Best Libraries in Kansas City

In the greater Kansas City metro, libraries abound. Finding a good book to read or a whole stack of them is easy to do. With inter-library loan you can even have a book moved from one library in the system to the library closest to your house!

But when you are taking your kids to the library, it’s usually about more than just the books. The programming at our local libraries is top notch. In addition to regular weekday story times, you’ll find engaging programs like Success by Six, 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, Read to a Dog, stuffed animal sleepovers, movies at the library, tinkering tots, Music with Mar, and some also offer evening and weekend story times great for working parents. The library is a free place to play, explore, learn, and socialize with other families, and some libraries in the area really go above and beyond when it comes to the children’s department. Here is a rundown of some of the best libraries in the Kansas City area to take your little ones. 

Johnson County Public Libraries

  • Antioch Branch: What I love about this branch is the separate little room for the kids where they can play with toys, books, and activities. There’s also a large rocket ship play center welcoming you to the children’s area and cozy little reading nooks where you can curl up and enjoy a book. I really appreciate the carts of books down on my kid’s level where she can easily browse the books on her own. 

    A rocket ship greets you in the children’s section at the Antioch branch in Merriam.
  • Central Resource Branch: This newly remodeled branch is huge and has a large children’s section in the back with a train table and other toys for kids to play with. For older kids and teenagers, the Makerspace has equipment like a 3D printer that can be used to make all kinds of creations. Inside the library, you’ll even find a used book store!  
  • Corinth Branch: This is my current favorite branch in the JoCo system because the children’s section takes up the entire basement! So if your kid is being loud or throws a fit in true toddler fashion, you won’t be disturbing people in other parts of the library. Down there you’ll find tons of books to choose from and several play areas, including a puppet theater shaped like a castle! I appreciated that there were play features especially for babies, including a mirror and a soft-sided play area.  
  • Coming soon: New library branches are in the works in Johnson County! The Monticello branch will open in western Shawnee in 2018, and a branch at the new Lenexa City Center will open in 2019. In Olathe, the Indian Creek branch will move from its temporary space into its permanent location at the old HyVee at 135th and Brougham in 2019.

Kansas City Public Libraries

  • Central Library (Downtown): This is maybe THE LIBRARY of Kansas City libraries. It is on the streetcar line so you can go on a streetcar adventure and make a stop here to check out their amazing children’s section, which is HUGE and full of fun activities for kids. On the day we were there they had a huge coloring sheet for the kids to scribble on and my daughter put on a puppet show in their puppet theater. Make sure
    Take the elevator to the roof of the Central Library to check out the giant chess board

    you take the elevator to the roof to check out the giant chess board! In the lobby of this beautiful historic building you’ll also find a cafe with coffee and treats to enjoy. Make sure you check out the exterior of their parking garage, where you’ll find concrete steps shaped like giant books and a wall painted with the spines of great pieces of literature!  

  • Plaza Branch: This is another branch with a huge children’s section that boasts great views of the Plaza. There are even binoculars you can use to check it out! I really love all the natural light from the huge windows and the coffee shop in the main lobby. Like the downtown branch, the children’s section is basically a separate wing of the library, so you don’t have to worry about noisy kids disturbing patrons in the rest of the library. 

Kansas City, Kansas Public Libraries

  • Schlagle Branch: This branch is nestled inside beautiful Wyandotte County Lake Park and overlooks the lake. Inside you’ll find not only books but tanks of fish, lizards, and turtles! It is one of only two public libraries in the country that is also an environmental learning center. In the summer, you’ll find  special nature themed story times and activities, as well as a summer camp. They also host a butterfly festival in the fall and eagle watching in the winter. You can combine a visit to the library for story time with a hike on the nearby nature trails. 

Mid-Continent Public Libraries

  • North Independence Branch: This branch has a large children’s area that is well staffed with helpful librarians. It also boasts a great little cafe with cookies baked in house (making the whole library smell amazing!). If any of your little ones are preparing for kindergarten, then don’t miss MCPL’s ten week kindergarten readiness series which kicks off next month. In addition to story times, this and other MCPL branches offer a “preschool play and learn” time for kids and parents to socialize and enjoy activities specifically for preschoolers. 

    Checking out books at the North Independence branch (photo credit: Helen Ransom)
  • Woodneath Branch: Northland moms rave about this library branch for several reasons. There is a large children’s section with a cozy corner for parents to sit in, an outdoor area with sidewalk chalk, kid friendly bathrooms, and an excellent coffee shop on site. This library also has a drive thru where you can return books and pick up ones you’ve put on hold! Another feature that I haven’t seen or heard of at other local libraries is a room for nursing mothers! Future plans for this library branch include outdoor features such as an amphitheater as well as nature trails to explore the beautiful grounds surrounding the library. 

What’s your favorite local library branch? Any hidden gems you want to share?

Julia Willhite
I'm Julia and I live in Olathe with my husband of 16 years, my 10 and 6 year old daughters, and our rescue pug Mabel. I’m a social worker turned SAHM and love Dr. Pepper, thunderstorms, and talking to other adults. I hate coffee, diet culture, and washing dishes. I'll talk your ear off about the best local parks and which restaurants have wronged me by changing their long-standing menu items. I try to walk the line between knowing a lot of stuff and not being a know-it-all. Some days I'm better than others.