Coming Home

Guest post by Tricia Slavens

I grew up in the Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library. Well, not literally, but that would have been cool.

I remember being really excited when my family moved two blocks away from the library, and not just because it would shorten my walk. A self-professed bookworm, it was one of my favorite things to spend an afternoon in the children’s library downstairs (despite the rumors amongst my classmates that it was haunted) picking armfuls of books off the shelves to browse through. My sisters and I would explore the foot-beaten path behind the library by the river. Neighborhood kids were always around to play “Mother May I” on the steps.

As a broody teen I would sit in the chairs reading for hours or just walking along the rows of books. I just liked being there. I loved the smell of the books and the quiet. Growing up with four younger sisters meant quiet was a luxury not easily found in my house. After the school libraries closed for the night I’d take my homework to ANBL. I’m old enough to remember when the library got computers, then the internet. I spent many days agonizing over when it would be my turn to log on and chat with friends or play online games.

Like some kids do, I grew up and moved away.  As an adult I visited the libraries in the new cities I lived in but it wasn’t the same. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were very beautiful. Others were a little lack-luster. But none of them were my hometown library.

As it happens, I ended up back in little old Belding. One of my first stops after getting settled in town was to bring my daughter to the place that had been such a big part of my adolescence – the library.  We immediately got ourselves library cards and I was so happy to see that some things hadn’t changed. The feeling of being completely awed as I walked through the door was still there.

library back night

It was to our mutual excitement to find that the downstairs children’s library was greatly expanded and positively enhanced. ANBL continues to expand with the Overdrive App, which lets patrons access eBooks and eAudio books, which I could not live without. There are also so many free programs to join and activities to attend.

Now my daughter will get the benefit of having this library be a part of her life. With the evolution of the technology and social media, it’s nice to have something as awesome as ANBL in common with her.


The Library is so grateful to Tricia for being willing to write this guest post for our blog. We love hearing about the role the Library plays in the community!


Tinkering at the Library

by Stefanie

The libraries that we grew up with are gone.

A library in 2018, particularly a public library, if it continues to thrive, does so because it evolves and changes with the world around it. A library fifty years ago, or even twenty years ago, generally consisted of print media – books (obviously), magazines, newspapers – and the occasional story time. It might hold other resources and treasures, but the vast majority of library patrons came in for that print media, especially the books. And libraries will always (hopefully) be the best place to get a copy of the next book on your reading list.

But as technology, and even the way we read, has changed, libraries have come forward to fill a lot of creative gaps in ways you might never have thought of. Some of this comes in the form of lending a new range of materials, from DVDs to digital books and music to tablets and Kindles. Unique circulating collections, like our board games and Discovery Packs, are broadening what patrons can get out of the library.

But beyond this, libraries are also becoming more and more a place to DO things, in addition to checking out materials. They’ve developed into spaces for children and adults to make, to build, to create and imagine, and to just have a lot of fun. Here at the Belding Library, we are really excited about this (and frankly love having the chance to put together all of our makerspace kits and programs).

In the spirit of making, building, creating, imagining, and playing, we’re adding two new  children’s programs to our regular monthly schedule. One of them is our monthly STEAM Time. STEAM, if you’re not familiar, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. While it sounds very serious, what it means for us is experimenting using all of the parts of your brain while you play! While we love story time, and all the stories and singing and crafting it lets us do, STEAM Time will give our birth to five-year-old patrons a chance to learn in a slightly different way, while still getting to be silly! We’ll play games, build things, and experiment with sensory bins in a drop-in program the last Wednesday of the month at 10am, starting January 31st.

The elementary-aged kids get their own tinkering session in the form of our new Tinker Lab. Each month we’ll give the kids a surprise challenge along the lines of “Create something to protect you from a magician.” We will provide a pile of different materials for the kids to work with, and it’s up to them – either on teams or individually – to figure our how they want to solve the problem. This means figuring out the problem itself (what is it that actually needs to be fixed?), then creating a prototype solution they can test. The most important part is being willing to do some trial and error; tinkering is about testing, fixing weak spots, and trying again! Tinker Lab will be the fourth Saturday of the month at 10am, starting January 27th.

