History of the Ann Arbor Library, 1827-1991
Author: Grace Shackman
The Ann Arbor Public Library traces its origins from two strands, public and private: the high school library started in 1856, and the Ladies Library Association founded in 1866. But both of these groups had predecessors, the high school library in the township district libraries and the Ladies Library Association in four earlier book lending groups.
Early Library History
Records show that Ann Arbor always been a reading town. In 1827, only three years after the village was founded and 10 years before the University of Michigan moved to Ann Arbor, the first reading group was formed, the Ann Arbor Library Association. By 1830, they had used the $3,000 a year dues to buy 100 books. (Western Emigrant, Oct.6)
The Ann Arbor Library Association was dissolved in 1838 and the books divided between the members according to how much they had paid in (Michigan Emigrant, Feb. 20, 1833), but a new group had already emerged the year before, the Ann Arbor Circulating Library, run out of the office of the village's newspaper the advertised that dues were only $ 2.50 a year. At first he had mainly reference books, but after the first library dissolved he listed a new selection of general interest books including travel and biography. (March 6, 1833)
In the decade of the 1840's, two library groups were mentioned in the local paper, the Michigan State Journal: The Ann Arbor Library Association (Dec. 28, 1841), and The Working Men's Library Association, which met at the American Hotel (May 4, 1844). They are listed with different officers so it was not one group with different names.
In the 1840's, school libraries also began to exist. In 1843 the state superintendent of schools announced that as part of state constitution, every school district was required to set up a library, spending at least $25 a year, with the books shared among the schools in the township (Michigan Argus, Mar. 19, 1843). Various governmental fines, if not needed for the local poor house, were also earmarked for the libraries (Michigan State Journal, Jan. 15, 1845).
The superintendent suggested using the Massachusetts School Library List as a guide to select books. An Ann Arbor businessman, Jonathan Lamb, quickly took advantage of this suggestion by advertising in the Michigan State Journal (Mar. 29, 1843), "all those who wish for the Massachusetts School Library will please direct their school inspectors to forward a communication to me to that effect. I intend to keep enough on hand to supply the State." Lamb offered any newspaper putting in his announcement "an elegant copy of Buel's Farmer's Companion, or a book of equal value."
The Michigan State Journal (Mar. 13, 1844) said of the Ann Arbor school district's collection, "the books already purchased are of the best kind. None but the most unexceptionable and useful books will be purchased." In 1845 (Jan.15), the same paper reported that each of the township libraries should have at least one copy of the Agricultural and Chemical Works of Johnson and Liebeg and several copies of Buel's Farmer's Companion."
Beginning of High School Library
In 1856, the Ann Arbor School district's library books were consolidated in the superintendent's office in the first public high school. Originally called the Union School, it stood on State Street between Washington and Huron, the present site of the Frieze Building. 1856 was given as the founding date of the public library by later library directors such as Nellie Loving
(1883-1922) and Frances Hannum (1928-1951): Loving in a form filled out for the A.L.A. (American Library Association?) May 31, 1922, and Hannum in a history she wrote of the library (Washtenaw Impressions, May 1948). According to Hannum, "Because the school library was open to the public, the date of the founding of the Public Library has always been set as of 1856." However, there is no contemporary evidence that it was used by the general public that early. Hannum admitted in the Impressions article "though the library in the old High School building was open for public use during school hours, very few Ann Arbor people availed themselves of the opportunity to borrow books."
Ladies Library Association
Possibly the high school library was not greatly used because the people who were really interested in reading could join the Ladies Library Association. Founded in 1866, it served as more than a source of reading material, but also functioned as a force for intellectual improvement of the community. The Association consciously based itself on a model designed by Benjamin Franklin in 1731 when he set up, in Philadelphia, a library funded by subscriptions.
The Ladies Library Association received favorable press from the beginning. The Michigan Argus' editor, Elihu Pond, placed an invitation to join the Association on the front page of their March 9m 1866 edition, writing, "we cheerfully comply with a request to give notice that a meeting of the ladies of this city interested-and that certainly should include a large number." He continued, "we think the movement a timely one, and trust that there will be a large attendance ....it will be a rallying point for the social and intellectual improvement of their members, and
of the entire family."
The Association met for the first time on March 19, 1866, at 8 p.m. in the basement of the Presbyterian Church on the Southwest corner of Division and Huron, now the site of the Ann Arbor News. Of the 35 women present, 15 agreed to serve on the board, and a $ 3.00 joining fee and a $ 1.00 a year dues was agreed on, the fees being payable in books if so desired. The constitution, printed in full in the March 23, 1866, Michigan Argus specifically stated that gentlemen could, for the same fee, "be entitled to the privileges of the library." They stated that the library would be open one day a week and a librarian would be selected "to number and register the books and to keep accounts with each member." A committee of three would select the books.
