Bluford Branch Reopens

After undergoing a $1.3 million renovation, the Lucile H. Bluford Branch of the Kansas City Public Library is now open to the public.

In the process of the renovation, the branch has tripled its number of available computers to 57 while pushing its overall collection, to primarily showcase the work of black authors, to 38,000 titles.

Visually, the branch boasts the unique Lucile H. Bluford exhibit, an engaging display of 10 glass panels featuring rarely seen photos of the people, places, and events Miss Bluford shaped through her seven decade career.

Miss Bluford, a pioneering civil rights activist and longtime editor of The Kansas City Call, used her journalistic talents to champion civil rights and strengthen the African-American community. She refused to give up on the issues and people she cared about, and through her tireless efforts effected positive change that continues to influence Kansas City today. The exhibit chronicles her life from her early days as a child living just blocks from the present-day branch, her role in dismantling educational discrimination, and her long and distinguished career at The Kansas City Call.

In addition to the exhibit, inspirational quotes from national and historic leaders can be seen in the lobby. Patrons can also learn the history of the east Kansas City community as told through Neighborhood Notables, a 17-panel display interpreting the lives and accomplishments of influential citizens who lived and worked in the neighborhood, ranging from poet Melvin Tolson to activist Bernard Powell to former mayor, Ilus W. Davis.

Aside from the aesthetic and tangible improvements, the branch is working to develop programs through flourishing community partnerships.

Among these is an ambitious effort involving Truman Medical Centers and Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley. The organizations are working on a health initiative that involves an online portal in the branch as well as Text-a-Nurse for teens, both coming in summer 2010. Text-a-Nurse will allow teens to text medical questions to a qualified nurse during scheduled hours. The partners are also exploring ways in which teen patrons of the branch can participate in a wide variety of internships in the health industry.

Another community partner is KCUR 89.3 FM. The NPR affiliate’s magazine-style show, KC Currents, focuses on issues in Kansas City’s minority communities. After a successful first live broadcast in the branch conference room that focused on the future of Kansas City schools, KC Currents will conduct two additional shows in the live format including a discussion on the upcoming mayoral election as well as healthy food alternatives for minority communities.


the Bluford branch looks

the Bluford branch looks horrible. it was closed for months just to paint the place so it looks like a bag of Skittles? $1.3 million dollars? spent on what??? where did the money go, really? and the carpet looks like it was reclaimed from the dumpster of Big Bob's Used Carpets. did you employ someone who is color-blind to decorate it? looks just like puke, the floor and walls do.

The Bluford Branch

Thanks for your comment. Most people have found the Bluford Branch to be a model example of an urban branch library. SFS Architecture, the firm that performed the renovation, even won an award for their design. But we understand – beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

As to your question regarding the $1.3 million, it was spent on the following: interior renovations; 57 new computers and laptops; new furniture; collection expansion to 38,000 titles tailored to the needs and interests of the community; new multimedia holdings (video games, CDs and DVDs); automated DVD machines; the 17-panel Neighborhood Notables display; the Lucile H. Bluford exhibit; the Health and Wellness Center that will be launched in October 2010; state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment in the large meeting room; two new smaller meeting rooms to meet the needs of the community; separate computers for adults, teens and kids; a separate teen library; customized computers for jobs and careers; a self-service checkout machine; and, lastly, upgrades to the lighting, ceiling, security surveillance, landscaping, and mechanical equipment.

And not to knock Skittles’ Rainbow of Fruit Flavors, but we serve only healthy snacks in our after-school programs at Bluford. There’s even healthful food in the vending machines!

Stop by Bluford next time you're looking for a good read and a nutritious snack.


Jason Harper
Public Affairs
The Kansas City Public Library

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