Library History

Source: "EL Library continues to grow. " East Lansing Library Salute, Ingham
Newspaper Company. September 4, 1998.

The East Lansing Public Library has its genesis in 1923.

In an effort to provide books for children at the new Bailey School, the women of the Child Conservation League (later known as the East Lansing Child Study Club) raised an initial fund of $26 with a community dance and accepted two boxes of books on loan from the Library of the State of Michigan.

The newly established library was housed in Peoples Church. A larger and more permanent collection was established in April 1924 when a community "Library Week" garnered donations of books and magazines from area citizens.

The expanding library moved to larger temporary quarters above the East Lansing State Bank in 1925 and back to even roomier accommodations in the newly constructed Peoples Church building in July 1926.

In the early years, funding of the library was entirely in the hands of the East Lansing Child Study Club.

Club members raised monies by holding bake sales and dances, and by selling vanilla extract and spices. At the dedication of Michigan State College's new stadium in October 1924, they raised $145 by serving hot lunches.

Wider community support for the budding library came in September 1926 when a "tag sale" increased the coffers with over $1,600 in donations from area business organizations.

Now, for the first time, the library had a substantial fund that could be budgeted over several years.

A short while later, in 1928, the City of East Lansing made its first appropriation of $1 ,500 for the library, which allowed the first professional librarian to be hired at a salary of $41.67 per month. In 1929, the city's appropriation was increased to $2,000.

By this time, circulation was about 1,000 books per month.

The library's bookshelves in its Peoples Church location were soon overflowing as collection size and use of the library grew. The construction of an addition to City

Hall provided the library with the opportunity to move to larger quarters there in 1931.

Over the next year, circulation increased by a phenomenal 56 percent. By 1935, over 34,000 books per years were being circulated. In fact, public use of the library increased so rapidly that government leaders soon realized that the city had to assume responsibility for its operation.

Thus, in August 1937, the Child Study Club ceded control of the library to the city for a token payment of one dollar. The City Council appointed a Board of Trustees to govern the library.

By the end of World War Il, annual appropriations from City Council had increased to $3,750. Use of the library's collection was exploding-by 1949, circulation had increased to 84,000 items per month and city funding had almost doubled to $7,500 annually.

Unfortunately, a bond issue placed before the voters in 1951 to provide a new and separate library building was defeated, so library quarters in City Hall were enlarged as a stopgap measure.

A new library building did come in 1961, however, when by an overwhelming majority, voters approved a construction bond issue of $350,000. Resisting the temptation to make the library into a colossus of stone and brick, the city selected a quiet, wooded site on Abbott Road. The building design was adapted to that sylvan mood- from just about anywhere in the library, a person could look out at trees.

Dedication ceremonies in 1963 for the 12,000 square foot building were attended by local and state officials, including Governor and Mrs. George Romney, and three surviving members of the library committee that had begun the library 38 years before.

Use of the library by the community surged. Eleven years later, circulation had nearly doubled from 1293000 to 250,000, and collection size had nearly tripled from 24,000 to 72,000.

East Lansing voters again responded to the library's pressing needs in 1975 by approving a bond issue of $550,000 to finance a 9,000 square foot expansion of the building.

The added space provided for growth of the popular children's program, enlarged staff workspace, and a new community meeting room.

While collection size and community use of the library continued to grow, few structural and design changes were made over the ensuing years. An exception was the laying of new carpeting and an extensive rearrangement of the interior in 1991.

The most far-reaching change in the library over the last decade has been the modernization of its circulation and cataloging processes. In 1993, with the help of a special technology budget of about $230,000, library functions became computerized after an extensive conversion of the 130,000 records in the card catalog to computer files.

In 1996, the library's computer catalog was moved to the Dynix system, which greatly improved the speed and extent of services that could be offered to patrons, including the ability to dial in to the catalog from home computers.