In two weeks the Ladies Library Association had already subscribed $118. (Michigan Argus, Mar. 23). The Association loaned the books from an upstairs room at the Hangsterfers block on the southwest corner of Main and Washington. At end of first year it had 79 members and 892 books, more than half of which were donated, and had outgrown their quarters. It moved to a room above the First National Bank, setting aside $100 from their treasury to furnish their quarters with a carpet and gasalier.
(Michigan Argus, April 12, 1867)
The Association celebrated their first anniversary by listening to an address, given at the Congregational Church, by University of Michigan president Erasmus O. Haven, who, before taking over the university, had taught Latin language and literature and then switched to history and rhetoric. Haven explained the organization in University of Michigan-centric terms, "I am not surprised that such as an association would be formed here. This is a university town--a town in which the conversation must be largely about books." He predicted great things for the organization. "It might become a lyceum, a fountain of civilization, of Vigorous thought, and genuine culture." (Michigan Argus, April 19, 1867)
The Ladies Library Association did its best to be the intellectual haven that Haven had suggested. In the first year it had already started a series of social readings which it said
"proved a source of pleasure and instruction to all who have participated in them." Said the ever-appreciative press-"the subjects for these occasions have been so well chosen as to convince all that the choice sentiments and gems of thought of the best authors are more easily gathered up by an associated member, each one of which strives to make the best selections within her reach." (Michigan Argus April 12, 1867)
The Association often presented papers, read poems, or performed music as part of their regular meetings. In 1875, the Michigan Argus reported (Oct. 15) "These meetings have been kept up for a number of years, with short and infrequent interruptions, and the ladies have considered them both pleasant and profitable." By 1881 they were systematically studying the major composers. "The program will be made up from the works of Bach and a paper upon the life of that composer will be read." (Ann Arbor Courier, Mar. 4, 1881). The next month the Association did the same thing for Handel (Ann Arbor Courier, Apr, I, 1881). It also studied Beethovan (Ann Arbor Courier, Dec. 2, 1881). and Mozart (Ann Arbor Courier, Oct. 28, 1881).
Not limiting itself to its own enlightenment, the Association enlisted guest speakers and opened the gatherings to the public, charging a nominal fee (usually 10 cents), proceeds to go to the book fund. Meeting at important people's houses such as U-M President James Angell or Judge Beakes, they heard experts speak on topics of topical interest. Some examples are Prof. Griffith, "an entertainment of choice readings" (Michigan Argus, Oct. 23, 1868), Prof. Adams on the House of Lords, (Michigan Argus Nov. 10, 1876), an informal talk on the Siege of Paris by Prof, Hennequin who was eye-witness, (Ann Arbor Courier May 27, 1881), Prof. Demmon on "walks in England" (Ann Arbor Courier, Dec. 16, 1881), Prof. Charles E. Greene on the Washington Monument a-85., A. H. Prescott on chemistry of coffee and tea (Mar. 18, 1881) and Pres. Angell on Pekin (sic) and Its Environs (Ann Arbor Courier, Oct. 20, 1882). (President Angell was appointed as minister to China by President Rutherford Hayes to negotiate a new treaty on immigration of Chinese laborers. He and his family were gone from 1880-82).
For more serious fund raisers, the Association sponsored entertainments, but these were also usually of an elevated nature, such as scenes illustrative of Longfellow's poem, "Evangeline" (Ann Arbor Courier Jan. 14, 1881). They presented the prevalent entertainments of the time such as tableaux vivants (pose for picture) or pantomimes such as "The Mistletoe Bough." (as Nov. 28, 1871) They presented now-forgotten works such as the contata, "Esther the Beautiful Queen," by Bradbury (Michigan Argus, Nov, 18, 1866); plays such as "The Tin Wedding" and "Upon the Boards" (Ann Arbor Courier, Jan. 12, 1883), and farces "lci L'on Parle Francais or Woodcock's Little Game" (Ann Arbor Courier, Mar. 8, 1883).
The visual arts also received attention. For instance, an art reception with etchings and engravings by a number of prominent artists was displayed at the home of Mrs. H. W. Rogers on the corner of Huron and Division. For 25 cents, viewers could hear a lecture on the art works by a Professor Dennison and enjoy light refreshments of iced tea and wafers. (Ann Arbor Argus, June 12, 1884)
A few of the fund raisers sound like just plain fun such the strawberry festival held in 1866 in the basement of the Presbyterian Church. The festival featured "Delicious fruits, cooling creams, rich cake, beautiful flowers, pleasant company." (Michigan Argus, June 22, 1866) Or the social and supper in celebration of the Association's third anniversary. Three hundred people enjoyed a program of speeches, poems, singing and organ music. The Michigan Argus reported (April 9, 1869) "This part of the program over, refreshments were served from amply filled and beautifully decorated tables, and the delicious coffee seemed to set the tongues all running glibly. All enjoyed themselves, or seemed to at least, and at about 10 1/2 (sic) o'clock dispersed, indebted to the Ladies Library Association for an evening of rational enjoyment." Other fun sounding events include their tenth anniversary tea party where participants came dressed in 18th-century styles and "a Japanese social," with dress and refreshment no doubt appropriate (Ann Arbor Courier, May 6, 1881).
