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From the Director

What Are YOU Reading?

Friends and acquaintances who know I work at the library and read a lot, often ask me: “what are you reading?”

I usually have a “main” book and several “pick-up” books that I am reading. I’m currently reading The Girl Who Played with Fire, a sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. These are not the type of books I usually read, but they’ve been so highly recommended by reviewers and reading friends that I picked them up and have barely put them down: what page turners. They should be read in sequence to continue the story. This second one exposes the extensive sex trafficking operations between Eastern Europe and Sweden. Its story and character driven.

My secondary books are usually ones that are not page turners, can be picked up and read a chapter or story at a time, and might take me months to finish. I bought Booknotes: America’s Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas at the Friends Bookstore for $1. It’s two pages of interviews with authors from the TV show of the same name and is interesting, quick reading. I have more books for my list-of-books-to-read-sometime from these interviews.

The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas is an engrossing description of the Great Lakes from a schooner, racing yacht, and a voyageur canoe with some history, ecology, and family memories along the way. Its easily picked up and put down, but interesting reading to those of us familiar with the area.

All of these books are in our collection. I recommend them all! Now its your turn – what are you reading?


The Girl Who Played With Fire

Nonfiction Favorites of 2009

Well, it is not quite year end, but nevertheless, I am ready to declare my favorite nonfiction books of the year. Note that these are my favorites from those I read, not necessarily published this year.

My top three choices reflect my ongoing interest in reading about U.S. Presidents:

I do read nonfiction about other topics too. To round out my top five:

I’m still working on my fiction list. I’ve read more fiction and it’s hard to pick my top five or even my top ten.

Now it is your turn to share your favorites.


Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years

Recognition for “Stitches”

The season for “Best of…” has begun. As I wrote previously, the first list I saw this year was best books in the Nov/ Dec issue of Bookmarks magazine.

Publishers Weekly has published the PW TOP 10 and PW TOP 100. That’s a lot of good books, at least in the eyes of the PW editors.

Not surprisingly, David Small’s Stitches is on the PW TOP 10 list. Those of us who have read David’s book and attended his program at KPL or elsewhere in the community, know this is a powerful graphic memoir well deserving of this recognition from Publishers Weekly and its nomination for a National Book Award. (If you missed David’s presentation, watch or listen to the entire program here.) 

David has been a special friend to KPL and our patrons. Congratulations on this nomination, the top 10 listing and the many more recognitions sure to come his way.

We have David’s books, most of which are in the children’s collections. Come visit and check one out.



National Gaming Day!

Over thirty teens participated in our celebration of “National Gaming Day @ Your Library” on November 14. Overall, participating libraries had 31,296 players nationwide, double the number from 2008.

KPL teens played online against Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Darien, MA. We had video gamers as well as an enthusiastic group of card gamers.

The American Library Association sponsors this event to showcase that libraries are about much more than books. Video games complement our other services and expand our reach into the community. The games give kids a chance to practice reading, writing, and computing in a safe environment surrounded by their friends, library staff, books, and knowledge. What’s not to like about that?!

The comments from KPL teens and teens across the country are very positive. We like to be called “awesome”!

Enjoy some photos of our National Gaming Day and come visit soon.


ALA National Gaming Day 2009


End of an Era

Bookmobile service will end by June 30, most likely sometime in the late winter or early spring.

Our board reluctantly decided to phase out the service due to budget constraints. Voters supported our millage renewal request in May, but as property tax values drop, our revenues drop while many costs continue to rise. 92% of our revenues come from local property taxes.

The bookmobile has been a beloved service. Fortunately most patrons who use the bookmobile also use services at other locations: Central Library and one or more of our four branches. Bookmobile patrons unable to travel elsewhere may find Via Mail or deposit collection services a good alternative.

This decision was made after thoughtful consideration. My full report to the board is on our website as well as the fuller announcement and media coverage.

I’ll keep all patrons, and especially bookmobile patrons, informed as the service winds down and an end date is determined.

Come visit soon – the bookmobile, Central, a branch, or our website.



Best Of...

I admit – I can’t resist scanning “best of” lists, especially books and movies. If I have a pen nearby, I find myself checking off those I have read or seen.

I just read my first “best of” list for 2009: “Best Books of 2009” in the Nov/Dec issue of Bookmarks magazine.  I had two immediate thoughts:  how can they publish this list yet – there might be even better books published yet this year AND how can it be that there so many books on this list that sound great and I’ve never even heard of them.

It seems a little early to ask you to share your favorite book of 2009, but begin thinking about it.  My favorite nonfiction might be Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon or The Hemingses of Monticello. Then again there are still seven weeks left in the year and I might yet read one I like even more than either of these two. 

I’ve read more fiction than nonfiction so it’s a little harder to pick a favorite. I might have to do my own “best of” list.

To quote Thomas Jefferson, “so many books, so little time.”

We have many good ones, come visit soon.


“Best Books of 2009”

“National Bookstore Day”

National Bookstore Day” is Saturday, November 7. It is a day to celebrate bookselling and the vibrant culture of bookstores.

Kalamazoo is fortunate to have a bookstore, operated by the Friends of KPL, located on the lower level of the central library. The gently used books they sell are donations from the community and some discards from the library collections.

Proceeds from the store support many library programs and services. This past summer the Friends funded our summer reading games for all ages. They also support Reading Together, Prime Time Family Reading, and author visits.

Books are modestly priced – it’s a good place to build a home library. Even library users like to own some books! Watch their website for even better bargains during their sales.

Happy National Bookstore Day to our good Friends.

Come visit the library – and the bookstore!

(originally posted 11/5/2009)


National Bookstore Day

Flu Hits Kalamazoo

Listening to the school closings on the radio this morning leaves no doubt—the flu has hit Kalamazoo. Like other organizations that serve the public, KPL is trying to limit the spread of the H1N1 as well as seasonal flu.

We’ve posted signs throughout our buildings promoting hand-washing to limit the spread of the flu virus. We’re setting up hand sanitizer stations for library visitors and providing tissues, disposable gloves, and disinfectant wipes to staff.

new topic guide on our website compiles information and web links on both the seasonal and H1N1 flu. Although not a substitute for professional health care, you’ll find helpful information on this guide.

