Friday, October 21, 2016

Local libraries push for Proposition L approval

Branches to see expansion of services in each community



By Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

For less than the price of a new hardback book, Mid-Continent Public Library hopes to increase its operating levy by passing Proposition L in the November 8 election. The resulting 1% property tax increase upon passage would impact homeowners with homes valued at $150,000 approximately $22.80 per year. The impact approval of Proposition L would have on local libraries would include building and renovating library branches and maintaining or expanding library collections, services and programs.

System-wide, library users will see a growth in the services offered through Mid-Continent. Grandview and South Kansas City residents can expect to see changes at the three branches serving the area: Grandview, Blue Ridge and Red Bridge.

“The thing that is specific to each branch is the facility piece,” said Jim Staley, Community Relations and Planning Director for Mid-Continent Public Library.

According to Staley, the Grandview branch is one of the few locations that will receive an expansion. While plans are still in progress, it will likely receive a new entrance on the front side of the building with the addition of interior room into what is currently greenspace. One concept includes added windows to increase natural light, with the addition of study/collaboration rooms, a community room, outdoor space, interior renovations and other enhancements.

“All around the system, we’re trying to get more light in our buildings,” said Staley. “Most of the buildings were built at a time when we wanted to limit the light because of the books. Now, with the ability to coat windows and so on, we would prefer to build the buildings for people instead of for books, which is what they were originally built for.”

Blue Ridge and Red Bridge will also receive enclosed meeting spaces or community rooms. All three will also have two or three smaller rooms big enough to accommodate small groups inside the library. Each building would also receive a facelift.

“If a community group wants to come in and use the library, it’s there,” said Staley. “We want the library to be an inviting place for people to come in. While many of them are looking their age, we want people to see the buildings and want to visit.”

The look of the Red Bridge branch will be influenced by the rest of Red Bridge Shopping Center’s improvements currently under construction. Red Bridge currently has Google Fiber lines, while Grandview and Blue Ridge do not, but will receive them with passage of Proposition L. Plans also include the addition of technology-related infrastructure, including power plugs and internet ports.

“All of the improvements are essentially making the library more functional for a modern library user,” said Staley. “We have people who sit in their cars and use the Wi-Fi connections. If we added outdoor spaces, the library would be useful even when it is closed.”

Due to transportation challenges in certain areas, Mid-Continent would like to expand the Grow A Reader program with the Grow A Reader bus, the Reading Rocket, an early-literacy mobile unit that can reach kids that may not have access to the library otherwise.

“In some of the communities in this area, we have identified there is a need for these types of services,” said Staley. “It’s just a matter of getting the revenue to help support getting it in different communities.”

The Reading Rocket is being tested in Independence with positive response from communities in that area, said Staley. Center, Hickman Mills and Grandview school districts have partnered with Mid-Continent, and Staley said that the library would like to continue to offer support to the districts.
“All three districts, while they can’t formally endorse Proposition L, have been very supportive,” said Staley.

The small business program has started to gain momentum in the south, according to Staley, and that is another service enhancement that voters can expect to see implemented. Other service enhancements include increased support for seniors, expansion of literacy programs for children and teens, increased community-driven programming, increased availability of books, audio/visual, and digital items and expanded hours.

“We did 8,700 free tax-help programs for seniors last year,” said Staley. Library-By-Mail currently serves homebound residents who can’t make it into their local library branch, with 20,000 materials delivered to 370 customers.

“We’ll deliver books, music or movies right to their doorstep,” said Emily Brown, Public Relations Coordinator for Mid-Continent Public Library.

Each community will determine the expansion of library hours, rather than a sweeping change across the board. The expansion of specific services will also be dictated by local needs and wants. Library resources will also be expanded, including books, digital resources, music, movies and more.

Mid-Continent Public Library’s last tax levy was increased in 1983. Over the next 15 years, the district population is forecasted to grow by 1 million residents. To serve the growing communities, the library needs to update and construct buildings, grow the collection of available resources, and increase services requested by the community.

Proposition L’s exact ballot language on November 8 will be: For the purpose of renovating and replacing aging library facilities, enhancing spaces and programming for children and adults, expanding services and collections to serve public demand, and for the general operation of public libraries, shall there be an eight cent tax increase over the thirty-two cent tax per hundred dollars assessed valuation for Consolidated Library District #3, known as the Mid-Continent Public Library?


A yes vote will include the renovation of 28 library buildings and the construction of six new or replacement library buildings, along with other expansions and investments. A no vote would minimize library maintenance to basic repairs with the elimination of possible expansion, possible reduction in branch hours of operation, staff, and scaled-back internet bandwidth, decreased library outreach and partnership development and services, and a reduction in the current investment in resources. 

For more information, visit the library's website dedicated to Proposition L at: http://www.mymcpl.org/temp/levy/. 

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