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Eunice Watling

March is Women’s History Month, and what better way to celebrate than to recognize the women who created what is now the Ypsilanti District Library! 

In a time when Women’s Suffrage and Women’s Rights were on the rise, the opening of what is now YDL was a pivotal historical moment in our community. 

In the Beginning

After Eunice Watling hatched the idea, the Ladies’ Library Association of Ypsilanti opened the first public library in the city in 1868. Six women started the library, among them Watling, Mrs. Follett, and librarian Ms. Sarah Pardee. The library sat in a room in the Arcade Block on Huron Street. It was founded and operated by a group of women, inspiring a new wave of female entrepreneurship. 

It was called The Ladies’ Library until it was taken over by the city, becoming then the Ypsilanti Public Library. It became the Ypsilanti District Library in 1983.

Initially, the Library financed operations and materials through $1 annual subscriptions. At the time, the only other libraries available were in academic institutions like the Michigan State Normal School (EMU), and patrons were mainly people of a higher economic class and education level. That changed as the library grew.

Watling and her team were short of money and books for the library, and in the beginning the women held numerous fundraisers so they could demonstrate the need for an educational resource in Ypsilanti. Through public awareness and funding, the women grew support for the Ypsilanti Library in Washtenaw County. In 1904, the Common Council of Ypsilanti decided to form a committee for its oversight and raised the library’s annual appropriation to $1,600 (equivalent to about $45,000 now).

The money raised boosted operations. By the end of the twentieth century, the Ypsilanti District Library:

  • Had expanded in size and opened more locations
  • Housed more materials for checkout
  • Remained FREE and OPEN to all members of the community

You can read more about the history of YDL here.

libraryPresent Day

The original spot where the library was formed is now a local landmark. The building is privately owned and in a restoration period for future offices to be opened to the public.

The library has been in existence for more than 150 years, and has 3 locations. Our renovated Superior Library is expected to open in 2022.

Learn more about the original library building here.