Even with breaks for fun, the ladies took their job of supplying books seriously. In 1872 the secretary reported (Michigan Argus, Apr. 12) "Feeling deeply sensible that they are charges with exerting that influence for good or evil the extent of which it is impossible to know, they have been cautious and slow to recommend new works till their character, as far as possible, could be ascertained." The report continues "Our librarian informs us that the demand for works of fiction exceeds the supply. If so, it may be a question for serious consideration whether we are bound to yield to this demand. By so doing we do not seem to be dragging the standard down to the level of those who seek to be constantly amused and superficially excited, instead of seeking to arouse them to grapple with themes that tax the attention and reason? The secretary concluded. "We are happy to state that a large proportion of the books purchased during the year are of a character to stimulate to earnest thought, and fully to meet the wants of intellectual minds." (Michigan Argus, April 12, 1872)
The Ladies Library Association's book collection continued to grow and finding large enough quarters became an ongoing problem. For a while they were located on the top floor of Court House, moving in 1882 to the Hamilton Block on the northeast corner of Fourth and Huron (Ann Arbor Courier, July 21, 1882).
In 1880, the Ann Arbor Argus (May 21) reported "the Ladies Library Association have authorized the purchase of a lot on Huron Street adjoining on the east of the premises of Dr. Smith, upon which their building is to be built." After buying the land at 324 E. Huron, they hired a young rising architect, then practicing in Chicago: Irving Kane Pond. Born in Ann Arbor in 1857, he was the son of Mary Pond, one of the founding members of the Ladies Library Association (membership list found in Bentley to be open 100 years after founding) and Elihu Pond, editor of the Argus who had always put in library notices for free and helped them subscribe to magazines at club rates. After graduating from the U-M in 1879 with a degree in civil engineering (he took architectural classes but there was no architectural degree offered at that time), Pond worked with several prominent architects in Chicago and then went to Europe in 1883 to study for a year.
Pond designed a Romanesque revival brick building, no doubt influenced by his recent year abroad. It included a special alcove for the D.A.R. Library. The cost included $500 for the lot and $2,635 contractors cost (Ann Arbor Argus, May 29, 1885). Finished in 1885 the ladies showed off their building with a reception to which all were invited. The Ann Arbor Argus (Oct.
9, 1885) described it, "a good convenient building for the safe keeping of books" and added "it will prove an efficient aid in the elevation of the literary taste and moral tone of the community."
The ladies worked at fund raising and were able by 1892 to have the building paid off. Meanwhile, Pond went back to Chicago where most of his practice was, but returned to design other Ann Arbor buildings such as the Michigan Union, Michigan League, and the student publications building. (Information about Pond is in paper "Irving K. Pond; the Man the Architect and the Author" by J. Dale Darling c 1930 for U-M Architectural Prof. Emil Larch.
After the Carnegie Public Library was built in 1905 the Ladies Library building was used by several groups including the Red Cross in WWI, Kindergarten classes, and the Boy Scouts. It was purchased by Bell Telephone in 1944 for $12,500.00 (school board minutes) and torn down the next year to make room for the building which is now on that site. The Ladies Library Association salvaged the cornerstone. It is now mounted on the wall of the staircase landing between the lower level and first floor of the 1991 library.
At the same time the Ladies Library Association was improving their facilities, the school library was also being upgraded, first with a full-time librarian and then with a better room. In 1888, the school board hired Nellie Loving at a salary of $200 a year. At this time teacher's salaries were in the range of $350 to $500 (Ann Arbor Argus, June 27, 1884). Loving's contract also specified that she would work as substitute teacher if necessary. When she returned in 1894, after a year's leave of absence to attend library school her salary did go up to comparable to teachers at $500 a year.
Loving was hired in 1883 to oversee a collection of about 2000 books which had just been moved from the superintendents office to a room on the second floor. According to Hannum (Washtenaw County Historical Society Impressions, July 1948) "It was evident that the care of these volumes was not expected to be an arduous task for she was urged to bring her fancy work so that time would not hang heavily upon her hands. However, imbued as she was with the spirit of service, there was no time for this pursuit."
Loving stayed for 39 years, overseeing the transition of a one room primarily-school library to a public library with its own building and 20,000 books. In hiring Loving, the school board set a precedent, which has continued through its history, of finding directors who were advocates for the library and for reading. In a talk in 1910 at the high school's debating society for girls, she said "Remember there is no greater help to one in getting an education than the library." She worked at distributing books beyond the high school population she was first charged with by taking books to children at grammar schools, setting up a children's section at the library and a branch at Donovan Elementary School. She worked at reaching the adult population by setting up a downtown branch, taking books places such as the "Y" or firemen, and listing new books in the newspaper.
