When was the last time you visited your local library?

“That’s a question I get asked a lot, and a question I ask people I meet,” said Emily Brown, public relations coordinator for Mid-Continent Public Library, “because there are still people – unfortunately, many young people – who think we’re just a building where you can go in and check out a book.”

“And we’re so much more than that.”

Mid-Continent is not your mom or dad or grandparents’ library. It has so much more to offer. And thanks to the work of development specialist Rebecca Maddox, it will soon often even more because of a series of grants awarded to the system, which has 31 branches across Jackson, Clay and Platte counties. The grants come to just under $46,000.

Four grants, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and administered by the Missouri State Library, are to pay for innovative literacy and technology initiatives.

“Connecting our customers to valuable resources that enrich their lives through learning is at the core of the library’s mission and values,” Maddox said. “This funding ensures that we are able to accomplish this mission and support the growth of our communities.”

“It helps fill the gaps, fulfill special needs and help move our libraries forward.”

The grants are:

• Racing to Read ($6,684). This supports the Teens, Tots, and Tales program, offered by Mid-Continent in partnership with the Independence School District’s Early Education Center at Truman High School. The library works with the teen parents to establish good family literacy practices by providing education through storytimes as well as supplies to grow families’ home libraries.

• Technology Ladder Grant ($20,905). This builds on the 2017 Technology Ladder Grant the library system received to buy equipment to improve the library’s network and Wi-Fi systems. In addition to increasing internet speed, these new devices allowed for faster updates and an increased level of security by the library’s IT team.

• STEM Programs Grant ($8,429). This supports the continuation of the library system’s programs in STEAM -- science, technology, energy, art and math. This project promotes digital literacy to underserved youth.

• Spotlight on Literacy ($9,977). This supports the Lone Jack Third Grade Reading Project, which aims to improve reading scores among students in third grade at Lone Jack Elementary School.

“These grants are all so special, because they will help a variety of individuals – from youngsters developing a love of reading to underserved youths involved with STEAM,” Maddox said. “I don’t know if there has ever been a more exciting time to be a part of MCPL.”