Know Your Librarians: Sue Sanders Has Room for Compassion

Kansas City atheists may not believe in God, but they definitely believe in Sue Sanders.

That's true of two area atheist groups, at least: The Kansas City Freethinkers and the Kansas City Atheist Society.

Both are avid followers of "Sandersism," which, as countless other organizations know, is the practice of booking meeting rooms from Sue Sanders, scheduling coordinator in the Kansas City Public Library's Public Affairs department.

As the schedule master of the Library's 18 conference rooms across 10 locations, Sanders fields as many as 100 requests for reservations a day.

They call, they e-mail, they submit.

Some represent for-profit concerns that will have to pay for the space. But many more are nonprofits, for whom room rentals are free -- and therefore highly appealing.

"The rooms are very much in demand," says Sanders. "We could do with twice as many."

The vast list of community organizations and individuals that use the Library's meeting rooms makes up a cultural cross-section of the community.

The list teems with churches, professional-development societies, support groups, fraternity/sorority alumni clubs, job clubs, women's interest groups, activist committees, book clubs, crafting circles, and much, much more.

There are the Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, the Descendants of the Five Civilized Tribes, the OoEee Book Club, the Paper Scrappers, the Blind Ham Radio Club, the Android App Conversion specialists, and even the Marching Cobras drill team (who presumably leave their drums and whistles at home).

One thing they all share in common: a lack of rent-free places to gather.

"Without the use of the Library meeting room for free, our group would have to fork over $60 to $100 a month for a room," says Linda Hager, meeting organizer for the Missouri Council of the Blind, Progressive Affiliate.

Hager says her group came to the Library a year ago, after the church where they had been meeting hiked up its rates. Sanders quickly found a space that would accommodate their needs: the Chairman's Office near the front doors of Central.

The group - which consists of blind people - also found a friend in the Downtown Community Improvement District ambassadors.

"The guards that help us there are primo," Hager says. "They meet us at the door and help us in. The Chairman's Office is perfect for blind people to access -- it's convenient, it's comfortable. The guards will even go get us coffee. They're worth their weight in gold. And Sue is a breeze to work with for scheduling."

Sometimes Sanders helps with more than just scheduling.

Considering that she interacts with such a large and diverse sampling of the community, Sanders knows of more local citizen groups than just about anyone else in the city. Through working with them, she gets to know the people themselves.

"I can tell a lot about people's lives by how they speak, what locations they want, and what their group is," Sanders says.

That's why, when Sanders finds out about two groups that might be able to help each other accomplish their goals, she often attempts to help them get in touch.

For example, when a man from the east side of Kansas City called looking for a meeting place for his brand-new anti-violence group, Creating a Safe Community, Sanders wondered if another client of hers, Anger Alternatives, an anger-management group, might be interested in connecting.

After obtaining permission from both groups, she put the two in contact.  

"I saw two groups that could help one another. It seemed logical. And compassionate," Sanders says.

There's always room for that.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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