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For the past seven years, the library had partnered with other libraries in the area on a One Book, One County initiative. Despite selecting engaging books and bringing in well-known authors, the audience of the program was in decline. Further, the needs and interests of patrons in the surrounding suburban areas were vastly different than those of the urban patrons of the Grand Rapids Public Library. As the One Book program continued, it became more evident that the program would not be able to bridge the needs of all the participants. In 2009, due to budget restraints, the other participating libraries pulled out of the program.
The Grand Rapids Public Library took this as an opportunity to re-envision the program and to align it with the strategic goals of the library. The result was GR Reads, a summer reading program for adults featuring ten books selected on a theme and ongoing programming all summer long. The goals of the program were to select a wide-range of books that appealed to many different reading tastes and to create programming partnerships with organizations that brought the library out into the community and engaged library users and non-users alike. This included promoting GR Reads at the local Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, partnering with a local bar on a film series, holding a community potluck/book discussion at a local church, having a psychic do readings at the library, and hosting a cemetery tour with a local historian.
2,071 people attended GR Reads events June-August, 2010. The 10 selected books circulated 1,809 times during that time, and the read-a-likes circulated 306 times. This circulation accounted for 24% of the lifetime circulation of the read-a-like books. In total, this program impacted 4,186 people over the course of the summer. 68% of the participants lived in the City of Grand Rapids, a number higher than any previous One Book program. 14 community and media partners contributed to the program. The top four programs of the summer took place outside the library. Participant comments included: “Just moved here and will come here more now. Don't have card but will get one.” “Thanks for all the good programs - this is my fifth one and I have enjoyed them all.” “Great variety of subjects! (cooking, religion, history, different cultures). Interesting authors. Have this type of program again!