Author Archive

From the Director: KDL Leading the Way

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Lance small2012Libraries are known for being forward thinking when it comes to constantly improving equal access to everything we offer.

KDL has taken the lead many times, from our nationally recognized What’s Next database used by libraries and library fans across the country, to our early literacy initiatives that serve as a model for many other library systems to our Local Indie collection designed specifically to promote self-published work.

Once again, we want to be at the leading edge. KDL and nine other U.S. library systems, including the New York Public Library, are partnering to apply for a grant to embark on a two-year project called “Library Simplified.”

It’s an effort to explore how libraries can better use new technology, including and especially eBooks, to build new audiences by reducing the barriers to use. We’re also going to examine why people don’t use the library, and look at how we might alter our policies so they will. And we intend to investigate the often confusing steps needed to download materials to various devices, and brainstorm ways to make it easier.

I’ll share more details later this year should the grant be awarded. I know my fingers are crossed.

Lance Werner, KDL Director


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A Must-Have for Newborns: A Library Card

Monday, January 28th, 2013

KDL Day of ServiceEight volunteers from Grand Rapids legal firm Miller Johnson visited the KDL Service Center on January 21 and put together 1,000 KDL “Play-Grow-Read to Your Baby” bags, which will be distributed to new moms in Kent County through a partnership with First Steps Kent. The bags are paid for through donations from Huntington Bank, the Blodgett Foundation and individual donors.

KDL is thrilled to have community partners who recognize how crucial early literacy is to lifelong literacy.

The findings of a recent public opinion study showed that most people in Michigan think the state should invest more in early childhood education. Governor Rick Snyder, in his State of the State speech on January 16, called for “a major budget commitment” to early childhood education.

Literacy development begins in the first three years of life, and even babies as young as six weeks old are developmentally ready to begin early literacy activities.

A few KDL programs that target early literacy: Early Childhood Essentials programs aimed at giving parents and childcare providers tools for success, a monthly Early Lit Bits eNewsletter packed with practical literacy advice and Babytime storytimes aimed at encouraging children’s love for reading and imagination at a time when their brains experience such crucial development. And KDLville play spaces in all our branches do not have a minimum age restriction.

It’s never too early for a library card.


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Help Us Out, Contact Your Legislator

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Legislators are currently discussing the business equipment personal property tax (PPT) and ways to replace the funds if it is eliminated. Replacement is critical to maintaining the services Kent County residents rely on. Without replacement of the PPT, services will be reduced or may cease entirely.

We agree the PPT is not a wise tax; why penalize businesses for trying to grow? But the services it funds – municipalities, schools and, of course, libraries – are anything but unwise. These are the entities voters have said again and again are worthy of their tax dollars. These are services that define vibrant communities and convince businesses and people to move in and to stay.

Michigan’s public libraries are not asking for more money; we’re simply asking that we be allowed to continue to provide quality library services that meet the needs of our residents.  Please take a moment and tell your legislators you want a PPT replacement plan, and that you want libraries included.

Thank you for your support!

Lance Werner, director
Kent District Library


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From the Director: Star Library, Times 3!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

We did it again!

I am pleased to announce that Kent District Library has, for the third year in a row, been recognized as a Star Library in the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service 2012More than 7,000 libraries were evaluated, but only 262 received a starred rating.  KDL was one of only four Michigan libraries to make the list (Ann Arbor District Library, Bloomfield Township Public Library and Plymouth District Library were the others).

We are thrilled that Kent District Library has received this accolade and appreciate the support that our patrons and communities have shown over the years. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this wonderful achievement!


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Write Michigan – 30 Days To Go!

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

The word is out about Write Michigan, the short story contest sponsored by KDL, Schuler Books & Music and the Grand Rapids Public Library.

As of the end of October, hundreds of Michigan residents had uploaded drafts to the Write Michigan website. We expect a deluge of entries as we approach the submission deadline on November 30.

From December 1 to January 10, teams of judges will read all of the entries and compile a list of finalists in two age categories (18 and older and 17 and younger). The top stories are assured a place in a collection printed by Schuler’s Chapbook Press. We’ll reveal the finalists on January 11, and then it will be up to you to vote for your favorite. The top two entries in each category will receive cash prizes.

Libraries encourage people to read, but they also inspire people to imagine, create and write. The late American author Ray Bradbury said this: “I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library . . . (and) at the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.”

