Seated on comfy new furniture inside the Kent District Library-Kelloggsville Branch, community member Jim Ward said getting books into children’s hand has always been his passion. Now he’s helped make books and other library resources even more accessible to families in the neighborhood where he lives and raised his daughters.
Ward, who is retired, was instrumental in planning the library, which opened this winter inside Kelloggsville High School. A Forest Hills Public Schools media specialist for 38 years, he had a strong interest in the concept of public libraries operating within schools, and worked with administrators, who tapped into his knowledge to make that happen.
He especially likes the idea of reaching underserved communities like Kelloggsville, a low-income district where many students can’t easily get to a library miles away. Before working for Forest Hills, Ward worked at Grand Rapids Public Library for five years in an elementary outreach program and summer reading program.
“The connection with Kelloggsville was I thought, ‘Gee, we should really go with that (concept), because these kids in a more urban setting don’t have the mobility they have in Forest Hills,’” Ward said. “It’s difficult for them to get somewhere else for a library.
“As far as I know this is the only (school-public library) in an urban setting,” he added. “That’s what really motivated me. These kids deserve good services and access to stuff.”
The 6,000 square-foot, two-story library offers an 8,000-item collection, children’s section and materials for all ages. It fills an acute need in the district, which is located some 4 1/2 miles from the Kentwood KDL branch and 3 1/2 miles from the Wyoming branch.
Ward and administrators planned the library design, funded by a $250,000 grant from the Steelcase Foundation, to incorporate technology like interactive whiteboards, projectors, computers and many outlets, increasing access to digital library services as well as print.
Longtime Kelloggsville Advocate
Helping plan the library is one of many ways Ward has helped shape the district over the past 26 years as he has remained rooted in the community.
The Wyoming native and Godwin Heights High School graduate actively campaigned to build a new Kelloggsville Middle School in the early 1990s. He has remained involved ever since, most recently helping campaign for the Kent ISD Enhancement Millage, which passed last year, and the district’s bond campaign to renovate the high school, especially in planning the library.
He is the father of Kelloggsville graduates Emma, Abby and Rachael. His wife, Jane Ward, has served on the Kelloggsville Board of Education for 22 years. A member of the City of Wyoming Tree Commission, Ward has also included Kelloggsville students in tree-planting, last year passing out saplings to Southeast Elementary fourth-graders.
“Jim has always cared about educating kids. His interest in library science stems from his desire to help students gain all the knowledge they need,” said his wife, Jane Ward, noting that Jim was a enthusiastic supporter of their daughters’ many extra-curricular activities in Kelloggsville. “And he maintains an interest in supporting Kelloggsville programs both academic and extracurricular. We both seek to have the the most opportunities as possible for all students.”
Assistant Superintendent Tammy Savage said Ward is a cherished voice in the district and a person they can always turn to.
“When you have a heart for a community such as Jim has for Kelloggsville, the district benefits by his consistent involvement,” she said. “Jim is a community member who understands and can communicate needs to others when the district goes to the community for support on bonds, millages and projects.
“Jim’s experience, passion and expertise as a library media specialist was a key component in shaping the vision of a ‘future forward’ Kelloggsville.”
Passing Down Book Love
Jim and Jane, who is a retired teacher, inspired their daughter Emma Fogg to become a teacher in the district. She is Young Fives teacher at Kelloggsville, where she runs her own little library.
“I have so many books of my own that I had to start a lending library in my own classroom, so that students can bring home more books each week to read with their parents, as my parents read to me when I was their age,” Fogg said. “My dad and mom inspired in me a love of reading and books that I want to share with my students each year, in the hopes that it will inspire them to love reading and books as well.”
For Jim, Kelloggsville is home, a close-knit community where teachers and students have always cared for each other and worked hard to bring great programs and instruction to students.
He’s been steadfast in doing his part – lending a hand, or a book.