The system operates its Central Branch and neighborhood branches located in Kansas City, Independence, and Sugar Creek. Founded in 1873, it is the oldest and third largest public library system in the metropolitan Kansas City area.
Its special collections, housed in the Central Library's Missouri Valley Room, has a collection of Kansas City local history, including original and published materials, news articles, post cards, photographs, maps, and city directories dating from the community's earliest history. The Library's Ramos Collection includes books, pamphlets, journal articles and other materials relating to African-American history and culture.
"The Community Bookshelf [Central Library Parking Garage] is a striking feature of Kansas City's downtown. It runs along the south wall of the Central Library's parking garage on 10th Street between Wyandotte Street and Baltimore Avenue. The book spines, which measure approximately 25 feet by 9 feet, are made of signboard mylar. The shelf showcases 22 titles reflecting a wide variety of reading interests as suggested by Kansas City readers and then selected by The Kansas City Public Library Board of Trustees."