Our excellent Facilities Management crew will continue to keep our buildings clean and disinfected; we’ll clean keyboards and public work surfaces even more frequently, too.

We sent a staff member to an informational meeting at the Health Department and will continue to follow Kalamazoo County government’s recommendations regarding the pandemic.

Take care, be well.

Flu Information topic guide » 

(Kalamazoo Gazette photo by Tyler Tjomsland)


WMU student with the flu (Gazette photo)

Director - Power User

Besides directing the library, I use the library; I consider myself a “power user” – one who uses many services and is here frequently, every day in my case!

I just read Telex from Cuba, this year’s freshman book for K College; I browsed Not So Big Remodeling, even though there is no home remodeling in my near future; I loved Leisure Seeker and regret I missed the author’s visit here a few weeks ago. I’m getting ready for a driving vacation and have checked out Admission and The Invisible Mountain. I think I’ll like both, given the reviews. I have How to Raise the Perfect Dog for my husband to read….hint, hint!  Of course I have a few travel books for the backseat of the car.

Earlier this month, I attended a poetry reading by Lori Wilson. I don’t read poetry, but I enjoy hearing it. I heard local author Michelle Miller-Adams speak about her book on the Kalamazoo Promise and Bob Downes share his backpacking experiences around the world; I heard banned books read during Art Hop.

I could go on and on….suffice it to say, I’m proud of our staff and the materials and services we provide. I appreciate them as a library user too.

Come visit soon.


The Leisure Seeker

What Good Friends We Have!

Last week the Friends of KPL celebrated their 50th anniversary with a wonderful reception. They recognized past presidents and long time volunteers, reviewed their history, celebrated their strong support and advocacy of the library, shared the success of their bookstore, and gave the library a generous $50,000 gift!

The Friends financial support has supported many of our programs:  Ready to ReadReading TogetherYouth Literature Seminars, Prime Time, programming for all ages. This past summer they funded our summer reading games for all ages – preschoolers to adults – as well as the end-of-summer reading party, attended by 1,014!

This gift came from bookstore proceeds. Just imagine how many books they sold for 10¢ to $2.00! Our community is generous in donating books to the Friends and our Friends are generous to the library.

Thank you and congratulations, good Friends; best wishes for the next 50 years!

Come visit the library AND the bookstore soon.


Friends 2009 Board

Big Changes at Central Library

Beginning this week, you will see many changes in the circulation area at the central library – changes that will help us be more efficient and serve you better.

A generous anonymous bequest allowed us to install a modern inventory system that will enable patrons to quickly and easily check out their own items. We will be creating three new, smaller checkout stations for patron use; the old checkout desk will be replaced with a smaller desk for two staff members and an open shelving area for patrons to pick up their own holds.

These changes will help us manage our ever-growing circulation – an increase of 14% last year.

Work will begin this week and be done in stages. We are aiming for completion in late December.

We’ll keep you informed of the progress by way of a page on our website.

Come visit and watch the changes.


Renovation at Central Library

Read Whatever You Want To Read!

Banned Books Week (BBW), which celebrates the freedom to read, will be observed September 26 – October 3. This annual event reminds us not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted.

Each year, some books are targets for attempted banning. Thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, and booksellers most are maintained in collections. BBW reminds us annually of the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and draws attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

KPL and American Civil Liberties Union of MI, SW Branch, are sponsoring a BBW Art Contest, and at Art Hop on October 2, local celebrities will be reading from banned books. 

Come visit soon; exercise and celebrate your freedom to read whatever you want to read!


Banned Books Week poster (American Library Association)

Proclaim Libraries!

September is noteworthy for libraries; it is National Literacy Month and Library Card Sign-Up Month.

KPL is pleased that the Kalamazoo City Commission will acknowledge these September designations with a proclamation to “encourage citizens of Kalamazoo to sign up for a library card, to read, and to use the wealth of resources available for free at KPL.”

This is an opportunity to remind us all that reading is one of the greatest tools a child can receive---reading opens the door to a world of imagination, enrichment, and economic development and that reading and writing is fundamental to leading a full and productive life. 

Be sure the children in your life have and use their library card; use yours too!  A card is free to residents of our library district.

Come visit soon.


Use your library card!

Buy Books!

Generally librarians don’t encourage patrons to buy books… we want you to check them out from the library! We know, however, that readers also want to own books and that having a home library is important, especially for children.

So, here’s my book buying advice: shop the Friends of KPL Fall Book Sale, this Saturday, September 19, from 9 am – 3:30 pm in the third floor auditorium of the central library. Books are $.10 each or $2.00 a bag!  Books are arranged on tables by category: fiction, nonfiction, romance, children’s.

And for additional shopping or just browsing, the Friends Bookstore on the lower level will also be open.

The books are donated to the Friends and the proceeds from the sale and bookstore benefit the library.

KPL is fortunate to have very good Friends!  Come visit the library AND shop the fall book sale and bookstore.


Friends Book Sale

Where are the book reviews?

Those of us who love to read, usually like to read book reviews. That’s how we build our list of books-to-read-sometime.

Many newspapers and magazines have cut back or eliminated book reviews. NPR and CNBC are moving in to fill the void a bit. is adding weekly reviews and hiring six new reviewers. (Will they read all day? What a great job!)

CNBC has launched its own book blog, Bullish on Books. It will focus on business, management, and personal finance titles and coordinate with the authors who appear on the cable news channel.

Of course there are other book reviews sources to be found on the internet and still some in print. Our librarians try to keep up with new titles too and many new popular titles are in our Hot Picks section and in our Staff Picks blog. Or, next time you’re in one of our locations, pick up the latest issue of BookPage, a free monthly publication, compliments of KPL. 

Come visit soon!


Staff Picks: Books

Help Protect Michigan Libraries!

Earlier this month, KPL’s board of trustees approved a resolution supporting the Michigan Library Association’s (MLA) campaign to “help protect Michigan libraries.”

