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Merging of Bay City’s Libraries
  • Source: Central Library archives, “History of the Bay City Public Library” document, subtitle, “Account from the Board of Trustees’ Minutes to consolidate the management of the Bay City Public Library and the Sage Library.”
  • When Bay City and West Bay City merged in 1905, each had their own library system, and they remained separate operating entities until 1919. An offer from the Carnegie Corporation played an important role leading to the merger of the library systems. At that time the only library building was the Sage Library, the east side had operated founding in 1869, in temporary quarters. The Carnegie proposition provided a financial means to build an east side library building. In order to take advantage of this gift, the Carnegie proposal required that city have but one operating system for the libraries.


    During the years, 1907-1918 the Bay City Public Library continued to grow beyond its quarters in the City Hall, and in 1908 and again in 1916 the Board of Trustees investigated the possibilities of obtaining a Carnegie grant with which to build a separate library building.

    In 1918 the Trustees began their work toward obtaining the Carnegie grant.

    December 27, 1918
    Special Meeting of the Bay City Library Board of Trustees:

    A special meeting for the Board of Trustees was called at the request of W.L. Clements, Mr. Clements submitted an offer from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to erect a library building in Bay City providing the conditions specified in the offer made in 1916 were fulfilled on the part of Bay City. The question was discussed informally and the motion was unanimously carried that the proposition be submitted to the common council on December 30, 1918.

    December 28, 1918
    Letter to the City Commission by W.L. CLements, Bay City Library Board Trustee:

    “Coming to the Carnegie proposition, it may be stated that as long ago as six years, a communication was addressed to the Carnegie Corporation asking for a Carnegie library in Bay City. Representatives were sent here, and in their report they stated that with the lack o f harmony and organization of Bay City library matters, no appropriation was recommended. Again two years ago, by a resolution of the trustees of the Bay City Public Library, a communication was addressed to the Carnegie Corporation asking that in the event of the consolidation of the two libraries under one management, and a working together of these two libraries for the benefit of the whole city, whether in such an event a Carnegie Library appropriation would be made for Bay City. The reply soon after came, making certain conditions under which such an appropriation would be made. These conditions, briefly, were as follows:

    First: - There must be one board of control over all public libraries in Bay City, and whilst any divisional or branch library may be as large as the man library and either may take up specific kinds of work, yet there must be unity in the organization and work. The Sage Library might be called the Sage Division and the Carnegie Library the Carnegie Division of the Bay City Public Library.

    Second: - The Carnegie corporation assigns as its maximum donation for the library building and equipment exclusive of books for a city of 47,000 inhabitants, a city of our size, a sum not exceeding 85,000 dollars and in order that any money could be secured from them, it will be necessary to place a valuation upon the Sage Library building and the quarters now occupied by the Bay City Public Library in the City Hall. These appraisements to be carefully made and promptly certified to be correct. The sum of these two appraisements subtracted from the 85,000 dollars, the maximum amount given for a city of this size, would be the amount which the Carnegie Corporation would consider giving Bay City. The estimated value of the part of the City Hall occupied by the Bay City Library is $25,0000, and the Sage Library at $25,000, or the two library quarters at $50,000. There is then available from the Carnegie Corporation, which would be given Bay City for library puposes the sum of $35,000. Under such a plan, no change in the building of Sage Library is contemplated, but the City of Bay City would be obliged to add to the Carnegie fund of $35,000 as mentioned, the value of the appraisement of the Bay City Public Library headquarters in the City Hall, estimated at $25,000. There would then be available for building a Carnegie library $60,000. In addition to the above, to secure the $35,000 from the Carnegie Corporation, it will be necessary to provide free, a site which would not be less than 100 feet by 200 feet and located in the central part of the city...”

    All the above propositions were made in 1916 and they had hardly been made to us before they were withdrawn, for the Carnegie corporation suspended all work during the war period by a resolution of their board. The matter was therefore indefinitely postponed at that time. About ten days ago, a conversation was had with the officers of the Carnegie Corporation and the matter was again taken up with them. They then stated that with the proclamation of peace, library matters would again be taken up, and the first cities making applications would receive first attention. At that time a renewal was made of their proposition for fulfillment, if the conditions specified were fulfilled on the part of Bay City.”

    December 28, 1918

    A proposition for erecting a Carnegie Library in Bay City will be placed before the council next Monday night by the Trustees of the Bay City Public Library. This will be the third time the proposition had come up here, and this time the offer is better than any that has heretofore been made, due to the fact that four well known businessmen, C.R. Wells, H.B. Smith, James E. Davidson and W.L. Clements, have agreed to provide the site for the building at a cost of not less than 10,000.

    The proposition of the Carnegie Corporation was made to W.L. Clements, one of the library trustees, while he was in New York a few days ago. The Carnegie Corporation will donate $35,000, and possibly $10,000 more than that provided Bay City will furnish $25,000 and a site toward the project. When Mr. Clements put the proposition of providing the site up to his friends, the other three who have joined in the offer, promptly agreed thereto, so that in order to secure a library worth from $70,000 to $80,000, all Bay City will have to do will be to provide the $25,000. The proposition was placed before the Public Library Trustees at a meeting Friday afternoon and was unanimously endorsed by them.