Additionally, while our Little Wigglers (birth-2 years) and Preschool Pals (3-5 years) start up again next week, we are also starting a monthly evening Family Story Time, for families who are unable to bring their kids to our daytime events, and for families who just can’t get enough of the library! This new story time will welcome all children – pre-K, and older children, as well – and their caregivers, and will include stories, songs, games, and crafts. Family Story Time will begin Monday, February 5 at 6pm. As for our “regular” story times, Little Wigglers will be every Monday at 10am starting January 15, and Preschool Pals will be every Wednesday at 10am starting January 17.

We are really excited to see what the kids come up with, and are working hard to find new ways to expand what our library provides to our Belding community. We hope to see you and your kiddos there!


Seeking Classic Solitude

This week, ANBL Library Life is pleased to highlight a guest post from an avid library supporter.   This post originally appeared on her blog

Guest Post by H.S. Deurloo

After the holiday hustle, I’m looking for a little solitude, and a shift back into a routine – hopefully, a productive one.

The issue, around my house at least, is the lack of quiet space. Space to spread around and dig into a writing project without constant interruption. While I am able to tune out a certain level of noise and annoyance (oldest of 5 siblings testify), what I cannot do is stay in a writing flow.

You know, that special sweet spot where the words are bursting to be written and the household unites in its efforts to thwart you.

I’m sure most of you just hollered at me to get a booth at Starbucks, drink my latte, and get busy writing. However, I’ll challenge you that I’ve found a better spot.

Better than Starbucks? Yes, I said it.

Let me state my case. First, and best in my mind, it’s FREE! No purchase required. Second, it not only has free wi-fi, but also additional resources for your browsing. Again, free. It is staffed by knowledgeable folks who “get” your creative and nerdy self. It’s also a quiet space where the odds of someone hitting on you or bothering you is low – super low. Anyone guess it?

Your local library.

I’ve found a sweet corner spot with a window overlooking a bird feeder. They don’t even care if I bring in my own coffee (in a sealed mug, of course). The library is the most classic place to seek solitude for creative abandon.

Take a few minutes this week to scope out your local library, find your perfect wooden table, grab a jumbo book like Hermione, and get your words down.

Meet Kelly

by Kelly

Family history and genealogy research has been a passion of mine for many years. I am thrilled that my new role here at Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library allows me to bring this passion to the public during monthly meetings of the newly formed “Silk City Genealogy Interest Group (GIG)”.

As a “teacher” of genealogy for the past four years, I repeatedly preach to those willing to listen to me, the importance of seeking out records and information from places where your ancestor lived. Small places such as libraries, historical societies, and museums, whose collections do not always make it to the internet, but likely contain gold nuggets of information that cannot be found elsewhere.

Taking my own advice, and desperately wanting to register my husband as a Son of the American Revolution, I immediately poured through the holdings of the library’s local history collection on my first day of work. Knowing that my husband’s family settled in Ionia county for a length of time, I was hoping to make a connection beyond his third-great-grandfather that would tie his family into Abial Worden, a Private from Connecticut who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Using online resources, I could not make the connection I needed to advance the male Worden line and prove the parentage of Pardon Worden, Sr. (my husband’s fifth-great-grandfather) as Abial Worden, though that is where my assumption leads me. However, genealogy is based on proof, not assumptions, so I needed something more.

To my delight, I came across a rather large collection of local family histories on the shelves of the Belding library. Family histories are a great resource! Researched and compiled by family members with personal knowledge of that family and its history, I struck gold. On the shelf were two volumes of the genealogy of Pardon Worden, Sr. and Pardon Worden, Jr., compiled by different authors, but containing the same information.

These books were researched and compiled thirty years prior, and have been safely kept in the library, just waiting for someone like myself to come along. Both volumes are full of careful research, loaded with names and dates and places that I can use to further my research, including one important name listed in generation seven: Abial Worden, a direct ancestor of my husband.  I am still jumping for joy!

I still have much research to do, but my suspicions have been confirmed, and I now have dates and place names to help me on my way. As an added bonus, these books also contained many family photographs, including that of Pardon Worden, Jr., whom I have never seen.

Do you have ancestors from Ionia County? If you do, the library just might have the hidden gem you need to move your research forward.

