My love of books and libraries runs long and deep. So, when the people at the Detroit Public Library (DPL) asked me (and a bunch of other people) if I wanted to learn about the library and go on a walking tour my heart skipped a beat. Yes, please!
When I move to a new city one of the first things on my to do list is to secure my bright and shiny library card. I love to learn and a library card means knowledge and opportunity.
All this library love and I had never stepped into the main branch of the Detroit Public Library. Actually, as far as I know, I’ve never been in any of the branches of the DPL system.
The main branch of the Detroit Public Library is nestled in Midtown, the cultural hub of the city, and the first thing you notice is the amazing architecture, both inside and out. Cass Gilbert designed the early Italian Renaissance-style structure, which opened in 1921. The building expanded in 1963 when wings were added to both the north and south ends of the library.
Our meeting began in the Old Fine Arts Room on the third floor. It’s a grand room with lovely views of the Detroit Institute of Arts, which is directly across Woodward Avenue.
The DPL system houses approximately 7 million books, second only to Boston. It boasts 23 branches throughout the city. The city of Detroit ranks low for being wired so the computers and internet accessibility at the libraries are incredibly important to the residents of the city.
Steve Teeri showed off the new and improved Detroit Public Library website. The new site, still under construction, is fresh and user friendly. I particularly liked that in certain sections, such as new arrivals, the image of the book jacket is shown.
After the reveal of the website, Conrad Welsing led our tour throughout both the old and new sections of the library. Conrad knows this building inside and out and his love and knowledge of the building was infectious.
It was great to see that renovations are currently in progress. The designs for the new children’s area look fabulous.
One part of the library that has already been updated is the teen center, H.Y.P.E (helping young people excel). With listening stations, computers and gaming consoles this is the place to be. The room is comfortable and contemporary. The husband wanted to hang out in here but I had to drag him away.
There were two areas of the library that I had never heard of. The Harwell Room (officially called “The Lulu and Ernie Harwell Room”) is an ode to our favorite Detroit Tigers announcer and the genealogy section were the highlights of the tour.
The Harwell Room includes a mock broadcast booth, seats from Tiger Stadium, and a portion of the Ernie Harwell Sports Collection, which is the second largest public collection next to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Conrad told us that Mr. Harwell has been known to make appearances and sign autographs in the room.
The genealogy section is quite amazing. This is one of the few places in the library that you’ll see the old card catalogs. If you are interested in your family history this is a great place to start or continue your research. The librarians are experts and will help guide you and they have the research materials and software to get you on your way.
The Detroit Public Library is a fountain of knowledge. All libraries are. The DPL hosts special events including lectures, classes, and live performances. The library also participates in the Museum Adventure Pass program.
If you haven’t been to the Detroit Public Library I suggest you visit. I know I’ll be going back soon to explore.
(Check out An Evening at the Detroit Public Library by Juanita Chronowski, who also attended the event.)