By the early 1990s, the years of loving use had taken a toll on the library's physical structure and furnishings. Community pride called for a strong response. Thus, in 1995, voters generously approved a $2 million capital improvements bond. In addition to a small (25,800 sq. ft.) expansion of the library building, these monies allowed the interior of the structure to be completely renovated and the mechanical systems to be updated. Groundbreaking for the current project was held on June 18, 1997. That the project is completed during the library's 75 ü1 year of operation doubles the cause for celebration

September 27, 1998-renovations completed. 75th birthday celebration.

Source: "Some historical background of the East Lansing Public Library. '
Typed manuscript in ELPL Local History Room - Date unknown.


The Library was established by the East Lansing Child Study Club with approximately $16.00 plus a loan of books from the State Library. Mrs. E. T. Crossman, Mrs. H. A. Childs, Mrs. F. W. Chamberlain and Mrs. H. E. Johnson composed the committee.

The original Peoples Church building served as its first home; next it was housed back of Dr. Maher's office. In 1926 it was moved to room 109 in the new Peoples Church building where it stayed until it moved to the City Hall in 1931. The arrangements were by contract between the City and the Child Study Club.

In 1926 or 1927 the City Council voted down the proposal that the City appropriate some support for the Library.. Instead, each Council member gave some money out of his own pocket for its support. Mr. Faunce was the May at that time.

Dr. Bruegel, who was City Health Officer at that time, really was the person responsible for convincing the Mayor and the Council that the women of East Lansing should not have to sell soap, vanilla, etc. to support a library, so the first appropriation of $1,000.00 was made in October, 1928.

Up until that time all the Staff had been volunteer. Mr. Faunce insisted that no one putting in as much time as Mrs. Grossman should volunteer her time, so after that she was paid a small amount over her protest. She was paid $41.66 per month, beginning in September, 1928, and this amount was raised to $60.00 in September, 1931.

The City took over full responsibility in 1938. By 1943, when Mrs. Huggins became Librarian, the City appropriation was $3,750.00. The only additional income was from the State Aid to Libraries and penal fines.

The first bond issue ever put to a vote of the citizens was defeated in 1951.

The Library was enlarged to its present size in 1952.

In the very early 1940s, at the suggestion of the Library Board, the City set aside $5,000.00 each year for a building fund. The Board's suggestion, of course, was that it be earmarked for a new Library building, but the Council said that they "couldn't bind future Councils", which was pure nonsense, because nearly every move a Council makes binds future Councils.

"The East Lansing Public Library evolved. " Typed manuscript, no date, located in
Local History Room.


The East Lansing Public Library evolved. Its growth has been slow but steady and each new phase of service has been added to supply a need.

The idea of a library originated among the mothers of the Child Study Club (then the Child Conservation League) and, because of their belief that there was a growing need of better books for children, they decided to try out the plan. Accordingly, for three months in the spring of 1923, a traveling library was borrowed from the Michigan State Library and, for convenience, was kept in the Peoples Church (the old building on East Grand River Avenue), with Mrs. Stuart Morgan in charge.

The experiment proved so successful that the following fall the club borrowed another collection of books from the State Library, purchased a few books, and again opened a library two afternoons a week. By this time a standing committee had been appointed and three of the members-Mrs. H. E. Johnson (chairman), Mrs. H. A. Childs, and Mrs. F, W. Chamberlain, have served continuously since then. Mrs. A. W. Handy was appointed later. Members of the committee took charge in turns.

The library remained in the old church building from April 1932 to December 1924, when it was moved to a small second-floor room of the bank building at the corner of Evergreen and Grand River Avenues (the building now occupied by the Western Union).

The years 1925 and 1926 marked the most critical period in the life of the library. There was no definite income. There was rent to be paid. There must be some new books if continued interest was to be insured. All the work, including the janitor service, had to be done by the committee members.

As the money available for new books was very limited, it was at this time that the committee came most fully to realize the service which the Michigan State Library renders to small and struggling libraries through its book loans and the friendly interest and advice of the library staff.

The library, at this time, was used by an increasing number of adults, as well as children. The growing demands of the public and the inadequacy of indefinite funds prompted the Child Study Club to sponsor a financial drive. This was planned for the fall of 1926. In the meantime, the new church building on West Grand River Avenue having been completed, the Church Board gave the library committee the use of a room (No. 109) on the first floor at the north end of the main corridor. The library was moved into this room in June 1926.

