Library Staffers Share Memorable Moments of 2017

Friday, January 12, 2018

Memories are made at the Library each day. Our staff members reminisced about some of the moments from the past year that stood out as unique and notable -- stories and anecdotes underscoring how the Library is a special place that offers so much to our community.  
Libraries as Safe Spaces for All

“I noticed a young person had been coming to the Library every day and staying all day long. This went on for about a week. One morning, when I came to open, the teen was standing outside the front door in a T-shirt -- it was 40 degrees! I asked the teen if they needed anything, and they said they were fine. When I opened the doors, they went in and logged on to a computer. Later, I saw that the youth was crying quietly. I asked if I could help in any way and if they were safe. The youth said they had been kicked out of friend's house and had nowhere to stay the night. We made a plan to contact Safe Place and find some help. While we waited for the folks from Safe Place, the teen rested in the meeting room and I got them something to eat. They told me that they have been homeless for years and dropped out of school because they were embarrassed of their situation. Safe Place staff came and found a shelter for the youth to go for the night, so we said our goodbyes. A few weeks later, the teen came into the Library and told me they are in a GED program and working on getting their own apartment. I am so proud of them and so happy that the Library was a safe space for them!”

- Seth Emery, Westport and Ruiz Branches

Welcoming Immigrants, Refugees, New Citizens

“The naturalization ceremony held in Kirk Hall [was my favorite 2017 moment]. The path to citizenship is long, complex, and difficult. It's heartening to see so many people so dedicated to being Americans. I believe diversity is a great benefit and strengthens our community. To see so many people from so many backgrounds commit to being full-fledged members of our country and our city, to imagine all they have to contribute -- their culture, their stories, their music and food, their unique ways of making sense of the world, the ideas they can bring to the cultural conversation -- it takes my breath away. It strikes me as unfair that those of us born into our citizenship are never required to demonstrate a similar commitment.”

- John Keogh, Digital Branch

"The #ToImmigrantsWithLove letter-writing event held last year at the Central Library stands out as an incredibly postive and hopeful experience. The overwhelming support shown by Kansas Citians for refugees and immigrants was a celebration of kindness and welcoming. The sentiments written on the notes and postcards were so warm and moving, and the huge turnout underscored the idea of people coming together in the spirit of community. Couldn't be prouder of the role the Library plays in providing services and resources to everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from."

- Andy Dandino, Public Affairs

First Career Online High School Graduates

"The Career Online High School graduation ceremony was an inspiring and affirming event. It was incredibly exciting to acknowledge the strength and perseverance of the graduates and acknowledge their accomplishments in a public way. Seeing them pose onstage at the end with their loved ones really drove home the impact that this program has."

- David LaCrone, Digital Branch

Upgraded Technology and Services

“In 2017, I started the year with a major project that required me to travel to and spend extended periods of time at every branch in the Kansas City Public Library system: converting all physical KCPL items to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Despite the daunting task of physically handling every book, DVD, and CD, it was great to have an opportunity to spend time throughout the system and the neighborhoods it serves. I also had the pleasure of working closely with branch staff and branch managers and saw firsthand their kindness, work ethic, and passion for public libraries. Meeting these people and working with these people was my favorite Library moment of 2017! (Library Night at the K was a close second.)”

- Mick Cottin, Delivery Services

Making Music Together

“I was invited to join the first Ukes On The Roof event at the Central Library and given a loaner ukelele by a co-worker despite having no experience with the instrument whatsoever. I was so surprised at how quickly I was able to follow along and fit in with the more advanced (and very welcoming) participants. I had the most rewarding interactive experience, and took the further step of purchasing my own uke. I eagerly look forward to the next session.”

- Bob Pemberton, Outreach


Serving Those Experiencing Homelessness

“I have gotten to know several of our patrons who are experiencing homelessness through the Library's Coffee & Conversations program each month. At the end of the year, one of these patrons told me that a few of them had made bracelets to give away as Christmas presents/thank-you gifts. They gave a set to me. The beads are hand made from paper, and they are so lovely. The circumstances that left these gentlemen without housing do not reflect their generosity, kindness, and spirit. I am so moved and honored by their gift.