Loving was born in 1860 in Nelson County, Virginia and raised in Pembroke, Mass where her mother moved after her father died. She moved to Ann Arbor in 1879 with her mother and sister. They lived at 712 E. Ann Street just a short block from the high school. Loving, who had attended the Hanover Academy before moving, went to Ann Arbor high school for a term, but gave up because of poor health. (Ann Arbor News, Aug. 17, 1926)
When she took the job in the library, she was only 23 and had no formal library training. After she had been working as a librarian for 10 years, she took a year's leave of absence and attended the Free Library Commission School of Library Methods at Madison, Wisconsin.
The late Elizabeth Slack, who organized the first Friends of the Library book sale in 1954, remembered Nellie Loving. She described her as "a good looking woman dressed plainly in the long dress of the day." Neither ill health or lack of higher education seems to have stopped Loving from doing a energetic job as librarian. Black recalled that Loving "would say to the young men who would come into the library for a book, "I don't care what you read, but read!" And she would say to young parents, "Get them to read something, but read, read!" (Updated paper by Phyllis Hinterman in library archives)
In 1886 the board of education decided to build an addition on the high school, on north side extending to Huron Street, which they finished in 1889. The new addition had room for a library on the first floor, described in school board minutes as "one large library with alcove which can be used for study room as well as library." Miss Carrie Watts, who was acting-librarian in 1893, while Loving was at library school, complained (as quoted by Hannum in July 1948 Washtenaw County Historical Society Impressions) " The library at the time being also a study room, it was a rather strenuous job to keep order with classes changing each hour, do the cataloging, repairing books, and looking after the general circulation, with no assistant, and a salary of less than $25 per month."
When the school library became open to the general public is not clear. It probably just gradually evolved that adults as well as students started checking out books. The first reference that the research team could find that clearly shows the school library being open to the public is in the Jan. 27, 1886 edition of the Ann Arbor Courier: "The public school library which is kept at the High school building is soon to have a new invoice of books." Given as a short, matter of fact statement and not a big announcement, it seems obvious that the library must have been open prior to this. However, an article in the Ann Arbor Courier, dated Dec. 15, 1886, stated that many still did not know of the library. "There are men doing business on Main street today, who are not aware that there is a free public library in our city, from which any person over the age of 14 years is allowed to draw books without money or without price, and yet such is the fact."
The only hitch was that the public library was only open an hour a week: Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 5 p.m. However, the Courier article stated that books could also be checked out when the library was open to high school students since "the good natured librarian attends to calls at any time."
In spite of the hours, the article claimed that from the collection of 2,500 books, 10,000 were checked out per year, every book being checked out approximately four times. As prickly as the Ladies Library Association was about fiction, the article says, "The works of fiction show the greatest wear, perhaps, yet the librarian thinks that the general readers who draw from the library are not more partial to fiction than to biography, travel, and general literature. In the fiction, however, will be found Scott, Dickens, Tackery, Hawthorne, Cooper, MacDonald, Lytton, and other standard works."
In 1890 the library was still not in as general use as desired as seen from article in the Ann Arbor Courier Weekly (July 9) entitled "A Word About Our Public Library," unsigned but probably written by Loving, which ends, "It might be well to state that this is a public library and all residents have a right to draw books therefrom." In 1898 they were still trying to get the general public to use the library more. A report of the board of education from that year recommended "placing a placard with works 'Public Library' on the entrance."
Loving kept developing the library and encouraging people to check out books. The 1892, the Ann Arbor Courier Weekly (Oct. 4) described it "a fine library of nearly 4,000 volumes, one of the most carefully selected of any in the state....Besides standard work, the library contains all the best magazines and current periodicals and choicest literature of the day." The Feb. 15, 1899 Loving published a list of 62 books purchased in Ann Arbor Courier (Feb. 15), to encourage checking them out. They include books on history and biography. That year she was busy enough to justify hiring an assistant, Miss Nellie Smith who the board of education agreed to pay $200 per year.
Loving seems to have functioned as a one-woman crusade to get people to read more. She loaned books in lots of 30 to the city's YMCA (school board report of 1902). Noticing that the firemen had free time, she tried to get them to read. In her 1902 report to the board of education she wrote: "Last fall, with the consent of the library committee, we offered to the men engaged in service at Firemen's Hall the free use of the library to which they are entitled but do not seem to realize the fact. I personally saw three or four of the men and later, their chief, to whom I stated our plan to let them have a liberal number of books, which they might select to keep at the building for a week or two at a time; asking only that they call for and return the books and shelve them in a clean place and give them reasonable careful handling. The men seemed to appreciate the interest and suggestion, but they have not called for any books, I regret to be obliged to report. If they desire them only a fraction as much as I long for them to have them we would be sending books to them every week."
