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Community updates: Friday, Jan. 15

Grand Rapids Public Library celebrating 150th anniversary; free public Wi-Fi comes to 10 Grand Rapids parks; MDHHS extends statewide emergency order, relaxes some restrictions; and more.
Front of the Grand Rapids Public Library's Main Library.

Front of the Grand Rapids Public Library's Main Library. /Grand Rapids Public Library

Grand Rapids Public Library celebrating 150th anniversary

The Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) is kicking off a year-long celebration of its 150th birthday, it announced Thursday. Since 1871, the GRPL has provided the community with its services, programs, and collections.

Calling it The 150, the GRPL’s celebration will happen through a variety of planned events and programs, both online and eventually in-person. It will culminate in a birthday celebration on Dec. 21, 2021.

First up in The 150 is a “My Library Story” program, with the community invited to share its memories and experiences about its libraries. The GRPL is collecting these stories through an online submission form, with photos, videos, and drawings able to be uploaded. The stories will be saved in the library’s archives, and shared on its website and social media throughout 2021.

Other events throughout the year include a commemorative GRPL library card, exhibits on the history of the library, Pop-Up Pocket Parks, and more.

"Our sesquicentennial is a time for us to reflect on our institutional history and the impact we have made in the lives of generations of Grand Rapidians,” said GRPL Director John McNaughton. “It is also a time for us to look to the future and to create innovative new ways that we can continue to grow and meet the needs of our community."

"But most of all, it is a time of us to say thank you to the millions of people who have walked through our doors," he continued. "The library is a place for and of the people and our patrons are the center of all we do."

In its early years, the GRPL called several downtown spaces home, including a room above a dry goods store, space in the Ledyard Building, and several rooms of Grand Rapids’ City Hall. By 1904, its downtown Ryerson Building, also called the Main Library, was built and open to the public. Since then, the GRPL has expanded into more city neighborhoods, with seven other branches now spanning the city.

In-person services at the GRPL’s branches are currently closed due to the pandemic. Its offering curbside pickup services in light, along with a variety of virtual resources. Ongoing updates about the GRPL’s available services, and details about its 150th birthday celebration, are available on its website.


Free public Wi-Fi comes to 10 Grand Rapids parks

The City of Grand Rapids has launched a pilot program for free Wi-Fi hotspots in Grand Rapids city parks, it recently announced.

10 parks are currently featured in the program:

The Wi-Fi hotspots have been placed in these parks near picnic shelters and pool houses. Their presence aims to accommodate the “growing need for digital services in our community,” the City of Grand Rapids shared in a Jan. 7 newsletter.

No details have been provided yet on when or if more parks will be joining the pilot program.

Updates about the program will be available on the city’s Parks and Recreation Facebook page.


MDHHS extends statewide emergency order, relaxes some restrictions

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on Wednesday extended its statewide emergency order related to COVID-19 mitigation, while relaxing some of its restrictions.

The order now lasts through Jan. 31, with indoor group exercise and non-contact sports reopened to support mental and physical health.

Indoor dining at restaurants and bars remains closed, along with restrictions on indoor residential gatherings above 10 people, office work unable to be performed from home, and others. An infographic provided by the MDHHS details all other closures.

The efforts we have made together to protect our families, frontline workers, and small business owners are working,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “While there has been a slight uptick in our percent positivity rate, our cases per million have plateaued and more hospital beds are becoming available.”

As always, mask up and maintain six feet of social distancing,” she added. “We will end this pandemic together.”

The MDHHS’ working plan is to reopen indoor dining at restaurants and bars on Feb. 1, with mitigation measures, capacity limits, and a curfew. However, the ultimate decision will depend on data continuing to stabilize. More details on the reopening plan are expected next week.

Another loosened restriction in the departments’ updated order is for in-person classes at colleges and universities. Effective Jan. 18, colleges and universities can have students return to campus for the winter semester and restart in-person learning.

The full, updated emergency order is available on the MDHHS’ website.


Meijer partners with state to help administer COVID-19 vaccines

Grand Rapids-based Meijer has been chosen by the State of Michigan as an initial pharmacy partner to help administer COVID-19 vaccines, it announced Wednesday.

The retailer has 120 pharmacies throughout the state and more than 250 pharmacies throughout the U.S. It will begin vaccinating people 65 years and older on a limited basis in Wayne County on Jan. 18, with more Michigan counties to follow when more doses become available.

Meijer has also opened up a text-based registration system for people who want to register for the vaccine. Those who are interested may text “COVID” to the number 75049 to receive a link to register, or visit

Our stores and pharmacies have played a very important role in supporting their communities during this difficult time,” said Meijer President & CEO Rick Keyes in a statement. “We are proud to be chosen by the State of Michigan as a partner to help administer these critical vaccines and we look forward to our expanded role in helping communities throughout the Midwest defeat this pandemic.”

In late 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the U.S. government’s partnership with regional chains to administer the vaccines. Those it identified, which included Meijer, already have pharmacists trained as important immunizers in their communities, the HHS noted.

Up-to-date information about COVID-19 vaccinations in West Michigan is available at VaccinateWestMI. The website was created by a coalition of area health organizations, including the Kent County Health Department.


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