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Micaela Kingslight Band

I know I am incredibly biased, but the level of local talent that has graced the KPL stage in our long running concert series has been pretty amazing. The Kalamazoo music scene is definitely one of the most underrated in the state and on December 15 fans were treated to a group on the verge of great things – The Micaela Kingslight Band. Not only is Micaela an eye-opening guitarist, she possesses a deep, powerful voice that backs up her well crafted songwriting with passion and authority. Accomplished musicians, bassist Joe Chamberlin and percussionist Ashely Ickes provide more than just well timed rhythm, but a style that only enhances the group’s stage presence.

The set included both originals (The band is going into the studio in a few weeks to record a new CD!) and covers from Led Zeppelin and The White Stripes. I cannot say enough great things about our 39th consecutive free concert at KPL. The Micaela Kingslight Band show has been the best pre-Christmas present this year!


Micaela Kingslight Band

We had a Wii good time!

We had a great Nintendo Wii Game Night at Powell! The release of The Experience, the new Michael Jackson video game, brought out lots of talent and some strong competition. On December 14 the tweens and teens from the Boys and Girls Club joined us and others for a fun-filled Smash Brothers and Wii dance night. The competition was fierce but there was one young man who out-Billy Jeaned them all. Powell has game nights from 6 pm - 7:30 pm on the second Tuesday of every month. Our next Game Night is scheduled for January 11, 2011.


Game Night at Powell

Crossing Borders

This past week author Cynthia Leitich Smith visited Kalamazoo for a few days. While here she visited with students at Woods Lake and Northglade elementary schools and with a group of teens at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home. On Friday, she was the keynote speaker for KPL’s annual Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar. The theme was “Crossing Borders” and all of the speakers addressed the idea that books for kids and teens help them understand, appreciate, and relate to others in their diverse communities, despite a wide variety of differences and borders.

Other speakers at the seminar were Beth Amidon and Maria Perez-Stable from Western Michigan University, Gillian Engberg, from the American Library Association’s “Booklist” journal, and Debbie Reese from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. The seminar was wonderful . . . with much thoughtful discussion about books and kids and reading!


After the visit to Kalamazoo, both Cynthia and Debbie posted blogs on their websites: and

We had a great time last week with this group of very talented writers and scholars. If you’d like to be added to the mailing list for information about next November’s seminar, contact Mary Knowles. See more photos of the 2010 Youth Literature Seminar on KPL’s Flickr photostream


Crossing Borders

Dance! At Your Library!

Kalamazoo Public Library has hosted some great dance programs in the last month! In October, Dunuya Drum and Dance performed Music and Dance of West Africa and the Diaspora. When they say they encourage audience interaction through singing, dancing, or playing instruments, they mean it! Everyone had the opportunity to dance and to play authentic instruments. What a great program!


In November, members of the Ballet Arts Ensemble performed some of their own pieces after Youth Services librarian Karen read the classic Grimm’s fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The show was a preview of the Ballet Arts Ensemble’s 12 Dancing Princesses performances at Chenery Audtorium on November 20th and 21st with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra performing original music.


Kalamazoo Public Library’s calendar of children’s events has more programs. Mark your calendar for upcoming events now!


Dance! At Your Library!

Grown-ups, the Spelling Bee is Coming!

On November 18, KPL’s Ready to Read program will host its 10th annual Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee. I was lucky enough to be on KPL’s first cheer team 10 years ago, and I’m excited to be cheering again this year. What can I say? It’s an absolute blast, and it supports a great cause. Ready to Read uses 100% of the Bee’s proceeds to purchase books for at-risk children in Kalamazoo County.

If you’ve never participated as a team member or a spectator, it’s not too late to organize a team, sponsor a group or purchase a ticket. Don’t miss it!


2008 KPL Spelling Bee Team

Wii Game Night @ Powell

September 8th the DCA Boys and Girls Club joined the Powell branch for a Wii game night. The kids had a good time playing Mario Cart, Super Smash Bros Melee and Wii Sports. A snack was provided. Our next game night will be October 13. Come join us for a Just Dance Wii game competition!

The Powell branch is getting excited about the next Nintendo Wii dance competition video game being released November 23, 2010… Michael Jackson: The Experience.