Slack remembered Loving having slightly more luck with the firemen, possibly at a later date. As she told it "She (Loving) even went to see the firemen at the station. They were just sitting around. "Why don't you read something?" she asked. When they replied that they had no books, Miss Loving said she'd bring them some books, and she did. When the books were due, one of the men took them back to the library. "If you don't mind, we'd
what you read, but read!"
The Ladies Library often talked of combining with the city to become a public library. In 1879 the city brought it up. But they were never ready at same time. In 1902 they made their most serious attempt to date, deciding to work together to secure funding from Andrew Carnegie to build a city library. The school board minutes (As reported in the Courier-Register, April 16, 1902) read "Trustee Bach brought up the question of a working combination between the district library and the ladies library. It now costs the two $1,700 a year to maintain, and if combined they could ask Carnegie for a gift of $15,000 to $20,000 for a library building." The motion was referred to committee.(Courier-Register, April 16, 1902) (Oct or April ?)
Trustee Bach was Anna Botsford Bach, a community activist who was both a school board member and president of the Ladies Library Association. Obviously someone who kept abreast of the times, she made the suggestion shortly after Carnegie first began giving money for this purpose.
Carnegie (1885-1919), a Scottish immigrant who had made a fortune in the steel industry, retired in 1901 and devoted the rest of his life to giving his money away, mainly for cultural uses. He had made his fortune in steel (he replaced many wooden bridges with steel ones) and railroads (he introduced the first sleeping cars).
Carnegie believed that great wealth was a public trust that should be shared. But he did not believe in straight alms-giving. Building libraries to encourage self-improvement was consistent with Carnegie's philosophy of helping people help themselves. He paid for the buildings but requires the community to provide the site and to pay for books and maintenance in perpetuity. By 1918 he had erected 2,505 library buildings, 1,679 in the United States, the rest in every other English speaking country, including his native Scotland. Others in the near area include Tecumseh (now the board of education building) and Adrian (now Lewanee County Historical Museum).
Anna Botsford Bach's idea met with agreement from both the Ladies Library Association and the school board and a letter was duly written asking for money for a library building. The signatures show the extend of the original support. Written by Dean Hutchins of the U-M Law School, it was signed first by Mayor Copeland to make clear it was an official request, followed by Judge Kinne, Mr. Beal (School board member), Dr. Angell (President of the U-M), Miss Bower and Mrs. Bach, Mr. Mills (President of school board) as well as Hutchins. After waiting what seemed an unusually long time for a reply, the Ladies Library Association wrote a letter to Mr. Carnegie, which each of their board members signed. (Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat, Jan. 23, 1903)
Finally, early in 1903, the city did hear form Carnegie. He told them he would be glad to donate $20,000 for a library building on the conditions that a site be furnished and $2,000 annually be furnished for support of such a library. At the urging of the board of education, the Common Council passed a resolution that they would guarantee that $2,000 would be spent on the library each year. (ad, Aug. 21, 1903)
August 13, 1908, Eugene Mills, president of the board of education, received a positive reply from an R. A. Franks, representing Carnegie. Franks wrote, "Mr. Carnegie's donation of twenty thousand dollars for the construction of a library building in Ann Arbor, Michigan is now available. I shall be pleased to send you this amount in installments of five thousand dollars each, upon receipt of requests signed by yourself and the secretary of your board, as required according to progress of the building. An architect's certificate, showing that the amount called for is due, should accompany these requisitions." (Courier-Register, Aug. 8, 1903)
The future of the library now seemed assured. The Ann Arbor Democrat (Jan. 23, 1903) said "as the maintenance of the new building will cost no more than the two now in use, it does not seem as though any public spirited citizen could raise objection, especially as a free library is an advantage and a benefit to any city."
But nothing is ever as simple as it seems. A disagreement between the Ladies Library Association and the board of education arose just months later. The Ladies Library Association wanted the new library to be located on their land and had assumed that deeding their land to the new library implicitly implied this. But the board of education wanted it next to the high school so that the students could keep using it.
The board of education had assumed, although it was never put in the minutes, that they could use the Association's assets
(property, revenue, and equipment) however they chose, while the ladies had assumed that since they initiated the idea, that they would have some say in it. Their stand was reported in Courier-Register (Nov. 18, 1930): "the identity of the Ladies Library should be preserved and that it preserve its legal standing. The proposition is to deed the site of the Carnegie library committee, so long as it is used for library purposes, but at any time when it shall cease to be so used it shall revert to the Ladies Library Association. They also desired their books to be marked with book plates indicative of their origin in the latter society and that the Ladies Library Association be permanently represented on the Carnegie library committee and that a memorial room be dedicated to the same association."
