To hear the Show Me Today interview with Jen Wildhagen, of St. Joseph Public Libraries, click below (9:07).

To hear the Show Me Today interview with Mitzi St. John, of Columbia Public Libraries, click below (8:06).

A good place to go in your community to chill out when the mercury rises is your local library. Missouri has more than 500 cooling centers – and many of those are libraries. Other designated cooling centers around the state include senior centers, local health departments and Salvation Army locations.

Jen Wildhagen, with St. Joseph Public Libraries in northwest Missouri, said her library is a popular place.

Branson, Missouri at sunset

“On the days when it’s really, really warm outside we are seeing a lot more people come through the door and they specifically just say that they’re here because they needed to get out of the heat,” Wildhagen said.

She said the dangerous temps may bring people in, but some of those customers end up returning for non-weather related reasons because of the services public libraries have to offer.

“I look at libraries as essential parts of the community in addition to the resources we offer, also the community building aspect of that, being able to find like-minded people that you can sit and talk with and exchange ideas. It’s a nice safe space to be,” she said.

Her library is also a designated warming center during the cold weather time.

Mitzi St. John, with Columbia Public Library in central Missouri, said her library is a designated cooling center with many activities for people to do while they stay cool.

“You can read a book but you can also get on one of the public access computers,” said St. John. “We have free Wi Fi, so you can take advantage of that. Our libraries also have a place where you can bring your children and there’s a children’s area where they can play. There are several times throughout the day that we have programs that people can also participate in.”

She said the library also has audio books, magazines and newspapers from across the globe.

St. John said everyone is welcome there to stay cool.

“With the schools being out, there are a lot of families who are coming in to participate in indoor activities because they’re hot and they’re looking for things for the children to do. We offer a summer reading program throughout the summer and so, our numbers are often usually a little bit higher in the summer,” she said.

Her library also offers programs about history, music, genealogy and more.

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