The state’s first constitution stated in 1835 that “The legislature shall provide for libraries” using penal fines to operate. In 1842, the Legislature passed a law mandating that the Detroit Board of Education open a school district library. It would be more than two decades before the board complied in 1865, placing a public reading room in the Detroit Capitol High School housed in the former State Capitol at State and Griswold streets. The library by law was free, extensive, containing books “pure, both in morals and religion.”
That reading room would become the Detroit Public Library. It grew within four years of that opening to become the fourth largest in the country.
In 1872, the Centre Park Library opened at the current location of the Skillman Branch in downtown Detroit at Gratiot and Library Street. The first branch library opened in 1897 when the Detroit Water Commission library was opened to the public; in 1905 this library was turned over to the Detroit Library Commission.
Today, the Detroit Public Library offers users books, magazines, records, CDs, videos, DVDs and electronic materials through access to subscription databases. It also houses the Burton Historical Collection (named for historian and donor Clarence M. Burton), the E. Azalia Hackley Collection, and the National Automotive History Collection. Additionally, there are online collections, including one on Detroit Tigers and Baseball Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Ernie Harwell. The Ernie Harwell Online Exhibit is part of the Burton Historical Collection.
Visit the Detroit Public Library Home Page.
Detroit Public Library entry from Encyclopedia of Detroit.
Detroit Public Library Photo Gallery from MetroAlive.
Dan Austin, Detroit Public Library (old), HistoricDetroit.org Blog.
Take a look inside the Detroit Public Library on its 150th anniversary, MLive, March 25, 2015.
Rochelle Riley, “Reader helps tell story of Detroit library’s 150 years”, Detroit Free Press, March 22, 2015.
Rochelle Riley, “Take a minute and love your library”, Detroit Free Press, March 26, 2015.