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Mission & History

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As a community resource, the Ypsilanti District Library’s mission is to enrich life, stimulate intellectual curiosity, foster literacy, and encourage an informed citizenry.

Core Values
  • Public Trust: We commit to being fiscally responsible with public resources, to protecting patron confidentiality, and to providing safe, well-maintained and accessible facilities.
  • Equal Access: We believe in equal access to all YDL resources.
  • Diversity: We are committed to reflecting the diversity of our community through our collections, services and staff.
  • Excellent Service: We commit to excellent service by providing accurate and reliable information in a respectful interaction between well-trained, friendly and efficient staff and all members of our community.
  • Outreach and Partnership: We will actively develop partnerships and joint activities with community groups to further the YDL mission.
  • Idea Gathering Place: As an idea-gathering place, the library promotes the democratic ideals of intellectual freedom by providing for a free exchange of information and ideas from a wide variety of viewpoints.

 

History of the library and its role in our community

The library was started in 1868 by six women with 175 books who charged $1 for a library card. They housed the library on the second floor of the Arcade Building on North Huron. In 1886, the Arcade Building became inadequate for the purpose, and the library moved to the second floor on the Union Block on Michigan Avenue. It soon became a public institution open to all at no cost, and “the Ladies Library” then moved into the historic home on Huron Street donated by the Starkweather family in 1890. In the fall of 1948 the Ladies’ Library changed its name to “Public Library.”

In 1964, the library expanded and moved into a former Carnegie post office building in the heart of the Ypsilanti’s historic downtown. As the district expanded to add two neighboring townships, YDL renovated the downtown building and added a public plaza, built a state-of-the-art facility that is the pride of the town, and added a small branch among the public housing in the most underserved area of our community.

Today, YDL operates three buildings and serves three municipalities. With more than 400,000 visitors each year, YDL remains a pillar of our community and committed to the mission and vision set forth by our board.

The Ypsilanti District Library has served our community for over 150 years!

