Eastwood Branch History
Kalamazoo Public Library
Serving the East Side
The first Kalamazoo Public Library branch dedicated to serving the east side of the city opened in 1912 in the original East Avenue School building. Due to increasing usage over the years, the branch moved in 1940 to a storefront location further up the street, at 1719 East Main, next to Triestram’s City Drug Store.
Among the services provided from that branch in the early 1970s was the “buchwagen.” This mini-bookmobile was actually the book-laden Volkswagen of then-librarian Lorna Chapman. She and an assistant drove through the streets of the east and north sides of the city, tooting their horn and playing rock music until they encountered a gathering of children. They would stop, sometimes read to the children, and allow them to choose books from the back of the “buchwagen.” A week later, they would return to the same location to pick up the books and provide others. It was part of Chapman’s philosophy of librarianship to take books directly to children who might never venture into the library on their own.
The Eastwood Branch
In 1974 the Eastwood Community Club donated its former community center on Gayle Avenue, known as John Strand Hall, to the library for a new branch. Since remodeling would have been more expensive than building a new branch, Strand Hall was demolished, and a modest new building was built on that site.
The branch had moved from the city’s Eastside to Kalamazoo Township’s Eastwood neighborhood, so it became known as the Eastwood Branch at that time. Service began there on 10 July 1975. The Community Club marked its 60th anniversary in 1981 by purchasing additional lots adjacent to the building to provide for parking and future expansion for the branch. Fifteen years later, when that building, too, had proven inadequate for the needs of the community, their foresight came to fruition. A millage was passed to refurbish or rebuild all five of the library’s facilities.
Another new building was constructed on the Gayle Avenue site, designed by David Milling and Associates of Ann Arbor and built by A. J. Etkin Construction Company. The grand re-opening was held in August of 1996. Residential in scale and detailing, the new branch represents the idealized model of a small neighborhood library. The staff manages services easily in its classic L-shape. The bottom of the L features the children’s area and enclosed story room; the stem holds the adult and audiovisual collections. A vestibule elevator and stairwell lead to a community meeting room on the lower level.
A cupola skylight and iridescent entry glazing dramatize the rose brick exterior. Michael Hayden’s sculpture, Prismatic Lantern, hangs below the skylight. Holographic film paints the circulation area with ever-changing rainbows. Cheerful colors delight the eye in interior finishes and furnishings.