By this resolution, our board urges the Michigan Legislature to:

• Keep library services and functions together under the Library of Michigan within state government

• Maintain state aid to libraries at $10 million to retain federal funding for MeLCat and MeL databases

• Retain the position of State Librarian 

• Oppose the governor’s executive order disbanding the Dept of History, Arts, and Libraries (HAL) 

MLA’s advocacy website discusses the issues in great detail. You can learn more there, including how you can help – contact your state senator and representative and attend the library rally in Lansing on September 10. Library patrons’ voices will mean more to lawmakers than those of the library community alone. If you enjoy any of the services offered by MeL, the Michigan Electronic Library, please add your support to Michigan’s libraries!

HAL and library funding decisions are part of the budget deliberations underway in Lansing.


Michigan Libraries for the Future

Forgotten Books

Not all books stand “the test of time.” Most readers can list several authors whose writing has moved or inspired them but whose work seems to be entirely forgotten.

Some of these authors were commercially successfully in their time, others never received the attention their writing deserved.

Not surprisingly in this electronic age, these authors are not as forgotten as they were previously.  A fine website, “lists 1000’s of books that have been neglected, overlooked, forgotten or stranded by changing tides in critical or popular taste.” And, again not surprisingly, there are links to purchase used copies of these books. 

This website is in a blog format with frequent postings plus categories of forgotten books and authors and links to still more sites. You can browse this site and get lost in remembering some old favorites.

If you don’t want to purchase a copy of a forgotten title, check our holdings, we might have it.

Come visit soon!


Neglected Books

Library Funding : Library of Michigan

Last week over 500 people attended the “Hands Around the Library” rally at the capitol building in Lansing. The rally was organized by the Michigan Genealogical Council to advocate for the Library of Michigan, its history, and collections.

As I have written previously and as widely reported, the Governor’s order would dismantle the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries and significantly reduce support for libraries.

The Michigan Library Association (MLA) is advocating for libraries and our patrons. Their position statement and other advocacy tools are available on the website. A rally organized by MLA will be held in Lansing on September 10 when the legislature is back in session.

We are following these developments closely and urge library supporters to do likewise.


Library of Michigan

Keeping the Kids Reading!

Research shows that students experience reading loss if they don’t read over the summer. KPL recently collaborated with others to encourage kids to continue reading during their long break from school.

KPL librarians created a custom version of our summer reading game for KPS summer school students. Teachers were able to coordinate the game into the daily curriculum for almost 900 students in grades 2-6.

Through a grant from the US Dept of Education, KPL worked with WMU on “Promising Beginnings,” targeted to children 2½ to 5 years old. Participating families visited three different KPL locations – CentralEastwood, and Powell. Teachers and KPL librarians jointly offered a storytime once a week at each location. The program included reading, activities, snacks, and door prizes based on a weekly theme.

The Freedom Schools’ six-week, full-day summer school program served 96 K-12 students. KPL librarians partnered with them to develop age-appropriate activities for library visits at Eastwood and Washington Square. Students heard stories or talked with librarians about books, and registered for library cards.

These three examples illustrate our commitment to work with community partners to promote literacy, in keeping with our mission to champion reading, ignite imagination, and ensure access to information and ideas.

I’m proud of our staff and the work they do to promote literacy all year round but especially during the summer break. Keep those kids reading!


Books for Kids!

Reading or TV?

Most readers would guess that using a public library increases the amount of time one spends reading AND that it may well reduce the amount of time spent watching TV.

recent study on reading, television and academic outcomes confirmed that guess. Researchers found that library use increases the amount of time one reads by an average of 26 minutes per day and that TV watching decreases about 58 minutes per day, with no significant change in other activities.

Even more significant was the finding that parents who use a library spend an additional 12 minutes per day on average reading with their young children.

Reading or watching TV... reading is the better choice!  Read yourself and read with all the children in your life.

Come visit soon.


Books and Reading

State Funding of Library Services

As you may have heard on the news, the Governor issued an executive order last week calling for the elimination of the Dept of History, Arts, and Libraries (HAL). Of course we are focused on what might happen to the Library of Michigan, various library services, and state funding for libraries. Currently public libraries receive a small per capita allocation from the state, but more importantly, state funds are a match to federal money which pays for MeLCat, the statewide catalog used for interlibrary loan, and the MeL databases.

The Michigan Library Association (MLA) Executive Director has issued a memo outlining the executive order from the perspective of the library community. MLA urges the Governor and the Legislature to maintain library services within state government and keep the functions whole,   maintain state aid at the current $10 million level, and retain the position and role of the State Librarian.

I believe the state funded service most vital to KPL’s patrons is MeLCat. We borrow over 1,000 items per month from other libraries for our patrons AND loan an equal number to other libraries for their patrons. That is only possible through the MeLCat catalog, the interlibrary loan system, and the delivery that moves the materials around the state. It depends upon state funding to match the federal funding.

Make your voice heard; contact your state senator or representative. The voice of library patrons will have more force than that of library staff alone.


Michigan eLibrary (MeL)

What’s Your “Top” Book?

Did you see the current issue of Newsweek magazine? The cover is “What to Read Now.” The article lists fifty books the editors have determined “open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprisingly ways.” On their website, they list their “Top 100 Books of All Time,” a different spin than the fifty titles.

As I freely admit, I’m drawn to lists. My first instinct was to check off those books I’ve read.  Between school and leisure reading, I’ve read quite a few, although not as many as I would have thought. I haven’t checked our holdings for these titles, but I’m assuming we have all or almost all of them.

#1 on the “Top 100 Books of All Time” is War and Peace by Tolstoy. OK, here comes the tough question: what is #1 on YOUR list? I’m still pondering that question...

Make your list, visit one of our locations, and start reading a “top” book!


Newsweek: “What to Read Now. And Why”

Local Author: Nic Bishop

My previous blog posting was about book, audio, and video reviews at, the website for Booklist, a journal of reviews published by the American Library Association.

When I recently browsed this website, the “Review of the Day” was for Nic Bishop’s recent book, Butterflies and Moths. As many Kalamazoo families know, Nic lives here and has done many family programs for us at central library and branches. His photos are breathtaking, pretty amazing. He “gets up close” is an understatement.

It is wonderful to see a local author receive such well deserved national recognition and especially one who is such a good friend to KPL!

Check out his books. If you aren’t familiar with them, you’ll discover a new favorite children’s author.


