| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter


Cook Library Center

Cook Library Center in Grand Rapids is a safe haven for K-7 students and their families to explore the joys of reading. With a collection of books in English and Spanish, laptops for student and adult use, homework help, and many other programs and outings, the center wants to engage the entire family and see student growth in both academics and leadership. 
Michigan Nightlight: What really differentiates this program?
Cook Library Center Director Sue Garza: Programs at the Cook Library Center are free. We make resources available to vulnerable families that they would not otherwise have access to. Resources like a bilingual collection of books, laptops for use in the library, homework help from tutors that include Calvin College and Grand Valley State University students and retired teachers. Many families live close to the library and that makes it much easier for them to get the help they need. We have Spanish-speaking members who can effectively communicate with our families to clearly understand their needs. Students must live in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood and attend a Grand Rapids Public School to be a part of the program. Their parents must commit to attending adult classes that we offer at the library.
We have so many opportunities for enrichment. The Cook Arts Center [another program under the umbrella of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities] offers classes that include piano, guitar, violin, break dancing, ballet, art, sewing and ceramics. Those classes are free if you live in the neighborhood; there is a small fee if you live outside the neighborhood. 
We help them so that when they come back to our library, they will feel confident enough to perform these actions with little or no help at all. We are changing the face of the Grandville Avenue neighborhood.

What are the keys to success for your program?
The Cook Library Center has been here since 1996. Children and their families respect us, and our library staff members truly love their jobs. They are all committed to helping individuals, whether that means teaching our patrons to set up an email account or create a resume. We help them so that when they come back to our library, they will feel confident enough to perform these actions with little or no help at all. We are changing the face of the Grandville Avenue neighborhood.
What existing challenges remain with this program and how do you plan to overcome them?
One challenge is adding new programs and sustaining them for the long term. The new Cook Library Scholars program is one of them, and parental involvement will be a critical part of its success. We are asking families to make a long-term commitment to the Cook Library Scholars program, and once a child is enrolled, he or she will be a scholar through high school and into college.
The Cook Library Scholarship program [comprised of wrap-around assistance for kids both in school and post-secondary to ensure success] will pave the way for our students to become the change agents in their families. These scholars will encourage other family members to rise to excellence. The solution is education, but we have limited space and resources and we are only able to meet the needs that our resources allow. There is still much to be done in the neighborhood.
How does your program organize the resources needed to make programs happen?
The Cook Foundation is a fantastic resource for us and Calvin College is one of the best resources that we have. The roots of our library began with the help of Matt Fleming, who was a Calvin College student in 1996. Today, Calvin College’s Boer-
We are just a building full of books and computers. It's the staff at the library that makes the patrons return.
Bennink Dorm helps with homework assistance, offers opportunities to go to Calvin College on field trips, and raises programming funds for us. Without Calvin, our lives would be difficult. 
We pair with many more – including the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Steepletown Neighborhood Services, and the Kent Intermediate School District's Bright Beginnings program to offer the services that we offer for free.
We are just a building full of books and computers. It's the staff at the library that makes the patrons return. We respect and appreciate these patrons. Our programs are here to enrich their lives. 
What are people in your program most inspired by?
The people in our program are most inspired by the support that we give them. We are more than a library. We may not know the answer to your question, but we may know someone who does. When you walk through our doors, our hope is that before you leave, you will have gained some knowledge that you will be able to teach someone else to answer the same question you had. Our Library Scholars program is inspired by families. Families wanting more for their for children than what they have been given. We love the unique spirit of our families. We are inspired by their creativity. It is our privilege to serve our families and to allow their lights to shine brightly.
Signup for Email Alerts

Person Profile


  • Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities
    The mission of Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities is to enrich the lives of neighborhood youth through diverse and engaging programs at the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.


Stuart Ray, Mindy Ysasi, Mike Kerkorian, Ellen Carpenter from Grand Rapids' Nonprofits

Jumping Ship: Former Corporate Leaders Tell All

Berston Bicycle Club

Kids Discover the Power of Pedaling


Taking Young Poets To A Bigger Stage

View All People


Verona Early Grade Reading Achievement

Verona Early Grade Reading Achievement Program

Improving K-2 reading



Mixing learning and fun

Youth Initiatives Project

Youth Initiative Project

Connecting youth to causes they care about
View All Programs

Bright Ideas

ostdogood LIST

Company Supports 4th Grade Field Trips to Lake Michigan

Parents working more than one job or odd hours, a lack of funds, and no transportation often prevent kids from experiencing one of Michigan’s incredible natural resources. For the majority of west side Grand Rapids elementary school kids, Lake Michigan is sadly out of reach. OST has teamed up with Grand Rapids Public Schools to give fourth-graders at west side schools the opportunity to experience the big lake firsthand.

1000 Books Program at Kalamazoo Library.

One Thousand Books Before Kindergarten

If you were writing the book of a child's life wouldn't you like it to have a happy ending? Every day more children are signing up for a Kalamazoo Public Library program intended to give them a life that includes loving the reading of books. 

Superior Watershed foundation youth program

U.P. Youth Help Conserve Great Lakes

K-12 students are taking part in a monarch butterfly project, while 16-24 year olds have been working in the Great Lakes Conservation Corps for years. Both are initiatives through the Superior Watershed Partnership to connect youth with their environment.
View All Bright Ideas

Directly Related Content