"(Additionally,) I worked a lunch shift with the Library's AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers and outreach librarian Jason Pearl at the KC Community Kitchen to promote the Coffee & Conversations program.  We had such a wonderful time serving so many of our regular patrons, who were often surprised and delighted to see us out of context.  The KC Community Kitchen supplies the food and coffee for Coffee & Conversations."

- Kim Gile, Reference


Big Year for the Big Read

"The highlight of my KCPL year was hearing National Book Award-winning author Tim O’Brien at the Plaza Branch as part of Big Read KC: The Things They Carried. Instead of talking about his book, Tim talked about the craft of writing and storytelling and its importance in our lives. He signed every book presented to him and answered every question posed by students, veterans, readers, and teachers. O’Brien lives the art of sharing stories as well as writing it."

- Kaite Stover, Director of Readers Services


Bringing History to Life in Engaging Ways

“I think it was watching the Break-Out Box for the Union Station Massacre come together and be an effective learning tool and team-building tool for staff and youth.”  

- Crystal Faris, Director of Youth and Family Services

Books and Blends

“Running coffee tastings for the Central Library Cafe has been great fun. My two favorites were the cold brew tasting and the one where Bibliosaurus Rex came to join us. The cold brew tasting was unique for the coffees, but one of the blends, Summer in the City, prompted the tasting group to sing that song throughout. Bibliosaurus Rex was just a fun guest to have at a tasting.”

- Shanti Riana Lechuga, Central Library Cafe Manager   
Fitness and Friendship at Library Classes

"My favorite moment from 2017 was attending my first Bluford fitness class. My first week as Bluford branch manager, I watched upwards of 50 women (and a few men!) sweat it out at one of Bluford's NickiFit classes. Several participants, seeing me standing awkwardly in the corner in my blazer, challenged me to work out with them the next week. So of course, I did! The workout was INTENSE, but the camaraderie and goodwill among class participants was even more powerful. There were grunts and groans when the workout got hard, but there were also shouted encouragements and cheers. Everyone took their workout seriously and made sure all the participants felt supported and welcome. I felt so lucky to be part of a branch that provides such an awesome service! This is what libraries are all about. It was one of those library moments that makes you tear up. Over the year, I've come to learn that the feeling I got at those classes isn't unique -- that's just what the Bluford community is like. I've been lucky to experience that feeling of intensity, camaraderie, and supportive welcome many times this year, but I'll never forget the first time I felt that special Bluford blend. (Also, I was sore for a week afterward!)"

- Grace Bentley, Bluford Branch Manager

Command Story Time Performances 

“I perform Library outreach at a day care center where I lead story time with infants and toddlers. When my visit is ending and I'm getting ready to leave, many of the children are so disappointed story time is over that they cry or want me to continue reading. In a couple of instances, children have used baby sign language to sign 'More book!' because they wanted me to read another story. Nothing feels better than earning a sincere 'encore.' Our Library mission speaks to the value of instilling a fundamental connection between the act of sharing books and pure joy. Though not yet 2 years old, these kids are showing that they are geared up to be lifelong learners.”

- Anna Francesca Garcia, Central Youth Services

Solar Eclipse-watching at the Library

“My favorite moment from the past year was the solar eclipse program. I feel that program was exciting and educational for patrons and staff.”

- Kathy Meier, One North Technology Center

"It wasn’t promising eclipse-viewing weather the morning of August 21 with dark clouds and rain across most of the city. By the noon hour, however, the sky above downtown had cleared and the sun was in full view as Library staff and patrons gathered on the Central Library’s rooftop terrace and parking garage to witness the eclipse event. The finale: nearly 30 seconds of totality and cheers from onlookers as downtown Kansas City turned dark."

