From the Library Director
We have experienced a very exciting time at Mid-Continent Public Library recently. As we started to prepare for this year’s Summer Reading Program, I received a call from Susan Hildreth, the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). I was surprised to find she had big news. Mid-Continent Public Library was to be named an IMLS National Medal recipient for 2014.
Being named an IMLS National Medal winner is a lot like winning the library’s version of the Academy Awards. There are just fewer than 10,000 public libraries in the United States. Each year, the IMLS recognizes five of them for demonstrating innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach. I have lived in the area my whole life and I believe that MCPL is a very special library. But why did the IMLS feel that Mid-Continent Public Library deserved this recognition?
First, MCPL has many important literacy initiatives. Creating a community of readers is one of our most important tasks. Programs like the annual Summer Reading Program, our adult reading programs like the Adult Winter Reading Challenge, and our support of programs like the WEE Bus and National Novel Writing Month illustrate our commitment. MCPL has been undertaking a study to determine the effectiveness of reading in the summer. Currently, our study suggests that children that read in the summer not only avoid “the summer slide” but they actually grow in their reading ability over the summer. All of these programs underscore our commitment to literacy.
Second, MCPL has a very strong commitment to our collections. MCPL is unique in that we set a goal to spend 25 percent of our revenue on our collection. Libraries of MCPL’s size on average only spend 12 percent on collections. MCPL also has a strong commitment to digital collections like our online information resources, eBooks, streaming movies, and downloadable eAudiobooks. No other library in the U.S. spends as much as we do on digital content.
Third, MCPL has worked very hard to encourage community engagement through programs and events. Activities like Pink Parties to support breast cancer awareness and the annual Veteran’s Salute have been instrumental in bringing community together to share, to learn, and to support one another. MCPL was the sponsor for NPR’s “StoryCorps” when they came to town. From that experience, we developed our oral history recording program, “Tell Me a Story.” Additionally, we have developed many relationships with organizations like the LDS Church, the Mid-America Regional Council, and Truman Heartland Community Foundation. These relationships allow us to better connect with the people in our community and for our community to learn more about their library.
In 2015, Mid-Continent Public Library will celebrate our fiftieth anniversary. Over the past forty-nine years, Mid-Continent Public Library has grown from a fledgling library housed in storefronts and strip malls, to become the twenty-fourth largest library collection in the United States. Our library has grown to be something very special and deserves to now take our place alongside the other great cultural institutions and community assets throughout Greater Kansas City. Those of us that use the library know how special our library has become. It is exciting to know that others outside our community, people that really understand what excellence in library service means, agree with us.
Steven V. Potter, Library Director and C.E.O.