History of the Library

History of the Salem-South Lyon District Library

The South Lyon Public Library came into being via a group of women belonging to the Tuesday Club. In the fall of 1938, these ladies called a meeting of representatives from all local clubs and started making plans.  The community was canvassed for opinions favorable or not, and donations of twenty-five cents to become a charter member of the library were collected. The canvas was successful and on March 20, 1939, the South Lyon Public Library was opened in one room of a vacant store. People of the community had redecorated the room and contributed 1,600 books. Mrs. William G. Miller was appointed a librarian with a token payment of twenty-five cents an hour. Finances were precarious. The City of South Lyon gave one hundred dollars and the library depended on gifts from clubs and the proceeds of raffles, card parties, and bake sales. Our circulation was sound, the first year's circulation totaled 7,526.

In November of 1942, the voters of South Lyon voted to give the Library not less than 3/5 of a mill, nor more than 1 mill for operating expense. At first, the Library got the minimum 3/5 mill from the city, but it was able to begin adding to the book collection and provide some tools for the librarians. That same year, the Kiwanis Club began their annual gift of a non-fiction reference book each month. The circulation continued to climb.

Also in 1942 the Library outgrew its first location and moved to the McWhorter house, where the educational building of the Presbyterian Church now stands. The Library now had more room, more books, and more paid help.

In 1956 through a contract agreement with Lyon Township, a branch Library was opened in New Hudson. The contract was on a yearly basis. With the Township Branch, the Library was better able to serve the total community.

In 1961 South Lyon Public Library joined the Washtenaw Area Library Association, an organization of Libraries from Washtenaw, Livingston, and Oakland Counties. Open access to the collections of all member libraries became available to the patrons of the library.

December 1, 1962, saw the culmination of a gigantic community effort to raise funds for a new library building.  The Friends of the Library group had organized a community-wide effort to stage a 2-day rummage sale plus all kinds of other projects, bake sale, lunch stand, country store, record shop, antique shop, book fair, and so on.  The efforts were successful and $2,800.00 was raised along with contributions from individuals and businesses. In all, $8,000 was raised to buy the land, furnish, and landscape the new building. The City contributed about $16,000 and a great deal of volunteer labor helped to make this money stretch to cover the new building.

To the great sorrow of the community Mrs. Miller, who had been the spark plug for this new building died before the move was completed.  Other hands completed the move, all labored as a memorial to Grace Margaret Miller. Mrs. Phillip Weamer succeeded Mrs. Miller as Librarian. Mrs. Weamer left to become a High School Librarian in the South Lyon Community Schools and was succeeded by Mrs. LeRoy Herbon.

South Lyon's new public library on West Lake Street cost approximately $38,000 and was financed by a one-mill levy. Opened in October 1963, the 2,000 square foot structure was designed to house 8,000 volumes.

The process to become a district library began in 1992 and the Salem-South Lyon District Library became a "district" in May 1993.  In 1998, the library moved from the 2000 sq. ft. building on Lake Street to the 15,000 sq. ft. building on Pontiac Trail.  At the time of the move, the staff was composed of one degreed librarian (the director), three persons working toward their degree, nine library clerks, and three library pages.

Library on West Lake Street

The building on West Lake Street housed the Library through its change to the Salem-South Lyon District Library, where it remained until the construction of the current building at 9800 Pontiac Trail, opening for business on May 2, 1998. The new 15,000 sq. ft. the facility was financed by a $2.5 million bond issue approved by voters in May 1995 and was designed to accommodate expansion from 22,000 volumes to 60,000 volumes.  The original building was designed by architects of Merritt Callum Cieslak, PC.
New construction of current library in 2005
Construction of library building in its current location

By 2005 it was recognized that the library was outgrowing its space.  Additionally, there was a growing need for technology, a need for more space for materials, a need for quiet study rooms, more parking, requests for a drive-up book return, and a great need for employee workspace.   That same year, the Board of Trustees hired a consultant to lead them through a Visioning Plan for the Library that would take it through the year 2010.

A strategic planning process is an important commitment for a library that involves gathering information from and about the community, examining comparable libraries and best practices, and involving the community, the library board, and the staff.  A committee comprised of residents from the City of South Lyon, Salem Township, Green Oak Township, Library Board members, Friends of the Library and library staff worked with library planning consultants Marianne Hartzell and Joseph Mika to focus on the library’s future.

During the planning process, participants identified several areas to concentrate on over the next five years including building enhancements, expanded technology, and enriched programs and resources for all ages.

The library board mailed out a survey to all residents in the library service area seeking input on the direction to take for the library’s future.  The survey asked persons to circle the 3 areas where they would like the library to pursue expansion/improvements.  After all, surveys were returned, the results were tabulated and the Library Board was ready to interview architects and seek bids for the proposed expansion of the library.  On November 10, 2006, the library signed an agreement with Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber for Facility Assessment and Design Services.

