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Exploring the Great Outdoors

by Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

bison grazing at the tall grass prairie preserve

Bison grazing at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.  Wash your spirit clean.” –John Muir

If you’ve ever visited one of the 401 locations in the national parks system, you know how powerfully beautiful and restorative a trip to the outdoors can be.  July happens to be “National Parks and Recreation Month,” and this is a perfect time to get outdoors to do some exploring, even if you’ve never ventured any farther than your own backyard.

Kansas offers several short trips to get a beginning trekker started. The Konza Biological Preserve, located just southeast of town off McDowell Creek Road, offers six miles of hiking trails through native tallgrass prairie. At the highest points you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Flint Hills and might even spot a few members of a bison herd in the distance.

The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve presents opportunities for closer contact with bison, if you’re lucky, and more than 44 miles of trails through pristine prairie grasses. You’ll find this national park about two miles north of Strong City, along Highway 177. The visitor’s center has many resources to help you explore the park, including cell phone tours of the historic buildings on the site, a short orientation film, and books for sale.

The Flint Hills Discovery Center in downtown Manhattan is another wonderful place to start your journey. It has exhibits and interactive features to explore the geology, biology, and cultural history of the Flint Hills. Plus, they have a fun gift shop full of local products, artwork, and books by local authors.

Speaking of books, if you would like to find suggestions for exploration, naturalist inspiration, or if you prefer armchair travel, the library has a wealth of outdoor adventure books, both fiction and non-fiction, to aid in your quest.

If you are looking for a volume to carry with you, try one of the comprehensive plant identification books, such as Wildflowers and Grasses of Kansas by Michael John Haddock. The detailed descriptions and great pictures will help you find everything from big bluestem to western yarrow.

Or, you might want to try a nice bird-watching guide. The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Sibley  is the most comprehensive book available. It features hundreds upon hundreds of detailed illustrations to help you identify every bird in North America. This book can be a little intimidating at first, but I suggest you dive right in and see what you can find.  If you’re a budding naturalist, just start with the index and explore from there!

I would also suggest sampling some of the outdoor inspirational classics like the works of John Muir, located in the library at call number 508.794. His Eight Wilderness Discovery Books are available bound in one volume or in smaller groupings. They are fantastic reads, but probably won’t fit in your day pack!

For armchair adventure, I strongly recommend Wild by Cheryl Strayed (813.6). This memoir chronicles a young woman’s 1,100-mile journey alone along the Pacific Crest Trail. It is a heart-wrenching tale of struggle, sorrow, determination, and redemption that will leave you wondering how far you could push yourself if you tried.

After you visit the Tallgrass National Preserve, that still leaves about 400 more places to explore. If you’re planning a trip to another state, the library has handbooks and field guides available for many different regions, identifying plants, trees, birds, and insects. It’s a lot of fun to point out butterfly milkweed or old plainsman when you pass them in the field. Plus, you look pretty smart when you do!

You’ll also find maps of Kansas, local bike trails, local rivers, and much more when you visit the Manhattan Public Library. Have fun exploring the great outdoors!

Posted in: Mercury Column

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Youth Volunteer of the Year

photo of Amyby Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

In 2013, library volunteers donated 2,041 hours of their time, and the library wouldn’t be the same without them. We are fortunate to have the support of these dedicated volunteers, and I would like to take a few moments each month to highlight their contributions.

This month, I would like to introduce you to one of our younger volunteers, Amy, who helps out in the children’s department. Amy has been donating her time for several years now, helping kids register for summer reading, writing nametags and giving out stamps at storytimes, and answering questions. Amy was recently recognized by the K-State School of Leadership Studies as the “Youth Volunteer of the Year.” She was awarded $250 in prize money, which she promptly donated to the library.

One of the many things that impresses me about Amy is her positive attitude. Whenever I pass her in the children’s library, she gives me a giant smile. Amy says it feels wonderful to know she’s really helping, and calls the library “one of the most welcoming places you can ever be.” She is definitely one of the people who makes it welcoming!

Amy will be attending the University of Kansas this fall as an English major. She says that her love of books and reading started when her mother brought her to storytimes as a kid, and she saw all the fun puppets. After Amy earns her BA in English, she plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Library Science, and then become a librarian. We are all very proud of her, but I’m sure we can’t match the pride felt by Amy’s mother, Lori, a professor of Early Childhood Education at K-State, who first introduced Amy to the written word.

We are all incredibly grateful for the dedication and enthusiasm Amy has brought to her work at the library. We wish her all the best as she starts college this fall, and hope she will consider applying at MPL when she earns her degree. If you see Amy working this summer, please take a moment to say thank you.

Teens, if you’re interested in volunteering at the library, check the volunteer section of the Young Adults page at the beginning of the semester. Positions are filled seasonally. Adults can fill out the volunteer application and return it to any public service desk anytime.