The plans for a financial drive were carried out in September culminating in a "tag day", September 21. Due to the efficient work of the club committee having this in charge, the drive and tag day netted over one thousand dollars as well as abundant advertising and the awakened interest of the whole community.

The response of the public proved their willingness to give the library continued support and the substantial contributions of Lansing businessmen indicated their appreciation of the value of a Public Library as a civic institution. This money enabled the library committee to establish a budget and appoint a librarian. Mrs. E. T. Crossman, a librarian of experience, took charge September 1, 1926.

The library progressed until, in 1931, the committee became concerned with a housing problem! The mayor and the council were consulted, and they finally decided to include a place for the library in the proposed addition to the Municipal Building on Abbott Road. The remodeling was completed in the fall of 1931 and the library moved into its present room in November; and, in conjunction with the other city offices, held a general public opening on November 11, 1931. Mrs. Crossman continued to serve until July 1944, when she resigned. Mrs. Alma Huggins was appointed to take her place.

The city of East Lansing has grown so rapidly that the demand for library service has grown with the city and the present quarters are not adequate. It was found necessary to open library longer hours, from ten a.m. to nine p.m.

The library serves people in East Lansing, Lansing, surrounding communities as well as the college students; also provides the books for the M.S.C. Trailer Camp Library. The college pays the librarian.

Because of lack of space in the library, the Story Hour for children is held in the council chambers Saturday afternoon at one. The students from the speech department of M.S.C. tell the stories.

A Friends of the Library organization was organized late last summer. Mr. Barrett Lyons was chosen president and a general meeting will be held shortly after the first of 1950.

Plans for the expansion of The City Building and a new Library Building are being considered by the city council at the present time.

"How it all began: East Lansing library gets its start with $26 and borrowed books, " by Truman Cole. Towne Courier, January 28, 1969.


As a city grows older, larger and more complex, its early beginnings are less and less remembered by each successive generation. East Lansing has reached the size where her public institutions are increasingly taken for granted.

The East Lansing Public Library has as inauspicious a beginning as could be imagined. During the past 46 years it has expanded into the modern, efficient reservoir of books and knowledge that we are familiar with today. It didn't happen through magic and it didn't come about without work and sacrifice.

Meeting in the spring of 1923, the East Lansing Child Study Club considered the problem of providing books for the children of the community.

The club members decided to start a library themselves and they appointed a committee of 3-Mrs. H.E. Johnson, Mrs. F.W. Chamberlain and Mrs. H.A. Childs-to begin the plan. Mrs. A. W. Handy joined the committee soon thereafter. Mrs. Handy remained in continuous service to the library until 1965.

With the help of Mrs. E. T. Crossman, a professional librarian, the ladies borrowed some books, from the state library in Lansing. These books, together with $26 garnered in a baked goods sale, were the basis of the library.

The Peoples Church, then located on East Grand River Avenue where Jacobson 's store now stands, donated space for the foundling institution. The library remained here until December 1924, when its increased size made more room a necessity.

A room was rented from Dr. H. J. Manher, a dentist. It was next to his office on the 2nd floor above the bank building (now Gibson's Bookstore) at the corner of Evergreen and East Grand River. The room was small, but Dr. Manher was sympathetic to the library and rent was something less than $10 a month.

It was here that the library's most trying moments came. There were no funds for new books or other expenses.

It was dependent on private donations and proceeds from Child Study Club projects to stay alive. Then to complicate matters, Mrs. Crossman, the only experienced librarian in the group, moved to another city.

The library was at a crossroads. Despite discouragements the committee kept working. New and used books were begged and borrowed. Work at the library including the janitorial duties, was done by the members without pay. They knew the value of a library and they were determined to see it through.

In June 1926, things brightened. The new Peoples Church was completed, and the library moved into room 109. The study club planned a campaign for funds and initiated a September Tag Day.

Mrs. Claude Brattin and Mrs. H.R. Hunt were co-chairman of this first big financial venture. Volunteers from the study club took charge of different areas of the city and the local newspapers encouraged support by the townspeople.