How many future Ray Bradburys, J.K. Rowlingses, Malcolm Gladwells and Maya Angelous are patrons of a KDL branch? How can we encourage you? We think Write Michigan could be the platform to launch the next great Michigan writer. Could it be you?

Lance Werner, Director
Kent District Library


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From the Director: The Kids Are Alright

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Cue the Pete Townshend guitar stylings; we’re talking ’bout a new generation of library users.

Some may be surprised by the findings of a recent study that found that those age 16 to 29 are reading as much or more than the previous generation and are more likely to be using their libraries. And while they embrace eBooks, that generation does not want the technology to replace traditional print books.

At KDL, this is not news to us; it’s an assurance that our programs and resources aimed at young people are sought after, that we’re more relevant than ever to their needs and that they consider their libraries “their” spaces.

What are we doing at KDL? We’ve revamped many of the teen and children’s sections of our branches to make them more welcoming and exclusive to those age groups, we continue to see a strong use of databases not found on the Internet for school research and we have the largest selection of eBooks of any library system in Michigan that is available only to our cardholders.

KDL also has seen record-breaking numbers of children and teens who take part in our summer reading programs, which have the highest participation of any single library system in the state.

All of this is because of you, our KDL cardholders. You have told us what you want from your library — how you want us to invest your tax dollars — and we have listened. We plan to keep listening, and evolving, as what you need and want from your library evolves.

Lance Werner
KDL Director


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From the Director: Write, Vote, Win!

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Are you ready to write, Michigan?

Kent District Library is partnering with Schuler Books & Music and the Grand Rapids Public Library to host the Write Michigan short story contest beginning September 4. The contest is aimed at showcasing budding writing talent across the state. We’re so excited to offer people this opportunity to share their work with Michigan and the world.

The popularity of television shows such as “American Idol,” which combine expert opinion with viewer voting, got us thinking about how this concept could be applied to a library contest. We also thought about West Michigan’s very own ArtPrize contest, which has sparked unprecedented public enthusiasm for visual art. Could the same be done in the literary arts? It’s time to find out.

While I encourage you to read the full contest details at, here’s a quick overview: writers of all ages are invited to submit an original, unpublished short story on any topic. A group of judges will determine a number of finalists in two categories: youth (age 17 and younger) and adult (age 18 and older). Then the public voting begins.

The stories with the most votes at the end will win cash prizes. But that’s not all: the stories from the top 10 to 12 finalists will be published by Schuler’s Chapbook Press. Additionally, the contest includes short story writing workshops and an awards ceremony.

To aid in your wordsmithery, KDL is offering a short story writing workshop with Ludington-area author George Dila from 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM on Saturday, September 15 at the East Grand Rapids branch. Come ready to write!

Libraries and bookstores love to get people excited about literature. Write Michigan is our way of taking that goal to the next level with the hope that one day soon it will be your stories flying off our shelves. So, get writing… and get discovered!


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From the Director: How Are We Doing, Really?

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Maybe you’ve heard about KDL’s new quality standards achievement project. I want to tell you what this “multi-year effort to document performance strengths and gaps against national indicators of excellence” means to you.

First, it means simply that we want to always be doing better. Our patrons and the library industry have told us we do a great job, and now we’re asking a third-party organization, the Michigan Quality Council — a 19-year-old organization that helps businesses and organizations improve their products and services — to weigh in.

KDL is the first public library in Michigan to engage their review process. Why? Ultimately, the process will address whether we’re giving you, the taxpayer, the most for your dollars.

The effort will help us answer questions such as, are the materials we’re buying and circulating truly what our patrons want? Which of our programs reach the greatest audiences and do they align with our strategic plan — for instance, to promote early childhood literacy? Are we buying enough eBooks to meet the growing demand?

It will also measure whether we are doing all we can to build and maintain an effective team, and that we’re training our employees in the areas they need to best be able to serve the public. One recent example was the training of our branch staff to help patrons use and troubleshoot eReader devices. That’s a value-added effort to put us ahead of the technology curve, something libraries have done so well for so long.

KDL is not the same organization we were 10 years ago, and we won’t be the same organization 10 years from now that we are today. In a nutshell, this voluntary effort will let us know whether we’re truly, measurably, meeting our goals.

