School closings. Teacher layoffs. Low graduation rates. Superintendent upheaval. Battles with the mayor. It's been a rough year for Kansas City Public Schools. That's why a new partnership with the Kansas City Public Library couldn't come at a better time.
If all goes according to a Memorandum of Agreement signed into effect January 26, 2012, over the next year, the school district will receive an influx of Library cards, services, and resources. The Library, in turn, will receive an influx of new users, broadening our community of readers and making a direct impact in an area of great need in the city.
But first, every student in Kansas City Public Schools is about to get a brand-new Kansas City Public Library card.
"We want to make it easy for students to get access to Library resources, and the first step is to ensure that every child has a card," says Deputy Director Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner.
Nearly 14,000 student users have been added to the system, and under the direction of project leader Crystal Faris, director of Teen Services, our Outreach and Youth Services librarians have begun delivering cards.
The Library delivered its first batch of new cards this morning to Central High School, where around 240 students were personally handed cards and given brand-new accounts linked to their student IDs.
"This is formalizing a relationship that has existed for years," Kositany-Buckner says.
Indeed, thanks to ongoing efforts by Youth Services and Outreach staff over the years, many individual schools, teachers, and students are actively using the Library. This new partnership will solidify that bond and allow the Library to better deliver services that students need.
"The cards will be tied to students' IDs so that we can better manage, track, and target resources and services to them," Kositany-Buckner explains. "These are the customers we're tasked with serving."
To better identify those customers, the Library recently rolled out a card redesign reflecting the signage at the Plaza Branch that is equipping customers with color-coded cards. Adult cards are blue; cards for customers under 18 are orange.
By separating school-aged patrons from adults, the Library can better tailor the customer experience, such as by providing students with easier access to curriculum-friendly databases, homework help, and reading lists.
The "Card Project," as it's come to be called, will also help the Library drive participation in Building a Community of Readers initiatives such as the 2012 Summer Reading Program, for which the Library is planning to partner with Mid-Continent Public Library and the Kansas City Mayor's Office.
The project is a bold step toward providing access for kids throughout the city, a vision set forth two years ago by Library Director Crosby Kemper III.
"Our hope is to start with the schools because that's the district we serve, but really we want every child in the city to have a Library card," Kositany-Buckner says.
Outfitting students with cards is just part of the process, however.
One System, Many Branches
As part of the January 26 memorandum, Kansas City Public Schools will also become a participating member of the Kansas City Library Service Program (KC-LSP), joining the network of area libraries that share resources and transfer items to patrons across locations.
That means that by the end of August 2012, students at KC district schools will have access to the 2.4-million-item collection available to patrons of all KC-LSP members.
"We'll become a branch for them, and they'll become a branch for us," says Steve Knapp of the KC-LSP team.
That should make it easier for the kids to use those shiny new cards.
About the Author
Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.