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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: The Future Of Libraries

Andy Robins

Once a year, the State of Michigan honors librarians for service to their communities. Two staff members at the Kalamazoo Public Library got Michigan Library Awards in 2020.

<--break->Kevin King received the "Lifetime Achievement Award," which recognizes “a deserving librarian for their distinguished service to the library profession over the course of their career.”

A conversation with Kevin King

Jermaine Jackson at the Alma-Powell branch received the "Library Support Staff of the Year" award, which recognizes “a support staff professional who goes above and beyond to provide support at their library and who has advanced and strengthened the image of support staff.”

A conversation with Jermaine Jackson

“Apparently, the 'Support Staff of the Year' is a new award that they added on to their traditional ceremonies that they do once a year to recognize employees in libraries all over the State of Michigan,” Jackson says. “I personally look at it as a (higher) level of servitude when you are serving your community, serving the patron base, serving the staff. And certainly, during this pandemic, to be serving others.”

Credit Andy Robins / WMUK
A view inside the main branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library

Jackson has worked in Kalamazoo libraries since 2003. He's been a library assistant, staffed the Kalamazoo Public Library bookmobile, and coordinated dozens of art shows in Powell’s Barnabee Art Gallery. He's also recognized as a role model to local youth, as an advocate for the most vulnerable library patrons, and a community leader for social justice.

Kevin King has worked at the Kalamazoo Public Library since 1998. He has served on the Michigan Library Association Board and various committees. King has also been a popular speaker and mentor at staff development training sessions.

Over the decades, King has seen a lot of changes in libraries and has a prediction for their future.

“Libraries have become less of this ivory tower of learning and more of a community center,” King says. “That transformation has been happening the last 20, 30 years. Now that we are community centers, we have to learn as our profession how to work with the community. In the future, you’re going to see more integration of social services. You’re going to see that libraries are just as likely to hire a social worker than a reading specialist to work with individuals and the people in their buildings. I don’t think books will ever go away, but I think you’ll see fewer books in a library and more access to services that will make your life better.”

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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