Butterflies and Moths

What to Read?

I always seek out “best of” lists. A particularly good one, at least to librarians, is Booklist’s “Top of the List.” Booklist is a journal of book reviews published by the American Library Association; their best of 2008 list includes books in various categories, video and audio.

Their top adult fiction recommendation is Richard Price’s Lush Life. I’ve not read it yet, but have added it to my list of books-to-read sometime.

Youth nonfiction top choice is Kadir Nelson’s We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. Kadir visited KPL in November for several public programs and our children’s literature seminar, so we feel as if one of our friends won this honor!

List of award winners is a small portion of the Booklist website. There are recommendations, reviews, links to book blogs.

Browse this website, make your list, then come visit and check out some good books for summer reading.


We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

Summer Reading Underway!

We kicked off summer reading last week with a strong start. Lots of kids signed up on the last day of school / first day of summer.

There are games and programs for all ages: kids, tweens, teens, and grown-ups. Check your current issue of LINK or the calendar on our website for summer events: concertscraft workshops, visiting authorsstorytimes, movies, and more. The end-of-summer party will be Sunday afternoon, August 30. Details to come later.

Research shows that all students experience reading loss if they don’t read over the summer. Make reading a fun summer activity for the entire family.

And grown-ups….we have a reading game for you too: Masterpiece Readers. Read books, earn raffle tickets, win prizes… what could be better?!

Come visit soon and sign-up at any library location.


Summer Reading

More and More Cookbooks

I select the cookbooks for the circulating collection at the central library. In every two week order cycle, there are at least 10 – 20 new titles and often many more. I read in Publishers Weekly that about 24,000 cookbooks are published each year! That’s a lot of cookbooks; no wonder we can’t add all of them to our collection.

Of course the Food Network and the rise of celebrity chefs, each of whom seems to have a series of cookbooks, have contributed greatly to the publishing explosion in this genre. Now the American Library Association (ALA) is getting on board too!

At our upcoming annual conference in Chicago, there will be a “cooking pavilion featuring a variety of chefs preparing recipes and signing autographs.” Attendees can see displays of the latest in cookbooks, watch live presentations on barbecuing and mixing cocktails for every occasion, learn a new approach to culinary art, and hear about making gourmet restaurant food at home.

This will be a library conference with some new “ingredients” and I’m looking forward to it! It will be a break from all the meetings. There are often drawings for prizes….maybe I’ll be lucky and win some new cookbooks for our collection.


“Screen Doors and Sweet Tea” by Martha Hall Foose

Michigan Library Stats – Part 2: Programming and Technology

In a previous blog post, I shared some interesting collection statistics from Michigan public libraries, compiled from the annual reports we submit to the Library of Michigan.

Here are a few programming and technology facts I found particularly interesting:

  • Public libraries offered 93,022 public programs last year; 56,639 were for children
  • Total program attendance for all public library programs was 2,462,741
  • 8.5 million reference questions were answered, an average of 23,514 per day across the state
  • All public libraries offer internet access to their patrons on 8,938 public use computers, used more than 14 million times
  • Impressive though these numbers are, we rank in about the middle of the 50 states in most of the categories

Most importantly is what KPL has to offer you! Visit our website, branchesbookmobilecentral library and use our services.


Michigan Library Stats and State Aid

Michigan Library Stats – Part 1: Collections

The Library of Michigan has just issued the annual digest of selected statistics about our state’s public libraries.

The information is compiled from the annual reports all public libraries must submit by February 1 each year. 

Here are a few collection statistics that are particularly interesting:

  • There are nearly 35 million books in the state’s public libraries, almost four books for every resident; the national average is 2.8 books per capita
  • Michigan residents checked out over 74.8 million items during the past year
  • Each resident checks out an overage of 7 items per year as compared to the national average of 7.3
  • On a typical day, Michigan public libraries circulate 205,179 items to some of the 4,693,192 active registered borrowers
  • We have 379 main libraries, 277 branch libraries, and 16 bookmobiles providing public library service

I’ll share programming and technology data in my next blog post.


Library Statistics and State Aid

Health and Wellness Resources

I recently read an article in a women’s magazine about health resources at the public library. The gist of the article was that the library is about lots more than the latest bestseller!

In the article, one woman read poetry to help her relax while dealing with a family health crisis, another found help in understanding postpartum depression, another used library computer classes and online databases to understand a thyroid problem, and a fourth turned to audiobooks when she lost her sight.

KPL has a strong health, medical, wellness collection. Most of the materials are classified between 610 and 620, but there is always a staff member to help. We have a “health” topic guide on our website and just added a section on “swine flu information.” We have audiobooks and other services for patrons with visual limitations.

Browse our website or shelves, phone the information deskask staff for help... whatever is easiest for you.


Health Topic Guide

Party in the Park

I read the book Balloons, Balloons, Balloons ten times today and I said the word “balloons” about 300 – 400 times.  I thoroughly enjoyed it each time, especially with my ten appreciative audiences.

I was a reader today at “Party in the Park,” KPL’s Ready to Read celebration of the nationally recognized “Stand for Children Day.” Over 1,400 preschoolers and their caregivers gathered in Bronson Park for an hour to hear stories read by local community leaders and costumed story book characters. The readers moved from one small group of preschoolers to another.

This fun event has a serious purpose: to focus community attention on the fun and importance of sharing books with young children. And fun it was….who couldn’t enjoy having ten preschoolers shout “balloons” repeatedly! The balloons had tough competition though from Clifford the Big Red Dog, the Man in the Yellow HatMadeline, and other familiar story book characters who were there.

Thanks to all the volunteer readers, the organizers and helpers, the caregivers and the children….and the rain even held off until it was over!

Remember to read to all the children in your life.


Balloons, Balloons, Balloons

Judith Krug

Judith Krug, Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, passed away last month. She was the office’s first and only director since it was established in 1967.

She was THE champion for librarianship’s core value: intellectual freedom… the right of Americans to free expression, freedom of inquiry, and privacy in the pursuit of information.

She also headed the Freedom to Read Foundation and was the driving force behind ALA’s battles over censorship of the news media, books, films, the internet.

