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Library History

The Buchanan District Library History

By: Mary Lysy and Peter Lysy

From its very beginning, the State of Michigan mandated Townships to fund libraries with tax revenues. According to the 1845 Buchanan Township Assessment Rolls, $36.63 of taxpayer dollars were allocated that year to a library maintained by the Township Clerk, who was also authorized to serve as librarian. Tax revenue has gone toward the support of a library in Buchanan ever since. By 1876 we know that the Buchanan Township Clerk maintained a modest collection of circulating books in the township office located in the (then) Village of Buchanan. Annual purchases of books are mentioned in the newspaper in the 1890s. By 1927 the library was located on Main Street and featured a loosely catalogued collection which included a juvenile section, literature and newspapers – but there was no regular staff. Generous donations of books, volunteer hours and funds by citizens sustained the library.

When Buchanan was organized as a city in 1929, the new city charter allowed for the establishment of a City library. Many saw this as an opportunity to establish a proper facility, but the campaign to raise money to build a Carnegie Library was stymied by the Great Depression. On September 24, 1931, an editorial by Walter C. Hawes appeared in the Berrien County Record on the need for an improved library in Buchanan.

“The Modern view of education is to the effect that the school is but the beginning, in fact no education at all but merely the equipment of youth with the tools by which they will acquire education during the remainder of their lives. And it is generally considered that it is the duty of an enlightened community to furnish a library where that education may be continued.”

Several efforts were made to establish a true library, which culminated on December 10th, 1937, when a modern library was opened in the back portion of City Hall, with its own reading room, its own entrance on North Oak Street, and most importantly, its own staff. A professional librarian and assistant supervised the collection of books, magazines, and newspapers and organized story hours and other activities for the community. The collections were catalogued and annual reports submitted to the state. The professional organization and community resource that we value as our Library today was born.

In 1956, after vigorous fundraising efforts were made by the library board and Buchanan’s residents, the first dedicated library building was erected at 117 East Front Street. Two additions were built over the next 40 years to accommodate growing collections and use. In 2001 the Buchanan District library was formed and ratified by the electorate. Greater resources allowed for the purchase of a larger building at 128 East Front Street and the renovation of its first floor.

Although internet technology has made information more accessible today than ever before, Buchanan’s library still functions as the civilizing and educational institution it set out to be, and succeeds far beyond the imaginations of those who brought about Michigan Statehood in 1837.