By Rachel Beecher
On Dec. 21, 2021, the Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) will turn 150 and the anniversary celebration is already underway.
“Our sesquicentennial is a time for us to reflect on our institutional history and the impact we have made in the lives of generations of Grand Rapidians,” stated GRPL Director John McNaughton, in a news release. “It is also a time for us to look to the future and to create innovative new ways that we can continue to grow and meet the needs of our community.”
McNaughton reminds us, “but most of all, it is a time for us to say thank you to the millions of people who have walked through our doors. The library is a place for and of the people and our patrons are the center of all we do,” (GRPL press release).
In an effort to celebrate this sesquicentennial, GRPL will be offering various events throughout 2021, including a suggested list of 150 books, movies, and music selections online, a share your library story activity, a commemorative 150 library card, and a Read-a-Thon scheduled for April that will help raise funds for the mobile library. There will also be pop-up pocket parks at two locations this summer, as well as the Summer Reading Challenge and GR Reads both incorporating the 150. In the fall, GRPL plans to have exhibits on the history of the library. For more information, please visit the GRPL 150 site.
The 150, a committee made up of various library staff, GRPL Foundation, the library director, and board of commissioners, had been planning the celebration for about a year before the pandemic hit. So, when it did, they had to make a decision to either scrap the celebration or modify the events in order to create something more positive and hopeful during such a challenging time. With regards to the overall events and activities, they decided to start with a few things that didn’t require the patron’s physical presence.
“There are some surprises that are happening that I don’t want to give away but keep your eye open, we’ll be announcing that soon,” said GRPL Marketing & Communications Director, Kristen Krueger-Corrado. “We know that libraries hold a really special place in people’s hearts and there are a lot of stories tied to that,” Krueger-Corrado continued. “I always tell my story of how my mother, my grandmother, my brother and I always went to the Creston, which is now the Van Belkum branch, every Saturday as a child, and so that’s my library story… some people will talk about how working with librarians and the library has helped transform their careers or helped transform their lives, there are so many different stories out there and we wanted to collect them.”
In an effort to document this rich local history, the Special Collections Department created a program inviting local library patrons to share their stories, photos, and artwork online at GRPL or drop them off at any of the GRPL locations. With the participants’ consent, stories will be shared out so that people can see the impact that the GRPL library has made on people’s lives.