Kansas City Area Public Libraries Join Together for 2017 Big Read

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Courtney Lewis
Kansas City Area Public Libraries Join Together for 2017 Big Read

Kansas City, MO - The Kansas City area’s six public libraries are joining together for a local edition of the 2017 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read focusing on the turbulent period of the Vietnam War.

The 2½-month initiative – revolving around a community-wide reading and discussion of Tim O’Brien’s seminal book about the war, The Things They Carried – features speaking presentations, film screenings, youth activities, and group discussions.

Partnering libraries span the state line. On the Missouri side: the Kansas City, Mid-Continent and North Kansas City public libraries. In Kansas: the Johnson County Library and Kansas City, Kansas, and Olathe public libraries. All together, they account for more than 80 branches and other service locations and 1.2 million registered users.

The Big Read KC runs from September to mid-November 2017. All six libraries are offering events connected with The Things They Carried and the Vietnam War, with O’Brien speaking at the Kansas City Public Library’s Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St., on Thursday, October 12.

The Things They Carried is a modern classic, a collection of 22 interrelated stories illuminating both the physical and emotional toll of the war. The book sold more than 2 million copies and made O’Brien a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1991.

“It is always exciting to take part in a Big Read with our metro libraries,” said Carol Levers, Director of Libraries, Kansas City, Kansas Public Library. “In today's climate, LBJ's words ring true when he said ‘a book is the most effective weapon against intolerance and ignorance.’”

“The Big Read this year is special for many reasons. It’s a true community collaboration joining forces with library systems from across state lines. This community-wide shared experience brings us together to reflect, discuss, and share – and our joint efforts make it so much more powerful,” said Kansas City Public Library Director Crosby Kemper III

Olathe Public Library Director Emily Baker says, “Kansas City communities can only benefit when their libraries collaborate. The impact of shared reading and a new understanding of historical events make for one community and many new neighbors.”

Programs range from author and former U.S. Army nurse Lou Eisenbrandt’s Vietnam Nurse: Mending and Remembering, to a 1960s musical retrospective by author Doug Bradley entitled We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War, to a teen program with activities from a traditional Vietnamese Mid-Autumn festival and more.

There are several ways to participate in the Big Read KC:
  • Get a copy of The Things They Carried from your local library. Books are available for checkout in print, eBook, and audiobook.
  • Attend an activity or event. Big Read KC offers many author presentations, music performances, film screenings, and more. Discover a full list of activities at bigreadkc.org.
  • Join a book discussion. Explore The Things They Carried with others. Find discussion opportunities at your local library.
  • Engage on social media. Connect with participating KC-area libraries on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms. Share your Big Read KC experiences with #bigreadkc. Join the Big Read KC Facebook Group at facebook.com/groups/2017bigreadkc.

“Nothing brings a community together quite like shared experiences, and that is really what Big Read KC is all about,” said Mid-Continent Public Library Director Steven V. Potter. “It is much less about reading the same book and much more about providing community members a platform to connect, engage, and learn from one another.”

Johnson County Library Director Sean Casserley agrees. “Reading at its heart is the act of listening. A world that listens is a world at peace.”  

The Vietnam remembrance coincides with the September premiere of Ken Burns’ latest documentary series, The Vietnam War, on KCPT-Kansas City PBS, beginning Sunday, September 17. Burns and co-director Lynn Novick kick off Big Read KC with a KCPT-sponsored appearance on Friday, September 8, at the Arvest Bank Theater at the Midland.

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. Additional program funding provided through a partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council. For more information go to bigreadkc.org