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#OnTheRoadULC: Featuring Kansas City Public Library // Two Librarians & A Microphone Podcast

Responding to several accidental shooting incidents involving children, Kansas City Public Library partnered with local organizations to provide firearms safety education for the community. 

Tune in to hear how Kansas City Public Library (KCPL) took action when several accidental shooting incidents involving children in their community kept happening due to improperly stored weapons in private homes. KCPL collaborated with Moms Demand Action and the Kansas City Police Department to offer a non-partisan program, Be Smart Safe Gun Storage. Police provided free gun locks to anyone who asked – no questions asked – and information sessions were offered to patrons at two library locations in high-crime area. 

In addition to reaching more than 2,000 people, the program strengthened relationships among the library, police officers and the community on a key community concern.


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Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Source


Jim Heurer [00:00:16] Hi, everybody. This is Jim Heuer, host of the Ingram Library Services Podcast, Two Librarians and A Microphone . I'm here with librarian number two, Donna George. We're excited to come to you live from the Urban Library Council Annual Forum in Baltimore, Maryland. Ingram Library Services is a proud sponsor of the Innovation Award that the ULC bestows upon their members. Today, we have one of the top innovators with us, Kim Gile, Community Reference Manager from Kansas City Public Library in Kansas City, Missouri. Welcome, Kim.

Kim Gile [00:00:48] Hi, how are you, Jim?

Jim Heurer [00:00:49] I'm well, thank you, thanks for joining us. Kansas City was given an honorable mention in the Health, Safety and Sustainability category, and could you tell us a little bit about your Be Smart Safe Gun Storage program?

Kim Gile [00:01:04] We were really excited to have this program. We were responding to a couple of different things that we saw happening in our community. We saw on the news that there were reports of accidental child shootings that were happening to our kids, and we also knew that violence was one of the top concerns in our community, and so we took these together and we reached out to a couple of organizations, one was Moms Demand Action, who is actually a national organization, but they have a local chapter in Kansas City. And we also reached out to the Kansas City Police Department and we knew that they had a program where they would hand out free gunlocks. So, Moms Demand Action and the Be Smart Gun Safety Program, it's a non-partisan program. We don't care whether or not you have a gun. There's no question about gun rights. If you have a gun, we want to make sure that you know how to lock it and keep it safe for your kids, and all of the kids in Kansas City, or in wherever you are. They teach you how to lock a gun, they teach you how to… when your kid is going to a house that they've never been to, how do you ask the parents, "Is there a gun in the house, is the gun secure, will my child be safe here?" They also talk about how to look for signs of suicide in teens, because if there is an unsecured weapon in the home, they could potentially use that to take their own life. That's what the program is all about, is keeping our kids in Kansas City safe. We had our community police officer come to these programs. We stream them on Facebook Live,

Kim Gile [00:02:41] we did them in a couple of high-crime neighborhood libraries and we had several thousand people listen to it through our Facebook live, and we handed out dozens and dozens of free gunlocks to people. It was really a way for the library to capitalize on partnerships, to build a sense of community and safety and build relationships between the police and the people who live in the neighborhoods, and it just ended up being a wonderful program.

Donna George [00:03:13] I love your comment about the non-partisan approach.

Kim Gile [00:03:16] Yes.

Donna George [00:03:17] When I first read this story, I was kind of thinking, stereotypically, people might think that librarian's response to something like this would be partisan in nature, and I love the fact that you all really accessed the problem that you were trying to solve, which is keeping the kids safe. Certainly, there are lots of ways to do that from taking guns away to providing gunlocks, and lots of things in between. What was the community reaction when you started this program? Was it well attended?

Kim Gile [00:03:50] They were decently well attended for our programs, compared to the normal program attendance that we get in those libraries. It was right on par with what we were expecting. That's great. We were excited that our mayor, in Kansas City, actually tweeted out and said, "Hey, go to these programs." There, of course, is a little bit of pushback, and I think that's partly because people didn't realize it was a non-partisan program. But, that's fine. Anytime you get pushback from something like this, if you're trying to do something innovative or a little bit off the normal path, it's just an opportunity to have a conversation and engage and whatever pushback we got, we could say, "You know, this is what we're doing and this is why we're doing it." It's all based on what we're seeing, what we're reading in the news, what our community is telling us. Anytime you get pushback, it's just a tremendous opportunity to build on something.

Jim Heurer [00:04:45] You said you noticed this problem in the community with the violence that was affecting some of the children in Kansas City. Right, obviously, it was in the news, or whatever, but how did the decision that the library was going to be a leader in the Kansas City area to try to stem that problem, how did that come to be? That seems fascinating to me.

