Behind the Name

by Kelly

The Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library celebrates its centennial anniversary in May of 2018, an event that surely factored into my decision to join the ANBL team last last year. As a historian, I always jump at the opportunity to be a part of something that not only will become part of history, but is also history itself. The Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library is no exception.

As a member of the planning committee for the library’s Centennial Celebration, my recent duty has been to gather history of both the library and the man whose name adorns the building.

Just who was Alvah N. Belding, anyway, and why did he build a library here?

I found answers to these questions in the many resources available here at the library, including published histories, newspaper archives, photographs, and paper files. Most of the information detailed here can be referenced in the publication Belding Bros. & Co., 1863-1913.

Alvah N. Belding was born in 1838 in Ashfield, Massachusetts, to Hiram and Mary Belding. He was the youngest of four boys, all of whom possessed an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit.


In 1855, Alvah Belding traveled with his father to Michigan, where he cleared land for his father’s farm, and helped build the dam which furnished water-power for the Patterson Saw Mill. In those days, Belding was called “Patterson’s Mill,” not taking on the name of “Belding” until 1871, after Hiram Belding purchased a great deal of land from Levi Broas, the original pioneer of the area. (The section of land Belding purchased from Broas was the area north of Liberty and east of Broas streets.)

The Belding brothers’ entrepreneurship led them to manufacture and sell silk, beginning as a partnership in 1857, then establishing the Belding Brothers & Company in 1863. The brothers sold silk across many states, and were regarded as fair and decent businessmen who employed many, and treated their workers with the utmost respect.

Business aside, the Belding brothers exhibited a great many values, including community pride, family togetherness, and belief in the importance of education. Because of their dedication to education, Alvah Belding and his brother Milo each gifted money for the establishment of a public library. Alvah’s library was in their adopted hometown of Belding, Michigan; Milo’s library was in their original hometown of Ashfield, Massachusetts.


Belding Library Ashfield



This year marks the one-hundredth year of the Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library. A Centennial Celebration is currently being planned for May 19, 2018, from 1pm to 6pm. We invite the community of Belding and any others who wish to attend and share in our gratitude for Alvah N. Belding and his commitment to the future of the city which bears his name.



Panic! At the Library

by Britney

Hello to all of you out there in Reader Land. (Waves enthusiastically.) Today’s post is for you!

I am a series reader. Though I enjoy single titles, and admire authors who can tell a tale from start to finish and contain it within the confines of a front and back cover, I prefer multi-volumes. When I read a story I really enjoy that has characters I like, I am always glad to get to spend more time with them in subsequent installments. I also like the additional glimpses I get into different worlds, cultures, and times. After all, if J.R.R. Tolkien had stopped writing after The Hobbit, I would have thought Middle Earth consisted only of The Shire and the Misty Mountains, and I never would have gotten to meet the Rohirrim, or seen the White City. See what  mean?

However, I must admit to a short-lived moment of sheer panic when I read the last word of the last book in series. Ahhh! What am I going to read now??? What if I don’t like it??? What if it’s not as good as the books I just read??? But I want something EXACTLY LIKE what I just finished!!!

mickey gif

This is where I force myself to take a deep breath, and I assure myself that everything will be ok. I will find another book. I will discover new, awesome characters. I will traverse another imaginary land in search of action and adventure.

Now, be honest. How many of you out there experience this same sense of dread when you finish a book? Perhaps you look over at your TBR pile to find it has grown claws and threatens to crush you if you don’t pick a book to read immediately. The PRESSURE! Time is a valuable commodity, and you don’t have any to waste on a book you don’t like.

sponge bob book

Never fear. I’m here to help.

Did you know librarians are trained in something called “reader’s advisory?” Reader’s advisory involves us talking to people about a wide variety of things in an effort to pair them with their next “perfect read.” Here are some things we may ask you:

*What are some of the TV shows you like to watch?

*What types of music do you listen to?

*What do you do in your free time?

*Which books have you enjoyed in the past?

*What were your favorite books when you were a kid?

*Which books have you read that you disliked?

*Are you a history buff? Are you interested in space? Animals? Travel?

*Do you like to listen to things while you work/exercise/study?

If you think some of these questions have nothing to do with reading, you’d be right. But they all help give us information that will allow us to learn your interests, and your likes and dislikes, to help us help you find a great book. Books aren’t just about reading; they’re about experiencing all that book has to offer. And that is a multi-faceted process.

