm of Library Cuts Takes Libraries Back 50 Years

Looking for a Job?

Job seekers have long used the library’s resources in their job search. Many employers accept only online applications – we have public computers, some with resume writing software. Many employers require computer skills – we offer basic classes.

Of course we also have print and online resources – materials on resumes and cover letters, preparing for a job interview, test preparation guides, career planning, switching careers to name just a few.

Now we have a new resource to add – job postings for positions in nonprofits.

The ONEplace@kpl is our nonprofit management support center. One of its many services is a list of jobs available in nonprofit organizations in the area. They are updated weekly.

KPL position vacancies are listed here as well and a recent new hire at the library first learned of the job through the ONEplace. How’s that for a success story!

If you are looking for a job, here is another resource to check periodically to determine what is available that might match your skills and interests.


Nonprofit Employment Opportunities

A Good Year for MeLCat

The numbers are in and MeLCat, our state-wide resource-sharing system, had a recordbreaking year with over one million requests.

KPL patrons continue to use this popular, do-it-yourself interlibrary loan service. KPL cardholders can place their own request at the MeLCat website and within a few days it will be delivered to KPL for them to pick-up. The system is well balanced and we loan about as many items as we borrow.

This statewide service is funded as part the Michigan eLibrary project of the Library of Michigan. Librarians continue to express strong support for this service. Those I have talked to advocate for continued MeLCat funding over direct state aid to public libraries, if a choice needs to be made. Funding for all library services that are state-wide depend upon the priorities for our state budget.

Resource-sharing within Michigan is alive and well. We hope it will continue.



Want to Know About Kalamazoo?

I’ve recently been with our Local History Lead Librarian on three separate occasions when she did a tour of the local history section of our website. Each time I learned something new and interesting about Kalamazoo history and the resources our staff have compiled for genealogists and local history enthusiasts.

Confession: I am not a genealogist nor particularly a local history buff, but I am interested in an overview of our local history, sometimes need to look up some historical detail, and certainly respect the work of our staff to pull information together to create a new resource.

I invite you to explore this section of our website. Look at the photo gallery; marvel at the resources for genealogists in the Cemeteries of Kalamazoo County section; scroll through the general topics and essays – something is sure to interest you.

One of our strategic priorities is “discover your roots: genealogy and local history”. This section of our website is a major resource to meet that priority.

Come visit and use our local history resources – online or in the Local History Room at Central Library.


Local History

Fun Library Facts!

A recently released national study, How Libraries Stack Up: 2010, details how public libraries are delivering millions of dollars in resources and support to meet community needs. A few interesting conclusions:

  • Nearly 12,000 public libraries provide free wireless internet access, more than Starbucks, Barnes & Nobel or Borders. KPL provides free wifi at all locations.
  • 10,800 public libraries offer meeting rooms; every day 225,000 people use them. We have meeting rooms available for public use.
  • There were 1.4 billion library visits last year as compared to 1.3 billion movie attendance and 218 million U.S sporting event attendance. KPL counted 866,268 visitors last year.
  • Every day, Americans borrow 2.1 million DVDs from libraries. Netflix has us beat there, but many libraries, including KPL do not charge for DVD use. What a bargain!
  • U.S public libraries circulate as many materials each day as FedEx ships package worldwide.
  • And finally, 2/3’s of Americans have a library card; for many young people, it is the first card in their wallet.

Statistics like these are fun, but they don’t tell the whole story, of course. Come visit soon – use our wifi, attend a program or event in our meeting rooms, check out a DVD or a book or just sit and relax with a popular magazine in our reading areas.


How Libraries Stack Up: 2010

Post Vacation Reading

Usually I do advance or pre vacation reading, particularly if my husband and I are traveling to a new area. We look through travel books for interesting sites at the destination and places to visit enroute. We often plan the route based on museums, historic sites, art galleries to visit along the way.

Last fall we took a big-for-us vacation: Santa Fe, New Mexico. We did our usual review of travel and history books in advance and made a plan to visit the many museums and art galleries in Santa Fe as well as Taos, various national parks and natural sites in the greater Santa Fe area. One day we went to Bandelier National Monument and nearby Los Alamos.

