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The Library of Michigan: 175 Years of Service

In 2003, the Library of Michigan celebrated 175 years as Michigan's official state library agency. Since 1828, before Michigan even became a state, the Library of Michigan has served the government and people of Michigan much as the Library of Congress works at the federal level. In those early days, the Library collected, compiled and stored Michigan's territorial laws and other important documents that formed the basis for Michigan state government. Now housed in the Michigan Library and Historical Center in Lansing, the Library has expanded to offer reference services to the public and consultation to Michigan libraries.

The Library of Michigan promotes, advocates and consistently works to achieve the highest level of library service to the State of Michigan, its government, its libraries and its residents. By meeting the information needs of the Legislature, state government and Michigan residents, and by contributing to the advancement of library service throughout the state, the Library of Michigan continues to be an invaluable part of Michigan's landscape.

Key Moments in Library of Michigan History:

  • 1828 - A territorial library, containing laws and government documents for use by the territorial council, is created, and a librarian is appointed.
  • 1837 - One month after Michigan becomes a state, the former territorial council library becomes the State Library, and Governor Stevens T. Mason appoints Oren Marsh as Michigan's first state librarian.
  • 1869 - Harriet Augusta Edgerton Tenney, wife of former State Librarian Jesse Eugene Tenney, is appointed state librarian. She is one of the few women in the country to achieve such a position.
  • 1879 - The library moves to the new state Capitol building.
  • 1880 - The State Library opens to the public for the first time.
  • 1893 - Mary Clair Wilson Spencer is appointed state librarian. The first native-born Michiganian to serve in the position, Spencer will be reappointed nine times.
  • 1895 - The very popular traveling libraries program is implemented, effectively providing statewide library service to all Michigan residents.
  • 1899 - The State Board of Library Commissioners is created to promote the establishment of new libraries and to standardize existing libraries around the state.
  • 1928 - The State Library celebrates its 100th anniversary.
  • 1941 - Loleta I. Dawson Fyan becomes the first academically trained professional librarian to head the State Library.
  • 1951 - A fire in the State Office Building, where the State Library is housed, destroys 20,000 books and damages 30,000 more.
  • 1956 - Congress passes the Library Services Act, which would eventually become the Library Services and Technology Act, to promote library development. The Library of Michigan is designated to administer this program for the state of Michigan.
  • 1959 - The State Library for the Blind in Saginaw is transferred to the State Board for Libraries.
  • 1965 - The State Library, now housing 1.3 million titles, becomes a division with the Bureau of Library Services at the Michigan Department of Education.
  • 1975 - The library first uses a computerized database, OCLC.
  • 1983 - Public Act 540 creates the Library of Michigan, transferring control of the library from the Department of Education to the Legislative Council. The law patterns the new Library of Michigan after the Library of Congress.
  • 1985 - The Library of Michigan Foundation, which secures funds to support the library's priority programs and projects, is established.
  • 1988 - The Michigan Library and Historical Center opens, tripling the Library of Michigan's space and merging its full collection of books in one place for the first time since the 1951 fire.
  • 1993-1996 - The Library of Michigan expands its services with new technology, introducing Internet access, an online catalog (ANSWER) and a new Web page.
  • 1998 - The library launches AccessMichigan, the precursor of the Michigan eLibrary, offering free access to online databases for Michigan libraries and their patrons.
  • 2000 - Christie Pearson Brandau becomes Michigan's 39th state librarian.
  • 2001 - The Library of Michigan becomes part of the new Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries.
  • 2002 - The Library unveils the new Michigan eLibrary, accessible to Michigan residents 24 hours a day from any Internet connection.
  • 2003 - The Martha W. Griffiths Michigan Rare Book Room is constructed to house and preserve the Library of Michigan's rare and valuable materials and to provide patrons access to these special items.