For a little over a year now, I have been fighting for a library in Ada. Many other residents have been on the side of a library of our own for much longer, including residents like Corky Paul who has also spoken out at board meetings. I commend the Ada Township Board for listening to us, for investigating, for exploring, for researching, for asking questions. I am also eternally grateful to Ada's Downtown Development Authority and their leader, Bob Kullgren for meeting with me and with leaders of the Kent District Library.
Ada township has been wisely cautious in this time of rebirth in our village. The township has long posted conceptual drawings of many possible visions of the new Ada. The image above is "Concept C." My heart belongs to this particular concept drawing, but specifically to D) 2 STORY COMMUNITY BUILDING (9,500 SF). It hasn't been printed on Ada's website. You won't find the board on record naming building D, but that, I sincerely hope, is our library.
The most recent step that the Ada Township Board has taken is to hire a consultant to determine if raising funds for this building through private donors is possible. The fantastic news is that it is possible. For simple families in Ada like mine, that is incredible news. Ada residents already pay taxes to Kent District Library who have agreed to staff the building and provide a library collection. Extremely generous residents have expressed their willingness to provide a building. After doing our homework on a library in our village, Ada has an answer. That answer is YES!
It is time to begin the next step towards this goal. Officials need to hire a firm to coordinate these large donors and begin organizing our community leaders in creating a library that will reflect Ada township's needs. Please continue to support a library and support your Ada Township Board and Downtown Development Authority as they carefully choose their next step.
Thoughtful, fiscally responsible people have expressed their opinion that another Kent District Library branch is not needed in Ada. I respectfully disagree with their opinion.
I have lived in Ada township for fourteen years. During those fourteen years, when someone asked me where I lived the conversation never ended with Ada. I lived east of Grand Rapids, no not in East Grand Rapids, Ada is further East than that, no not all the way to Lowell, yes near Cascade, just north of Cascade. I drove visitors down to see the covered bridge for quaint local color, but we always ate a nice dinner in Grand Rapids, used the library in Cascade, visited the quaint shops in East Grand Rapids, and walked around the river in Rockford. Although a passionate advocate for libraries in general and for Kent District Library in particular, I never before pushed for a library here in Ada.
During the last few years there have been changes, changes in Ada and changes in the expectations of upscale bedroom communities in general. Our little village has gradually become a destination. New coffee shops, cafes, a craft brewery, gastropub, and Kingma's market, are all finding a home in our once sleepy little village. The township is reshaping our village, and look - hidden behind some businesses, we have a river. Township officials have held community forums in which residents have identified key points to steer the reshaping of Ada. The second design principle on their list is "Create a focal point in the heart of the Village that can serve as a community hub and gathering place, and expand opportunities for civic buildings." A library would be that focal point. A library would bring foot traffic to our budding businesses, not just in the summertime, but all year round. A library would provide space for the community to gather. The library would include flexible meeting space that could accommodate individuals, tutors, businesses, and civic organizations. No neighboring library can be a focal point for Ada township.
I am an adult librarian with Kent District Library. I am not the star of the library. The star of every public library I have worked for has been their children's librarian.
Children's librarians bring other worlds to life for kids. Together, they sing, dance, read, play, rhyme, act silly and love every minute of their interactions with books. Summer Reading is about to kick off at Kent District Library, and that is when these stars shine their brightest. They will decorate, promote, cajole, and stand on their heads to engage children in the summer reading program so that kiddos won't lose the reading progress made at school this year. Librarians will hold KDL Labs to spark interest in science, technology, engineering, art and math and mix learning with summer fun. For the smallest of library visitors, children's librarians will promote the 1,000 books before kindergarten program, to help make sure all children will be ready when school starts again in the fall.
We cannot lose this opportunity to have a children's librarian available for our children right in the New Village of Ada.
Libraries have changed dramatically since I started work at the East Grand Rapids branch of Kent District Library seventeen years ago. When I worked at EGR, there was an entire room filled with reference books. I used them daily to answer questions that Google answers today. That part of my job no longer exists, but the library did not close its doors. The library innovated. As the needs of our patrons changed, librarians changed to fill them. Now my reference questions most often fall into two categories, finding things to read and helping to navigate technology.
As questions changed, librarians learned new answers. Today, I teach the public to use reference databases: business people needing demographic information and students needing SAT prep. I teach new users how to download eBooks. I tell them about the various devices and help them to connect with our library's ever-growing collection of eBooks. I help the public complete online job applications, save resumes in PDF format, and even create their own websites. I provide quick help on our public computers and schedule one on one tutoring sessions.