We acknowledge intellectual freedom in our mission statement as do many libraries: “KPL champions reading, ignites imagination and ensures access to information and ideas.”

She defined and fought for the principles that have become basic to our country’s public libraries and library patrons. The challenges continue, perhaps even more so, as society increasingly moves from a print world to an electronic world.

We uphold her principles and treasure her legacy.


Judith Krug (American Library Association photo)

Federal Funding for Libraries

Earlier this spring, the American Library Association sent a letter to President Obama. Not surprisingly, the association stressed that “libraries are perfectly positioned to disseminate information relevant to the issues and challenges that face us as a nation.”

The letter also cited the increase use of libraries; our role in life-long learning; various federal programs that impact libraries including No Child Left Behind and the USA Patriot Act; and the need for more funding. 

The budget the President recently submitted did include a slight increase in federal funding for libraries through the Institute of Museum and Library Services, primarily for state library agencies.

In Michigan some of the federal money to the Library of Michigan is a match to state money which funds MeLCat and MeL databases. The federal and state funding needs to continue if those services are to be available to our patrons.

I’ll keep you informed as budget deliberations and the impact on our services becomes clearer.


President Barack Obama discusses the 2010 budget

The Right Information

In June 2005, then Senator Barack Obama spoke at the national conference of the American Library Association in Chicago. Like most in the audience, it was the first time I had heard him speak, really the first time I was particularly aware of him.

Among many comments tailored to the librarian audience he said, “Libraries remind us that truth isn’t about who yells the loudest but who has the right information.”

All libraries work hard to gather, make available, and use information. We even have it in our mission statement: “Kalamazoo Public Library champions reading, ignites imagination and ensures access to information and ideas.”

Information is a focus for libraries. It’s encouraging to have heard our president acknowledge the importance of the right information and the role of libraries in providing it.

Come visit soon or call us…..we are in the information business.


American Libraries, August 2005

Staff Picks at

In a previous blog entry, I wrote about our website. I’m proud of all aspects of our site and appreciate the creativity and efforts of our many staff members who contribute to it. My personal favorite section, however, is Staff Picks.

All librarians and many other staff members write at least one staff picks entry per month, some write more frequently. They write about booksmusic, and movies from our collection. The wide range of their reading, listening, and viewing interests are amazing to me and I always learn about items in our collection that would never have come to may attention otherwise. Sometimes I’ll reserve the item directly from the posting, other times, especially for books, I’ll add it to my ever-growing list of “books to read sometime.”

Each entry links to a comment form to start a conversation about the item. We’d welcome your comments and suggestions. 

I’ve always been interested in what others are reading, what others recommend. The Staff Picks blogs change almost daily.

Visit Staff Picks on our website for suggestions and enter the conversation by adding your comments.


Staff Picks Blogs

Trustees Reelected

Earlier this week, the voters renewed our basic operational millage for another 20 years. Thanks again for your support and confidence.

In addition to our millage, three of our trustees were reelected to four year terms on our governing board. President Valerie Wright, treasurer Jim VanderRoest, and trustee Ian Kennedy will all remain on our board with new terms beginning July 1.

I appreciate their dedication to the library and their willingness to serve again. As KPL “tightens its belt” in these challenging economic times, our budget deliberations will require even more thoughtful, careful consideration. All our board members are good stewards of the public’s trust.

Congratulations and thanks to Valerie, Jim, and Ian.


KPL Board of Trustees

Millage Renewed!

Thank you, Kalamazoo, for your strong vote of confidence and your investment in Kalamazoo Public Library for the next twenty years.

KPL's staff and board of trustees gratefully accept your vote to renew our basic operational millage. Your overwhelming support (76% of the vote!) encourages us to follow the same course--to work for excellence in the library's staff development, buildings and technology, materials collection, programs, and services.

We truly appreciate your trust. We will continue to be careful stewards of your library and to spend your tax money wisely.

Thank you again for your vote. Come visit soon!


Millage Renewal Approved

Belt Tightening at KPL

Most organizations are facing budget reduction / belt tightening. KPL is no exception. State aid to libraries has been reduced and may be eliminated, property tax revenues are almost flat, interest income is near zero.

To cope with these budget constraints, we have not filled staff vacancies, some hourly positions have been eliminated, equipment purchases have been delayed, funds for books and AV items have been reduced, some programs and outreach services have been trimmed.

On May 5, voters will decide on a renewal of the library’s 20-year, basic millage which provides 65% of our operating income.

millage renewal will provide for the continuation of most services, but still require careful budgeting and some spending cuts. Our goal is to make those cuts so that our service to you is affected as little as possible. However, we will continue to reduce staff positions, hold funds for new books and AV items at the present level, and further reduce programs and outreach activities.

Readers of my blog know that use and demand for our services has grown tremendously in these tough economic times. Please know we are striving to continue to provide the services our patrons have come to expect and need but at the same time to reduce costs.

Your feedback is always welcome.



National Library Week Wrap-Up

Rick Bragg’s visit last week was the highlight of our National Library Week celebration as we concluded this year’s Reading Together program.

You helped us celebrate with the bright yellow “Library Champion” signs in yards throughout our service area and we have added “Library Champion” photos to our website.  Send us yours!  Cute kids and dogs are the most popular ones to pose by their yard signs so far!  Thanks to the Friends of KPL for funding these signs.

The Friends of KPL also celebrated “National Library Workers Day” on Wednesday with a cake for the KPL staff and a discount in their bookstore.  We have good Friends!

It was a good week.


Library Champions

National Library Week Visit

Last week was National Library Week. Our major event was Rick Bragg’s visit on Tuesday evening as the climax of this year’s Reading Together program. 

An audience of about 800, most of whom had read at least one of his books, enjoyed hearing him tell his stories in his own voice. He talked about his dad, his parents’ relationship, his extended family, growing up in the south. There was humor and sadness.  He took questions from the audience and signed books for over an hour.

After the program, Rick said we were the first community reading program to do all three of his memoirs. He complimented our materials and said he’d be glad to come again, maybe after his next book, a novel, is published. We’d welcome having him again!

We’ll soon have a video interview with him as well as photos of the event on our website.


Reading Together author Rick Bragg

National Library Week

Happy NLW... …..National Library Week, that is.