Timeline

  • 1868 Women were the driving force behind the library’s creation in Ypsilanti. Mrs. Watling, Mrs. Follett, and librarian Miss Sarah Pardee were among those who voted to start a library. They worked to recruit subscribers (at a cost of $1 per year), find a place to house the library, and acquire books. The first library opened in a room in the Arcade Block on Huron Street on May 23, 1868.
  • 1869 The Ladies Library Association of Ypsilanti was incorporated in November, with the women focused on raising money for the new library. Fundraising activities included whist parties, musicals, and strawberry festivals. They raised $798 in their first year, most of which was used to buy books for the growing collection.
  • 1886 The library outgrew its space and moved to the Union Block on Congress Street (now called Michigan Avenue).
  • 1890 Mrs. John Starkweather donated her home at 130 N. Huron Street to the Association. This led the group to decide to not pursue getting a Carnegie Library building.
  • 1899 The use of the books in the library was made free to the citizens by an act of Common Council. The city assumed the expenses of running the library, which at the time was $250 per year.
  • 1904 The library’s annual budget was raised to $1,600 so the library could be open six days a week.
  • 1908 The north room downstairs was opened as a reading room. One goal was to relieve the congestion upstairs, the other was to “bring the young people in off the street.”
  • 1914 The Library Committee of the Common Council considered purchasing the lot north of the library, and the space was eventually purchased by the Board. The space was used by the Ypsilanti Players for a theatre.
  • 1919 A fire damaged the basement and north portion of the first story. The annual circulation was 23,798 that year with a daily circulation rate of about 80 books. The number of volumes totaled 11,330.
  • 1948 Ladies Library became the Public Library in preparation for the City of Ypsilanti to take over operation of the library.
  • 1949 In March, “the building, the grounds on which it stands and the entire contents” were turned over to the City as a gift from the Library Association.
  • 1958 The Friends of the Library were formed.
  • 1963 The historic Carnegie post office at 229 W. Michigan Avenue was renovated at a cost of $38,813 and re-opened in November. The Junior Chamber of Commerce raised $12,000 for shelving, furniture, and equipment.
  • 1966 The Ypsilanti Historical Society opened its museum space in the basement of the Michigan Avenue library.
  • 1968 Ypsilanti Township gained access to the library through an arrangement where the township paid an annual subscription fee of $5 for each card holder. Nearly 250 people received cards.
  • 1969 First bookmobile purchased.
  • 1981 The bookmobile was replaced.
  • 1983 The library was closed from March 25 – June 1 due to a lack of funds. On April 4, the voters of Ypsilanti city and township approved a request to create a district library independent of both municipalities.
  • 1985 The former township hall on Ecorse Road was leased to the library board, which became the Peters branch of the library.
  • 1990 A millage of .65 was approved for both city and township residents, and the first board members were elected to the Ypsilanti District Library Board of Trustees.
  • 1991 A demonstration library opened August 1 in the former Superior Township Hall, located at Prospect and Cherry Hill Roads with 4,000 items to check out.
  • 1991 Eastern Michigan University students designed a promotional campaign including a new logo as part of a marketing grant received by the library.
  • 1992 The 1,000 sq.ft. former bank at the corner of Ellsworth and Hewitt was opened as the Roundtree library branch, and the Peters Branch expanded to include all of the former township hall on Ecorse Road. A fund drive to support automation raised $25,000.
  • 1993 A charter millage of .85 was approved by voters.
  • 1995 Strategic plan was completed outlining the library’s goals, which included building a new, larger facility.
  • 1998 Public internet access and computer stations were added to all library locations with the support of a grant from the Library Services and Construction Act. On May 5, voters approved an increase in operating millage and a bond issue of $17.6 million dollars to build a new library, renovate the downtown facility, and purchase a bookmobile.
  • 1999 A new 35-foot bookmobile, affectionately known as Big Blue, went into service with over 5,300 titles on board.
  • 2000 A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the site of the new library at 5577 Whittaker Road. The site was donated to the library by Ypsilanti Township.
  • 2001 A new logo and marketing campaign was created by Harris Marketing. A major fundraising campaign was launched to enhance the new library facility which generated over $120,000 for art and furnishings at YDL-Whittaker. YDL-Michigan was closed at Thanksgiving and the renovation process began.
  • 2002 On January 27, the new library at YDL-Whittaker was opened with nearly 200,000 items in the collection, 60,000 sq.ft. of space, and 45 staff members. More than 3,000 people attended the Grand Opening.
  • 2003 On April 12, a newly renovated YDL-Michigan downtown library reopened to serve the community.
  • 2006 The redesigned Library Park Plaza and the new life-size bronze statue of Harriet Tubman were dedicated on May 21. Voters in Superior Township approved a proposal to join the library’s district.
  • 2007 YDL-Superior opened February 24 at 8975 MacArthur Blvd.
  • 2009 YDL launched a new website that acts as a “virtual branch,” allowing people to place holds and renew materials online. The Teen Zone was constructed in the basement at YDL-Michigan.
  • 2014 Little Free Libraries were installed at YDL-Whittaker, YDL-Michigan, and in two locations in Superior Township. These publicly accessible boxes allow people to give, take, and share books.
  • 2017 The library unveiled a new strategic plan and new brand and logo created by the Ivy Group. The YDL-Bookmobile got a new wrap.

Your Library… Then and Now

Year 1868 1967 1997 2001 2002 2006 2016
Registered Borrowers 160 10,229 22,833 27,363 40,253 54,628 45,118**
Collection – # of Volumes 175 42,167 130,000 157,182 238,533 274,297 254,671
Circulation numbers not available 79,200 236,758 199,219* 415,205 599,997 818,818
Staff 1

(Part-time)

11

(Full & Part-time)

32

(Full & Part-time)

45

(Full & Part-time)

50

(Full & Part-time)

58

(Full & Part-time)

60

(Full & Part-time)

Budget $260 $79,248 $1.3 million $2.685 million $2.7 million $3 million $3.7 million

*YDL-Michigan closed at Thanksgiving to facilitate the move.
**inactive cardholders removed to give a more accurate number of current library users.

Library Directors 1868 – Present

  • Miss Sarah Pardee 1868-1874
  • Miss F. Hodson 1874-1875
  • Mrs. Delia Compton 1875-1879
  • Mrs. Frances Holmes 1879-1887
  • Miss Lucy B. Loomis 1887-1926
  • Miss Lotta Coombs 1926-1943
  • Miss Clara E. Sweet (Acting Librarian) 1943-1947
  • Miss Marion M. Spear 1947-1962
  • Mrs. Elva Shaw (Acting Librarian) 1962-1963
  • Mr. Robert Kramp 1963-1964
  • Mrs. Helen Abbot (Acting Librarian) 1964
  • Mrs. Katharine Wohl Waldhorne 1964-1982
  • Mrs. Miriam Chapman (Acting Librarian) 1982-1983
  • Mr. James Igoe 1983-1993
  • Ms. Margo Angelini 1994-2000
  • Ms. Jill S. Morey 2000-2015
  • Mrs. Lisa Hoenig 2015-present