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New Digital Exhibit Celebrates 150 Years of GRPL History

GRAND RAPIDS, Oct. 13, 2021:  In celebration of it’s 150th anniversary, the Grand Rapids Public Library has created a digital exhibit exploring the history of each of its eight locations. The exhibit can be found on GRPL’s website: https://digital.grpl.org/

 

Drawn from the historical archives of the library, the Celebrating 150 Years: The History of the Grand Rapids Public Library exhibit features photographs and interesting facts about how each of the branches was founded and grew over the years. Starting with the oldest location--the Main Library--the exhibit tells the story of how the library was founded in 1871 when the Grand Rapids Board of Education, the Ladies Literary Association and the YMCA brought their book holdings together. The library opened in rooms above H. Leonard and Sons dry goods store. 

Throughout the next 150 years, the Grand Rapids Public Library expanded to eight locations throughout the City. The newest location--the West Leonard Branch--opened in 2001. Some fun facts from the exhibit:
 

·  The West Side Branch opened in April of 1908 and was the first library branch specifically built by GRPL to be a library. In 1924, as the population in the West Side neighborhood expanded, a new building was erected to better serve the community. The new location housed “two miles” of books (around 80,000 books) and 20,000 feet of floor space as well as multiple reading rooms.

·  On February 15, 1944, the Board of Library Commissioners authorized the first floor of 1501 Plainfield Ave. NE be rented for sixteen and a half months for $70 per month to form the Creston Branch Library.

·  The Ottawa Hills Branch opened in 1957. It featured a large collection of books, air conditioning, stuffed chairs, and even a smoking section.

·  The roots of the Seymour Branch date to 1960, when a citizen group campaigned to create a library in the Alger Heights neighborhood. They raised money for the branch with the slogan: “Every citizen in the city of Grand Rapids should live within walking distance to a neighborhood branch.”

·  In December 1968, the Madison Square Branch debuted as a semi-permanent mobile library. It was located at the intersection of Madison and Pleasant. For the next two decades, mobile branches and bookmobiles provided library services.

·  The Yankee Clipper Branch got its name from the shopping complex—the Yankee Shopping Plaza—where the bookmobile first made stops. “Clipper” refers to this location’s origin as a library in motion.

·  The West Leonard Branch occupies a space that originally housed a Mr Fables restaurant.

Celebrating 150 Years: The History of the Grand Rapids Public Library digital exhibit can be seen on the library’s website. Funding for the 150 celebration is provided by the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation. The Grand Rapids Public Library inspires opportunity, connection, and innovation. 

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2021 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/19/21 19:53:27 -0700.

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