When the board of education, at a special Friday night meeting, voted to locate the library on the high school grounds, the Ladies Library Association responded a few days later, December 7, 1903, writing the school board "since you reject that part of the proposition recently made you by the association which renders available the gift of Mr. Carnegie for a library, the proposition be altogether withdrawn." The Ann Arbor Argus Democrat, Jan. 23 of that year, had praised the Ladies Library Association's role in the new library, "like all good enterprises, the idea originated with women, and their perseverance seems about to be rewarded." Now the Democrat changed its view when the ladies were not as amenable as first
seemed, to write "The Ladies play Indian" headlines on December 11, 1903, adding "and pull back their gift of their library, all or nothing."
The Ladies Library Association had planned to close, assuming that a new library would soon be built, but with the failure of discussions, they decided, although they did not have the money to be open every day, to open once a week. Meanwhile, the school board decided to ask Carnegie if he would be willing to give them more money, such as $30,000 if they would pledge an additional sum for maintenance. (aaad, April 1, 1904) They were still waiting for an answer when the issue took on new urgency: the high school including the library room, burned down on the last day of the year, Dec. 31, 1904.
According to newspaper reports "the fire appears to have caught from a stove in the basement and was discovered by Frank Fisher of 101 South Thayer at 4:20 a.m. A high wind was blowing and the fire department handicapped as they were by inadequate water pressure, were powerless to arrest the spread of the flames. The origin of the fire was in the south east end of the building, and the flames steadily ate their way toward the new portion of the structure to the north" (location of library).
Luckily, school officials and students who rushed to the scene were able to save most of the library's 8,000 books before the building was destroyed. The paper reports "Prof. H.N. Chute, Prin J.G. Pattengill, L.D. wines, Jabez Montgomery and D.W. Spring, high school teachers, organized a hundred school boys into wrecking parties, and set them to work bringing the books and apparatus from the new building." (ad, Jan. 6, 1905) Their quick work saved 8,000 books. The books were stored for a time in the parlor of the Methodist Church across the street, which happened to be Nellie Loving's place of worship.
Two weeks after the fire, the school board heard from Carnegie that he would be willing to give them the $30,000 they asked for. Chair of the library committee, Dr. R. S. Copeland, affirmed the idea of building the library with the school, stating, "With the burning of the high school, all hope of getting money from the school district for a special site has vanished. Therefore the committee have through it would be a good thing if the Carnegie building could be built in connection with the new school. This will be a hard matter to bring about, as Mr. Carnegie will have to be convinced that it is all right. The building would probably have to be detached from the school building." (Jan. 13, 1905, Ann Arbor Argus Democrat)
A few months later, voters approved a bond issue to build a new school. They originally planned to connect library and school, but decided by closing Thayer Street and building library flush with what had been the street line, they could leave 20 feet between the two structures, connecting them with just one narrow passage (Ann Arbor Argus Democrat, Apr. 14, 1905). The school and the library went up simultaneously; but were designed by architects Malcomson and Higginbottom of Detroit, and built by M. Campbell of Findlay, Ohio. The interior finishing work was done by Lewis Company of Bay City, which later began building kit homes. The school was primarily brick while the library was stone. The school . faced State, while the library faced Huron with a frontage of 80 feet. (Ann Arbor Argus Democrat, Mar. 17, 1905)
At the time it was built, Ann Arbor's Carnegie Library was believed to be the only in the country attached to another building. Despite its unusual connection to the high school, the library looked much like other Carnegie libraries: Large pillars on the front, big windows, high ceilings, and a massive center staircase. The Ann Arbor Daily Argus (Mar. 29, 1907) described
the new library "through fire-proof doors, the library is reached from the school and the gift of Andrew Carnegie is a handsome place, and will hold 20,000 volumes. The entrance from Huron Street to the library is finished as handsomely as the main entrance to the school.
The board of education, in a effort to let bygones be bygones, now that a new library was actually in place, formally thanked the Ladies Library Association in a resolution Nov. 4, 1907 (board minutes) which started "Whereas, the members of the Ladies Library Association initiate9 the movement which has resulted in a beautiful and commodious library building" and ended with a renewed invitation to join forces under the Ladies Library Association's original terms. The ladies considered the question, but put off acting for a year. (aadt, Feb. 12, 1908) The same year a telephone was installed in the library. (school board minutes, Aug. 13, 1907)
When the Ladies Library Association reconsidered the matter a year later, they did not formally merge. In 1916, on their fiftieth anniversary, they gave their books to the public library and deeded their land to the board of education. (Hannum says they gave their books earlier, in 1907, but Association histories, written in later years, say they were given in 1916.)
