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Tuesdays with more reads

Groups of excited students from Godfrey Elementary recently visited Kent District Library’s newest branch, peeking at the collection and meeting librarian Kelaine Mish. A few hours later, the branch zoomed away.

After four years of visioning and planning, Kent District Library’s Bookmobile  is up and running.

The Bookmobile

“This has been a dream come true,” said Mish, who has been a librarian at KDL for the past 18 years. “Just being able to come to the people, we can bring more tailored materials and offer focused story times. We’re so excited about being able to have that engagement, find out what people need, and bring that to them.”

The $350,000 mobile library has a biweekly schedule that alternates between schools, community centers, and underserved communities. There’s an exception to the biweekly nature of the schedule, however: for students and neighbors in the Godfrey-Lee School District, the Bookmobile will come every Tuesday, starting at the elementary school and then moving around the corner at the Early Childhood Center.

Godfrey Elementary student Serenity Reece boards the Bookmobile

This arrangement was made through the collaboration of KDL and Sydney Hanlon, Kent School Services Network’s community school coordinator at Godfrey Elementary.  KDL was looking for schools to partner with, and Hanlon jumped at the chance.

“KDL has said this is our Bookmobile and we can use it how we want,” said Hanlon. “We can pair it with the Feeding America food truck (that visits Lee High School) or use it in the summer to help stave off learning loss.”

Hanlon said she is grateful for KDL’s willingness to tailor its inventory and use to the unique needs of the district, which has a population that’s roughly 75 percent Hispanic and 50 percent English-language learners.

Some of the rotating collection on the Bookmobile

“You Already Belong Here”

Sara Proaño, community engagement manager for KDL, said the Bookmobile has been four years in the making and was made possible with financial support from several community partners. KDL had a red bookmobile bus in the mid-1980s called the “Bookie.” She’s excited to see a mobile library hit the road once again.

“When we started thinking about the underserved, we started thinking about this project,” said Proaño, “This is at the center of our efforts to increase reading for the third-grade reading law.”

KDL will partner with schools to support their needs and wishes, said Proaño, and will offer multilingual selections. Every student in Kent County will receive a library card, and there will be no fees associated with that card. Cards can be used in all branches, including the Bookmobile.

Godfrey Elementary student Serenity Reece browses books on the Bookmobile

“This is a place where nobody’s going to ask you where you are from or what you’re here for. You can come and go as you wish. Everybody’s welcome. You don’t have to do anything to belong here. You already belong here,” said Proaño.

Harry Coffill, library and media specialist for Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, said the district is excited about this new asset to the school and community.

“I think cooperating with KDL to get books in kids’ hands is so important,” he said. “We do what we can as a public school library, but to have a Bookmobile that’s going to visit the neighborhoods and provide a tailored reading collection is really important.”

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Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza hails from Lansing and has worked in the Grand Rapids area as a reporter, freelance writer, and communicator since graduating from Aquinas College in 2003. She feels privileged to cover West Michigan's public schools and hopes to shed a little light on the amazing things happening there through her reporting.

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