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From the Director: Surprising Library Services

From the Director: Surprising Library Services

January 6, 2022

When I chat with people in the business community, we sometimes talk about how fortunate I am to work for an organization with such clear brand recognition. It really is nearly universal! Test it out—tell a friend that you’re going to play a word association game where you say a word and they respond with the first word that comes to their mind. When you say “library,” they will almost certainly say “book!” But as many Mid-Continent Public Library customers know, modern libraries provide so much more than just books.

At MCPL, we offer many services that surprise people. One of the services that comes as a great surprise is our fishing pole lending program. This stems from a collaboration with the Missouri Department of Conservation, allowing customers to borrow a rod and reel along with a tackle box for seven days. It’s a great way to try out a new hobby at no expense and provides a wonderful opportunity for the whole family to enjoy an activity together.

Another surprising lending collection is the tie library or “Tiebrary at MCPL’s Blue Ridge Branch. Making a great first impression is never a bad strategy, and borrowing a tie from the Library for your job interview might just help!

When I was visiting our Excelsior Springs Branch recently, the staff there told me that the printing services are some of the most popular services their community uses. Although MCPL has provided copiers for many years, fewer and fewer other businesses continue to do so. The same can be said for another service MCPL has provided for decades—public fax machines. Recent updates to our copiers allow you to scan documents and save them to a USB drive. In the last few years, MCPL has also added mobile and remote printing, so you can print something directly off your tablet, phone, or other Wi-Fi-enabled device.

For decades, MCPL has been one of the primary places to go to register to vote. During the pandemic, many people needed access to notaries for mail-in and absentee voting, so MCPL trialed notary services. It was so popular that we’ve continued to offer it at select branches and even expanded the types of documents we can notarize. Similarly, because it has become increasingly difficult to get government IDs that conform to the REAL ID standards for flying or other purposes, MCPL also instituted U.S. Passport service at several locations.

In 2020, MCPL began lending additional technology to help people connect during the pandemic. The first service was high-speed internet outside the Library’s buildings. We installed external antennas to our buildings, ensuring high-speed internet could be accessed in all our parking lots.

Next, we began loaning portable Wi-Fi hotspots for people to take home. These hotspots can easily support four or five devices at the same time. So, for example, if a family is without internet and unable to visit one of our locations, they can borrow one of these devices, and one person can connect to it as they conduct a telehealth appointment or do some job searching on their tablet, while others use it for remote learning on their laptops. For those who don’t have their own devices, MCPL also started loaning Chromebook computers.

The Library’s vast range of online resources is also a pleasant surprise for many folks. In addition to digital books, movies, and music—including free streaming services—we offer many online resources that help people stay updated on the latest news, accomplish work and school projects, and hone their skills. For example, I know the Parkville Chief of Police’s favorite service is reading the digital version of the Kansas City Star from MCPL. A family I know loves to use our online tutoring service, and another family loves the Dial-A-Story service for their young children.

What’s your favorite unusual or surprising Library service

Steven V. Potter
MCPL Director & CEO

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