Thursday, 22 May 2014 10:45

Kentwoodpalooza: Helping Communities to Discover More at the Library

Written by  Kyle Austin
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Kentwoodpalooza Kentwoodpalooza COURTESY PHOTO

Kent District Library – Kentwood Branch
June 12, 2-8 p.m., (616) 784-2007

Before he was hired as Kent District Library's Kentwood branch teen librarian, Greg Lewis saw something big at KDL's Grandville branch. It was an event that featured live music from local teen bands. Once he took on his position as teen librarian, Lewis was inspired to take that teen-band concept further. Three years later, Kentwoodpalooza was born.

Now in its fourth year, the free event treats patrons and non-patrons alike to a daylong celebration of food, family and creative arts while also leading new audiences to see their local library as a hub of community, discovery and learning. If you’re not a library regular, Kentwoodpalooza is the perfect time to find out why you should be.

“This event is a way to celebrate the marvelous talent of the young people in our area, but it’s also a way to reach out to the community and let them know that the library is offering them more than they might expect,” Lewis said.

Thanks to grant support from the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), this year’s Kentwoodpalooza will be the biggest yet, with something for young children, teens, families and everyone in-between. The atmospheric folk rock of local upstarts Big Dudee Roo and the playful children’s songs of Jibber Jabber (aka The Cranewives’ Dan Rickibus and friends) will compliment jams from talented teen bands from around the region. As the music plays, area National Art Honor Society students will be painting a huge mural next to the stage in KDL Kentwood’s beautiful outdoor amphitheater.

Inside, the winners of KDL’s annual Word-Wise Teen Poetry Contest share their work, and all of the entries from the KDL Teen Film Festival, held during the winter, are screened. There will also be a host of interactive workshops, including poetry and prose writing, online publishing, songwriting, painting and guitar playing.

“The MCACA chose to support us because we’re engaging people with arts in their community,” Lewis said. “We want people who have incorporated art into their lives to share their experiences and their knowledge with others who are looking to do the same.”

With Kentwoodpalooza coinciding with the end of the K-12 school year, Lewis also sees the event as a catalyst for increased participation in KDL’s Summer Reading Program. Enrollment numbers have been increasing steadily each year, as has attendance for the event, which means more and more people are finding out just how incredible of a resource KDL really is.

“Even before I was an employee here I’ve always argued that the library is dollar for dollar the best return on our tax investment,” Lewis said.

The numbers back him up. Each of the approximately 148,000 households in KDL’s jurisdiction receive an average of $1000 worth of service for a $70 investment via property taxes through free access to the internet, the latest in fiction, non-fiction and reference books, DVDs, newspapers, the state’s largest collection of e-books and an unparalleled lineup of all-ages programming.

“The library is a safe, welcoming environment where people can explore and experience different things,” Lewis said. “That’s a big part of how we learn and grow as individuals.”


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