A fixture on the local literary scene, Gina Kaufmann has written for The Kansas City Star and The Pitch, spent two years on the air as co-host of KCUR’s Walt Bodine Show, and organizes regular storytelling events. Now a freelance writer working on her master’s in creative writing, she’s a regular at the Kansas City Public Library’s Plaza Branch.
Kaufmann is a lifelong Library patron. As a kid, she took drama classes at the old Plaza Branch and later researched papers there as a teenager. Once while working on a high school report on cystic fibrosis, she stumbled on her dad making photocopies of maps of Africa. He was trying to settle a dispute he was having with a friend regarding how the name of the country Zaire had changed over time.
“I ran into people in my family who had left the same home I did earlier in the day at the Library,” she remembers.
As a candidate in the University of British-Columbia’s Optional-Residency MFA
Program in creative non-fiction and a freelance writer, Kaufmann uses the Library not only for research but as an alternative to working and taking classes from home.
“It’s appealing to have a workplace where you aren’t tempted to redecorate your bedroom when you hit a hard spot in your writing,” she says.
Though many of her fellow laptop luggers go to coffee shops, Kaufmann prefers the Library -- there’s no pressure to buy multiple lattes in exchange for the free broadband wi-fi, and there’s a wealth of information on the shelves all around.
As a former tutor for Literacy KC, Kaufmann conducted her sessions in the Library, where she and her student felt comfortable and where helpful books were near at hand.
Lately, the Library has been helpful in her research for a project about 19th century Kansas women. One of the subjects is world explorer Osa Johnson of Chanute, KS, whose book, I Married Adventure, chronicles her trips to exotic locales with her husband, Martin, a photographer and filmmaker.
“She was his protector – he held the camera and she held the gun,” Kaufmann says.
Kaufmann knows the kind of information she’s often looking for can’t be found through simple Internet searches.
“Using Google to give yourself a basic familiarity of a subject is fine, but to do something you want to call ‘original research,’ you have to get up and go somewhere,” she says.
And for Kaufmann, more often than not, that somewhere is the Kansas City Public Library.
Explore the Library
Gina Kaufmann’s Ultimate Non-Fiction Reading List:
- The New Journalism, edited by Tom Wolfe and E.W. Johnson
- The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery, by D.T. Max
- Capture the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs, by Cyma Rubin (edited by Eric Newton)
- Mr. Apology and Other Essays, by Alec Wilkinson (“In particular, the essay about Larry King and his best friend, titled ‘Dependents,’ is just sheer perfection.”)
- Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef, by Betty Fussell.
- For the Time Being, by Annie Dillard
- The Oysters of Locmariaquer, by Eleanor Clark
- A Place of My Own, by Michael Pollan
-- Jason Harper