Kansas City Library/Community Partnerships Support Equality

Posted by Gloria Jackson-Leathers on March 15, 2016 at 10:41 AM

Communities thrive when people have opportunity. Sadly, opportunity is not equally available, but partnerships between libraries and other community partners are helping to level the playing field.

The Kansas City Public Library (KCPL), a case in point, is working with community partners to bridge the “digital divide” — a civil rights issue of our time — which excludes those without access to computers, the Internet and digital literacy from looking for jobs, completing school assignments and more.

With funding from Mobile Beacon, KCPL has joined Literacy Kansas City and Connecting for Good to provide low-access neighborhoods with Internet hotspots in church basements or public housing. That’s crucial for Kansas City School District students, 70 percent of whom don’t have Internet access at home.

A sampling of other KCPL/community initiatives, all offered free of charge, includes alliances with:

  • The Financial Regulatory Investor Education Foundation to offer classes in banking basics and budgeting.
  • Kansas City Public Schools to host high school equivalency classes (GED).
  • Best Buy’s Geek Squad agents, who lead library-hosted workshops that teach teens about computer coding. 
  • H&R Block to create the Block Business and Career Center, a library service that provides consultation, computers and classes for entrepreneurs and job seekers of all ages. 
  • Truman Medical Center to host a health and wellness hub at a library branch that serves an economically disadvantaged area.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Kansas City civic team supports key city assets such as libraries, which are crucial to the cultural and educational landscape and advance our core focus areas of education and entrepreneurship. As a community partner, the Foundation provides library funding for public programming, speakers, forums, computer literacy training and public computer access.

While these partnerships are only a beginning — there is much more to be done in Kansas City and every community — they highlight how public libraries can become destinations where people of all ages are eager to go for learning and networking.

 

Gloria Jackson-Leathers

Director, Kansas City Civic Engagement Program

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

gleathers@kauffman.org