Kansas City Public Library receives grants for youth, technology programs

Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

Kansas City Public Library has recently been awarded two grants, one that will bring a Mobile Device Lab to Kansas City, and the other will advance summer youth programming.

The new Mobile Device Labs, funded by the Missouri State Library LSTA/CARES Act grant, are the newest effort to help bridge the digital divide and bring valuable resources and programming to area organizations.

The four labs are available with a total of 55 Microsoft Surface Go Tablets, each outfitted with WiFi and 4G technology. Library staff members will coordinate to bring the labs and tablets to community events lacking the sufficient technology resources.

The Library also offers guidance to organizations on utilizing the service to help families and individuals in such specific areas as financial literacy, health and wellness, legal services, and job and career searches and advancement.

According to Mary Olive Joyce, the Library’s Outreach Director, the primary goal is getting these vital resources out to as many people in the community as possible.

“We hope the Mobile Device Labs will empower organizations and the Kansas Citians they serve to not only gain access to needed technology and allow anyone to keep up despite any inequity they might face,” Joyce said.

Outreach Coordinator Jason Bruenn echoed Joyce’s sentiments adding, “The need to access digital resources and online assistance has never been more evident. We are excited to be offering this service to local organizations to help bridge the digital and informational divide within our community.”

Anyone interested in using the service is asked to email MobileServices@kclibrary.org, a staff member will reach back out to talk through what might work best for each organization’s needs.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced Thursday that KCPL also received a Summer Library Program Grant of $8,000.

“Missouri’s communities are greatly served by the learning opportunities their libraries offer,” Ashcroft said. “Libraries across the state use these grants to not only help students maintain and improve reading skills over the summer break, but provide educational programs for patrons of all ages.”

The library will use the grant to focus on three components serving youth up to age 18. Activity kits for youth, preschool through high school, will be distributed at the library’s branches and outreach events, as well as through organizations that serve youth.

The grant will be used by the Youth and Family Engagement (YFE) department to create the Make. Do. Tell. take-and-make kits, which are part of an ongoing project the library has been doing since last summer.

“Make. Do. Tell is a series of programs we started in response to the challenges of virtual programming, restricted library access and at-home learning,” YFE Librarian Samantha Edwards said. “It encompasses a YouTube channel of content geared towards youth and make-and-take kits that provide a tangible, hands-on learning experience. These two things combined act as a stand in for our traditional programming that we currently can’t provide because of health-safety protocols.”

In the past, kits have included a comic-drawing kit, slime making kit, play-doh kit and more. There are usually two different kits, one focused on early learning, for ages 0 to 6, and a S.T.E.A.M. related one for older kids and teens, ages 7 to 18.

“Our current kits available at the library are a set of stacking cups for toddlers and a mini-figure block building kit for older kids,” Edwards said. “We previously were not promoting them at the North-East location because of the renovation, but have been and will continue to provide them now that we have the space to facilitate them. These kits are individually packaged and are available to pick up at our front desk.”

KCPL’s Talia Evans said the COVID-19 pandemic is a big reason why the Make. Do. Tell. kits even exist.

“Samantha was one of the first library staff members to think outside the box and come up with new ways to reach young patrons,” Evans said. “You really should check out her series on comics if you haven’t. That’s what helped launch Make. Do. Tell. and lead to the kits so anyone can participate and do the really cool projects our library staff create in the videos.

The grant will also support internships to be offered for teens working on digital projects at the library’s media lab and for teens planning summer programming.

Summer Library Program Grants help libraries create new programs or enhance current efforts to serve patrons of all ages through projects that support an educated and informed citizenry. They also assist libraries in strengthening and expanding both the quality and availability of their services.

The Missouri State Library has approved a total of 120 grant applications for the 2021 fiscal year, totaling $1,446,775 in federal awards that the secretary’s office has distributed to libraries throughout Missouri. The grants are funded by the Library Services and Technology Act through the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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