Skip to main content

Historic Role of the Library of Michigan

Historic Role of the Library of Michigan Hero Image
Library Of Michigan

Historic Role of the Library of Michigan

Since 1828, during Michigan's territorial days, the Library of Michigan has served state government and the people of Michigan much as the Library of Congress works at the federal level. The Library's early task was to collect, compile and store Michigan territorial laws and other important documents that formed the basis for Michigan government today. The library's responsibility has expanded to include a fine collection of Michigan state government publications as well as important journals, books and other materials.

Library of Michigan Collection Highlights

Library of Michigan Past and Present

In 2003, the Library of Michigan marked its 175th anniversary.

The Library of Michigan: 175 Years of Service

Born in 1828, the Library of Michigan celebrates 175 years of vision and dedicated service to the people of Michigan, from its frontier beginnings to the innovations of the 21st Century. From a territorial library system whose patrons were dependent on a horse-drawn wagon to a state library system within reach through cyberspace, this story starts with a collection of 131 books and culminates with the present day collection of over 5 million items.

The Library of Michigan: Territorial Council Era, 1828 - 1837

The State Library was born during Michigan's territorial era and started coming of age during the first two decades of statehood. Except for a few scattered cities, Michigan was still a rugged frontier connected by wagon trails, plank roads and stagecoach routes.

Library of Michigan: Statehood to the Civil War

On January 27, 1859, Jesse Eugene Tenney became Michigan's state librarian. Eighteen months later, Michigan and the rest of the nation were plunged into the Civil War.

Library of Michigan: The Civil War Era

Harriet Tenney, when she accepted an appointment as Michigan's state librarian in 1869, became the first woman to hold this position.

Library of Michigan, 1869 - 1893: Approaching the Twentieth Century

Library service to the blind began on March 3, 1931, as President Herbert Hoover signed into law the Pratt-Smoot Act, which called for $100,000 to be administered by the Library of Congress to provide blind adults with books.

History of the Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Michigan's State Library has experienced a colorful history, with many moves and reorganizations. In 1828, an act was passed to create an official Territorial Council Library, housed with other government offices in the Territorial Courthouse on Griswold Street in Detroit, where they remained until 1847.

The Many Homes of the Library of Michigan

The Civil War was a generation away and the progressive movement was taking hold in America. Progressive reformers preached that government was not only government by the people, but for the people. This progressive mantra was becoming a political force and part of the national consciousness. This was the mood and spirit of Michigan as Mary C. Spencer assumed the position of state librarian in 1893.

Mary Spencer: The State Library's Progressive Visionary, 1893-1923

Loleta Dawson Fyan is likely Michigan's most famous state librarian and carries the distinction of being the first professionally trained librarian appointed to the position.

Changing the Face of the State Library and Libraries Statewide: Loleta Dawson Fyan, 1941-1961

Listing of important dates in the history of Michigan Libraries.

Significant Dates in Michigan Library History

The State Law Library's collection dates from 1828, when the Territorial Council Library began purchasing legal materials for the use of the territorial governor and legislators. Located in Detroit, the library owned 131 titles covering state session laws, state reports and other legal documents.

The Evolution of the State Law Library, 1828-2003

When most of us think of the years between 1920 and 1940, we think of flappers, speakeasies and perhaps the rise of Hitler in Germany. Fast and dangerous times!

The State Library Soars Through the '20's to Land Abruptly in the 30's

Approximately 200 guests, including Lt. Gov. John D. Cherry and other dignitaries, helped commemorate the occasion - more than 10 years in the making - at the inaugural celebration hosted by the Library of Michigan Foundation.

Celebrating the completion and official opening of the new Martha W. Griffiths Michigan Rare Book Room!