Throughout November and December 2006 and into January 2007, the Library Board and Director worked out a program plan and a summary of the desired improvements to the library building.  A composite ranking was developed to narrow down what was desired in the library expansion versus what could be afforded. The overall goal was to provide an improved and expanded facility that met most of the priorities identified. The Library Board’s intent was to make the building improvements and expand the building without ANY additional tax increases.  All of these details boiled down to a proposal for a 1,732 sq. ft. addition to staff workspace, 2,265 sq. ft. addition to teen/computer space, and a 1,930 sq. ft. addition to the children’s wing.  After much deliberation, it was recognized that only two of the three options could be obtained without asking taxpayers for additional revenue.  It was decided that the two areas that would be expanded would be the staff workspace and the teen/computer space.  The Library Board held a special meeting on March 5, 2007, at which time there was unanimous approval to proceed with the library expansion.  The Library Board signed the Integrated Services Agreement with Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber on June 21, 2007, for renovations and additions to the library with an estimated cost of $1,376,881.

Groundbreaking for the library expansion in 2008
Groundbreaking for the library expansion in 2008

Groundbreaking for the project took place on March 31, 2008.  The library remained open during all construction with minimal disruption to service.  The expanded and improved building opened for business in January 2009 with the following:

  • 54 additional parking spaces
  • 2,265 square feet added to the adult and teen area
  • 22 computers and a computer lab added
  • 4 study rooms added
  • Drive-up book drop added
  • Copy Center added
  • 4 new display cases for community use
  • 1,732 square feet added to staff workspace
  • 88 square feet added to Friends book room
  • Revised layout for easier, more efficient access
  • New brick walkways
  • Improved garden areas
  • New flooring and enhanced color scheme

Statement of Expenses for Additions & Renovations:

  • Construction:  $1,331,911.67
  • Design & Engineering:  $136,855.30
  • Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment:  $78,295.84
  • Technology:  $33,002.54
  • Miscellaneous:  $20,094.55
  • Total Cost of Project:  $1,600,159.90

Library after expansion and as of 2018
Library after expansion and as it is today

On February 25, 2014, voters of Salem Township and South Lyon City approved a 20-year operating millage of 0.4950 mills. Thank YOU for making it possible for us to serve you!

In 2015 - 16, the library installed a new Heating/Cooling system allowing greater energy efficiency and comfort for all persons. Updates to the library's meeting room and Friends Used Book Shoppe were accomplished as well.

In May 2016, the library paid off the 20 year Bond Debt.

Also in 2016, we replaced our heavy front doors to automatic sliding doors. In 2017, we remodeled our two main restrooms. In early 2019 we installed a heat curtain over the entryway doors to keep the cold at bay while the doors are open.

In 2018, the Library sold $900,000 in 15-year municipal bonds to finance expansion and renovation of the children's area, including a second community room with separate entrance and restrooms.

Over 2018-2019, Merrit Cieslak Design, Shaw Construction, and Library Design worked together on our $1.2 million expansion project.  On June 7, 2019, over 1200 people celebrated the opening of the 1,900 square foot expansion of our children's area, the addition of a 955 square foot second meeting room, two additional restrooms, a second entrance and the renovation of our existing children's area ... all under budget.  The total square footage of the entire library is now 22,056.

The Library Board and staff, with public input, created a new Strategic Plan for the library which was approved on January 7, 2019.

The library now houses a physical collection of 83,815 items, plus offers access to 97,289 e-books, e-audiobooks, and databases totaling 181,104 items.  In 2018-2019, over 177,000 people visited our library,  57,776 accessed our library's website, 59,806 used our public computers, and 40,054 logged into our wireless internet. We offered 690 programs and workshops for 12,964 attendees. Our librarians answered 18,766 reference questions and 8,996 persons have library cards.

The library has a dedicated 150 Mbps Internet connection serving our public computers and wireless Internet.

There are many wonderful volunteers who give of their time and talents to further benefit the customers who enjoy the library.  Thirty garden volunteers maintain the beautiful library gardens.  

Fifteen volunteers assist with shelving and special projects at the library and fifteen volunteers manage the Friends of the Library Used Book Room.  The Friends of the Library contributed $11,061.81 to purchase library materials, equipment, and enhance programs and services in 2015-16.

The “Friends Club” composed of our “little” Friends meet and perform service projects and fundraising activities May - September.

group photo of Library Friends Club
Library Friends Club

In October 2019, the Board of Trustees authorized the creation of an endowment fund to be held by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Donations may be made directly to the foundation by clicking here or at the library. 

The Lasting Legacy Brick Campaign remains strong with continued sales of engraved bricks for the library’s Entrance Pathway and Military Pathway.  4”x8” brick costs $100.00 and an 8”x8” brick costs $250.00.  A 12"x12" Stepping Stone may be ordered for a donation of $200 per stone. For order forms, click here.

The Kroger Company has donated close to $26,634 to the library via the Kroger Community Awards program since the library joined the program in 2010.

Our full Annual Report, Library Mission and Vision is available on the Board of Trustees page.  If you like what we do, and you'd like to support the library beyond your annual property taxes, there are many opportunities to be found at our "Support Your Library."