Libraries are evolving, too. In place of a room full of reference books, we now need high speed wireless Internet for our customers and the space to set up their laptops. Libraries need rooms in which our community can meet to work together. Libraries need to offer programs in lifelong learning and STEM projects for kids. Libraries teach the ukulele and check out bicycles and iPads. Libraries are recreating themselves to meet the needs of their communities.
What does Ada need from its library?
I sometimes hear from people who have not been to a library in a very long time. I am passing no judgment. I do not mean to condescend or diminish anyone. Some very intelligent, wonderful people never visit a library. These people do not understand why libraries still exist.
First, books. Many librarians start this argument with "more than books" because today's libraries most certainly are much more than books, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. I do not, however, concede books. The reports of the death of the printed word have been greatly exaggerated. Electronic books are tree-saving, economical boon to reading everywhere. Does that mean paper books are the new rotary phone? No. Some readers have never and will never make the change. Some books do not translate well. Picture books for children are tactile; turning the page is a lesson in literacy. Sometimes you want or need to unplug, and yet still read. Ada deserves books.
Many think that because most new popular books are also available electronically, then we do not need libraries. Can't you just read your new book in the Internet? No. Like print books, electronic books are not free. Libraries give us all the freedom to read, to discover, to sample, to try, no matter our monthly budget. We can truly choose to educate ourselves in almost anything by borrowing books. We can borrow eBooks as well print books and have the choice: science or short story, travel or tall tale. Come to a library and a librarian will help find what you are looking for among the estimated million books published in the US each year. Librarians will also show you how to borrow an eBook from the library or find that obscure book that isn't available electronically. Ada deserves local librarians.
Libraries have also grown. In addition to books and eBooks, come find out about movies and eMovies, music and eMusic, magazines and eMagazines, newspapers and eNewspapers, and more. At the Cascade library, patrons can also check out iPads, Go Pros (video cameras), a Green Screen (movie making prop), Launch Pads (Educational Tablet for children), seeds, and look in the near future for circulating bicycles. All of this, from books to bikes, make up the library's collection, the collection is fast becoming the smaller half of the library picture, the part many librarians insist a library is more than. Ada deserves a collection.
Another real part of every library, the part that is now stressed only because it is so often overlooked, is a safe, comfortable, indoor community space. Libraries provide spaces where a community is welcome. Who would come to a well lit, Wi-Fi enabled, comfortable space? Families. Each Kent District Library contains a KDLville, play areas devoted to children, parents and early literacy. Parents learn as much as children do about the very beginning of a child's love for reading. Early literacy is nourished in a library, not only by the play space, but with regular story time programs, toddler times, baby times. It is nourished with programs like "1,000 Books Before Kindergarten," and it is nourished by bringing books home, by the handfuls, regularly. Ada children alone would be more than enough reason that Ada deserves a library.
Ada adults deserve one too. Adults meet in the study rooms at the library. Adults tutor children in reading. Adults bring their laptops and work in quiet anonymity. Adults meet up with adults and work together, forming businesses, working on group projects, coordinating nonprofits, teams, committees, and neighborhood groups. Adults lounge in comfortable chairs and read newspapers and magazines of every variety. Adults run in to use the computer, to use the printer, to make some copies, to scan a document, to ask a librarian's advice, to take a computer class. Ada deserves an indoor public space.
Libraries provide free programs, educational programs, entertaining programs, social programs. KDL patrons last year learned to paint, to cook, to make beer, to chart stars, and to play the ukulele among many many other programs. These programs give a community the chance to get to know each other and to explore their world. Ada deserves a place that will foster life-long learning.
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, the reason that so many of our surrounding communities have libraries of their own, libraries are the hubs of their communities. Libraries draw repeat visitors from their community, and keeps them returning again and again and again. Local libraries like East Grand Rapids boast close to a thousand visitors a day. Ada businesses deserve a library. Library patrons are also good customers.
I am Penni Zurgable. I own a modest, much loved home in Adacroft Commons. I have lived there for nearly fourteen years. One of my sons graduated from Central High and is about to graduate from the University of Michigan. The other son is currently in Central Middle School. I am also a librarian at the Cascade branch of Kent District Library.
You may have seen me holding a library banner in an Ada Fourth of July parade. I once even dressed up and walked the route in a furry costume (and lived). When I heard that George Haga, supervisor of the Ada township Board, had spoken with Kent District Library about the possibility of a branch in our redesigned village, I was elated. A library would be a hub for our village, a year-round destination that would benefit our whole community, even those who choose never to enter it. It could provide meeting space, study space, quiet space, and not-so-quiet space for early literacy. A library would promote life long learning and community connection, and is also a place to pick up a video for movie night.
If you would like to help in this campaign, please contact me, like the Facebook page, sign the petition, or send a letter to the Ada township board.