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Construction Halfway Point

By Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

Construction is going well and the project is starting to move indoors. Windows will be installed soon, and the roof work is almost completed, just in time for the warmer weather and some wild storms. The expansion is on schedule to be completed in December and we hope to have the grand opening celebration in January.

Here are a few photos from a perspective the public doesn’t usually get to see.

If you have any questions about the construction project, please contact us at   old storytime room mid-construction We’ll call this one “before.”

roofers covering project in the rain What do roofers like less than heat? Rain!crane lifting new HVAC onto roof

This way! The new HVAC system was hoisted into place by crane.Roofers from Topeka worked hard to get the job done. The roof was finished very quickly, once the rain stopped!

Posted in: Children's Expansion

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Free Whitespace WiFi in Manhattan

tower and wifi iconDo you remember the rabbit ears that used to sit on top of your TV? What about those first Twister poses you learned when maneuvering the antenna to catch the analog signal your TV depended on? All of those things seem like distant memories now, but as it turns out, the old analog signals that carried television channels, now called TV Whitespace, are still useful for something. In fact, they present an efficient and inexpensive way to broadcast WiFi signal.

Who figured out this bit of new technology? The Gigabit Libraries Network began a project in 2013 to test TV Whitespace technology, sending out an open call for libraries across the nation to participate. The six library systems and consortia that joined the trial include: Delta County, CO; Pascagoula, MS; Skokie, IL; Humboldt County, CA; Kansas City, Lawrence, Manhattan, Topeka/Shawnee, KS; and NH.

“TVWS systems are very easy to set up and a cost effective connectivity option, particularly in rural areas where fiber, DSL, cable services are not available,” says John Gavan of Delta County, Colorado Public Library.

We are happy to report that the project is working. The Manhattan Public Library has now successfully installed Whitespace technology in three locations across town: City Park Playground near the Splash Park; City Park Pool; and the Douglass Community Center.

You might be wondering, who can use this signal? Patrons can access the free WiFi with any wireless internet device, using a library card number and password. To log in, connect to the wireless network named “Library Wireless.” Next, open your browser and go to From there, you will be prompted to type in your library card number and password. It’s that easy.

If you have difficulty connecting, please visit the library and talk to one of our staff members. If you don’t have a library card, or don’t remember your password, we can help with that too. No personal information will be given out over the phone, however, so it is important to stop by and talk with us in person.

The next time you’re hanging out at the park and need a new eBook to read, or want to check the weather radar, connect with friends, or just see what’s going on in the world, feel free to make use of those old TV Whitespace channels courtesy of the Manhattan Public Library.

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Free Concerts at City Park

Arts in the Park concert courtesy of the Hype Weekly

photo of Arts in the Park concert courtesy of the Hype Weekly

The first time I went to an Arts in the Park Concert, in 2013, I was amazed. Heather Masse, a member of the Wailin Jennys, was playing and I still couldn’t quite accept the fact that the concert was free. My husband and I walked up to the Larry Norvell Band Shell and found a seat amongst smiling neighbors who brought their kids, or their dogs, or their picnic blankets, and were relaxing and laughing during a nice evening in the park. I thought “She probably won’t play for very long. This is a little too good to be true.” I was wrong.

Heather brought an entire band with her and played for two hours. She knocked my socks off and I think my husband and I grinned the entire time. Every once in a while we looked up to the treetops and watched the bats zipping and diving for bugs, then watched the kids dancing in front of the stage, then just sat back and enjoyed this very fine group of musicians play. All for free. All right here in our own City Park.

Since then, I’ve been telling everyone about Arts in the Park. Everyone I met at the Kansas Sampler Festival in April got a spiel. I spread the word around the library every week, and now I’m telling you.

The full Arts in the Park schedule, as well as the Municipal Band schedule, is available on the City of Manhattan website. All the shows take place at the Larry Norvell Band Shell in City Park, located near the intersection of N 11th Street and Fremont St. All the concerts are free and open to the public.

The Wailin Jennys are playing this Friday, June 6 starting at 8:00pm, by the way. You won’t be disappointed, trust me. Other artists on the schedule include The Big Time Grain Company, a rockin’ country band from Kansas City and Randy McCallister, a Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter from Texas. And then there’s the Little Apple Music Festival on August 2, which will feature an entire lineup of great bands. The festival is sponsored by the KSU Union Program Council as part of Rhythm and Brews weekend and will include a kid-friendly area at the park from 6-9pm. Look for us there—the library will have a table indoors with a cool craft for kids.

Plus, the Municipal Band plays throughout the summer, too! Dr. Frank Tracz, Professor of Music and Director of Bands at K-State, conducts an impressive group of musicians who play a new set every week. If you didn’t think there were enough fun, free, family-friendly activities in town, I hope you are now officially amazed.