I would love to help you research your family tree and teach you the finer points of genealogy the first Friday of each month at 10 a.m. at the new GIG. The first meeting is October 6. All meetings are open to the public and for all levels of researchers. I can’t wait to help you catch the genealogy bug.

Scallywags, Scoundrels, and… Librarians?

by Britney

I think in another life, I must have been a pirate.  It’s the only (acceptable) explanation I can think of for my love of books about scallywags and scoundrels.  Give me a morally ambiguous character with a dark agenda and a shady crew, and you’ve got my attention.

Methinks it has to do with the fact that those types of characters are so much more interesting than other, more honorable and straight-laced lads (and ladies).  There are always motives other than are initially apparent, hidden perils, and higher stakes.  And muskets, and knives, and all manners of explosives!

I’ve read a couple of books lately that absolutely sing to my black heart, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about one, just in case there are readers out there who share my love of questionable characters and their equally dodgy exploits.  It’s a proper pirate-y book, caravel and all.

416OtR9YEzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Girl From Anywhere by Heidi Heilig

“It is not difficult to tell the future of a woman who only has a past.”

This book is extremely unique in that it’s a time travel book, but not really.  I mean, yes, it has time travel, but it’s not wholly about time travel.

The plot is very intricate and complicated (but not overly hard to follow), but here’s the gist of it: there’s a crew of time-traveling pirates who navigate from place to place and time to time using maps of all sorts as a means of transportation.  Maps can only be used once (a navigation is a one-way trip), and any map can be sailed into – even ones of mythical places (hello – Atlantis, anyone?).  Here’s what you really need to know: it’s (mostly) set in 19th century Hawaii, there’s a lost love, a heist, oodles at stake, and a pocket-sized dragon.

One of the things that immediately drew me to this book was its use of maps.  I am obsessed with maps.  One of the first things my dad taught me as a kid was how to read maps.  He believed that as long as I knew how to read a map, I could never get lost.  (I can’t tell you how many times this skill has been useful.  GPS? Who needs it? Not this girl.) When my grandmother died, one of the things I kept of hers was her collection of National Geographic maps, saved from the magazines she had collected since the 50s.  Anyway, I super duper smooch maps of all kinds.  And this book played right into that love.  Cartography, authenticity, accuracy, dates, places – these are all elements which advance the plot of this book.  And the introduction of maps from all different places/times lend a broad scope to the narrative, and makes history, mythology, and the future all immediately relevant.  (So, just, cool and clever, and #writergoals.)

This book also has a fantastic cast of characters.  The diversity  in the crew of the Temptation is authentic to the situation and the setting.  It’s nonsensical to think that a pirate crew would be composed all of one shade of the rainbow.  (Insert eye-roll emoji here.)  Nix, the main character, is of caucasian/Chinese descent; Kashmir (<3) is Persian; Bee is African and a lesbian; and Slate, the captain of the ship, wrestles with drug addiction.  I felt like the characters ring as authentic without being overtly token, and without their status being pushy.  Nothing feels forced; nothing feels patronizing.  There is no political aim here; it’s just a very real example of an author being brave enough to write reality.

It’s books like this one that make me appreciate YA literature.  It represents all the best things fiction has to offer: action, adventure, a moral conundrum, strong female characters, strong male characters, diversity, education… I could go on for a while.  I’d recommend it as an excellent read to anyone interested in time travel, pirates, pre-Union Hawaii, maps, ships, or pocket-dragons.  I’d give it a PG rating (it’s clean, with very few mild expletives), and would have no problem handing it to any of my tween/teen patrons.  Additionally, it’s part of a duology (yay!), so there’s more Nix, Kash, and Slate after you’ve finished this one!  (The sequel is called The Ship Beyond Time.)

