DITTO Partner Highlight: Kansas City Public Libraries!
Today, we want to highlight one of our favorite DITTO partners, the Kansas City Library System!
The Kansas City Public Library serves the 29th most populated metropolitan area in the country. (Kansas City also has more barbeque places per capita than any other city in the US, no surprise.) The library system has a central library, nine satellite branches, a digital branch, and serves as a valuable resource for the over 1.7 million residents of Kansas City.
Libraries have always been pivotal to the digital equity movement, since they are already community centers for education and information. You might have heard someone complain that libraries are just “all computers” now, but while that may seem counter-intuitive to the idea of the Book Place, it makes perfect sense to us. After all, in a world where you need computer access to do homework, apply for jobs, or a host of other important, basic tasks, then providing a public place to get that access is key. Libraries have never been just a place to go find a novel. The position they occupy culturally and historically has always been about providing informational access to everyone, regardless of class. So moving into the digital inclusion space is a continuation of the mission libraries have always had.
Kansas City Public Libraries are right at the forefront of digital inclusion programs, leading the charge to bring digital access to the community through innovative outreach programs. In addition to their weekly classes in Basic Computer Skills, Word basics, email basics, cloud storage, and internet basics, they are also one of the spearheads of the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion, a group of Kansas City area nonprofits and businesses focused on fostering internet access and digital readiness. The coalition includes Literacy KC, Connecting for Good, KC Digital Drive, and UrbanTec, as well as leaders from local city government and Metropolitan Community College. See the full list of coalition members here.
Projects in development currently include web development training for neighborhood development organizations, a push to provide free wifi for city center neighborhoods, digital training and outreach for homeless veterans and recovering addicts, local business consulting, and weekly discussion groups that give community participants a chance to ask tech questions.
At the center of all this activity is Carrie Coogan, who served as the executive director of Literacy KC before accepting the position of Deputy Director for Public Affairs & Community Engagement. She’s also on the board of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and chair of the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion. You can go here to read her own words about how libraries and digital inclusion fit together. She’s been a powerful force when it comes to digital equity, and one we hope to be hearing from more and more in the future.
Kansas City Public Libraries are setting an example for the rest of the country how to connect and engage with their community. Too many times, organizations try to do their work in a void. But solving a large scale societal problem means working with the society you are in, and partnerships are how the largest scale goals get accomplished. We’re proud that DITTO helps support their efforts. Props to you, KCPL, keep up the good work!