The Kansas City Public Library is about more than reading. It’s a place to gather, connect with history, research genealogy, access technology, and experience one of the most stately buildings in downtown Kansas City. Even if you’re staying in Kansas City for a short time, visiting the Central Library will prove to be one of the interesting things to do for both young readers and adults. Downtown parking isn’t easy to find, but the library is within walking distance of a parking garage at Baltimore and 10th. The first hour is free, with validation from library staff, and then it’s $1 for every 20 minutes, up to a total of $8. On weekend evenings, it’s a flat fee of $2 to park. You really won’t be able to miss the parking garage—its south wall is home to a mural of books, each 25 feet high. The massive art project, completed in 2004, has 22 titles on its parking garage bookshelf.
Kansas City Public Library History
The biggest change in the library’s history happened in 2004 when it moved into its grand home on the corner of Baltimore and 10th. The project was several years in the making and was completed at a cost of $46 million. Four years after the grand opening, the library received the 2008 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The highest award for libraries in the United States, the medal was granted at a ceremony at the White House with then First Lady Laura Bush. The library was well into its second century at the time. It was established in 1873 by the school board of education. The first books (eight of the New American Encyclopedia) and bookshelves were purchased for $8 from Colonel W.E. Sheffield. The main library opened its reading room in 1879, adopted the Dewey Decimal System in 1912, and opened its first branch a year later. The bookmobile first rolled through town in 1950, and the first computers (the Apple IIE) came to the Kansas City Public Library in 1985.
Kansas City Public Library Architecture
The library’s current home is one of the oldest and most elegant spaces in Kansas City, but it wasn’t always home to a library. For many years, the building with the neo-classical styling housed the First National, beginning in 1906. The stately white building was designed by Wilder and Wright, the Kansas City architects who designed the Nelson Art Gallery. Their design featured extensive use of marble, including a marble fireplace in the president's private office. The exterior columns were installed the year before the museum opened, much to the amazement of the crowds who gathered to see history being made. After a series of expansions and mergers, the bank changed as did its building. One thing hasn’t changed, though: The lobby is still amazing, complete with its columns and soaring spaces. Another elegant space at the Kansas City Public Library, the Grand Reading Room, was designed to match the great libraries with a skylight and 34-foot-high ceilings.
Kansas City Public Library Hours
Kansas City Public Library Hours Image: calebdzahnd (flickr)
The Central Library has generous hours, making its services readily available. Of course, you’ll want to call ahead to confirm the hours, as you would with any museums or other attractions. Kansas City’s main library is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, the library observes traditional business hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On the weekends, the Kansas City Public Library is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. The hours are slightly different for the Missouri Valley Special Collections genealogy room, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and Sunday afternoon if there is an event scheduled. For the branches, the hours are similar with some variations.
Top image: calebdzahnd (flickr)