KDL’s wide offerings include understanding AI, career development, and fun

Product reviews. Artificial intelligence. Legal questions. Investment opportunities. Did you know that one of the best places to locate and navigate information on these and other topics is your local library? 

Kent District Library (KDL) offers a plethora of navigation tools to help with information,” says Hannah Lewis, a community engagement librarian. “For example, Value Line is a free online resource that allows patrons to research investment opportunities and stock information. Data Axle Reference Solutions allows patrons to research businesses and the housing market from the comfort of their own home. Consumer Reports allows patrons to learn about appliances, cars, household items, and more.” 

“If a patron needs legal documents, Legal Source allows them to research what type of legal form is needed and can give multiple perspectives on legal issues from scholarly legal journals. If a patron needs a legal form, such as a bankruptcy form or state business form, Gale LegalForms is an excellent resource. There are many more resources at a patron’s disposal (through the library).”

As a community engagement librarian at KDL, Lewis’ job includes going into the community to promote partnerships, driving a bookmobile, and working with business professionals and entrepreneurs to promote workforce development and business use of library services.   

“Working with the community is where I’m most at home. It’s great to see the community come together to empower the community,” she shares.

A hidden gem of learning

The community and its opportunities to learn are always at the base of the libraries’ actions.

“KDL is built on the foundation of information. We're always finding new ways to showcase available resources and support lifelong learning,” says Morgan Hanks, KDL user experience manager. “At KDL, we believe that learning is a continuous journey for everyone.”

As AI becomes more common and community members seek resources about it, libraries are working to promote and grow their offerings.

“The AI movement has caused patrons and community members to become curious and explore,” Lewis says. “I’ve seen a few folks with the mindset of “The Terminator” film’s level of destruction due to AI. But most folks are excited to see how AI will advance what we do. “Stakeholders are mindful of bias that can be created and are working incredibly hard to be as inclusive as possible with AI. It’s been enlightening and reassuring to see, and watching community members’ positive spirit has made me quite optimistic about the future of AI.”

KDLAs a community engagement librarian, one of Hannah Lewis' duties is driving the KDL bookmobile.

Hanks offers a few ways to learn how AI can be productive.

“Approaching AI with healthy skepticism is understandable,” she says. “However, like the computer and internet era, AI is here to stay. Staying ahead of technology is crucial to prevent a digital divide, and KDL is dedicated to combating this issue. 

“AI can also enhance efficiency at work and home. If you haven't tried it yet, ask a large language model AI (like ChatGPT or Gemini) to create a meal plan based on your preferences and the number of people you're feeding. Then, have it generate a grocery list. Integrating these tools in low-stakes situations helps you become comfortable with them for when the higher-stakes scenarios arise.”

If the topic of AI is nerve-racking or overwhelming, take a look at KDL’s event schedule,  which includes several programs led by AI experts that are open to the public. Lewis also suggests checking out KDL’s upcoming AI Business Panel, which you can register for here, the West Michigan AI Lab, or Michigan State University’s Research Foundation AI series. 

“It’s been uplifting to see experts discuss AI with excitement and easy to understand tools,” Lewis says. “AI is another tool that patrons are probably already using, and a chance to see what AI is and where trends are going can be an uplifting and rewarding experience.”

Where local meets professional

KDL hosts many programs, presentations, and seminars throughout the year at its many locations, all to help their community members learn, grow, and connect with one another. One of the more popular classes is early childhood essentials, taught by veteran early childhood professional Rebecca Keller.
Kevin KammeraadKDL Librarian Hannah Lewis
“KDL offers free early childhood essential classes online in partnership with KISD-Great Start to Quality,” Lewis says. “The classes are open for child care providers and families looking to brush up on early childhood skills.”

Keller has partnered with KDL since 2014 to provide professional development courses through their Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, which is a collaboration between Great Start to Quality and Kent District Library that aims to provide community-based professional development opportunities for the early childhood workforce.

“Through the ECE courses, we cover a wide variety of topics to support caregivers in their important role as one of the first and most impressionable people in a young child's life,” Keller says. 

“It has been a goal to cover a wide variety of topics. Although topics are often fun and grounded in play-based learning, others have included things like supporting culture and diversity in the early childhood setting as well as topics aimed at monitoring and supporting specific areas of development, and of course topics supporting families. With any topic, one goal is to always provide those attending with tools and resources that support the important work they do and connect individuals with continued support.”

Programs like the one Keller facilitates help community members connect with information that is relevant to their work and even receive the state-recognized training hours needed to maintain their professional positions. 

LinkedIn Learning is another great career-related resource, offering free online, on-demand courses on everything from Excel to public speaking. KDL also offers 1:1 tech tutoring services at all their branches.

Beyond books and presentations

Among the lesser-known KDL offerings are its online entertainment offerings. These include streaming services, such as Dupes; Freegal, which is like Spotify; Libby and Hoopla, which are comparable to Audible; Kanopy, which is like Netflix or Hulu; and KDL Vibes, which features local music. 

KDLLibrarian Joyanne Huston-Swanson inside the KDL bookmobile.

“There are plenty of collection options that you can check out as well,” Lewis says. “KDL has a generous collection of Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox games. There is also a collection called Beyond Books where you can check out items that you’d only need to use once or twice a year, like trekking poles, a metal detector, or a blu-ray player. There is always new stuff added to the collection, so I recommend checking it regularly.”

To get a full picture of what KDL offers, visit its website’s event list or, when you visit a branch, stop by the front desk and talk to one of the librarians, who are happy to help you navigate their many offerings. 

“Working with KDL through the years has been amazing,” Keller says. “I brag often to others about the equitable work being done through KDL, and I wish that everyone would take a look at what our libraries are doing beyond the amazing books to support our communities. The resources available through our library system are broad and really match what our community needs are. 

“I would encourage anyone who has not made a stop at the library or its website to do so. Our library is amazing and it is a huge part of our community.”

Literacy Matters is a series focused on the importance of knowledge, community resources seeking to remove barriers to access, and the value of our library systems to society. Literacy Matters is supported by Kent District Library.
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