CHICAGO — The Kansas City (Mo.) Public Library has been named the 2014 winner of the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award. The award, supported by ALA’s Cultural Communities Fund, recognizes a library that demonstrates excellence by providing programs that have community impact and respond to community needs.
The Kansas City Public Library and its community partners created “Greetings from Kansas City” programs and exhibitions featuring historic postcards from the library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections, as well as local historical programs to connect the citizens of Kansas City to its past.
In the Central Library, the “Meet the Past” program series featured television talk show-style conversations with local historical figures as depicted by area actors. The eight programs drew an audience of nearly 3,200 people. A separate series of local history programs with speakers from the community and library staff drew more than 1,600 attendees.
The exhibition featured 200 vintage postcards from 1900 to 1950 organized into three categories: business and industry, history and heritage, and entertainment, arts and culture. The exhibition ran for five months at the Central Library, providing exposure to the library collection and attracting 7,842 visitors — a 14 percent increase in attendance over the previous year. The visitor guest book was signed by people from 19 states, Scotland and Brazil. Comments such as “Makes you proud to be from KC!” and “Loved traveling back in time to catch a glimpse of the history of the past of the beautiful place we call home” show that the goal of the project was met.
Exhibits at four branch locations featured postcards from the respective neighborhoods and highlighted the cultural diversity of Kansas City. The branch programs built upon the programs at the Central Library and reflected the eclectic neighborhoods with sizable immigrant populations. Programs were also offered at the branches that discussed the postcards and the stories behind them. Speakers also visited the local senior center.
The library’s collection of more than 16,000 postcards grew as a direct result of the “Greetings from Kansas City” program and exhibition. The images of hand-written notes of these vintage postcards offer visual evidence of a largely vanished time and place and are invaluable historical records to the past.
The annual award, consisting of $5,000 and a citation of achievement, will be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas in June.
Members of the 2014 ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award committee are: Chair Andrea R. Lapsley, Colorado State University, Colo.; Clara N. Bohrer, West Bloomfield Township Public Library, Mich.; Cynthia Harbeson, Appalachian State University, N.C.; Marcellus Turner, Seattle Public Library, Wash.; Amy Wallace, California State University-Channel Islands, Calif.