Wii Game Night @ Powell

Singalong Fun with Kevin Devine

Kevin Devine's Musical Circus landed at the Eastwood Branch Library today. Culminating with a parade of tambourine wielding kids, this Make a Splash program was total fun. There were lots of opportunities for audience members to participate when Kevin invited them up to sing or to play the drums or to be the sun shining in the sky. Kalamazoo Public Library was pleased to have this award winning songwriter and entertainer back and will look forward to another great show in mid October at the Oshtemo Branch Library.

There really are lots of great programs for all ages at your library. Take a look at the calendar and sign up for Summer Reading Games! There's a game for everyone from birth through adults.


Singalong Fun

Mask Petting Zoo

Commedia Zuppa presented BOXHEAD, a program featuring masks and much more at the Central Library on Tuesday. What a great program! Before and after the performance, audience members had the opportunity to try on real hand-made theatrical masks created by these theater professionals. Made out of neoprene and each one of a kind, the masks themselves were very cool. The theater program was great fun! Inspired by the classic Where the Wild Things Are and The Phantom Tollbooth, BOXHEAD is a gentle look at what can happen when you get so angry you lose your head.

There are lots of great programs at your library. Take a look at our calendar and don't forget to sign up for Summer Reading Games! There's a game for everyone from birth through adults.


Mask Petting Zoo

(Another) Kalamazoo Tornado

With the 30th anniversary of Kalamazoo’s infamous 1980 tornado upon us, I thought it might be fun to have a look at another such storm that “visited” our neighborhood... almost exactly 100 years earlier. A vintage issue of the Gazette tells us that a tornado came through the Kalamazoo area on Saturday, 8 May 1880—a century (almost to the day) before the devistating 1980 storm, “and did considerable damage.” The report, in all of its splendid 19th century vernacular, goes something like this...

“Kalamazoo was visited last Saturday night with a tornado that did considerable damage. It struck Kalamazoo county first in the township of Texas and did considerable damage, blowing down trees, fences and barns. South west of Kalamazoo three or four miles the wind was especially heavy. The large grain barn of Wm. Gibbs was blown down and scattered in every direction. The barn of Wm. Brownell was served in like manner and a farmer, capable of judging, says that three thousand dollars will not make good the fences blown down in that neighborhood... Other sheds and stables were unroofed and warped and the boards carried rods away... Out houses were blown over and trees uprooted in numerous instances... From the effects of the storm, it looks as though it must have been a whirl wind, for the earth appears to have been struck in spots.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 11 May 1880

To commemorate and document the 1980 storm, Blake Naftel’s Kalamazoo Tornado Project promises to reveal some interesting material, including newly remastered video footage, newspaper articles, and recently documented personal accounts. Read the Gazette story about the project.

In addition, KPL has added a new photo gallery to the website with photos of local damage contributed from various sources. It, too, is an ongoing project, so if you have photos you’d like to share, please contact the Local History staff.

Speaking of photos, the one shown at the top of this page is the oldest known photograph of a tornado, taken in South Dakota in 1884. It comes from NOAA’s National Weather Service Collection.




Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros

What a great Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros here at the library! Acclaimed bilingual author Pat Mora, who has written books for children, teens and adults, founded Día to nurture bookjoy—delight in the magic of words and a passion for reading. On Saturday, April 24th, Fantasía Ballet Folklórico performed several traditional dances and students from El Sol School performed songs and a readers’ theatre piece. All children who attended received a special prize and a book to keep. Next time you come to the Central Library, take a look at the posters created by El Sol students for Día. You can see them on display as you pass into the Children’s Room.


Día de los Niños

Llamas at Eastwood

Brian Brook and his wife Judy brought two llamas to the Eastwood Branch Library for a program last Friday afternoon. Paco and Paint-Your-Wagon, the magnificent beasties in question, were on their very best behavior, basking in both the warm sunshine as well as the admiration of an appreciative audience.

Llamas are members of the camel family and are domesticated pack animals native to South America. They have two-toed feet, and walk on leathery pads which give them superb traction in mountainous terrain. As you may have heard, llamas can spit. But normally this is intended for other llamas who provoke anger or a disturbance. Of course, the llamas visiting Eastwood were relatively at ease and quite calm, so “No Spitting” was the rule of the day.


