Library reference desk areas are transformed into live music stages with the VIBES concert series

While the library may have been a place to check out CDs or albums of your favorite musicians, it’s now a setting where you can watch and listen to live music. Expanding on the curation of Michigan-made albums available to borrow and download, the VIBES Reference Desk brings musicians into the space to perform mini-concerts. Kent District Library (KDL) Patron

Henny VanDraeger, programming manager, oversees programming for KDL’s 20 branches. “I work with staff to develop systemwide programs that promote literacy, stimulate creativity and engage our patrons,” she says. “Often we work with partners to bring special programming to our branches.”

Spotlighting local artists

One of the new specialized KDL programs brings live music to the fore. Greg Lewis, KDL programming expert, was also involved in the behind-the-scenes ideas that led to the creation of VIBES Reference Desk Mini Concert.

The pop-up concert series aims to spotlight the many talented artists and groups in the greater Grand Rapids area.

“I worked with Greg and Branches to develop a vision and a plan to bring these concerts to our patrons,” said VanDroger. “We wanted to highlight our Vibes collection and, at the same time, bring promotion and visibility to some of our wonderful local artists.”

Lewis reached out to local musicians, gauging interest and lining them up with participating branch locations. Series highlights Collection of vibes, a diverse array of music styles featuring 40-50 albums of licensed music from local artists. They are available to the public for free streaming and to library card holders for download

“We want to highlight our KDL Vibes collection, a streaming service available to our patrons that features West Michigan musicians and gives artists another opportunity to share their music with the community,” said Lewis. “We’re lucky to have so much great local music – it’s an honor to give them a platform to shine.”

VanDroger said the idea for the series came from colleague Jacey Cooper’s idea to do concerts in the same vein as NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. “Because of copyright, we changed the name and put a library spin on the concept,” she says

Genre diversity

This is the first year for the series but, heading into 2023, KDL already plans to continue the concerts. Lewis says the lineup of artists and genres offers something for everyone. All bands have been selected for the KDL Vibes platform.

“The acts span a variety of genres and are a great representation of the talent we have here in West Michigan,” Lewis said.

Previous performances have come from Max Lockwood, Jess Kramer and Rabbit Fur. Upcoming shows include Adrian Wright, Chris Kranic, Jim Spalink and Myra Maimoh.

VIBES REFERENCE DESK Mini concerts are held four or five times per season on Thursdays from 7 pm. All shows are free, and no registration is required. Happens too direct flow.

Lewis said attendees can expect “a great and engaging show in an intimate setting.” “They are short, 20-30 minutes … plenty of time to test some materials and discover a new KDL branch.”

Jess Kramer, a singer-songwriter who blends electronic sound layers and pop sensibilities, has been performing music as a solo artist for 17 years. Kramer heard about the VIBES collection from other local musicians involved in the first round of submissions.

“I got to play a pop-up show at the Plainfield Branch earlier this month,” she says “Not only was it exciting to play a show again after not playing for the past few years, but I was especially excited about playing a free show in a venue that is often much less intimidating for non-traditional showgoers, be they human. With children, elderly people or people who do well in small crowds and quiet environments. As long as I’ve been playing shows, I’ve learned to really appreciate accessible spaces and bring music into community spaces like libraries. It challenged me to rework my usual instrument setup and get a little creative with the songs.”

Kramer appreciates the way KDL and the library rebuild can offer the community resources beyond books.

Performers accepted into the KDL VIVES collection can apply to participate in future mini concerts. Next submission period is February/March 2023. For more information on submissions, see Vibes webpage.

Looking ahead, VanDroger hopes the series can grow. “We want to contribute to these mini concerts to increase attendance and feature local talent,” she says “If successful, a larger concert series may be in our future.”


Literacy Matters is a series focused on the importance of knowledge, community resources seeking to remove barriers to access, and the value of our library system to society. Literacy Matters is supported by Kent District Libraries.

Sarah lived briefly in Grand Rapids before moving back to Lansing a few years ago, but that love of West Michigan never left her heart. Through coverage of small business, arts and culture, dining and everything in between, she’s committed to showing anyone and everyone how great the Great Lakes state is. Sara earned her degree in Journalism and Professional Communication. You can find him at a record store, at a local concert, or at a bakery eating many desserts By chance, if he is not in those places, you can contact him here [email protected]


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