National Library Week is an annual celebration of the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians. All types of libraries participate – school, public, academic, and special. This year’s theme is “Worlds connect @ your library” for the week April 12 – 18; the honorary chair is best selling author and actress, Jamie Lee Curtis PDF.

Rev Jesse Jackson, president and founder of Rainbow PUSH coalition, will kick off this year’s observance at a reading event. Other events at the national level include the release of the report “The State of America’s Libraries” and “Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2008,” Tuesday as “National Library Workers Day,” and Thursday as “Support Teen Literature Day.”

KPL will celebrate NLW with the highlight of this year’s “Reading Together” program: author Rick Bragg speaking at Kalamazoo Central High School on Tuesday, April 14, at 6:30.  We have several other programs that week as well…check our calendar.

Help us celebrate….come visit or come to a program. Indeed we can connect you to the world.


National Library Week

More State Funding Challenges

Earlier today, I posted a message here about the challenges faced by public libraries due to the uncertainties of state funding. The story is evolving rapidly...  

I learned this morning, April 2, the full state Senate has approved Senate Bill 247 with State Aid to Public Libraries line reduced to $7.5 million. This is less than half of what is required by state statute PA 89 which calls for $15.4 million in state aid. This is a further threat to the state match of federal funds for MeL. Stay tuned...



State Funding Challenges

Various state House and Senate committees are addressing the state budget. Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee passed bills calling for a cut in state aid to public libraries of $1.5 million and transferring the money to the arts.

The House School Aid and Education Subcommittee adopted a budget which retains the Governor’s recommended budget and holds state aid to public libraries at $10 million, the same as last year.

Upon their return from vacation on April 20, the House and Senate will begin negotiations to reconcile budget differences.

State aid to public libraries is the state funding used to match federal funding to support MeL, the state wide databases and interlibrary loan system. Significant reductions in state aid could put MeL funding in jeopardy.

If you want your voice heard, contact your state Senator or Representative.



Family Milestones

The Kalamazoo Gazette’s Linda Mah recently wrote about her 10-year old daughters moving from KPL’s children’s room to its teen area in her opinion column, “My Girls are Ready for a Big Downtown Move.”

From the library perspective, I am so pleased that Linda’s daughters have had such a wonderful experience in the children’s room, and such a strong introduction to books and reading. I appreciate Linda’s mention of our dedicated staff by name, and hope her family’s experience will encourage others to become library users too. However, my strongest reaction to Linda’s article was as a parent.

My children are in college. I well remember, as all parents do, a variety of transitions during their elementary and middle school years. Linda wrote about the library transition with such moving words and images that it brought tears to the eyes of several of my colleagues. Me, too.

Thanks, Linda, for sharing this special time with your readers, but more importantly for reminding parents of these milestones. The years go fast.

Bring your children for a visit. Build library traditions in your home.


Children's Room

Presidential Support for Reading and Libraries

In his first address to Congress, President Obama mentioned reading and libraries!

He encouraged parents to read to their children. Although he didn’t elaborate, I’m sure he meant read to your newborn, your toddler, your preschooler to prepare them to learn to read when they enter school. That’s the focus of our Ready to Read program.

But also read to and with your children as they learn to read; model the joy of reading, share your love of books. It’s special parent and child time together.

When President Obama introduced the young girl in the audience with Michelle Obama, he said she had written to him using a computer at her local public library. She asked him what he could do to make her school better.

"And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, 'We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters.'" ~ President Barack Obama, Address to Joint Session of Congress, 24 February 2009 

I don’t remember previous presidents mentioning reading or libraries in speeches to Congress. I was listening more carefully than I have in the past though.

I agree with him... to your children, come use a public computer at the library.


The Barack Obama READ Poster


WWMT recently ran a story on their website and on the local newscast about KPL. They were following up on the many stories in the national print and broadcast media about the surge in library business in these tough economic times.

I told the reporter what I have written on this blog and in Link, the library newsletter, that our circulation is up almost 10%, with a 25% increase in AV materials. Program attendance, registration for computer classescomputer usage, use of our meeting rooms… all up.

One patron in the WWMT news report commented that our AV shelves are sometimes empty. Some days the shelves of new AV materials are rather bare. It’s a high priority to get returned items, especially new, popular ones, back on the shelves ASAP. However, we have a strong collection of older titles too….ones you may have missed or ones worth watching or listening to again.

We’ve pleased our local TV station followed-up the national stories with the local experience. It is still another opportunity to remind viewers of our resources and that there is no charge to borrow any materials, including AV items.

Come visit soon.



If you are reading this blog entry, you have obviously found our website, but have you really explored it yet?

We launched this website in June, 2008. Since then we’ve added many more features, further developed the original sections, and added videos of many of our events. It’s a site to browse for readingviewing, and listening suggestions; a doorway into our catalog to search our holdings, reserve materials, and check your own account; a source of information through our topic guides; a calendar to our many events and programs at all locations for all ages. 

Some website features are basic and will always be there, others are seasonal…..we currently have a link to tax forms and information. Others are constantly being expanded…..look at the local history section.

Library websites are frequently called online branches. We hope it is becoming that for you with logical, easy navigation and information you needed. We hope, however, that it is also a site you just want to browse even when you aren’t looking for anything in particular. I’d welcome your comments about our website. 

Do explore our online branch soon.


Kalamazoo Public Library Website

Reading Together @ KPL

I’m proud of all our programs, but Reading Together is one of my personal favorites. I like to read a book and discuss it with others and that’s exactly what Reading Together is all about!

This year the “community book club” is reading and discussing Rick Bragg’s powerful trilogy of memoirs. The kick-off event, a screening of short animated video productions inspired by his story, is March 4. The concluding event, “Meet Rick Bragg,” will be April 14. He’ll read from his books, tell his stories, share what he reads, and answer questions.

A recent article in the Kalamazoo Gazette included excerpts from an interview with Mr. Bragg. Full information about the bookssuggested discussion questionseventsbook discussions, and suggestions for further reading is on the website. If you're inspired by the books, you're also able to “Tell Your Story.” 

We have copies of all three of the books to check out, but you don’t need to read all of them to participate. It is hard to stop reading after one though!