- Jeremy Drouin, Missouri Valley Special Collections


 Special Programs, Special Guests

"There were several memorable programs and activities at the Central Library in 2017. A few highlights for me were:

"The last Missouri Valley Sundays program of 2017, Mob Files: Investigating the Kansas City Mafia, was also one of the best. More than 300 peopled filled Helzberg Auditorium to hear KCPT’s Jonathan Bender and former FBI agent William Ouseley discuss the rise and fall of the Kansas City mafia. Ouseley looked back on his 20-year career investigating and prosecuting organized crime members, recalling stories of infamous mobsters, wiretapping, and his role in bringing down crime boss Nick Civella. If you missed the program, look for it to air on C-SPAN later this year, or you can listen to an audio recording."

Listen to the Mob Files program online

"As expected, there was significant buzz and a large crowd for Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the Central Library on May 17 to talk with Library Director Crosby Kemper about her new book Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom. The former secretary of state did not disappoint. She was engaging and insightful in discussing her childhood in Alabama, mentors in her life, democracy and freedom around the globe, and several other topics. Definitely a highlight of 2017."
- Jeremy Drouin, Missouri Valley Special Collections


Other Library Moments
There were many more memorable stories and experiences at the Library last year than what we've included above. Here are a few additional highlights mentioned by staff:

A Fresh Look for the Southeast Branch

After about a month of being closed for renovations, the Library’s Southeast Branch now has fresh paint and carpet, new collections of books, two new study and collaboration rooms that can hold one to six people each, a new conference room, new teen and children’s computers, and more. Coming in 2018: a permanent home for the Library's Digital Media Lab.


First Lucile Bluford Day

The first statewide observance of Lucile Bluford Day was held July 1, 2017, per a Missouri House measure signed into law a year in 2016. The Library joined in the commemoration -- on what would have been Bluford’s 106th birthday -- with a day of events and exhibits at its L.H. Bluford Branch, 3050 Prospect.

Library Day at the K

KCPL teamed up with other area library systems and the hometown Royals for a night of fun at Kauffman Stadium. A portion of ticket sales supported the Library's children’s summer reading programs.


Library Recognition

The Library received a number of awards, honors, and recognitions in 2017. Among them:
  • For the second year in a row,  it earned a 5-Star designation from the publication Library Journal, the highest rating a library can receive.  Read more about the award.
  • The City of Kansas City and the Library were presented a 2017 LibraryAware Community Award. The honor is bestowed by Library Journal and the reading recommendation database NoveList to cities and libraries or library systems that have demonstrated an ability to make their communities aware of what libraries can do for them -- and have delivered on that promise. Read Councilman Quinton Lucas' remarks from the ceremony.

  • The nonprofit Consensus KC made the Library one of eight recipients of 2017 Consensus Civility Awards, recognizing institutions and individuals working across differences to improve the community. Specifically, the organization cited the Library’s work to promote civil dialogue through its extensive public programming, reduce the digital divide and engage individuals who are immigrants, refugees, or homeless. Read more about the award.

  • The American Library Association named the Library as the recipient of its 2017 Paul Howard Award for Courage, given biannually for “unusual courage for the benefit of library programs or services.” And Steve Woolfolk, KCPL’s director of programming and marking, was selected for the 2017 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity, established by the best-selling author and the ALA to recognize individuals who have “faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact.” Both honors stemmed from a 2016 Library event at which Woolfolk advocated for the First Amendment rights of a patron who was accosted during the public program’s question-and-answer session by outside security personnel under the direction of an event co-sponsor. The awards were presented during the ALA’s annual conference in Chicago in June. Read more about these awards.

  • The Library received the Missouri Humanities Council 2017 Humanities Award for Exemplary Community Achievement. It recognizes an organization that supports and encourages community betterment through writings, dialogue, or exhibits.  Read more about the award.
Gift to the Library Celebrates Librarian's Legacy

Diane Swanson gave 44 years of service to the Kansas City Public Library, including a decade and a half as director of its bustling Plaza Branch. Even after her death, the quiet, keenly intellectual librarian continued to give – a $1 million bequest that is the largest one-time gift from an individual in the Library’s history. It formed the new Swanson Strategic Endowment Fund.