Eastside Neighborhood

Eastwood Branch of Kalamazoo Public Library is an Eastside gem worth visiting

The Eastwood Branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library may be the least known branch to the general public, but that’s what makes Eastwood a “hidden gem,” says Kala Luzia, Branch Services Librarian for Eastwood and Alma Powell.

“When people see the Gayle Street address, they think they will never find it,” says Luzia. But in fact it’s easily accessible. The inviting rose brick building is located right off of East Main, behind Harding’s Friendly Market. 

Formerly located on East Main, the public library branch serving the Eastside opened in 1912 at the East Avenue School building. Due to increased usage, the branch moved to 1719 East Main, next to the former Triestram’s City Drug Store, according to the Kalamazoo Public Library’s website.

In the mid-1970s, the branch moved to its current location, a building known as John Strand Hall that was donated by the Eastwood Community Club. Strand Hall was demolished and a new building constructed. Eventually, even that building required replacement. In 1996, with the passage of a mileage that funded rebuilding or refurbishing all five of KPL’s branches, a new Eastwood building was constructed. 

The current structure is modern and welcoming. Shaped in a classic L, the bottom floor features a children’s area and the main area houses the adult and audiovisual collections. A community room that can seat 75 people and is available for rent is located in the lower level.  

Architecturally interesting, the building highlights light and holographic color through a unique cupola skylight and Prismatic Lantern, a sculpture by renowned “sculptor-in-light,” Michael Hayden, whose work is also featured at other branches and at the Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Luzia says the building has character. “It’s actually very quiet there,” she says. “It’s a nice, spacious building, but it’s not humongous. Great for studying.”

Popular Eastwood programs include Play to Learn, play stations in the children’s area set up with fun learning activities, ongoing crafts programs, book clubs, author’s visits, and Tumbler Toddlers, a safe tumble gym for beginning walkers. 

The branch features a dozen computers, a study room that seats 10 and a digital monitor that is available for rent.

Just outside of the city limits, the branch is located in Kalamazoo Township’s Eastwood, hence its name, but it serves the entire Eastside, including residents from Comstock and Richland through KPL’s reciprocal lending program.

Luzia is excited about new programs for teenagers that are both ongoing and launching this summer. “We’re really pushing our teen program,” says Luzia. “We want them to know the library is here.”

And to use the city’s new program of offering free bus rides for students, Luzia says the branch is launching a summer program called On the 5 in honor of the number of the bus that comes to Eastwood and a nod to the movie, On the 6, a film about the subway to the Bronx starring Jennifer Lopez.

The club will feature a travel theme that includes registration clues pertaining to the country of focus and food from the featured destination. 

“You live in Kalamazoo, but there’s no reason you can’t get into traveling,” says Luzia, a travel buff herself. “It’s a twist on the armchair travel program usually offered for seniors.”

Currently, the branch runs a Teen Breakfast Club, which takes place one Saturday a month. A full breakfast, crafts, book discussions, and documentaries are offered, based on that month’s given focus. “Once they start getting into the branch, they see, oh, this is a cool place,” says Luzia. 

“What folks need to know is that it’s very welcoming,” says Luzia, “The library is open to everyone, and we have a very welcoming staff.”

For more information about hours and programs, please see the Eastwood Branch’s website here.

Read more articles by Theresa Coty O'Neil.

Theresa Coty O’Neil is a freelance writer, editor, and writing teacher with over two decades of covering people, places, and events in the Kalamazoo community. She is the Project Editor of On the Ground Kalamazoo.