Achievements of Nellie Loving
Through all the changes in location, Nellie Loving kept encouraging people of all ages and walks of life to read books and developing strategies to make book borrowing easier. In her 1896 annual report to the school board, she talked of the need for children's services. "The most pressing nee, in our opinion, is a list of books for the use and assistance of the children. The librarian expects to begin this work immediately, and asks that it be printed when the manuscript is ready." Fifteen years later she claimed success, reporting in 1910 newspaper (dt Feb. 18, 1910) "The room below the Carnegie library has been fitted up with tables and chairs for the little ones: Miss Fannie Hall has been employed as a story teller to amuse the young people every Wednesday afternoon." Hall had been hired in 1909 at a salary of $ 1.00 per week.
In 1910 Loving told the high school debating society that her next project was to set up a program to teach students how to use the library; "to endeavoring to have a class installed in the high school that systematic instruction may be given in how to use a library to the best advantage. This scheme has been tried in Central High school in Detroit and other schools in the state and it is thought that the plan would be an admirable one to start here." (Ann Arbor Daily Times News, Feb. 18, 1910)
Under Loving's direction, two branch library were set up: one in Donovan School (since torn down for Turner, was for years advertising agency) and another in downtown Ann Arbor. The Donovan branch's aim was to serve people in the northside of town who might find the Carnegie library inconvenient and was also targeted to the students at that school, which was at that time was considered the one with the most students needing in remedial help.
The downtown branch, 117 E. Washington, was set up in 1911 to be convenient for people who worked downtown to stop by on their lunch hours or so that shoppers could combine library visits with shopping expeditions. The library asked the city to help, but when they refused the library proceeded alone, paying paid $45 a month to rent a reading room in Steeb's store, plus $10 to Mrs. Steeb to be "janioress." Even with the library paying there was some dissension on the common council as reported in the paper: "President Walz who said that a number of business men had told him that they couldn't see the need for one. The purpose is to make it a good, live library, said Mr. Carr. "It will be a place where ladies can stop on shopping tours. All the magazine will be there and I think it will be a good thing. There are men who look at taxes as the biggest thing on earth. I don't think it will do any harm to try it for a year anyway." (dtn, Aug. 9, 1911 and Aug. 14, 1911)
They transferred 2,000 books from the Carnegie Library, a set of furniture about $20, lighting is nine tungsten lamps, a telephone was being ordered. Miss Gertrude Walter was hired as a library assistant to work in the new branch for nine months.
In 1922 Nellie Loving retired and was given the title "Librarian Emeritus." She continued working part time at a salary of $700 for a few years. By the 1930s, Miss Lovings mother and sister had died. Living alone she faded into almost total obscurity. She died on July 7, 1944, her death unnoticed by the local community; the only reference in the newspaper was under the legal notices referring to the probating of the will. When she died, she was a patient in the Arnold Home in Detroit. She had been a patient at the University Hospital from Jan. 12 to Mar. 3, 1944 before being transferred to the Arnold Home.
Samuel McAllister, a young man who had worked at the university library, served as director until 1928, when he went on to a distinguished career as a university librarian. By this time the library had close to 30,000 volumes and a staff of seven full-time and three part-time and substitute workers (1922 annual report). (An excellent description of McAllister's personality and the way the library operated at this time is in the library archives in a informal memoir by Louis Doll who worked at the library then. Also a resume and some newspaper articles provided by his daughter, Mary Culver.)
Frances Hannum took over in 1928, staying until her retirement in 1951. A worthy successor to McAllister and to Loving, she worked hard to get books out to everyone. Shortly after her arrival she started trying to solve the problems created by having both the high school and the public share the library. In the 1930 report to the school board she wrote "It should be kept in mind that the arrangement will be only temporary and that eventually the present building should be turned over entirely for high school purposes." In 1932 the opposite happened, the school library separated, moving to the third floor of the high school building. Said Hannum in that year's report "The high school department was moved upstairs in C-17 where more efficient and more satisfactory service could be given both faculty and students and also to give more space for the adult work in the main library which was growing rapidly."
But students continued to use the public library after school. Gene Wilson, a retired director of the public library, remembered that when he began working there in 1951, the busiest time of day was right after school, when the students would flock over to do their homework.
Hannum also crusaded for the establishment of a county-wide library system, wanting the advantages of a library to be available to Washtenaw's rural and small town populations.
Homer Chance, who had worked as assistant librarian for five years, replaced Hannum when she retired in 1951. Under his tenure, the library finally moved to entirely separate quarters. The need for a new library was obvious from Hannum's day. By the time Wilson came to the library, the once spacious building was, in his word, "Obscured by shelving on top of shelving. It was a rabbit warren of a building, typical of libraries at the end of their life, with six times as many books as planned for, with stacks all over."
