The Detroit Public Library is the largest library system in Michigan. Michigan's first constitution written in 1835 explicitly states "the legislature shall provide for libraries," a clear indication the state leaders saw the importance of good libraries to Michigan's future. A Michigan Supreme Court decision to implement penal fines to support library funding was passed in 1861.
The Detroit Public Library opened for service on March 25, 1865 in one room of the old Capitol High School located at State and Griswold streets with a collection of 5,000 books. From 1865 to 1880, a committee of the Detroit Board of Education governed the library. In 1871, the Michigan Legislature approved a six-member Detroit Library Commission, to be appointed by the Board of Education for six-year terms, with the president of the Board to serve as a seventh, ex-officio voting member.
In 1881, the Detroit Library Commission became the new governing body for the library, and continues this function to the present. In 1877, a new Detroit Public Library opened in Centre Park, on the site of the present Skillman Branch, with large shelving galleries to hold the library's growing collection of 34,000 books. As the collection grew to 70,000 books, more galleries were added, reaching to the top of the building by 1886. Centre Park served as Detroit's Main library until 1921.
By 1900, Detroit's population reached 285,000 and as the city was expanding in size, branch libraries were needed. In April 1900, the library's branch number 1 opened in Room 18 of Central High School (now Old Main at Wayne State University). Also in 1900, a branch opened in Harris School on Detroit's east side and in the new Western High School. On March 29, 1921, a magnificent new main library opened on Woodward Avenue in the cultural center of the city.
Designed by architect Cass Gilbert, and partially funded by a gift from Andrew Carnegie, this stately Italian Renaissance style library of glistening white marble was called the most beautiful building in Detroit. In the 1950s, Detroit's population reached almost 2 million and the library's book collection was over 2.5 million volumes, requiring a major building expansion. On June 23, 1963 the Cass Avenue wings were opened to the public, adding 240,000 square feet to Main, doubling its size.
Computerization in the library's public service areas began in 1989 at the Chandler Park Branch and continues today, throughout the entire system. Technology plays an important role in many services offered at DPL, where every day hundreds of customers use computers and access the Internet. Our vast collection of over 4.1 million items offers our customers a wide variety of information choices at 23 full service branches across the city and Main library.
Parnassus on Main Street: a history of the Detroit Public Library by Arthur B. Woodford provides more information.
The Detroit Public Library enhances the quality of life for the diverse and dynamic community in the City of Detroit. The library enlightens and empowers its citizens to meet their lifelong learning needs through open and equitable access to information, technology, and cultural/educational programs. The Detroit Public Library system will provide easy access to local and global information that will assist all users in the development of a lifetime of enrichment and growth.
As the Library moves into the future, it will hold on to the best of its services while meeting changing community needs.The community will recognize the library as a vital force for expanding the mind, promoting literacy, embracing diversity, creating opportunities for individual and community development, and building a thriving city.
- Detroit Public Library Strategic Directions, 2008-2013
- Detroit Public Library Proposed Budget, Fiscal Year 2011-2012
Detroit Library Commission
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|Wednesday||12 p.m. - 8 p.m.|
|Thursday||10 a.m. - 6 p.m.|
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|Saturday||10 a.m. - 6 p.m.|
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