Paco and Paint-Your-Wagon live with Brian and Judy along with about 25 other llamas on a farm in Three Rivers. Judy regularly combs their substantial coats. She uses the harvested fibers to make rugs, purses, and sweaters, selling these at craft shows throughout Southwest and Mid-Michigan.



Spring Break Programs at Kalamazoo Public Library!

Looking for something fun to do during Spring Break? There are a variety of programs at library branches.

It’s all at your library. Have a wonderful Spring Break!


Spring Break Programs at KPL!

A Conversation of Instruments

The New York based Enso String Quartet played at KPL on March 11 in a program made possible by Fontana Chamber Arts.

The program featured “The Art of Conversation: Seven Dialogues for String Quartet” written by Karim Al-Zand who introduced his composition and answered questions. Al-Zand wrote the piece for string quartet, which he explained is the “quintessential ensemble” for chamber music (two violins, a viola and a cello). Comprised of “agile instruments” producing “homogeneity of sound,” a string quartet “always looks like a conversation” as it performs, Al-Zand said.

Inspired by this idea of a conversation, Al-Zand composed seven dialogues, all resembling conversations among friends. The first dialogue is an idealized gathering in which everyone is lively and engaged. The other dialogues proceed in various combinations of dominance and engagement – idiosyncratic with one dominant; two conversations at once; three in sync while one speaks in nonsequitors; recitations in unison. The sixth dialogue was the equivalent of four people talking on a cell phone, with each instrument’s part was taken from other dialogues.

The seventh dialogue was a fugue — a single melody or subject passed from instrument to instrument, with each expounding on the subject. Just as with a conversation among friends, the music spiraled up, then wound down to small moments of silence before resuming to a crescendo. After a few more thoughts were added, the conversation ended harmoniously with everyone in agreement.

The seven dialogues were written especially for the Enso String Quartet, which is dedicated to performing the work of contemporary composers. It is a rare pleasure to hear a composer discuss his work and to hear a work performed by the ensemble for whom it was written.


Enso String Quartet

Jumping the Broom at Powell

On February 24th, kids from the Boys and Girls Club, and other families, joined us at the Alma Powell Branch for a Jumping the Broom ceremony.

Jumping the Broom was a marriage practice used by couples during slavery. Many times the slaves’ owners would not give permission for couples to wed. Jumping the Broom became a practice that allowed couples to unite without their owners’ knowledge. Today, this tradition has become popular as a cultural heritage ceremony.

During our event the kids took turns reading from the book Jumping the Broom written by Courtni Wright. This story is about a young slave girl, Lettie, whose sister, Tillie, is planning a Jumping the Broom ceremony. Courtni Wright tells how slave families worked together to prepare for the ceremony. The women spent their days working on a quilt to keep the young couple warm. They prepared food for the ceremony. The men built furniture and caught fish to salt for the winter. Everyone pitched in.


At our event Erika and Hari dressed the part of a couple in a pretend ceremony; we decorated miniature brooms, ate homemade wedding cake and drank homemade Jamaican-style ginger soda. We talked about other ceremonies and the quilt making custom.

Thanks to the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo we had a fantastic quilt display exhibited in the Barnabee Gallery!  These quilts were done by a group of African American women of Southwest Michigan. It brought the Barnabee Gallery alive with African American heritage and history.

Harriette Cole’s book Jumping the broom: The African-American Wedding Planner is not only historical but is a modern-day guide for couples wanting to tie the knot. Ms. Cole offers anecdotes, traditions and choices for blending today’s culture with elements of the past.


Jumping the Broom

Capoeira: Cordão De Ouro (West Michigan)

On February 22 the Alma Powell Branch had a fantastic fun-filled Capoeira demonstration. The presentation was done by Capoeira: Cordão De Ouro (West Michigan).

What is Capoeira? Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines dance, music and acrobatics all in one.

With February being Black History Month we wanted to learn some of the history behind the fine art of this Afro-Brazilian defense technique.