By the way, after the concert last year, Heather stepped off stage and came out to greet everyone. I shook her hand and asked her to sign my CD, which she did with a smile. Manhattan is such a wonderful place to live!

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Construction Time-Lapse Video April Update

Kerry, the Manhattan Public Library’s IT Department Manager, has been documenting the construction of the new children’s library using time-lapse photography.

Watch amazing footage of the north and south side expansions as the steel I-beams are installed and the new storytime room’s foundation is poured. From our vantage point on the third floor, this looks like one giant lego project!

Stay tuned for more video updates as the construction progresses.

Posted in: Children's Dept, Children's Expansion, News

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Community Needs Assessment Through May 26

RCSSC LogoResidents of Riley and Pottawatomie Counties will have a chance to provide input regarding the quality of life in their communities and to identify their communities’ unmet needs in connection with a comprehensive community needs assessment. The assessment is being coordinated by the Riley County Seniors’ Service Center.

The needs assessment was made possible with a grant from the Caroline Peine Charitable Foundation-Manhattan Fund with additional funding from Mercy Regional Health Center, Riley County Council on Aging, United Way, and Wamego Health Center.

“It has been more than 20-yrs since the last community needs assessment was done,” said Center Director Jami Ramsey. “Our community has changed a lot since 1992 when the last assessment was done. The Center needed up-to-date and reliable information about the community’s needs and we knew other community agencies needed the information too.”

Residents can take the needs assessment survey online at through Mon., May 26. There is an adult survey and a youth survey. Residents can also print hard copies from the website and once completed can drop them off at the Seniors’ Service Center, 301 N. 4th Street. The survey is available in English, Spanish, and Korean.

The Seniors’ Service Center worked with the Center for Community Support and Research (CCSR), Wichita State University to develop the needs assessment. CCSR will contact some residents by phone and mail to ask them to complete the assessment. The Seniors’ Center also requested input from representatives from local community organizations and agencies to ensure that the assessment covers information that they needed.The issues covered by the survey include quality of life, physical health, mental health, social issues, children and youth, education, aging, housing, transportation, infrastructure, and economics and personal finance.

“Because this is a comprehensive community needs assessment, it’s long,” said Center Project Coordinator Debbie Nuss. “We hope people will be patient and take the 20-30 min needed to complete the survey. The more people who complete it, the better we will know what the community thinks it needs.”

The final results of the survey will be available in late fall. The results will help local organizations and agencies determine how to direct their resources. The results will also support their requests for funds from outside granting agencies.

In addition, United Way plans to organize “community conversations” to talk about the survey results.

“The conversations will focus on the unmet needs that have been identified by the survey and what we, as a community, might want to do to address them,” said Lee Ann Smith Desper, United Way Director.

Posted in: Adult Services, For Teens, News

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South Doors Re-Opened!

The library’s main entrance is now open! You can tap your toes on a brand new sidewalk leading into the atrium. Thank you for your patience during construction on the new children’s library.

Construction will continue throughout the summer and fall, and we hope to open the new space by the end of the year. If you’re curious to see what the new children’s library will look like, check the plans and artist sketches on the Children’s Library Expansion Page.

Posted in: Children's Dept, Children's Expansion, News

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Watching Us Grow

Construction workers in 1904 unloading timber to build the Carnegie library

1904 image courtesy of the Riley County Historical Society

The original Carnegie Library, built in 1904 with a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie, still stands at 5th and Poyntz. A largely volunteer labor force erected the structure and fit the limestone blocks in place using hand tools, horses, and wagons. It took only ten months to complete the project, and in December 1904, the first Manhattan library opened its doors with a collection of 1,000 volumes. Can you imagine the scope of the project when horsepower was really horse power?

Today, the library houses a collection of more than 160,000 items. The collection is constantly being refreshed and refined with daily deliveries of new books, DVDs, music CDs, and now a collection of ebooks.  An average of 1,000 people per day visit MPL, and a recent PEW report revealed that two -thirds of Americans are “actively engaged” with their local libraries. Impressive numbers, indeed.

It’s been exciting to watch the big cranes unloading steel girders that will become the new children’s library, to marvel at the skill of the workers, and to see the building’s frame take shape. The new children’s library expansion should be completed by the end of the year, and, in the words of a young patron, “The library is the best!”

The library’s first leader, Mary Cornelia Lee, wrote in 1929, “It is fitting now to remember and honor the early pioneers of Manhattan who lived and labored, planned and thought and dreamed, through the years of the first half century of our civic life, as well as to give credit to the later citizens who voted for the Free Public Library and who have supported it through the first quarter century of its existence.” As we go through this new construction process, it is still fitting to remember the people who make the library possible, and to thank them for creating such a vibrant, welcoming place for the community to share information and ideas.

April 2014 construction workers attaching steel beams to framelarge truck delivering construction materials

Posted in: Children's Dept, Children's Expansion, News

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