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Kent District Library Bookmobile visits mobile food pantries

The Kent District Library has been visiting communities across the county to keep promoting literacy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

WYOMING, Mich — In a less-than-five-minute conversation with Joyanne Huston-Swanson, you can feel the passion she has for reading books and for sharing them with the people around her.

"I like connecting people with information and ideas and inspiring," said Huston-Swanson, who serves as the operator of the Kent District Library Bookmobile.

"I am so pleased to be able to give away some books. There’s always somebody that brings a smile to my face when we have that kind of interaction."

Huston-Swanson and KDL have been bringing the bookmobile to Feeding America's mobile food pantries in Kent County since 2019. Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit West Michigan, the partnership became even more important for the library, which was looking for ways to keep promoting literacy during a time when people weren't getting out as much.

"This is one way we can meet people. We can meet them where they are and bring them some materials and let them know the library is still here for them."

The library began ramping up the number of pantries they visit in December 2020 and the people Huston-Swanson has met along the way have found that reading is a good way to enjoy themselves while they're stuck at home.

"People enjoy getting materials from the library. They enjoy knowing that we’re still out and about. Often we get the question 'Are the libraries open?' and we get to say yes! Yes they are! That’s been fun."

The Ideal Park Christian Reformed Church in Wyoming hosts drive-thru food pantries the first Wednesday of each month, according to pastor Chris Bouma. Before attendees make it to the food though, they pass by the bookmobile.

"Lots of people have really enjoyed it. We’ve also brought activities for kids that are pre-packaged so even if they don’t want materials for themselves they’ll often let us give them stuff for their kids to do at home," Huston-Swanson  said.

Kent District Library makes it out to between 8 and 10 mobile food pantries per month. They have a schedule on their website.

"Hopefully once we’re able to have more capacity and more visitors on the bookmobile, people will come out to these community visits whether they want a box of food or not," Hutson-Swanson said. 

"That doesn’t matter. We’re here. We want you to check out books and browse our selection. If you have tech questions or an issue with any e-books, find us and we’ll help you figure it out."

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