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Marcellus Township Wood Memorial Library

History of the Library - Part 7

Minute by Minute, a Board Grows a Building By Suzanne Lind

Occasionally, people come into the Marcellus Library who have not been there for a long time.  They love to saunter up the ramp and remember the way the library used to be when it was just one small building.  They stand in what is now the children’s room and recall how it looked many years ago.


Some visitors remember the 1984 addition, but are amazed to see all the space that was added in 2002 when the big room on the north side was added.  They are charmed by the fireplace, the comfortable couches, the rows of moveable stacks for books, and that great long wall of videos which came with additional renovations during the following years. 


I did not have the experience of watching the library grow in size and activity over the years as many Marcellus residents have had.  So when I wanted to learn more about the library’s history, and how it has grown, I went down to the basement “archives” and began to read.  What a wonderful way to learn the story, all the way from the Ladies’ Library to today’s modern facility.


First I looked at old newspaper articles from the 1980’s and the early 2000’s.  Then I found a scrapbook which showed pictures of many details of the construction and dedication of the first addition, in 1984.  Next, I pulled open the big, heavy drawer which contains the minutes from every library board meeting from 1895 (Ladies Library Association) to 2007.  (Minutes of Board meetings from 2008 to the present day are stored in the Library Director’s office.) That may sound dull and boring, but it showed me how many different people were involved in making decisions, gathering information, raising funds, overseeing construction, and planning for optimum use of the new space. 


The Marcellus Township Wood Memorial Library has been guided and molded throughout its long history by a Library Board made up of local township residents who have volunteered their time, energy and expertise to library support and development.  They have donated thousands of hours and deep commitment to “growing and tending” the library and supporting its staff. 


The earliest library board meeting minutes in the “archives” were written in 1895.  For many years all minutes were written by hand in hard-cover notebooks.  As board secretaries changed, so did the handwriting, creating a sense of “up close and personal” involvement for today’s reader.  The first typed minutes appear after the March 7, 1985 meeting, carefully cut to size and taped into the notebook by Pam France, Acting Secretary at that time.  Hand-written minutes, with an occasional typed page, continued until the introduction of the three-ring binder for copied minutes and financial information in 1992.


The first mention of the idea of expanding the original library building is found in the January 6, 1983 board meeting minutes: “Gary Brown, Tucson, Arizona would like to donate $25000.00 to the Library for an addition. . .  We are looking into local building cost.  We need the extra room and are very excited about the prospects of a new addition.  We are looking into additional funds.”


Members of the Library Board at that time were:  Patsy Aldrich, Chris Copenhaver, Debbie Hartman, Mike Holmes, Gary Huff, Judy Miller and Norma Willbur (Library Director).  One of their fund-raising techniques was outlined in an article which they submitted to the Marcellus News:  “A new addition to the library has not been possible under the current budget.  The Library Board estimates the new addition will cost $40,000 to $45,000 to complete.  In addition to Mr. Brown’s donation, another $15,000 to $20,000 will be needed to complete the new addition.


            “The state of Michigan has set up a very generous tax plan for donations to a public library.  Under Michigan public act No. 332 individuals are allowed a credit against their state income tax equal to 50% of their gift to a public library during the year . . .A credit is also allowed to a corporation for 50% of a contribution. . . A special plaque will be installed permanently in the library listing all individual contributors who donate $300 or more to the Marcellus Township Library . . .If you would like to see your tax money used locally, please donate to the Marcellus Township Library . . . “


The special plaque mentioned in this newspaper article is currently on display at the Marcellus Library.  Shining gold name plates and an information plate express the library board’s thanks to Mr. Gary Brown and the many local people who made financial contributions to the library addition of 1984.


Minutes of the following months’ meetings document the library board’s ongoing discussions and decisions as they organized fund-raising, considered bids for construction contracts, ensured insurance policy and township approval, and kept in touch with Mr. Brown in Tucson.  An application for a federal grant for the new building was denied, but by February 1984 $36,000 of the $50,000 goal had been raised.


Michael Vanderheyden was hired as contractor, and Brad Hartman as electrician.  Construction began in May 1984 and was completed in September of that year.  The new addition measured 40’x 25’, doubling the library floor space.  A major decision, made in June 1984, concerned what kind of window should be put in the new north wall of the library.  Library board meeting minutes from June 19, 1984 report that, “After a lengthy discussion the Board decided to move the entire door and arched window of the present Library to the north wall of the addition.”


An article in the Kalamazoo Gazette from Sunday, July 15, 1984, quotes Library Director Norma Willbur:  “We took the old back door to the library and moved it and its arch to the north side of the new addition. . . That way we can carry on the old part into the new.”   The article explains that the newly placed door faces the time capsule buried in 1976 and crowned by a sundial.  Again it quotes Norma Willbur: “It really is quite nice because it shows off the door to a better advantage.”


Next week’s article will follow the “old back door” on its journey into the 2002 expansion of the library.  The article will also discuss further the intricacies of library funding for operations and expansion.