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Kansas City Public Library is 150 years old, and it's changed a lot in that time

Giant spines of books appear to be sitting on a lawn. They form the exterior of a building. Leafy trees frame the right side of the frame.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Central branch of the Kansas City Library features the spines of books on the exterior of the building

Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of the Kansas City Public Library. KCUR's Up To Date broadcasted from the Central Library in downtown Kansas City to discuss the library's storied history, how it has changed over the years and what its future could look like.

This week, the Kansas City Public Library celebrates 150 years of public service.

The library is vastly different from when its doors first opened in 1873, when it was just an incomplete set of encyclopedias on a single shelf. But, CEO John Herron told KCUR's Up To Date, it's also much different from what it was just a few years ago.

"Many people in today's digital age have a very traditional understanding — and by traditional I mean limited understanding — of what a library can do for them," Herron said.

"There is a range of services that anybody who wants to start a business, you want to get a passport, you want to learn about a new activity, you want to increase your financial literacy or your health literacy," Herron continued. "All that can happen at a public library."

  • Jeremy Drouin, manager of the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library
  • Jackie Brown, longtime employee at the Kansas City Public Library
  • John Herron, director and CEO of the Kansas City Public Library
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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As Up To Date’s senior producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.
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