Community Connections Spaces
Kansas City Public Library, Mo.
The Kansas City Public Library created safe, socially distanced spaces for patrons to have face-to-face consultations either in person or over Zoom with specialists from both the library and community partners. The specialists assisted vulnerable patrons with filling out forms and accessing resources and they made referrals to partnering agencies.
Many users of the library’s public computers lack technology skills, including an ability to navigate the internet. Social distancing requirements and the use of plexiglass dividers during the pandemic make it difficult for library staff to offer normal handholding — sitting next to patrons and guiding them through such vital functions as applying for benefits, services or jobs. KCPL created a way to still connect directly with those patrons.
In library branches in two of Kansas City’s most underserved neighborhoods, certain computers are designated for patrons to consult live with library or service agency staff members via Zoom. Patrons can also connect to local telehealth services. Library specialists, stationed (and socially distanced) at the Central Library, can access the patrons’ computers remotely to assist them in navigating the internet, filling out forms and performing other functions. Patrons can make appointments by phone or staff referral.
KCPL’s partnership network includes Swope Health, Legal Aid of Western Missouri, Catholic Charities and the Department of Veterans Affairs. All were partners, connecting with library patrons before the COVID-19 outbreak, and this innovative use of technology maintains those connections at a time when access to services has been compromised by the pandemic. KCPL’s specialists guide patrons through processes from job and benefits applications to seeking assistance on food, housing, business licenses and legal matters.