So next time you close the cover on a book you’ve just finished, don’t panic. Rather, look at it as a challenge. And then let us at the library be your book warriors and help you attack the Next Book Wilderness!


What Can the Library Do for Teens?

by Stefanie

I’ve been a library nerd my whole life, since well before “nerd” and “geek” became proud terms that we  nerds reclaimed from those people who might use them against us. I was raised by a library nerd. It’s in our blood, and is definitely why I’m working at the library today, writing this particular post.

The more recent evolution of the public library, from book repository into community resource and meeting place, has been an unexpected bonus. I could not have predicted all the services our public libraries would add (or what the next several decades will bring), but for me, that transition has transformed me from a library lover to a librarian, and transformed the library itself from hobby to career. I know I’m not alone in that feeling. Libraries were always cool, but now they are filled with librarians who spend their time thinking, “Yeah, we’ve done lots of cool things already, but what ELSE can we do?”

That brings me to our teens.

We are lucky to live in an area where the high school provides a ton of after-school activities for its students. Teens can be involved in sports, drama, robotics, and all kinds of other clubs catering to their interests after school is over. But it is still our goal as a library to be a resource and meeting place for teens (and tweens) as much as for adults and children. So we look for gaps that we can fill, services and other things we can offer to teens they might not be able to get from them middle or high schools.

We try to fill these gaps in one of two ways. First, we do our research. We look around at programs that other libraries are doing, programs that seem like they would be appealing to people who have attended our programs before, or just ones that are plain fun (Dungeons & Dragons, anyone?).

Second, and far more important, we get out there and ask our teens and tweens what they want to do. We ask them at our existing programs, when they come in to the library, and, when we can manage it, at school directly (after all, we want to find kids who wouldn’t already be coming into the library, as well). We can create programs until we can’t think of a single other thing to do, but it won’t matter if we’re not going directly to our teens and getting their opinions. We’re here for you, so who better than you to tell us what it is you’re looking for?

By that same token, we want to expand the materials we have for check-out for teens and tweens, as well. I love young adult and middle grade (who doesn’t?), and as both these areas become more dynamic, we try to do the same with our collection. This means keeping up with the books you want to read, as well as adding to our teen non-fiction. Non-fiction is all about providing materials on subjects you’re actually interested in. Our collection should feel inclusive, and should make clear to our whole community that all of us are important and valued.

Our goal in the coming months is to get a Teen Advisory Board up and running. This would be a group that meets monthly to put together and give feedback on programs, help us make decisions, maybe get exclusive access to new books before everyone else, and eat snacks (the snacks are very important). Teens who participate in the TAB group can get volunteer credit for coming, as well as get to pick the programs we do. How awesome is that?

If you’re interested in being a part of this group, please let us know!

And above all, talk to us. If there’s a program you want us to do, tell us. If there is a book or author or even topic you want included on our shelves, tell us. That’s what we’re here for!

Our next teen program is our No-Fish Sushi Making program at 3:00pm on Thursday, March 22. Drop in and join us. Or even drop in to tell us what else you’d like to be doing! We can’t wait to hear from you!

Seed “Library”

by Kelly

As the Adult Services Coordinator for ANBL I spend my days planning enjoyable, unique, and informative programs and providing a variety of resources for the Library’s 18-and-older community. From playing bingo with our Seniors during our monthly “Senior Social” program to teaching family history research, and planning the Library’s 100th Anniversary Celebration, my job is full of fun tasks and interesting people.

Despite being a century old, the Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library is anything but dry and boring. Library staff members are constantly thinking up fresh ways to deliver materials and programs to the community that are progressive and non-conventional by “traditional” library standards.

One of these “non-traditional” library collections we are excited to bring to the community in the spring of 2018 is our Seed Library. A seed library is exactly what it sounds like – a collection of vegetable, flower, and herb seeds that patrons can check out for free, and take home to plant in their own gardens.

With the help of the Community Seed Resource Program at Seed Savers Exchange and a local patron gardener, the library has a nice start-up kit of vegetables and herbs to offer patrons beginning this spring.

In anticipation of the ANBL Seed Library, we are hosting a “Starting Seeds” program on Monday, February 19 at 6:00pm at the library, where participants can learn about starting seeds, discover potting soil recipes for optimal growth, and even take with them  seed samples to start at home.