In the early 1940's citizens started seriously talking about the need, deciding that should be one of their first post war priorities. In 1945, U-M library professor Cecil McHall, trying to get the school board to attack the problem of a new library said "the snows have departed, the birds have returned, and amid their leafy bowers, have doubtless hatched by this time at least one crop of birdlings. But, to our knowledge, no report has been hatched by our committee nor has the Executive Committee of the Council been invited to assist at the accouchement." (letter in archives)
In spite of citizen concerns like McHale's, it wasn't until 1953, when the school board decided to move the high school, that the issue of a new library was seriously addressed. In 1953, the school board sold the high school and library building to the University of Michigan for $ 1.4 million. They traded Wines Field, which they had used as an athletic field (now Elbel field and used for band practice), for the land at the corner of Stadium and Main which the University owned. Since the Stadium land plot was larger, the school board also paid some money.
The question then remained of where to put the library. Although a few still wanted it connected to the high school, most conceded that location was too far out to make sense. When the school board sold the Carnegie library and high school, they used part of the money to but the Beal property, an old Italianate mansion on the corner of Fifth and William, but had not decided to definitely build there. Some suggested an alternative site on the corner of Main and Packard where a public parking lot (now Baker commons). A site on Miller, near West Park, was also discussed. There was much public debate and discussion on which was the better site. Most people inclined toward the Beal property as the most central, but when the school board received an offer for the land, they considered choosing the Miller site.
The debate heated up. Even Frances Hannum, who had died the year before, spoke from her grave. In a letter to the editor (Jan. 18, 1956), Hannum's good friend and long-term roommate, Clara Youngs, wrote "From the time Miss Hannum came to Ann Arbor in 1928 her great concern was for more adequate facilities for serving the people of Ann Arbor . ...During all the years, she was borne up by dreams and plans for a new library building.... I know that Miss Hannum listed central location as the first and most important on her list of specifications for a library that would best serve the whole community."
The group of citizens working on this issue decide to form an organized group which they called "The Friends of the Library." Their first act was to hire a consultant, Dr. John Hyde of U-M's college of architecture and design, to recommend what type of library would be most appropriate and to set the criteria for location.
When the consultant, said a central location was preferable and specified "the Beal lot is infinitely superior to the location of the West Park Site," public opinion forced the issue. A meeting, attended by 350 people, was held, after which the school board agreed to locate the library on the Beal property (Ann Arbor News, Jan. 17, 1956 and Feb. 22, 1956). The Friends also suggested that the school board set up a library advisory committee so that citizens could have more input in the future. The school board agreed and it was set up with eight members: four appointed by the school board and four from the Friends. (The committee expanded to 12, six appointed by each.)
Even before the site was determined, the school board had hired Aldon Dow, a well-respected Midland architect who had recently designed several other libraries, to draw up plans. He was not new to Ann Arbor, having designed the home of his sister and brother-in-law, Margaret and Harry Towsley at the beginning of Dow's career in the 1930's. (He left further imprint on Ann Arbor by designing the city hall and the University Microfilms building).
While the library site was being debated and then being built, the library stayed in Carnegie building, although the high school had moved. The Friends organized the first of their book sales, in 1954, in the remains of the Beal garden, selling books, records, picture frames, baked goods, and flowers. As an added attraction, they displayed the old electric car that many older residents remembered Mrs. Ella Beal driving around town. It had for many years been stored on blocks in the carriage house.
The next year they had a sale in home of recently deceased Bertha Muehlig. It was a lovely Greek Revival on Main Street, now the location of Stein and Goetz. They had to get fire department permission and also clean. Muehlig had run the Muehlig's store for many years and was a benefactor to town including helping with Donovan school. Proceeds of that sale went to the Muehlig fund and it helped furnish what became the Muehlig Room in the 1957 library and still is so named.
After the new library was built, the Friends stayed active, making innumerable contributions to library services and amenities such as the return box, books to hospitals and senior housing, canvas book totes, literacy programs, staff workshops, publications, book marks, listing new books in the Ann Arbor News, and sponsoring the Booked for Lunch programs. The spring book fair was a great success for many years. It has now evolved into the permanent book shop, open almost every week in the school year.
In 1965, the first of the modern branch libraries was open near Packard and Platt Road on the east side of town, and named for Nellie Loving.
Six years later, even with a branch, the Main library had again outgrown its quarters. A 43,000 square foot addition was approved in 1971 and finished in 1974. It added about 19,000 square feet on each floor, doubling the size of the building designed by Donald VanCurler.
In 1973, the voters approved establishing a separate millage for library operations. Although the library is still under the jurisdiction of the Board of Education, having an assured basis of funding separate from the ups and downs of school financing, has been a real boon to future planning and stability.
In 1977, Homer Chance retired and the then reference librarian, Gene Wilson, took over. The same year a second branch was added, the West Branch, and in 1981, the Northeast Branch. Gene Wilson retired in 1983. Since that time, the director has been Ramon Hernandez, under whose direction the latest addition was built in 1991. The Hernandez years have also been notable for the increased computerization of the library.