East Lansing school children helped sell the tags, among them: Lucille Dahlman, Anne Emmons, Sarah Aryes, Irene Marquard, Frank Teske, John Phelan, Newell Kiebler, Ronald Yeo, Ellen LaForge, Ruth Crossman, Helen Smith, Doris Posthumus, Fern Cazier, Gladys True, Harriett Dietz, Faith Fisher, Eunice Scott and Luthera Willard.

Sept. 21, 1926, was the big day and $1,600 was grossed from donations and sale of tags. For the first time in its history the library has a fund that could be budgeted over several years.

And other things began to happen. Mrs. Crossman returned to East Lansing and again loaned her professional hand to the library. Standard library records were now being kept. A "vertical file" of reference material from newspapers and periodicals was started. The library applied to the East Lansing City Council for an annual appropriation. Although the city turned down this request interest among city officials was so great that the mayor and each councilman sent a personal check to the committee.

By 1928, public acceptance of the library was high. Mayor B. A. Faunce and the council were convinced that the library was here to stay and $1,500 was appropriated for its support.

The library remained in the hands of the study club, however, under a contract with the city. Dr. Manher, a councilman as well as an interested citizen, was the city's representative to the library committee.

Mrs. Crossman now was given a salary ($41.66 per month) and officially became our first librarian. Circulation was running in the neighborhood of 1,000 books per month in 1929.

In 1931 all space in the church allotted to the library was in use and the bookcases were overflowing. A new addition to the north side of the city hall was under construction and the first floor was promised to the library. In November of 1931 the library moved into its 4th home.

There were bookcases on only 2 walls of the new quarters. Mrs. Johnson recalls that the city clerk, Mr. Harry Lott, came over to inspect the library.

He gazed at the bookcases which allowed for many more volumes than the library possessed. "You'll never fill all those shelves," he remarked laughingly.

Two years later the library requested that additional shelving be built on the remaining walls to handle the burgeoning collection.

Circulation for March of that year was 2,900 books.

Public use of the library increased so rapidly that the city soon realized it had to take over the burden of its operation. Thus, in August of 1937, the Child Study Club placed the library under the city's control. The legalities required a token payment of one dollar by East Lansing.

The city council appointed a Board of Trustees to govern it. Original members of the board included Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Handy, Mrs. Chamberlain, Mrs. Childs and Mrs. U. Brooks Williams.

Mrs. Crossman resigned her position as head librarian in 1944 and Mrs. Alma Huggins took over the job.

A full-time assistant was needed to help with the work and Miss Gertrude Hale was appointed. College students also helped out in their spare time. The annual appropriation was now up to $3,750.

In December 1949, circulation had risen to 7,000 books per month. It was obvious to all that more space had to be found. In 1951 a bond issue to provide funds for a new and separate library building was defeated, but the following year a 25-foot addition was made to the city hall. The library now occupied a 37x60 foot room.

While this addition was being built, the library again moved back to the Peoples Church for several months. It was the 5th location the library had known.

Mrs. Huggins served until her death in 1954 when Miss Hale became the head librarian.

In seven short years the library was once more too large for its home. The question of money for a new building was placed before the voters in 1961 and $350,000 was approved.

Land once owned by D. Robert Burcham, but at that time owned by the East Lansing School Board, was used for the new building. It opened its doors to the public early in 1963 and formal dedication took place April 21.

Local and State officials, including Governor and Mrs. George Romney, were present at the dedication ceremony, but perhaps the most deeply involved of those on hand were 3 members of the original library committee: Mrs. Childs, Mrs. Crossman, and Mrs. Johnson. They had been part of the library movement since its conception and now they were seeing the last step in what had been merely a dream. The library had its own building with a full staff and an abundance of books. Public support had never been stronger.

Miss Hale retired in 1965 and here assistant, Mrs. Thomas Albright, was appointed as the new librarian. Mrs. Albright continues in that position today.

As of December 1968, barely more than 45 years after the library began, there were 39,742 books on the shelves. Circulation for the year was 190,959 or almost 16,000 per month. The Budget for the year was $99,930.


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