Arts & More
6:01 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

154-Year-Old Kalamazoo Public Library Still Changing

Ann Rohrbaugh, Director of the Kalamazoo Public Library
Ann Rohrbaugh, Director of the Kalamazoo Public Library
Credit Nancy Camden

CORRECTION: The original version of this story misspelled Ann Rohrbaugh's last name.

From a library in 1860 with 120 inherited books, open one hour a day for a school district, the Kalamazoo Public Library downtown and its four branches have evolved into community centers with concerts and performances, movies and speakers. 

While there are still lots of books for reference and reading, digital technology is an important service of the library. The head of Adult Services, Michael Cockrell, manages a growing number of digital content that includes eBooks, eAudio, digital magazines and streaming of video and audio and audio books and music.

Many people do not have computers. For, those who are trying to keep up, Cockrell feels good that the library can help them with the technology that has left a lot of people behind.

“For many, it’s not that they don’t have a computer,” says Cockrell, “it’s that our internet speed is high enough. Our computers are a little more up-to-date. If they need to access certain websites for their job or for government information, to do banking or rent an apartment, the high speed internet here is what many people need to manage their digital life.”

The library is invested in early childhood literacy through its services to the diverse children in the community, including story hours. Designated a Family Place Library, the Kalamazoo Public Library

Director, Ann Rohrbaugh says, “We’re one of about twenty-five libraries who received an Institute for Museum and Library Studies Grant.”

The local history department is a robust area of the library that includes genealogy research. Uniquely, the county’s law library is housed at the central library.

“I can’t think of a single building that is open as many hours as we are, where everybody is welcome,” says Farrell Howe, the Marketing and Communications Manager for the library.

“Whether you’re in business and you’re looking for resources for your business, you’re a student and you need homework help, you need some online assistance, you need research materials, we have that. New mom, we have story times. You’re into music, we have concerts. There are so many different things that we offer to everybody.”

“We wanted it when these building were built to be a place where people want to come and spend time,” says Rohrbaugh. “We have a support of community and are very grateful.”

Sunday the library will sponsor the 11th Annual Teen Filmmaker Festival. The short films of Michigan’s most talented teenagers will be shown at 2:30 pm at the State Theatre. Tickets are free.