    In order to carry out the plans of the Carnegie Corporation it will be necessary for Bay City to take steps to consolidate its present libraries under one management. That does not mean the elimination of the Sage Library, on the West Side, but a consolidation of management which will do away with the considerable expense, maintenance and duplication of purchasing, especially of the books which every library should have, but which are called for so seldom that one copy is sufficient for the entire city.

    The first step in any plan for consolidation would necessarily be to obtain the consent of such a plan, of the heirs of H.W. Sage who donated the West Side Library. Dean Sage, who has general charge of he affairs of the Sage Estate, has already been consulted on this proposition and not only consented to take it up but gave it his hearty approval as he was quick to see the value of co-ordinating work by the two libraries...”

    December 31, 1918
    W.L. Clements Letter to Common Council:
    (The following is a portion of the letter written by W.L. Clements, Chairman, Board of Trustees to the Common Council of Bay City regarding the subject of consolidation of the libraries. Include in the right side bar are excerpts from the Bay City Times newspaper on the subject. )

    To The HONORABLE MAYOR AND COMMON COUNCIL: (Communication by W.L. Clements)

    As a citizen of Bay City and a Trustee of the Bay City Public Library, I desire to call your attention to an offer which came from a recent interview with the officers of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, for the erection of a Carnegie Library in Bay City.

    In this connection I want to your attention to the organization of the library boards as now existing upon the east and west sides of Bay City.

    In Bay City, we have the so-called Bay City Public Library. This library, as you know, is located in the City Hall, and is supported by a special yearly appropriation made by the council and also by statutory fines, the income which varies from five to six thousand dollars per year.

    Upon the West Side, is the Sage Library, which building and original book equipment, was given many years ago by Henry W. Sage to West Bay City; and is controlled by a board made up of members of the Evangelical Churches of the West Side. The annual appropriation made by the common council for its support is about seven thousand dollars yearly.

    These libraries are operated independently, working and make their accessions in books, one without the regard for the other.

    I desire to state to you, at this time, and before the Carnegie proposition is submitted that whatever may be done with the Carnegie proposition, in order that Bay City may have the full benefit of its library appropriations and in order that the people of all parts of the city may be properly served, that these libraries should be consolidated and put under one chief executive. In no city do conditions exist similar to ours. In every city there is a consolidation of effort and by the judicious establishment of divisional libraries and subsidiary stations, which stations are provided with fiction and other books, frequently sought, the public’s desires are satisfied. With the consolidation of the libraries, there should be sub-sidiary stations in the south end and the north end of the city.

    I desire to state emphatically and to allay the fears of any West Side resident, that, with such a plan, the Sage Library’s usefullness would not be affected in the least, in fact, it would be increased. In every city there are two or more main divisions, similar to what would exist in Bay City, the divisions have specified lines of work... (The letter to the council continues with examples of the Chicago Public Library.)

    December 31, 1918

    ... Mayor Mundy has appointed a citizen’s committe to consider and report to the council of the offer of the Carnegie Corporation.

    January 1, 1919

    The Carnegie Proposition cannot be accepted without submitting it to a vote of the people.

    The principal provision in the proposal of the Carnegie Corporation is the management of the two libraries, east and west sides shall be unified, and this is a stumbling block which must be removed before the offer can be accepted.

    City attorney believed that it would be policy to hold another meeting and invite the directors of the two library boards to confer with the citizens committee.

    Alderman Tomlinson stated that whatever little misunderstanding that may exist on the west side in relation to the unification of management could easily be cleared away. He was personally satisfied that the change would be a good thing for Sage Library. W. Watt took the same view of the case, expressing the opinion that the present board of which he was a member, had not always been entirely satisfactory.

    January 20, 1919

    The special committee of alderman and citizens to consider the proffer of the Carnegie Library to this city met again Saturday night in the Mayor’s office in conjunction with the trustees of the Bay City and Sage libraries. The latter bodies brought in a joint recommendation favorable to the acceptance of the library and this resulted in the adoption of a resolution by a unanimous vote that a report be made to the council tonight formally accepting the proposition on the part of Bay City.

    January 21, 1919

    March 19, 1919
    Bay City Times (Editorial): “A LIBRARY MISUNDERSTANDING”

    In some way the new library project in which an offer has been made to give to Bay City a total of $50,000 if Bay City will contribute $25,000 is misunderstood on the West Side of the river. It will damage the cause before the voters if it is not properly explained and it becomes the duty of every person to enlighten his neighbor when the occasion arises. The report said to be current on the West Side of the river is that if the library bonding is authorized, it will result in the closing of the Sage Library, or of moving the books to the East Side of the river.

