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From the Director

Another Way to Reduce Stress

This can be a stressful, overly busy time of year. We’ve all read advice for reducing stress. Here’s another one: uninterrupted reading, even “slow reading.”

“Slow reading” is a return to reading habits of the time before cellphones, social media, Google….just sit in silence and read uninterruptedly. Reducing stress is certainly a benefit. Such reading time also enhances comprehension, deepens empathy, enriches vocabulary, and of course, provides pleasure.

The reading tips include going to a place with no distractions (turn off the phone and computer), and treat reading like something you deliberately make time for.

If folding this approach into this busy time of year just seems overwhelming, perhaps it will be a new year’s resolution for you.

Year End Donations

There is a new day designation, at least new to me……December 2 has been designated “Giving Tuesday.” This has a nice ring as opposed to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

This is the time of year when we all receive many requests for donations from a wide variety of local, regional, and national organizations.

The library does not conduct an annual fundraising campaign nor send out a solicitation request. Our only fundraiser is our annual Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee to raise funds to buy books for distribution through our Ready to Read program.

Of course donations to the library are always welcome and greatly appreciated. There is a link on our website - look for “Support the Library” at the bottom of any page.

A donation 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 Local History, Teens, or Ready to Read. 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.

Spelling Bee Thanks to KPL Staff


What a night for the 14th annual Great Grown-up Spelling Bee! THANK YOU to all the KPL staff who had a part in making this another successful year of raising serious money to buy books for kids through Ready to Read. It was fun. I can’t begin to name everyone who had a part before, at, after the event BUT I will thank Mikki who pulled it all together so smoothly and the KPL spellers, Bill and Lolita, who won 2nd place in a spell down against Portage District Library, no less, and to Karen who did an awesome job as word pronouncer. She must practice at home to be so smooth at this role. And our cheerleaders….great job with that 1980’s look and moves. For those of you old enough to remember…..I think Lolita was channeling the Jane Fonda’s work-out look!! Do we miss those days??

Well into the night, Neil Bremer the MC, asked how many were there for the first time. I was amazed how many hands went up. Although this event, now in its 14th year, is familiar to us, I think its longevity is partly due to attracting new folks each year.

Final numbers aren’t in, but indications are we raised the “usual” amount of $20,000 or so. I call that serious money to buy lots and lots of books for kids.

Thank you KPL staff. We have reason to celebrate and be proud today.

Great job everyone!


Just 15 Minutes a Day Can Make a Difference

 I often write here and in LINK, our newsletter, about our #1 priority of creating young readers – preparing young children to be ready to learn when they enter school. Some new resources have been added to our website to support this goal.

Once again research has shown that children who are read to do better in school. A new emphasis, Read Aloud 15 MINUTES, maintains that “15 minutes of reading aloud daily, starting at birth, will change the face of education in our country.” Additional information about this initiative is on our website.

15 minutes a day of reading to young children dovetails nicely with our program 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten and soon to come will be our Early Learning Calendar for 2015, available in December.

Storytimes continue to be a favorite for many families of young children. Many plan their library visit around Storytime or plan for play time in the Story Place, the activity room for young children at Central.

These resources and many others are described on the Kids & Parents section of our website. We update it often, so visit often.

And, of course, read to all the young children in your life.

New Look for the Central Rotunda

The first floor rotunda at Central has a new look.


Shelving for new fiction and nonfiction, Hot Picks, and urban fiction has been repositioned to go around the opening rather than as spokes from the opening. New display tables have been added and much of the seating has been moved to the second floor. The space is more fully a browsing area for new materials, not a seating area.

In the second floor rotunda, additional seating has been added by current magazines. Current newspapers have been moved across from Local History and tables and chairs have been repositioned to create a more quiet reading and study area.

The first floor changes reflect our priority of “reading, viewing, and listening for pleasure” and provide a space to highlight staff picks, librarian favorites, and topical books, along with new books.

Patrons have asked for a more quiet reading area and we hope that will be the use of the area by Local History.

Come visit soon and see our rearranged look.


First Grade Visits!

Each fall all 1,200+ first graders in the Kalamazoo Public Schools visit the library twice. We are almost finished the first round of visits. The first graders heard a story, received their very own library card, and chose a book to take back to school.

When they visit again in a few weeks, they will return the book and look for another one, then hopefully return again with their family. We hope to make library visits an ongoing family routine for these first graders.

Many studies show the difference in school readiness and academic achievement between children who have been read to and visited libraries and those who have not. We know that children who live in poverty are at the highest risk for starting school unprepared to learn.

We are working closely with the Kalamazoo Public Schools as well as many others in the community to support school readiness. Services and programs for preschoolers as well as those in the early elementary grades are listed on our website. Our staff would also be happy to describe them to you.

It takes all of us to support our community’s children – help us spread the word about library services and the importance of regular library visits.


We Have Good Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

142 Years and Going Strong!

We are in birthday mode!

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

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

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

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

Library Satisfaction & Use

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

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

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

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


Read Whatever You Choose

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

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

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

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

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