These are questions we have always asked, but the MQC effort is a concentrated way to ensure we’re always asking the right questions. Having an outside group measure that is a way for us — and you — to really, truly know.


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From the Director: Libraries, eBooks & Full Access for All

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

More than 70 libraries in the U.S. and Canada have joined to make a public statement on behalf of a better user experience with eBooks. What follows is an excerpt of that statement, which KDL supports. If you would like to send a quick note to major publishers to express your opinion, see below for their contact information.


“Libraries have a responsibility to fight for the public and ensure that users have the same open, easy and free access to e-books that they have come to rely on with physical books.  

They face two major challenges. The first is that, unlike print books, publishers are not required to sell e-books to libraries — and many do not. The second, addressed here, is that the products currently offered by e-content distributors, the middlemen from whom libraries buy e-books, create a fragmented, disjointed and cumbersome user experience

To correct this, e-content providers must be willing partners and offer products that allow users to:

  • Search and browse a single comprehensive catalog with all of a library’s offerings at once, including all e-books, physical collections, programs, blogs and donor opportunities.
  • Download e-books that are compatible with all readers, from the Kindle to the Nook to the iPad and so on.

In order for libraries to continue to function as key providers of information to the public, these basic principles must be followed. The libraries who signed this agreement are committed to holding content providers to this standard, and will prioritize these requirements when acquiring e-books and other e-content.”


If you wish to write to or call a publisher to convey your opinion, here is their contact information:

Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 366-2000

Macmillan Publishing
75 Varick Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 226-7521

Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
(212) 698-7000

Hachette Book Group
466 Lexington Avenue #131
New York, NY 10017
(212) 364-1100

Brilliance Audio
1704 Eaton Drive
Grand Haven, MI 49417
(616) 846-5256


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From the Director: Is Your Library’s Funding Safe?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Libraries and other organizations such as schools, police and fire departments that provide essential tax-supported services have been working with state lawmakers for nearly a year to brainstorm ways to replace the business equipment personal property tax (PPT) if it is eliminated

Replacement is critical because without it, the services Kent County residents rely on will be at the very least irreparably damaged, and in some cases may cease entirely. Kent District Library applauded senators who recognized the value and necessity of our services, and were heartened that a “poison pill” replacement provision was included in a Senate measure that passed on May 10. While this solution is far from perfect, it is better than nothing. The provision provides that if a future legislature fails to restore revenue lost by elimination of the PPT, the PPT will be restored.

But wait. Now there are rumblings that the State House of Representatives may remove the provision, which if true, would damage KDL’s voter-approved tax funding and the services we offer to more than a quarter-million people throughout Kent County. It would also mean the year of negotiations between the Senate and governmental tax-funded essential services was utterly meaningless.

We agree the PPT is not a wise tax; why penalize businesses for trying to grow? But the services it funds – municipalities, schools and, of course, libraries – are anything but unwise. These are the entities voters have said again and again are worthy of their tax dollars. These are services that keep property values steady and growing – and thus communities vibrant – and convince businesses and people to move in and to stay.

I can say with absolute confidence that Michigan’s libraries do not take advantage of voters’ generosity. Libraries in this state saw state aid decrease in 2011 to levels not seen since 1978 – that’s the level of de-funding you think of when organizations say they’ve cut expenses to the bone.   

Despite cuts, we’re offering programs and materials that are keeping libraries more vital than ever to people’s lives. KDL cardholders number at nearly a quarter million – and that’s just our library system. In April, more than 1,000 new people signed up for library cards and in February, more than 3,000. Our early childhood literacy programs have become musts for Kent County parents and educators. Our computer and job skills course offerings are often filled to capacity, which is notable in that Gov. Snyder was quoted in a news article last year as recommending people depend more on resources at public libraries for their job searches.

At KDL, the PPT accounts for nearly 9.1 percent of our operating budget. If it is not replaced, the cuts will go inside the bone. What will happen is libraries will be forced – against our and voters’ wishes – to take the services they bargained for away from them. Another possible repercussion could be a tax increase on homeowners to pay for the services residents have come to expect.

Your state’s public libraries are not asking for more money; we’re asking that we be able to continue to provide the services we agreed to provide, with the funding voters approved.

Lawmakers, please follow through on the good-faith promises you have made regarding replacement of the PPT. Library supporters, please tell your legislators your thoughts about losing services you voted for.

Thank you for your support,

Lance Werner, director
Kent District Library


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