And if you like books like this, here are a couple good choices for read-alikes.  (And strangely, all three of these books are parts of duologies):

20983362Passenger by Alexandra Bracken                                                    This book features Etta, a new time traveler who must search through time and space (oh, be still my Doctor Who-loving heart) for answers to her past, and for an object of treasure to help unravel secrets of her family and their strange gifts.  Though I didn’t enjoy this title quite as much, it’s still a really fun read, based on an interesting take on time-navigation.  This book is followed by Wayfarer.


blackhearts-9781481432696_hrBlackhearts by Nicole Castroman                                                Ahoy, fans of Blackbeard!  Though there be no time travel in this book, there are pirates aplenty!  As well as scoundrels and scalawags, and all manner of roguish rakes.  Here be the story of Blackbeard in his early years, and of the girl who loves him, then breaks his heart, setting him on a path of plunder and destruction.  And oh, what a story it is.  This book is followed by Blacksouls.



One of my very favorite parts of my job as a librarian is getting to recommend great books like these to people who come into my library.  And though I love to read, and would do it anyway, I am grateful that I get to work in a place that allows me to combine many of my loves (reading, writing, programming, people) in such exciting ways.

Until next time!



Meet Stefanie

by Stefanie

As Britney mentioned in a previous post (here), there are several new faces at the Alvah N. Belding Library these days. I’m one of them. My name is Stefanie Reed, and I am the new Youth and Teen Librarian. So those of you who have kids or teens, or ARE kids or teens — you are likely to see me around a lot. I’ll be in the children’s area, giving story times and playing with Legos. And I’ll be in the teen section, coming up with crafts, brainstorming ideas for our new MakerSpace kits, or trying to resist the urge to check out every single new Young Adult novel that sounds awesome (which is most of them). Either way, I’m going to look really excited to be here.

I took the scenic route to becoming a librarian.

For a long time, I kept coming up with ideas that coincided with things I love but still didn’t quite fit. I wanted to be a teacher, but the classroom didn’t quite suit me. I majored in history, but only because I loved reading up on it. I wanted to write fiction (and still do), so I got my MFA in fiction writing, though it took me a while to find my voice. It was only after I finished that master’s degree, after I had a job writing training materials for software, that I had my “oh my gosh, why didn’t I think of this before?” moment. I then immediately enrolled in ANOTHER master’s program, this time in Library Science.

That’s when all the pieces clicked into place. I plugged away at the degree online, studying around my full time work schedule. I took courses on services and books for children and teens and thought, “Yes, this right here is my favorite thing.” Then at the end of my coursework, I spent a few months working in the teen department at my local library.

It was the coolest thing I had ever gotten to be a part of. I just knew I had made the right choice.

I am so excited to be the new librarian here, and about finding new ways to reach out to the infant through young adult patrons here, as well create new patrons out of as many Belding kids as possible. I’m looking forward to sharing my love of reading children’s, middle grade and YA books with the kids (and adults) of our community, as well as all the
other fun things we can enjoy together. This could include making whatever we can think of, from artwork to knitted scarves to robots. Or playing games, from Trivial Pursuit to Apples to Apples to Dungeons and Dragons. This could include any number of things that neither of us has thought of yet, but once we do… it’s going to be awesome, creative and fun for everyone. I’m excited to meet and get to know all of you. Please feel free to track me down with your program, club, or book ideas. I want to make this a children’s and teen space that belongs to all of us.

And in case you were wondering, here is a list of a few of my favorite children’s, middle grade and YA:

519by0nhlml-_sx331_bo1204203200_Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
418xpelsrrl-_sx332_bo1204203200_Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
61dbwxuoknl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
51rkaehccyl-_sx331_bo1204203200_This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
51fzgmsrnrl-_sx375_bo1204203200_The Arrival by Shaun Tan
61quopxsoul-_sx409_bo1204203200_Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
51qkj6eijfl-_sx452_bo1204203200_Robot Zombie Frankenstein! By Annette Simon
615eizrnrel-_sy498_bo1204203200_Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henke
51fxrxgd5bl-_sx310_bo1204203200_The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson
51fwqbmjbvl-_sx334_bo1204203200_The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
51h0sd99b8l-_sx330_bo1204203200_Rules for Ghosting by A.J. Paquette
51gkt9arrll-_sx328_bo1204203200_Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
51maszxex8l-_sx317_bo1204203200_Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
512grttuoll-_sx342_bo1204203200_The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
61yixfnlvxl-_sx319_bo1204203200_Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
515ot2b3tanl-_sx338_bo1204203200_There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom by Louis Sachar
Pretty much anything by Louis Sachar