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5 hidden experiences at the Kansas City Public Library

Pianos? Native plants? You can rent more than just books at Kansas City’s public library.

A ~4-foot tall chess night surrounded by equally tall pawns and other chess pieces. They're arranged on an outdoor rooftop chessboard.

Note: Playing on a bigger board will not, in fact, make you better at chess. | Photo by KCtoday

You thought the library was just for books? In addition to comics, movies, music, events + orchestral performance sets, here are five more things to check out at your local library.

Rooftop chess

Looking for a free excursion downtown? The Central Branch’s rooftop terrace is a quiet courtyard in the heart of the city. Read the history of the neighborhood on the terrace’s interpretive plaques, stroll the native plant garden, and play a game of chess on the life-sized set. You can even rent the space for events.

An open door reads "Missouri Valley Room." It leads into a warmly lit hall of black floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Special collections isn’t for the faint of heart — heavy duty research happens here. | Photo by KCtoday

Missouri Valley Special Collections

Grab your smoking jacket and reading glasses, and sink into the Missouri Valley Room for a tour of local history. The library’s special collection contains archives, artifacts, and genealogy resources from the region. Loyal readers might remember our story on Petticoat Lane, which was all inspired by a day trip to the fifth story stacks.

Piano rental

Your library card gets you access to any of the study pods in the KCPL system. At the Central Branch, that includes one with a digital Clavinova piano, allowing you to test out your Liberace dreams before committing to, you know, carrying a full piano up a flight of stairs.

A desktop organizer containing seed packets, including mustard, peanuts, and arugula.

The Seed Library is friendly for beginners — like Editor Dayten, who didn’t know peanuts were something you could grow in a garden. | Photo by KCtoday

Seed Library

Over at the Ruiz branch (2017 W. Pennway St., KCMO), gardening is as easy as a trip to the library. Check out the branch’s catalog of flower + vegetable seeds, take them home — along with instructions if you’re just getting started — and let it grow. The best part? No late fees.

Blood pressure cuffs

Since partnering with the American Heart Association’s Libraries with Heart program, all KC library locations offer blood pressure kiosks + take home kits to library card holders, along with resources to help understand your numbers. Is it as fun as rooftop chess? Maybe not. But is it helping keep KC healthy? No doubt.

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