Abby Hoover Editorial Director
The Northeast Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 6000 Wilson Ave., is a gathering place, resource center, and community cornerstone in the Historic Northeast.
The Northeast Branch opened in 1914 in Northeast High School with 6,000 books. In 1986 the Northeast, East, and Blue Valley Branches were merged into the Northeast Branch.
The library building at 6000 Wilson Road opened in 1989 and completed a $4.5 million renovation in 2021. The branch now contains approximately 65,000 items, including a wide variety of materials in Spanish and other languages often listen in the northeast.
“We’re in a really good position, I think, because it seems like the pandemic has highlighted the lack of resources in so many different ways, not just one aspect of us not meeting our community’s needs – and I’m thinking about that in government, in business, not just in libraries, but specifically in libraries, what we’re finding is that our headquarters needs support in many other areas,” said Branch Manager Amanda Rodriguez.
Some of the ways the North-East Branch has improved its service since the libraries reopened their facilities in the summer of 2021 include adding an Assistant Branch Manager and other staff.
“We reviewed a position, restructured it, to include a full-time bilingual services worker to ensure that we are, in some way, dedicating more resources to members of our community whose first language is Spanish,” Rodriguez said .
I’m also in the final stages of interviewing for another full-time associate position starting in late February.
“I feel this is a time of significant change for the Northeast branch that will be more informed, more focused, more intentional in the work we do to better serve our community members,” Rodriguez said. “Our community is so diverse, but it seems to me that in the past we’ve just held things together, in general, to make programs or to make whatever we’re doing.”
Now, she feels that with a growing staff, they can bring in more ideas and intentionally focus on individual groups that are in the Northeast community and figure out how they can serve them more effectively.
“How can we best provide services and resources to really ensure the cohesion that already exists in the Northeast?” Rodriguez asks. “Because the community members are so welcoming, how can we highlight all the strengths we have here?”
The library hosts Kids Cafe, a free meal program available four days a week, and has continued to provide modified services during the COVID-19 closures.
“We offer Chromebooks and hotspot checkout,” Rodriguez said. “We offer those loan devices. We also have these power meters so you can check how much your devices consume, in terms of electricity. So if you wanted to monitor your finances or improve their use, unplug things or something like that, then you would be able to.
Neighborhood groups benefit from the library’s updated, cutting-edge spaces and technology. The Indian Mound Neighborhood Association meets monthly at the North-East Branch on the third Monday. Kansas City Public Schools hosted a community chat during the planning stages of Blueprint 2030, the district’s master plan, at the branch. In February, Jerusalem Farm will use the meeting space to host discussions on setting up a Community Land Trust.
“I would say there are study groups that use this space on a regular basis,” Rodriguez said. “I know Global FC is out and they’ve used the space for some of their mentorship programs.”
RISE, the Kansas City Public Library’s Refugee & Immigrant Services & Empowerment, is located at the North-East Branch. Its mission is to connect immigrant populations with the Library’s quality services, resources, and lifelong learning opportunities through outreach, education, and advocacy.
“I feel that being close to RISE has allowed us to translate both English and Spanish materials that support the work they are doing, whether it is creating promotional materials in Spanish through the work of our bilingual associate or that we are able to better meet the needs, at least in terms of informing our Spanish-speaking population about the services we provide,” said Rodriguez. “I feel like RISE has been able to bring these classes that have traditionally been held in Central up to the northeastern location for people to do – maybe their bus ride to classes is shorter than it was in past”.
The program features English lessons for Spanish speakers, citizenship interview practice, and a conversation club focused on increasing fluency, vocabulary, grammar, and confidence. Other resources, such as Money Smart Kansas City, offer information on various area resources for immigrants and refugees.
“I feel like finding information has become a collaborative effort, so if there’s a client in the facility asking a specific question about getting access to something more specific, having RISE here allows us to communicate those needs we see and find information or resources for that individual at a faster rate,” Rodriguez said.
The North-East Branch’s Messy Space breaks the mold with the traditional quiet and peaceful setting of the library. The space is built for young people – from easy-to-clean surfaces to perfectly sized chairs – to freely create and learn. Facing the Northeast, the space has floor-to-ceiling windows, access to a patio, and is the ideal space for youth programming, cooking classes, crafts, and more.
“It allowed us to create without worrying about the mess they create,” Rodriguez said. “They can focus on their painting and not worry about things like, ‘Oh, I spilled paint on the floor.'”
Rodriguez said the addition of another specific space just for young people is yet another demonstration of their commitment to serving the children of the neighborhood.
“Every aspect was kept with the youth in mind,” Rodriguez said. “The tables, the chairs are all appropriately sized youth. Everything has been included in there, so if they need to wash their hands, they don’t have to run to the bathroom and step on the stool. It’s all there, created with them in mind so you don’t have to compete for boardroom access or a different group. They have priority, you will always have a space to create.
The dedicated space has created more opportunities for young people and their families to come together to create, just hang out or get to know each other.
Upcoming events at the Kansas City Public Library Northeast Branch can be found at kclibrary.org/events-activities-calendar.
“We’re getting new energy and bringing people from the community — even people from outside the community — into our team, further diversifying our staff here,” Rodriguez said. “I think these are things that will set us up for success.”
Assistant Branch Manager Sher Mirador began her new role in July 2022, but first worked at the library as an evening and weekend supervisor, starting March 2021. She has lived in the historic Northeast for the past 18 years.
“I love that it’s a safe place for our customers who may be dealing with harsh environments outside of this building in this community,” Mirador said of the branch.
Now that the library is in the process of operating at full capacity, it looks forward to providing patron programs that assist with financial literacy and other programs that fill a need in the neighborhood.
“Just being able to come in here and provide resources that will help them get a head start in life,” Mirador added. “I feel like a lot of people in this community don’t really know how to navigate through the systems and get these assets, and I don’t think there’s enough education in financial literacy. I feel like sometimes maybe even some people in this community feel stuck because they don’t have that piece of education or the resources to know what it means to be financially stable.”
Mirador noted that foot traffic at the Northeast branch has increased immensely over the past month.
“We have more customers coming in, using computers, we have a technician coming in Monday to Thursday, 10am to 3pm who is able to sit down with people at the computers and assist them with technical needs,” he said Mirador. . “So they’ve been using his services while he’s here.”
The library also provides job resource kits, which come with flash drives with resume templates on it.
“We have a lot of users going through the application process, looking for jobs, building resumes, so the library has this career resource kit that we’ve put together that we’ve been able to deliver to users and use,” Mirador said. .
The Northeast Branch of the Kansas City Public Library means different things to different people, but there’s no question that the library is an integral part of different Northeast neighborhoods.