Kim Gile [00:05:01] Well, that's what the library does. The library is a community leader. So, any time we see an issue or an opportunity, the library has a role in the community to be that community facilitator, to take that leadership role and have those difficult conversations and address the issues that we have. The library is that sacred, neutral safe-space where people can deal with whatever issues they're grappling with, that's our job, that's what we do every day.

Jim Heurer [00:05:34] How did you decide that this was going to be the issue that you were going to work on? Was there some sort of a formal process that you came to the director or to management, or was it someone sitting around the lunchroom?

Kim Gile [00:05:46] It was me.

Jim Heurer [00:05:49] Excellent, great.

Kim Gile [00:05:50] I saw this need and made the partnerships. I ran it through my boss just to say, "Hey, I just want you to know, this could be something that gets some attention." This is what it is, and there were no questions asked. It was yes, absolutely, do it. This is important. Everything else is.

Jim Heurer [00:06:10] It was your idea, right? You woke up one morning and said we're going to do something about this violence problem in Kansas City.

Kim Gile [00:06:16] If you want to say it that way. Really, this is about Kansas City Public Library.

Jim Heurer [00:06:20] It is.

Kim Gile [00:06:21] Being at that community table.

Jim Heurer [00:06:22] The Kansas City Public Library is just the amalgamation of all the libraries that are there, looking around Kansas City and saying how can we help? How can we lead forward, right?

Kim Gile [00:06:34] Yeah, that's what we do.

Jim Heurer [00:06:36] Wow, that's great. What's next? What's the next problem you guys are going to tackle?

Kim Gile [00:06:41] Well, actually, it's kind of related to this as well, because violence, you know, it doesn't just go away with a couple of programs and some gunlocks. We, right now, are really excited that the community is having a continued conversation about violence, particularly gun violence, and so we are working with a couple of organizations to continue that conversation and make it action-oriented and just see what we can do to tip the mule a little bit. We're also really passionate about working with people on digital literacy and making sure that the people who live in our communities are on the right side of the digital divide, rather than the wrong side. We are working with small business owners and entrepreneurs in Kansas City. I highly recommend that everyone come to Kansas City because we are where it's at. We've got the best library system, we've got the best community that we serve. There's just so much exciting going on all the time.

Jim Heurer [00:07:39] That's excellent. One thing you mentioned that did stick with me, the idea of parents asking about the safety for their children going to visit someone. That seems like it could be a difficult conversation. I have a first-grade daughter and you know, I'm not quite sure if I'd feel comfortable asking someone new that I met how safe will my child be there, it seems kind of accusatorial.

Kim Gile [00:08:07] It really doesn't have to be, depending on how you go about it. So, an example would be, "Hi, my name is Jim. I've seen you've met my super cute daughter, right? Is there a weapon in the home? Is that weapon secured?" And it's just opening up a dialog, that's all it is. You can do it, Jim. You're good at talking to people.

Jim Heurer [00:08:28] I'm going to try that. I'll give my credit to you.

Kim Gile [00:08:31] Oh no, no, no, no.

Jim Heurer [00:08:33] Thank you so much for joining us this morning. Clearly, this is an excellent program. You don't know what the impact of a locked gun would be.

Kim Gile [00:08:44] You don't.

Jim Heurer [00:08:45] It's kind of that ripple effect. Thank you for doing that.

Kim Gile [00:08:50] Thank you so very much for having me on. I'm a big fan of your podcast.

Jim Heurer [00:08:53] Oh, and that makes us happier. As happy we you could possibly imagine! Thank you and enjoy the rest of the conference.

Kim Gile [00:08:59] Thank you.

Jim Heurer [00:09:00] Two Librarians and A Microphone is brought to you by Ingram Library Services, it is a division of Ingram Content Group. Our producer/director is Rachel Cope, sound engineering by Craig Simpson, special assistance by Essence Brisco, and Elizabeth Wilcox. The research done by our librarians, Trisha Bengel and Donna George. I'm Jim Heuer, thanks most of all to you for listening. Please follow us on Instagram at @thelibrarylife, tag us in your #thelibrarylife moments, because we've got some cool stuff going on, on that social media platform. We're going to be giving away some exclusive books, ARCs, perhaps a signed copy. In order to make sure you're staying tuned to this podcast, we'd love for you to go to our landing page, but most importantly, the best way you can show your support for us, is we'd love some reviews on Apple iTunes. If you can go on there and leave us a positive review, that would really help. We'll see you in your libraries. Thanks everybody.