Read one, two, or three books and join me at an event or discussion.


Reading Together

Congressman Upton @ KPL

Congressman Fred Upton visited KPL last week. He presented a book for our collection on Africans Americans in Congress and we told him about some of our services. I stressed the ongoing theme:  library business is up in tough economic times when library funding is down.

Our first stop was the Ready to Read office, our early childhood literacy program. Rep Upton has read to children at previous events; we could quickly review it and thank him for his support.

Next we walked through our public computer area; almost all were in use. He chatted with a patron and invited him to keep in touch via Facebook.

We showed him our ONE place @ kpl, our new nonprofit management support center to be launched in March. He understood the challenges facing many nonprofits and was pleased about the financial support from local foundations to fund this center at KPL.

As we walked to the computer lab, we told him about our job skills classes. A class was in session. He told the students about his support for libraries and technology; they then shared their appreciation for our free classes, the helpful learning environment, and the variety of job skills classes. One student described how the classes have helped her start a small business.

We ended with a quick walk through of our children’s room and he spoke briefly with a young girl about her reading. She wasn’t too interested in talking, but she sure hung on to her library books! She may not have wanted to talk, but she sure wanted those books!

The visit was short, about half an hour. We welcomed the chance to highlight some services and invited him to return anytime.

Of course I hope you will visit soon too.  Consider this your invitation!


Congressman Fred Upton


In early January, the focus of The Diane Rehm show on NPR was the role of libraries in economic hard times, an increasingly timely discussion.  Her guests were the directors of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and the D.C. Public Library, and the president of the American Library Association, an academic librarian.

They all described increases in visits, registrations, computer use, program attendance, and circulation at the same time their revenues are decreasing. Listeners who phoned or emailed in shared similar stories from their local library; folks are turning to their public library for services and materials they might have looked for elsewhere previously.

Our experience is similar.  AV materials…DVDsCDsaudiobooksdigital media…have experienced the highest increase. Circulation is up almost 40% at the central library; close to 30% across all KPL locations for the nonprint materials.

We purchase the films shown by the Kalamazoo Film Society and have established a Hot Picks on DVD collection with current, often just-released titles. As always, there is no charge to borrow an AV item, including new titles. You just need a library card. Those not on the shelf when you visit can be reserved. Just ask any staff member.

And come visit soon to browse our AV items….at any location or on our website.


Audiovisual Department

Public Use Computers @ KPL

In recent blog postings, I’ve written about the increased use of computers in these tough economic times. KPL offers 120 computers for patron use at our five locations. At the Central Library, three public computers are reserved for resume writing and to file for unemployment benefits. Another 15 are primarily for word processing, others provide subscription databases, and the remaining ones are for general internet use.

Patrons sign in to use these computers with their library card barcode. Guest passes are available for those without a card. Upon logging in, patrons are asked to read and agree to our “Internet and Computer Use Policy.” Patrons and guests may use a computer for up to two hours per day. With so many computers, turnover occurs frequently, and patrons typically don’t have to wait very long.

Each patron decides how to use their two hours, within the guidelines of the library’s computer use policy. Library staff members do not judge the value or importance of an individual’s computer use. Time limits are monitored by software, but staff may override the limit if necessary for a patron to complete a job application, an employment filing, or similar use.

Do come visit and use KPL’s computers for class assignments, completing job applications, filing for unemployment, preparing a resume, checking your email, surfing the internet, online shopping... whatever your computer interests and needs might be.


Public Computers

Library Power Users!

Library staff talk about “power users,” those patrons who visit several times a week, use many services, and check out lots of books and AV materials.

I recently saw the results of a study done at an Ohio library that found that 8.3% of their patrons accounted for 61% of their circulation. Wow….they have some real power users there!

We don’t have corresponding statistics but I would guess our power users don’t account for that large a percentage of our total circulation. Of course it begs the question of “what defines a power user?” Library staff might say, we can’t define them, but we know them when we see them!

Come visit and check out as many or as few materials as you want. You can be a power user….or just a regular user!


Research your favorite topic at the library

Uncertain Times at the State Level

In her “State of the State” address last week, Governor Granholm announced her intention to eliminate the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries (HAL). What that will mean for Michigan libraries of all types is not yet clear and likely will not be for several weeks.

When the Governor issues her proposed budget, we will know if state aid to public libraries and the Library of Michigan are slated for cuts. We should know if the entire department will be folded in elsewhere in state government, if it will be divided, if it will be totally eliminated. Some federal money funnels to libraries through the Library of Michigan... how will that be handled? And what about the electronic databases provided to us with federal money through the Library of Michigan? How about MeLCat, the state wide catalog through which interlibrary loan is carried out?

There are many questions yet to be answered within the scope of an expected $400 million deficit for this state this budget year and $1 billion for next year. These library questions are just a few.

At KPL we continue to monitor state funding developments closely and look for economies in our operations. These are challenging times for everyone.

Do come visit soon, though. We are continuously adding new print and AV materials to our collections and offering programs for all ages.


State of the State address

Libraries In the National News

In just the past 24 hours, I have heard or read seven national news stories about the role of libraries in these challenging economic times, often when library funding is being cut.

All of the stories stress that people turn to libraries for help with a job searchcomputer classesfree wififree family programsbooksAV materials… the list goes on.

In many of these communities, especially ones in which the library is part of city government, the library has experienced major financial set backs and been forced to reduce hours, lay off staff, close branches at the same time the need and demand for library services is exploding.

KPL is a district library and directly responsible to the voters. Our revenues are flat this year….state aid has been reduced, interest income is flat, there is limited growth in our property tax base. We are trimming some “backroom” operations, not filling some staff vacancies, continuing to look for efficiencies in our processes. We have not had to reduce hours, close branches, or drop entire services.

"...more people are re-discovering the value of the public library.” (CBS News)

As with the libraries mentioned in these national news stories, our use is up in all areas: our total circulation is up 10% so far this year, AV over 20%; patron assistance is up 22%, computer use over 50%. Program attendance is strong too.

I am often asked about our funding. We will have a millage renewal vote on May 5. This is our basic operational millage approved by the voters 20 years ago. It provides about 95% of our revenue. Its renewal will allow us to continue to provide these services: materials, programs, branches, computer classes among many others.

