Librarian and former first lady Laura Bush said: “The most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.”
In the early days of Manistee, clubs and organizations built book collections for their members, and the school district allowed anyone over the age of 21 to borrow books from the school library. The community saw a need for a library, and the Lakeside Club applied for a grant from the Carnegie Endowment to build a public library building (Main Manistee) in 1902.
Cities that received the grant had to commit to provide the site, fund the library with public funds, pay staff, and provide free services to all.
A copy of Andrew Carnegie’s portrait was donated to the libraries he helped fund in 1935 to commemorate his centenary of his birth.
The placement of the large main table was designed to prevent theft, as the library’s original layout placed it between the open stacks and the door.
The first Manistee bookmobile was purchased in 1946.
In 1992, reference librarian Pam Spoor successfully researched and wrote an application for the library building to be listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in Michigan. A historical marker stands in front of the main building.
The city of Manistee decided not to renew support for the library in 1982, and the first millige was defeated. The sale of books, the sale of items the library no longer used, and donations kept it going. The Manistee Bank and Trust made a $15,000 donation in 1983 that funded the library until December. The second millage was successful in 1984.
The Manistee County Library entered the computer age in 1985. Introduction to the library collections took a long time, and the system started working in 1987.
There have been two weddings in the library.
Bear Lake opened the first branch of the Manistee County Library in 1963.
- A brilliant portrait of a man who left an endless legacy, Andrew Carnegie by David Naso spans Carnegie’s life from his humble beginnings to his role as a philanthropist and crusader who gave away the fortune he made in steel.
- Angels in Architecture: A Photographic Elegy for an American Orphanage by Heidi Johnson is a tribute to Thomas Storey Kirkbride, whose approach to mental illness combined compassion with beauty and nature. The Northern Michigan Refuge in Traverse City, Michigan closed in 1989, but photographs of its architecture support the theory that “beauty is therapy.”
- Remembering his heroes and meeting with friends and family, Tom Stanton wrote “Last Season: Fathers, Sons, and the Final Season in the Classic American Stadium” for all those who grew up with the Detroit Tigers.
- Michigan: A Wolverine State Story by George S. May and Willis Dunbar chronicles Michigan’s past from the ice age to the 1980s, describing beautiful landscape, ethnic groups, politics, and business. Touching stories and photographs are scattered throughout the book.
- Join divers capturing history at the bottom of the Great Lakes. “Under the Sea of Lilanau: Exploring the Wrecks of Lilanau County and Manitou Strait” by Chris Roxburgh is an excellent photo tour.
- A fascinating look into Manistee County’s past, Manistee County by Shannon McRae tells a story filled with photographs of the timber industry, tourism, and the hardworking people who build local communities.
- Curran Russell’s Lumberjack’s Legacy, published by the Manistee County Historical Society in 1954, is a portrait of the lumber industry that built Manistee County.
- “An Illustrated History of Manistee Michigan” by Manistee News Advocate
- “History of Arcadia”
- “Kaleva” Andrey Ivanovich Brask
- “A Place Called Portage: A Collection of Memoirs of Those Who Participated in the Development of a Place Called Portage from 1912 to 1989”
- “Township of Pleasanton, 1863–1983”
- “Proud of Our Past: Bear Lake: A History of Bear Lake Township, Bear Lake, Michigan”
- “T23 North, R12 West: A History of the Township of Springdale, Michigan” by Ben Townsend
The Manistee County Library maintains local historical collections in all of its locations. Michigan history titles are also available. The main library holds a pamphlet file containing newspaper articles relating to the county’s historical milestones, biographies, historic homes and buildings, and more.
Addresses and hours of operation are listed on our website manisteelibrary.org.