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Sheriff’s Office in the Court House
Early History of Bay County Public Library by Isabele A. Ballou (about 1946)
  • Contributed by Tom Birch who transcribed the document into digital format. (July 2003)

  • Old County Building - Madison & Center aves.

    A place in which to do business was urgently needed but difficult to find. The Board of Supervisors of Bay County unexpectedly came to the rescue by offering the Association free of charge an unused room adjacent to the Sheriff’s office in the Court house. It was accepted gratefully. Then Mr. Henry A. Braddock, the sheriff, was persuaded to act as custodian for a year. The executive committee had tables and book cases made, and when the books arrived, and the new chairs were bought, there was a place where people could gather and examine the books before they were taken out. The Library, as the room was called, was popular at once and the books circulated briskly. To be sure the Executive committee had to buy a stove and slabs to burn in it, however, this led to a wood pile in the hallway and there was objection. The supervisors and the sheriff again showed themselves accommodating by allowing the wood to be stored in the closet under the stairs.

    At the time of the preliminary organization, Thomas Cranage, Jr., was chosen chairman, but after the organization was complete and the first formal meeting was held, Byron E. Warren was elected president and members of three committees provided in the by-laws were appointed. There was an executive committee and a book committee. Mr. Cooke was chairman of both and it was difficult to keep the work of these committees separate, so after a while they were merged. The finance committee was important and active and in the six years of life of the Bay City Library Association, there is no record that it had to borrow money. There was also, a short lived lecture committee. This committee did a great deal of correspondence with celebrities who might possibly have been persuaded to come to Bay City, but the few events which they were able to feature at the Opera house were financial failures, and the young men of the committee, after making good the financial shortages, concluded that the people of Bay City did not appreciate their efforts, and exerted themselves no more. There was an organization of musicians in Bay City, for the town was musical then as now, and they gave a benefit for the Library Association. All the talent was local and it was a huge success. They actually handed over to the discouraged committee the sum of $100.00.

    But the Association as a whole had no reason to feel discouraged. At the end of the first year, January 1870, Mr. Warren faithfully carrying out the by-laws, rendered the first annual report of the Association. He included the following comparison of the Library with similar ventures in other towns in Michigan:

      Name of LibraryPlaceDateFounding
      No. of
      Young Men’sDetroit18331,1249,973
      Young Men’sSaginaw18653401,084
      Young Men’sFlint1868801,100
      CityGrand Rapids18704501,000
      Young Men’sJackson1863264875
      Young Men’sKalamazoo18591,900
      Young Men’sLansing186690200

    Therefore, Mr. Warren concluded that the Bay City Library Association with its 2000 volumes and 250 members had reason to feel satisfied with its first year of work.

    The Association is interesting as an experiment in Library administration or Library Science as it is called today. Its governing body was totally ignorant of library technique to start with but learned a good many necessary things in these first years. The by-laws of the association provided the rules for the governing of the Library. One of the by-laws provided for the different classes of membership as mentioned before. This made for complications, a privileged class and ill feeling. Naturally some annual members were slow in paying their dues; the perpetual and life members, of whom no annual dues were expected, felt and acted as if they were members of a superior class. They could always vote and always had the privilege of withdrawing books, while the annual members frequently were unable to take out books, or to vote, because of their unpaid dues. The perpetual and life members therefore always had the first choice of books and frequently kept them out much longer than they should have kept them. The annual members complained that the reason for the title “perpetual member” was that these members perpetually had the books out.

    It seemed interesting to the founders to know what kind of people borrowed the books, so the by-laws directed the librarian to record to how many gentlemen books were issued, to how many laborers, and to how many female persons. The last classification was later changed to “Ladies”. The circulation records were kept in a large book in which each member had his own page, and on this page were entered the titles of the books he had withdrawn. Whey they were returned, the date of return was entered on the margin. If one is descended from the citizens of the sixties and seventies, it is possible to find out the reading tastes of one’s ancestors. The statistics in the reports continued for years to give the number of gentlemen who had borrowed books, the number of female persons, and the number of laborers. Classifying the circulation as it is now done, according to the type of book and ignoring the type of person who withdrew it is a modern innovation, which does not find a place in the records until 50 years later.

    The Librarian, who was naturally the person who was to see that the by-laws were carried out, found the feeling between the perpetual and annual members so difficult to control that her life was a burden. Among the early resolutions of the Association is one that provides the executive committee shall invite to be present at each formal meeting of the Association, some “kindly and tactful” citizen, whose function was to see to it “in the kindest way possible” that those who had not paid their annual dues should not vote. This did little to abate the ill feeling. The only thing that affected that was buying enough books so that annual members could have some choice.

    Page 1: Intro, The Beginning Page 3: Averill Building

    Bay City Library Association Menu
    1. Introduction, The Beginning
    2. Sheriff's Office
    3. Averill Building
    4. Bay City Public Library
    5. Eickemeyer Building
    6. Woods Opera House
    7. City Hall
    8. The Permanent Building
    9. Extension of Library Services
    {View Map/Directory}
    Names Referenced
    Braddock, Henry A.
    Cranage, Thomas Jr.
    Warren, Byron E.
    Subjects Referenced
    Coldwater, MI
    Flint, MI
    Detroit, MI
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Lansing, MI
    Marshall, MI
    Saginaw, MI
    Opera house

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