Our Story So Far
The Detroit Public Library opened for service on March 25, 1865. The 5,000 book collection was located in one room of the old Capitol High School on Griswold Street. A committee of the Detroit Board of Education governed the library until 1881, when the six-member Detroit Library Commission took over.
In 1877, a new library opened in Centre Park on the site of the present Skillman Branch. The library's collection grew from 34,000 to 70,000 books by 1886.
Growing with Our City
As Detroit's population grew, so did the library. In 1900, branches were opened inside Central High School (now Old Main at Wayne State University), Harris School on the east side, and Western High School.
Eventually, a new main library was needed, and on March 29, 1921, the building on Woodward Avenue opened. Designed by architect Cass Gilbert, and partially funded by a gift from Andrew Carnegie, the Italian Renaissance style library was called the most beautiful building in Detroit.
In the 1950s, Detroit's population reached almost 2 million and the library's book collection was over 2.5 million volumes. To accommodate these changes, the Cass Avenue wings opened on June 23, 1963. The expansion added 240,000 square feet to Main, doubling its size.
Evolving with Our Patrons
Computers first appeared at the Chandler Park Branch in 1989, and they have since become a crucial service offered at each of the system's 23 branches. Today, hundreds of customers use library computers and Internet to accomplish their goals. Branches offer a variety of technology classes that help Detroiters grow valuable skills.
The library also continues to expand its community focus. Visitors can still take advantage of the many books and media offered, but library branches also serve as casual community centers, study spaces, and after-school havens.
Life in Detroit has evolved significantly since the Detroit Public Library first opened in 1865. No matter what changes, the library continues to adapt with the city to ensure that Detroiters' needs are met with diverse collections, engaging programs, and enriching classes.