Libraries on wheels

The Merrie-Go-Round brought books to the community.

In 1971, the Grand Rapids Public Library debuted a new mobile library: the Merrie-Go-Round. During the summer months, the Merrie-Go-Round made regular visits to parks throughout the city. It was meant to be different from a traditional bookmobile: informal and easy to approach. The Merrie-Go-Round staff connected with neighborhood kids through movies and storytelling, alongside checking out books. In winter months, the vehicle made regular stops at day care centers and provided a rotating collection of books to senior citizen centers.

The Merrie-Go-Round was launched in connection with the Model Cities program, a national effort that was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. In Grand Rapids, it targeted an area on the southeast and southwest sides roughly bounded by Wealthy, Hall, Union and Godfrey. The Merrie-Go-Round made most of its stops in this neighborhood, focusing on bringing library services to communities that may not have had reason to trust the library previously. The neighborhood was served by the Merrie-Go-Round and other temporary locations until the Madison Square branch library opened in 1992.

This story can be found in the September/October 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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