Grand Rapids Public Library celebrates 150th Anniversary
GRAND RAPIDS, January 14, 2021: The Grand Rapids
Public Library is honoring its sesquicentennial in 2021.
Since 1871, the Grand Rapids Public Library has provided the
city with outstanding service, innovative programs, and
expansive collections. The 150 will be a year-long celebration,
culminating in a birthday celebration on December 21, 2021.
will kick off with My Library Story. Public libraries
have a special place in people’s hearts. From childhood memories
to transformational experiences, each story is unique. GRPL’s
Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Department is
collecting the community’s stories about the library. Patrons
can share their memories through an
and attach photographs, videos, and/or drawings.
The stories will be kept in the library’s archives and shared on
GRPL’s website and social media channels throughout 2021.
Other events throughout the year include:
A commemorative GRPL library card
150 Books, Movies, and Music we love
Exhibits on the history of the library
Pop-Up Pocket Parks
Much, much, more
“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. 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,” remarked
GRPL Director John McNaughton. “But most of all, it is a
time of 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.”
The Grand Rapids Public Library was
when members of the Grand Rapids Board of Education agreed to
combine their book holdings with those of two other
organizations – the Ladies Literary Association and the YMCA. A
library committee hired the first librarian, Miss Frances
Holcomb, at an annual salary of $500.
In its early years, the Grand Rapids Public Library called
several downtown spaces home, including a room above a dry goods
store, space in the Ledyard Building, and several rooms of
Grand Rapids’ City Hall. By 1900, the desire for a permanent
home began to grow. Martin Antoine Ryerson, a native of
Grand Rapids and prominent Chicago citizen, expressed interest
in funding a home for the library. Ultimately, Grand Rapids has
Martin A. Ryerson, arts and education benefactor, to thank for
the gift of the Ryerson Building.
Over the decades, the library expanded into city neighborhoods
to better serve patrons living in different areas of the city.
The first branch was the West Side Branch, which was
originally housed in an old Michigan Bell Telephone Company
building; it opened in 1908. Current branches include Ottawa
Hills, Madison Square, Yankee Clipper, Van Belkum, West Leonard,
Funding for the 150 celebration is provided by the
Public Library Foundation.
To learn more, visit
or call 616-988-5400. The Grand Rapids Public Library inspires
opportunity, connection, and innovation.
Photos courtesy of the GRPL.