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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)

  • City Hall - Washington Ave. - 1909

    Time passed quickly. The year 1897, the termination of the lease, came. Before the library administration realized it, it was time to move again. But this time they knew where they were going – to the new City Hall. It always had been understood that when the municipal building was built, there would be room in it for the Board of Education and the Board of Trustees of the Library Board as well as for the City Commission and other city offices. For over twenty-five years it did accommodate them all. The Library was the first to leave and the Board of Education followed within a few years. But the Library was crowded almost from its entrance into the building. However carefully a library is planned, twenty-five years seems to be the limit of time before it outgrows its quarters. In the City Hall, the Library had had special consideration from the Architect. The whole southwest corner of the building had been planned to take care of its interests.

    The City Hall had been in the process of building about ten years. Plans for it were started in 1887, when the Library was moving into the Eickemeyer Building. The Trustees as representatives of the Library interest had been consulted about their needs, and had really been treated with consideration. That the Library was a tenant, not a part of the city family, but an important tenant, had been recognized by the carving over the Tenth Street door that led to the library rooms, “Public Library”. No mere department had been thus singled out. The whole southwest quarter of the main floor was assigned as the library area. In 1887, the Trustees believed they had asked for and had obtained sufficient room for the foreseeable future. But they reckoned without knowing what the ten peaceful and prosperous years in the Eickemeyer building would bring to the library in the way of expanded book stock, so that when the library was moved in 1897 to the City Building, it was with some difficulty contained in its designated quarters. The rooms assigned to it were those now occupied by the City Assessor. When the library had them, they consisted of a large reading room, and another oddly shaped stack room consisting of a center room and three alcoves branching out from it, making the southwest quarter of the building. Between the reading room and the stack room was a replica of the counter-like desk that had proved effective in the Eickemeyer Building. One end of the reading room had been cut off to make a small narrow room for trustees meetings and a librarian’s office had been cut off the stack room. The librarian’s room had a low ceiling and above it, reached by a narrow staircase, was a room for shelving bound newspapers. Book cases intended for Reference books lined the walls of the reading room and the stack room walls were also lined with book cases.

    Trial proved that the Library simply could not be contained within the designated limits. The children could not be accommodated in one of the alcoves, as had been the original plan. They swarmed all over the place. The City Commission came to the rescue by allotting to the Library the second story room above the reading room for a children’s room. This the Library had to provide with book cases. But it was ample accommodation for the children’s library, which grew from a few picture books that the old library association had provided for the children to about one fourth of the whole book collection in the twenty-five years the Library was a tenant in the City Hall.

    The children’s room grew to be modern and very popular. The long climb up the main staircase to the second story was, coming and going, an adventure to the children. They tarried on the stairs to show the books they were returning to each other, they sat down on the stairs on their way home to begin the new stories, they made friends with the police, they went into offices where they had no business to go and even the city hall janitors liked them. When the children’s librarian found it difficult to tell stories in their big but crowded library room, the City Commission permitted the use of the gallery of the Commission Chamber for that purpose. The children liked that and the audience at the Saturday story hour doubled.

    For the adult library, the process of adjusting the book collection to the size of quarters prepared for them was difficult. Book cases had to be placed in the Trustee’s room and one could scarcely move around the long table. At this time, the Bay City Art Club was active and important, the women belonging to it doing any amount of research work for their papers. In the interest of good service, it became necessary to shelve the whole collection of books on art in the Trustee’s Room, which was thereafter known as the Art Room. The ladies enjoyed their privacy there and did good work for the club, but the Trustees complained a little.

    In 1876 the Bay City Public Library, through the interest of our congressman, Mr. T.A.E. Weadock, became a United States Depository Library (which means a library so honored receives one copy of everything published by the federal government). The wealth of material, the prodigious bulk of it, cannot be realized by anyone who has not tried to handle it. It came to us free of charge, but we had no place to put it where it could be conveniently classified and shelved. That being the case the public documents were worse than useless to the library. They kept accumulating, choking the library, preventing the correct shelving of the other books and reducing the librarian to despair. Finally, the City Commission allotted to the library for the storage of these documents, the large bare unheated room above the children’s room. The Library had rough shelves put in to accommodate the masses of materials. The space was filled within a half dozen years, and then the Library appropriated a room still rougher, entirely unfinished, in the tower. This was filled within three more years. After that the mail bags in which the documents had been packed in Washington were dragged up to the tower by the City Hall janitor, but were not unpacked. The Librarian did the only thing that could have been done in the circumstances. She read the lists of new documents that the government published at intervals, saw which were the outstanding documents, and catalogued those, few in number. This was the small measure of satisfaction the Library received from being a depository library.

    Page 6: Woods Opera House Page 8: The Permanent 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
    Weadock, T.A.E. (Rep.)
    Subjects Referenced
    Art room
    Bay City Art Club
    Board of Education
    Children's room
    City Commission
    Commission Chamber
    Eickemeyer Building
    Library Board
    Trustee's room
    U.S. Depository Library

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