Manchester Township Library

By dhowell - Posted on 28 December 2007

The Manchester Township Library is completing 127 years of service in the area.

It is one of ten libraries in the county and second in age to the Ann Arbor City Library, which was founded in 1827. But Manchester has reportedly the oldest township library in the state.

It is the former home of Dr. and Mrs. James A. Lynch, whose niece is Mrs. P. A. Scheurer. Erected in 1867, the building is celebrating its centennial this year. It is well constructed and houses some 6,000 books, newspaper files, and pictures and maps of the township.

The tinted glass windows can't be reproduced--and when occasionally a window pane is broken, it is replaced with a similar window taken from the back of the building.

Originally the library was part of the John Gilbert property and was laid out to be a park. Main Street now divides the park. The section on the south side is used for a skating rink for the children in the winter.

The Manchester Township library is in close cooperation with state and county libraries, which swells its average number of volumes to about 8,000.

A booklet entitled, "Libraries in Michigan--An Historical Sketch," on file at the state library in Lansing, pinpoints the beginning of Manchester's house of books. "The Manchester Library had a long season of vicissitudes," it says, "Early in 1838 there was a small circulating tax supported library."

In the second floor historical room is a small book that recorded the proceedings of the Township Board and school inspectors.

On Sept. 20, 1852, the two groups met to work out a plan for weeding out and catalouging the township library and to sell discarded books, known as the "Family Library." In all there were 172 volumes.

These were to be sold at not less than one-half their appraised value, which averaged 32 cents each. The township clerk kept the catalogue on file. Names of some of the books for sale included "Expedition to the Dead Sea," "War in Mexico," "Camp Fires," "Charles Lamb," and "Wild Scenes of a Hunter's Life."

Money from the book sale was credited to the library fund. Twenty books for twenty dollars swelled the total number of books to 517 in 1854. The township spent from $25 to $50 a year in that period for books and the library was housed in the county clerk's office, which he opened a couple of times a week for the use of the public including a two-hour period on Saturday afternoon.

The library had its own inclosed case mounted on a long table. A black walnut table served as a desk. In the file of the Manchester Township clerk in 1845 it was voted to have the school inspector send the township library tax money to New York to purchase additional books.

A clipping from the Manchester Enterprise in 1900 noted that a meeting of the executive board of the library association was called by President C. W. Case, and plans were taken toward the establishment of a free public library with the township library put in charge of the association.

This, together with the books owned by literary clubs in the township, made several hundred volumes and formed the nucleus of a library. Plans called for renting of rooms and placing a librarian in charge at certain periods of the week. Anyone could be a member by paying a fee of 25 cents.

In 1919, an epidemic caused the library to be closed and circulation dropped to 2,808.

With the circulation of 3,525 books in 1923, the township was asked for $500. The library moved to rooms in the Mahrle building and later plans were made for moving to new quarters with the possibility of buying.

The Lynch property was suggested at a cost of $1,200. Payments of $15 a month-less than the rent the library had been paying-were arranged. Mrs. Howard Macomber and Mrs. Henry Pfeifle set up the details for the purchase. Walter Schaible said that $300 would be available from Manchester township and the other three townships were contacted for money.

The Lynch house stands in a park area, once owned by Major John Gilbert. The library was bought from Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Short. Local Boy Scouts helped to move the books and women of the community armed with scrubbing pails, brooms and paint brushes started to clean the lovely old building. This had been "home" to the library since 1934.

In 1935 Fr. John Eppenbrock of St. Mary's offered to have his home talent players put on a benefit play for the library. Emanuel offered their hall, rent free and the Methodist church served a lunch to the cast following the play. This fine cooperation of everyone has gone a long way to make the library the outstanding place it is today.

Jane Palmer, retired librarian, said she believed the early township board had been reading the Ordinance of 1783 which states that knowledge of religion and morality being necessary to good government, schools and means of education shall be encouraged, and the library went right along with the schools.

But like the cobbler's barefoot children, ironically, this library which offers information on everything under the sun, had nothing compiled on its own history.