    Any person who is acquainted with the situation ought to know that this is an impossibility, under the H.W. Sage gift to West Bay City, and moreover, were it possible, it would be unwise and unreasonable thing to do. Libraries are in some respects like newspapers. The greater number of people they serve, the better do they accomplish their service. Libraries are educational and the wider the scope of their usefulness, the better becomes the community. One of the main reasons for the success of the Sage Library is its accessibility, and the man reason why the Bay City Public Library is not more liberally patronized is because of its inaccessibility. When Miss Van Valkenburgh, the new librarian came to Bay City, she was discourage, “You have a splendid library here,” she said to the Times Tribune, one day, “But very few people of Bay City, comparatively, make use of it.”

    That is the reason that the librarian has been furnishing copy to this paper, and why we have been printing it, about additions of books to the library and other publicity material concerning it. The people of Bay City do not realize what they own, or if they do, they do not make full use of it, and possibly the reason is that the library is not in properly designed quarters and is not convenient to the people of Bay City.

    The only change that has been proposed for the Sage Library, if it should go into effect, would be to place both libraries under one Board of Trustees to be composed of men and women from both sides of the river. This is merely a matter of management, and it may not be possible under the Sage gift to make the change, but it is only a detail that has very little to do with the operation of each library. The Sage Library, both building and contents is a credit to Bay City and it would be suicidal to disturb its usefulness.

    The library proposition on the east side is to give to Bay City a building in a central location, a building which is especially designed for library purposes. That is what the Carnegie offer will bring to Bay City and we trust that the voter of Bay City have enough pride in their city to make advantage of it now...

    West siders are progressive and generous and we believe that when it is understood that the proposition will not in any way disturb Sage Library they will not stand in the way of the east side acquiring the same library advantage they themselves enjoy...

    March 28, 1919
    Bay City Times (Editorial): "ONE PUBLIC ENTERPRISE AT A TIME"

    There is no local question before the voter at the coming April election which surpasses in importance that of the proposed public library building. The water works and high school questions, although very prominent in the public mind, do not come up at the Spring election, and should not be permitted to befog the voters at this time. The latter two questions are of more importance than the library, but they are not yet before the people, so it is well we of Bay City decide only on what is to come before us on April 17th.

    We regret to hear there is some opposition to the library bonding plan coming from the west side of the river. This arises doubtless, from a misapprehension of the facts. The west side people have been told that the new library would interfere in some way with the management or operation of the Sage Library, and hence they will vote against it. We have endeavored to show that it would be against public policy to interfere with the work of Sage Library in any way, in fact there is no such intention on the part of any Bay City people. But there persists a suspicion that books from the Sage Library are to be brought over to the Bay City Public Library, and that the Sage Library is to be made a branch and the very competent librarian of whom the west side people think and great deal and desire to retain, is to be demoted and a library of less ability placed in her stead. These rumors are either started by persons who do not understand the situation, or are purposely circulated to keep the east side from getting a building which will be in keeping with the spirit of the times and as good as the Sage building.

    The Times-Tribune would suggest that the meetings be held on the west side of the river by people able to communicate to the electors, a full and complete understanding of the library situation. It would be lamentable if this (the third and which will undoubtedly by the last) offer from the Carnegie Corporation to do something for Bay City, should be rejected.

    April 1, 1919

    W.L. Bishop Spoke At The Meeting At Sage Library Last Night.

    It is hereby resolved that we residents of the west side, do unanimously support the proposition for the new Carnegie Library on the East side, as well be voted upon by the people in the coming election, “ S.M. Powrie moved the above resolution which was unanimously carried, Mr. Powrie is a trustee of the Sage Library.

    April 1, 1919
    Bay City Times (Editorial): LET US VOTE RIGHT

    The library quest is one which all can agree. It is not political and not sectarian and there is no graft back of it.

    It is not a “frame-up” but, instead, an effort to give Bay City an institution to which we may all point with pride. It cannot be made to affect in any way the Sage Library on the West Side. West Side voters should disabuse their minds if they entertain any suspicion that there is any change whatever planned in the operation of the Sage Library.

    April 4, 1919

    It has come to the knowledge of the Bay City Library Board that some of the labor unions were not friendly to the new public library building on account of a rumor that if the loan carried, the building would be erected by outside labor. This the library board, at a special meeting said was without the least foundation, and that it would guarantee to the mechanics and laborers of Bay City that in the contract this specification would be inserted.

    April 7, 1919
    ELECTION DAY (results received next day)


    Library Histories
    Bay City Library Association
    1919, Merger of Library Sys.
    1922, New Library Bldg. Opens
    People Referenced
    Bishop, W.L.
    Clements, W.L.
    Davidson, James E.
    Mundy, (mayor)
    Powrie, S.M.
    Sage, Henry W.
    Smith, H.B.
    Tomlinson, (alterman)
    Van Valkengurgh, Miss.
    Watt, W.
    Wells, C.R.
    Subjects Referenced
    Carnegie Corp.
    Carnegie grant
    Carnegie Library
    Chicago Public Library
    City Commission
    City Hall
    Common Council
    Election day
    Evangelical Churches
    Library Board of Trustees
    Labor unions
    Sage estate
    Sage Library
    Spring election
    Times Tribune
    West Bay city
    Related References
    None at this time.

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