Seed libraries are popping up all over the country, and offer library-users and their communities a place to store, share, and learn about this non-traditional library resource. And then, at the end of the growing season, library gardeners can choose to give back to the seed library by donating seeds from their own harvested crops, or by leaving a review or growing tips for the following season.

We love to see our library patrons learn and “grow.” Look for the ANBL Seed Library to start circulating early this spring, and keep an eye on the adult program calendar for a complete listing of programs and events.

Happy planting!

Why Libraries Are Worth Fighting For

by Britney

My posts on this blog are usually lighthearted and fun, having something to do with books, writing, or how much I love the library. And this is true. I do ❤ the library.

But today, my post is a little more serious, a little more “let’s be real.” Bear with me, and you’ll see what I mean.

Yesterday the White House released its budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year, and the Library World was rocked; Donald Trump has proposed the complete and total elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The IMLS provides more than $183 million dollars in funding to libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act,  and 42 million more dollars in funding to public museums and archives. The justification for this proposed elimination is that it’s not a core concern of the government.

So, what’s the problem?

The withholding federal support for libraries and museums means withholding necessary services from people; it means restricting access to free and unbiased information; it means defunding literacy programs for those with the greatest need. All things that create a strong, enabled, and informed population.

So, why does this matter?

Libraries are essential now, more than ever.

Really? I keep hearing that libraries are going to be obsolete in ten years.

No, they won’t. Here’s why:

1. Libraries offer FREE educational resources to everyone. Public libraries are one of very few places in the United States that can be considered open resource centers. They offer unrestricted access to educational materials, databases, educational and training programs, safe spaces, and information. Additionally, libraries double as conference centers, tutoring centers, and meeting places. On top of that, librarians are always available to help people – with whatever they need! Need help learning about your new laptop? We got it. Need help proofreading your resume? We got it. Need to learn how to use Facebook? We got it. Need tax forms? We got it. WE GOT IT.

2. Libraries provide essential roles to under served and depressed populations. Every day when the public library opens its doors, it becomes a haven for those with nowhere else to go, a safe space for those who aren’t guaranteed one anywhere else, and a learning center for people with no resources of their own. Not everyone has access to internet at home – or even a computer, for that matter; the library has them for free use. Not everyone has disposable income to spend on books; the library has them for free use. Not everyone can afford to take professional development classes, or to attend informational and instructional programs; the library offers them for free.

3. Libraries are good for business. Yes, they foster community partnerships and engagement, and help support community endeavors, but they are also good for the local economy. When people need help looking for jobs, writing resumes, or filling out job applications, they come to the library, because they know they will receive quality help without judgment. It naturally follows that these individuals will become working, contributing members of the community. Additionally, many libraries enjoy a reciprocal relationship with local businesses; in exchange for support for resources and programs, libraries often offer advertisement and patronage to local businesses.

4. Libraries promote the importance of reliable information. Libraries house collections of learning, information, history, and truth – four things that are becoming increasingly important, and increasingly under attack. In an age where truth is relative, libraries provide an open path to the facts to whoever is interested in learning. By offering this unbiased and unrestricted access to information, libraries champion equality and truth, and defend against the spread of propaganda and misinformation.

5. Libraries preserve history. Often, libraries are entrusted with the history of entire towns. With the rising popularity of the studies of genealogies and family histories, the demand for local archives, birth and death records, cemetery records, military records, and property records are in constant demand. Libraries have hard copies of many of these things, and often hold subscriptions to online programs and databases that allow library users to find the information they’re looking for.

6. Libraries are at the heart of the community. Libraries are like one-stop-shopping. They offer entertainment, education, resources, and information all in one place. Parents and caregivers with kids of ANY age can trust the library has programming that will be safe, fun, and valuable to their children; adults can take part in enriching programs geared toward their own interests; local schools can be confident that the library will support their efforts to provide students with as many resources as possible; young adults can take advantage of jobs training programs; and readers of any age can enjoy materials of all kinds in multiple formats, often recommended by librarians who care enough to talk to their patrons and learn what kinds of things they’re interested in.


All this to say…?

In May of this year, our library celebrates its centennial anniversary. That is something we are immensely proud of. We are SO honored to have been a part of the Belding community for so long, and hope that we can continue to serve the community for another hundred years. But in order to do that, we need people who share our belief that the library is important, that the library is valuable, and that the library is worth fighting for.

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!