Capoeira was first developed between the 16th and 19th centuries by African slaves brought to Brazil during the slave trade. It was illegal for slaves to learn or practice self-defense. So they camouflaged their martial arts practice with music, acrobatics and games.

Their program included:

  • African Dance
  • Maculelê
  • Bimba’s 8 Secuencias and Game
  • Capoeira
  • Capoeira Song
  • Samba de Roda

With more than 80 people in attendance we learned about their instruments, songs and how to participate with the Cordão di Ouro: West Michigan. The kids loved it! They tumbled, flipped and danced along with the performers. Fun was had by all.



Fun with Mr. Steve and Friends!

Because of my move into a new job at the library, last night was the final Storytime with Mr. Steve & Friends.

We had a great time reading books, singing songs about a man made out of food, and playing with the parachute.

The adrenaline of the evening helped me hold up well last night, but now I am feeling the effects of closing a very happy chapter in my life.

I would like to thank all the families in the community for your wonderful support during my years as a children’s librarian and for allowing me to be a part of your children’s lives.


Storytime with Mr. Steve and Friends

Vancouver 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympics begin this Friday in Vancouver, British Columbia and I for one can’t wait. Although the summer games include my favorite sport by far, there is just something about the winter Olympics that feels somehow more pure and true to the spirit of the Olympics (not too many Skeleton racers are being offered million dollar sponsorship deals).

KPL wishes to help keep the Olympic flame stoked with a display of Olympics related books in the rotunda at the central library, along with links to all things sports (including the Olympics) in our Sports Topic Guide. Citius, Altius, Fortius!


Topic Guide: Sports

Getting Green with Belfast Gin

Last Wednesday local band Belfast Gin played to a full house of rabid Irish music loving fans. Their unique brand of the Celtic music is heavily influenced by rock, soul and blues.

Lead singer Laurie Laing’s expertly slipped between the raucous beat of a bar ballad to the slow jam sound of an R&B tune. The band was very personable and made the audience feel like we were all sharing a pint together somewhere in Ireland. Belfast Gin was the perfect antidote to a cold January day because they chased away the winter blues with a ton of green!


Live Music: Belfast Gin

Getting closer...

Every morning I check on the progress of the new circulation desk area and each morning I am amazed at the progress. The excitement is growing as we get closer to the "unveil day" when the entire community is able to use the their new circulation desk. The goal was to build a smaller, more friendly, circulation that allowed staff and patrons to fully utilize the RFID technology we have been installing the past year. How great was it that an anonymous bequest allowed us to easily adapt new technology to better serve the KPL community? Pretty awesome because it allowed us to do things to ultimately save some money in the long run.  Check back for the official unveiling date.

It’s Tax Season Again!

At KPL, we get lots of questions about tax issues. Here are answers to some of the more common concerns.

Tax Forms: Though more and more people prefer to e-file for faster return on their tax refund, many others still ask us about paper tax forms. This year, all library locations will distribute basic paper tax forms and instructions, free of charge, while they last. Look for the federal forms to be available by the middle of January; state forms will be available in early February.

Tax Preparation Help: The Central and Oshtemo locations will again be hosting tax preparation in 2010 for people with household incomes under $49,000, starting January 30.   You will need an appointment; to sign up, call 211, as of January 15, 2010.

Bookmark our Tax Information topic guide for regular access to more tax-related details. During tax season, you can also use the “Tax Forms/Free Tax Help” icon from our home page. Be sure to scroll down to the websites for forms, instructions and much more.


Tax Information

Circulation Desk Area Changes

The next phase in the redo of the circulation desk area at Central Library is underway. The barricade is up around the circ desk and it is being removed to make way for a smaller one.

A temporary circulation desk has been set up by the curving stairs to the second floor. Materials being held for patrons are available for self pick-up on the magazine shelving.

There are three check out units available for patrons to use, identical to the ones in the children’s room and at Oshtemo Branch. During this transition, staff are stationed by the check out units to help patrons as needed.

Another change is online registration for a library card from any computer, at home or in the library, or from the dedicated one at the end of the temporary circulation desk.

The target completion date is the end of January. Look at the progress as you visit Central Library and we’ll continue to post updates on our website.


Renovation at Central Library