Come visit soon!


In Recession, Libraries Are Booming

Fielding Reference Questions

Last week the Kalamazoo Gazette had an article “Of Giraffes and More: Fielding Questions on the Reference Desk.” The reporter had asked several of our reference staff for the most interesting question of the year. What a challenging question to ask our staff AND what challenging questions they have answered!

As reported in the article, we had a record number of questions last year: 192,580 to be exact and patron assistance in all categories, included reference questions, is up about 20% so far this year. We too are experiencing the national trend of an increase in library use in all categories during challenging economic times.

Some had predicted a decline in the need for reference assistance at public libraries with home internet access and the advent of websites like Google and Wikipedia. That is not happening at KPL, nor at libraries generally. Business is booming! Patrons need help defining their search strategy and finding authoritative sources.

We can help. Our staff has reviewed many, many websites, selected the best ones, and arranged them in 49 categories or topic guides. We continually add new categories and add additional resources to the current ones.

Come visit soon…..or go to our website or call or email with your reference questions.


Of giraffes and more: Librarians field complicated questions on the reference desk (Kalamazoo Gazette)

Spread the Joy of Reading

A few days ago, I wrote about the revival in fiction reading. Those of us who read a lot, have a responsibility to spread the joy!

Read in public... when you are alone in a coffee shop, read on the bus, read in the waiting room. If it is a book you own, loan or give it to someone else; give a book as a giftRead with your communityRead to your kids.

Recommend books you like to others. To those who read a lot, it is easy to forget that folks who don’t read as much don’t know what to choose. Tell others what you are reading and what you have particularly enjoyed. Join a discussion. Make booklists; real readers share their passion with others.

Come visit soon….we have lots of good books and while you are at the central library, visit the Friends of the Library used bookstore on the lower level.


Staff Picks

Fiction Reading Revival

A just-released report from the National Endowment for the Arts reports a reversal of the decline in fiction reading. For the first time since 1982, the percentage of adults 18 and older who said they had read a novel, short story, play, or poem in the previous twelve months increased AND the most dramatic increase was among 18-24 year olds. Since this is the group who grew up on the Harry Potter novels, it’s not surprising, BUT certainly reassuring. (I count my 22 year old son solidly in that group; Harry Potter made him a leisure reader.)

The national print media has had several articles about this study and reading in general. Author Ann Patchett, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says it well: “I am a firm believer in the fact that it isn’t so much what you read, it’s that you read.  Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone.  It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we’ve never met, living lives we couldn’t possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character’s skin.”

All fiction readers would agree with her!

Come visit soon and find a fiction book for these cold winter evenings.  Browse our new adult fiction, skim the Hot Picks shelves, stroll the fiction aisles.  We have a lot of good ones!


New Fiction

Library Resources Aid Job Search

About every other day, it seems, there is a story in the national media, print or broadcast, about library use in these challenging economic times. I appreciate that family, friends, and patrons call them to my attention.

This past week, a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Folks are Flocking to the Library, A Cozy Place to Look for a Job” described the surge in library business from job seekers. That is our experience here at KPL too. Computer use is up over 50% in the past several months. Some of that use is from patrons working on their resume, completing online job applications, and reading job ads. Most of our computer classes are filled; our free wifi is getting more use too. 

Come visit soon, whether you are a job seeker, a student, or looking for leisure reading or viewing.


Job Search

READ posters are gaining national attention

Many public libraries have READ posters, pictures of local celebrities holding their favorite book. One of the READ posters from the Skokie (IL) Public Library is now getting some national attention: Barack Obama holding Doris Kearns Goodwin’s A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Of course this book is now getting a lot of media attention and has been a model for Obama’s cabinet selections. I wonder how seriously Obama was pondering a presidential run and thinking of following Lincoln’s model for cabinet selections when he chose this book and posed for their READ poster.

KPL’s READ posters don’t have anyone as widely known as Skokie’s but nevertheless we have some engaging READ posters of Kalamazoo folks. Look for them on the sides of our delivery van, in ads in the Kalamazoo GazetteExcelsior (Dr. Michael Rice),  Encore (Bobby Hopewell), other local publications (Newcomers magazineKSO program bookCivic Theatre program bookWMU Theatre book) and of course on our website. They are also displayed from time to time in our buildings.

Come visit soon…. centralbranchesbookmobile, or through our website.


Barack Obama READ Poster

Genealogy at KPL

Yesterday’s Kalamazoo Gazette (January 14) had an article about KPL patron Renee Johnson’s passion for genealogy, inspired by her attendance at one of our genealogy lock-ins several years ago. In the article Renee explains what she has uncovered using many of our online and print resources. To learn more specifics about our wide array of genealogy materials and related public programs, click on “Genealogy” on our homepage.

And back to Renee... if you read the winter issue of our newsletter, LINK, you might have seen Renee in the “your stories” article. Along with her story, there are several others from our patrons AND, we’d love to hear your story too. Go to to read the story of some of our patrons and to add your story to our collection...


Your Stories

Libraries in tough economic times

Librarians know that libraries are even busier in tough economic times. It is obvious in the number of patrons through our doors, the number and types of reference questions asked, the wait to use public computers, attendance at our programs, and, of course, an increase in circulation of books and AV items. Unfortunately that increase in the need for our services and in usage is often coupled with tighter budgets and an increase in costs. Nevertheless, libraries rise to the challenge.

We were pleased to see a national news story on this very topic….increase in usage, tighter budgets for libraries.

Libraries offer free relief from tough times (MSNBC)

Usage at KPL mirrors this national trend. So far, for our year which just began on July 1, our circulation of all materials across all our locations is up 10%. This reflects an increase of 6% for print materials, 23% for nonprint materials. Our reference questions are up 9%, patron assistance of all types up 22%. Our equipment use, primarily of public computers, is up a staggering 54%.

Most of our FREE computer classes are filled and attendance at our programs for adults, teens, children, and families has increased.

Come visit soon!  I’m confident we will have a book, an AV item, a program, a class, a computer that will help you in one way or another during these challenging economic times.


MSNBC Report: Libraries offer free relief from tough times