Grand Rapids Public Library is the Doorway to Adventure – Get Free Passes to Museums, Streaming Services, Storytimes + More

GRPL Starts With Books… and Then Launches You to So Much More

Visiting Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) is going to be one of my son’s best childhood memories.

He finally unlocked the magic of reading this summer and has been walking to the Ottawa Hills branch of GRPL every day to borrow another massive pile of books. 

He knows how to put holds on books, how to check them out, and how to look for the reader bug’s new location every week of summer to get a prize. 

In fact, the librarians know all of my kids by sight. 

I love having these safe places in our community where my kids can spend time in their quest for fun things to do in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Public Library offers so many perks, and they’re all FREE. 

We all know that a GRPL library card lets you check out books, movies, and music, access digital collections including streaming services and ebooks, and access technology through public computers, WiFi and hotspots. 

But did you know about all the free events and experiences you can have through GRPL? Think free museum passes, a trip to the zoo, live music and even a chance to learn pasta making! 

GRPL is a place to connect with your neighbors and a launchpad for adventure. 

Librarian holding stack of books at Grand Rapids Public Library.

GRPL is One of Our Biggest Community Cheerleaders

GRPL is known for its vast collection of books, music, and movies but is building an even bigger reputation as a community builder. 

They are constantly bringing new events, activities and resources to the community through its eight locations in the city, as well as their mobile library. 

And it’s become a lifeline for parents and caregivers. 

You don’t know how many times we’ve taken a trip to the library on a stressful day and I watched the kids just relax as they walked through the doors. 

My kids still remember the live bees they saw at Ottawa Hills branch years ago during the summer reading program. They even got to make their own beeswax candle to take home! 

5 Community-Building Programs Through GRPL

Grand Rapids Public Library has been building community in several ways over the years. These are some of my favorites.

1 – Storytimes Light Up Kids’ Hearts

GRPL’s librarians are experts at storytime. They know how to inspire lifelong learning in kids and create sweet memories. 

GRPL’s hands-on storytimes are for kids ages 0+ and include stories, songs and literacy-related crafts. 

And no two storytimes are the same! There are outdoor storytimes at parks in summer, and themed storytimes throughout the year like pajama time and fiesta storytime. 

Storytime is also a great place to meet your neighbors who are in the same stage as you and develop connections. 

Socialization comes naturally at these events, as kids are encouraged to stand, dance, move and interact.

Can’t get out of the house? Kids can even listen to a librarian read them a story, over the phone! I can see this being a boon in winter when you don’t want to brave the snow, or even at bedtime.

To hear a phone-a-story, call 616-988-5494, anytime. Each week a GRPL staff person will share pre-recorded stories, songs, and rhymes in English or Spanish.

2 – Cultural Passes Let you See the City

Did you know your Grand Rapids Public Library card can get you into John Ball Zoo? 

They have a whole circulating membership program that gives you access to some of our city’s best cultural experiences like
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
Grand Rapids Art Museum
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
Grand Rapids Public Museum
John Ball Zoo
Blandford Nature Center

And sometimes you can even catch a show at GR Civic Theatre, GR Ballet or even the symphony!
These partnerships are thanks to generous donations from local organizations who want the arts to be available to everyone.
(Your library card also gets you discounts to Griffins Hockey games.)

This is a great way to explore our city. 

Present your GRPL library card at your local branch to snag an experience. They’re offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

3 – Strong Events Lineup

GRPL’s events calendar is pretty amazing. 

In addition to their storytimes, GRPL hosts live music (Music in the Stacks) from local talent, a social justice book club, movies on the lawn and lots of seasonal events.

Check GRPL’s events calendar for the latest events. 

Many of their amazing activities (like their annual Dia de los Muertos Festival) are for all ages, but they also have engaging ideas for specific age groups.

Teens & Tweens
Teens and tweens are invited to join events designed just for them. From Anime Club, Teen Hangouts, and game nights, the library is a great place to meet new friends and explore new hobbies. 

From concerts featuring local talent, Author Talks with award-winning writers to arts and crafts events, GRPL offers a variety of experiences for adults throughout the year.

4 – Grab and Go Activity Kits

Grab & Go Activity Kits are take home activities designed for kids, teens, and adults. These free take-home crafts feature themed activities that rotate each month.  

My middle schooler is obsessed with these but I didn’t realize they have kits for adults, too. I need to check this out. 

The kits are often on a dedicated shelf at the library. Ask your librarian if you need help finding them. 

Throughout the year, GRPL also offers meditation kits for all ages, which have become a popular library offering. 

5 – 1000 Books Before Kindergarten

Inspire your kid to love books from age… 0! 

GRPL’s “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” initiative is a great program to teach kids a love of reading while earning prizes along the way. 

Track your books with a reading log from GRPL.

GRPL library staff are ready to offer reading suggestions or help your child as they prepare for Kindergarten. 

And yes, reading 1000 books is actually very attainable. So long as you can convince your kid that you don’t need to read Go, Dog. Go! to them 300 times in a row. (Good luck with that. I’ve been there.)

GRPL provides many early literacy activities that help kids develop lifelong reading habits and strengthen literacy skills. To learn more about the library’s family offerings visit or call 616-988-5400.

GRPL’s dedication to our community is very special. They are constantly looking at our neighbor’s needs and culture and finding ways to inspire us and help us connect with others.

Grand Rapids Public Library isn’t just an impressive collection of books. They are a collection of staff and librarians with big ideas and big hearts. We’d be crazy not to join in the adventure with them!

GRPL Locations

GRPL has eight locations across the city.

There is of course the gorgeous, expansive main library downtown (111 Library St NE, Grand Rapids). Park in the lot next to the library and get your parking validated inside.

This branch is a destination and worth visiting even if it’s not the branch closest to you. They have alll the books and resources galore and the architecture makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a magical place.

And a whole bunch of amazing branches

Full List of GRPL Branch Locations

  • Madison Square – 1201 Madison SE
  • Main Library – 111 Library St NE
  • Ottawa Hills – 1150 Giddings SE
  • Seymour – 2350 Eastern SE
  • Van Belkum – 1563 Plainfield NE
  • West Leonard – 1017 Leonard NW
  • West Side – 713 Bridge NW
  • Yankee Clipper – 2025 Leonard NE

Grand Rapids Public Library

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