At Los Alamos we toured the science and history museums for an overview of the fascinating story of this once secret city, the scientists and their families, and the work of the weapons laboratory that developed the atomic bomb. I came home and wanted to read more about the human side of this city and project, not the technical details of the scientific research. I found the perfect book in our collection: 109 East Palace by Jennet Conant.

The book is loosely framed around Dorothy McKibbin, a young widow hired by Robert Oppenheimer, the civilian director of Los Alamos, to run the Santa Fe office. She greeted arrivals who, incredibly enough didn’t know exactly where they were going or what they would be working on, dealt with the numerous challenges of their daily lives, and became the gatekeeper between the hidden world of Los Alamos and the outside world.

The focus is on the day-to-day experiences of those who worked there during the stress of World War II and the rush to develop the bomb to end the war. Some technical details add to the understanding but don’t overpower the human side of this story. Especially interesting was the discussion among those involved of how the development and use of the bomb would change the post war world.

Even though I knew the outcome, of course, this book was still a page turner for me.


109 East Palace by Jennet Conant

Congratulations, Nancy

Generally the national “Librarian of the Year” is not well known outside of the library community and their home state, but this year’s winner, Nancy Pearl, is the exception.

Nancy is often referred to as the “rock star of librarians”! While at Seattle Public Library, she wondered what would happen if everyone read and talked about the same book. The program was so successful that it has been offered at libraries across the country with local variations. KPL’s Reading Together is our version, still going strong as we begin our 9th year.

Nancy can be heard on NPR, Weekday, where she reviews books. She also teaches library school students, does workshops for library staff around the country, presents public programs on the joys of books and reading, has written a series of Book Lust books and, most importantly, is a strong, national advocate for libraries and reading. And this is all from a woman who is “retired”!

I am especially proud that Nancy is a good friend of KPL’s. She visited several years ago and did a workshop on services to readers for KPL staff and a public program, still talked about among those avid readers who attended. Her visit here prompted her to add a “warning” to her workshop for librarians – be aware – patrons may think they’re read the most recent one in a mystery series but they may not have, so don’t give away any secrets! Whenever I see her at conferences, we reminisce about the conversation that led to this warning!

Congratulations, Nancy, on this well deserved recognition and thanks for your efforts on behalf of all libraries and booklovers.

Nancy Pearl at KPL 2006

Nancy Pearl at Kalamazoo Public Library, January 2006


Nancy Pearl

A New eReader, Perhaps?

A study released in the fall found that one in ten Americans use an ereader of some type and one in ten would likely get one in the next six months. If that study is accurate, that means many of us received or bought ourselves an ereader recently, perhaps over the holidays.

Reading used to be simple. Check out a book from the library, buy a new or used one at your favorite bookstore, borrow one from a friend, and just read it! Although those are still options, there are now many more with a variety of ereaders and devices with multiple uses.

We have just revised the ebooks section of our website. Thousands of ebook titles are available through the digital download center. We also have links to resources about various reading devices, and if you don’t have an ereader, you can borrow one at the Central Library.

Some studies have found that those who use ereaders read more. Personally, I’m not there yet – I still prefer the traditional book, but we offer both.

Come visit soon, either through our website or at any branch or the Central Library.


eBooks and Sony Readers®

2010 Favorites

It’s that time of year that most every publication I pick up seems to have a “Best of the Year” list of one type or another. The ones I am most drawn to, not surprisingly, are those of best books.

I want to immediately start checking off the ones I have read and add the others to my “list-of-books-to-read-sometime.”

Most lists of best books of the year are from those published during the past year; mine is of books I have read that year, not necessarily those published.

It’s hard to decide, but here is my list:




Many staff have shared their favorite books, movies, and music from 2010 on our website under “Best of 2010” and we share routinely on our blogs in these same categories.

What were you favorite books of the year OR what do you think of mine? I’d appreciate hearing what you read and enjoyed.

Best wishes for the new year – good times, good health, good friends, and, of course good books!


Let the Great World Spin