History of the Grand Ledge Area District Library

With grateful thanks to Joan Kane and the Grand Ledge Historical Society for resources.

1911 - Foundation

A number of early attempts were made to form a public library in Grand Ledge. Finally, in September 1911, members of the Tabard Inn Association joined together with other ladies of the community and inaugurated the Ladies Library Association (LLA). In December 1911, with 60 books from the Tabard Inn Association and augmented by donations, the library was opened to the public, Saturday afternoons only, in a second floor room in downtown Grand Ledge.

Library Ladies Association Board

Ladies Library Association


]The Library grew in popularity and in 1912 the Grand Ledge City Council offered to furnish a room, light and heat if the Library moved to the Water Works Building, current site of the Masonic Temple today.

Waterworks Building

The Water Works Building


The LLA worked tirelessly to raise funds and in just eighteen months the library hosted 800 books. By 1918, the collection numbered 2100 and the library was open Tuesday and Saturday afternoons and evenings. As demand increased, soon the library was open every day.


]]In 1921 the citizens of Grand Ledge petitioned for a ballot proposal to establish a public library. The voters overwhelmingly passed that ballot proposal and the funding millage, and prominent banker George N. Berry donated the present site on East Jefferson Street.

Jefferson St Library Sketch

Library building concept sketch by J. Laird


In 1927 a new City Library Board was elected and worked in conjunction with the LLA.

Photo of Edith Staffner

Photo of Edith Mae Staffner – a founding member of the LLA. Was elected to the first City Library Board in 1927


[When construction began in 1931, a classical style of architecture was chosen, enhanced by green tile roof, interesting multi-pane windows and formal entrance with an elliptical pediment. The Grand Ledge Face Brick Company supplied brick used in the construction.

When the new building was complete and formally dedicated on Saturday, November 7, 1931, the Ladies Library Association surrendered its charter.

Grand Ledge Library - Early to mid 1900s

Library building, construction completed in 1931


Many individuals contributed generously to the Grand Ledge Public Library over the years. A major benefactor was Ms. Emily Shipman, who served for 49 years as assistant postmistress in Grand Ledge. Her estate gave over $90,000 to the library to construct the modern “new” part of the library, designed by local resident and architect, William J.H. Kane. Major alterations were made to the basement of the old library, creating the Shipman Room. Construction was completed in 1961.

Ms. Emily Shipman Dedication Plaque

Ms. Emily Shipman dedication plaque


In 1986 the Library Board determined that an additional .6 mill was needed to support the library and in 1987 the voters passed this additional millage in perpetuity by the same overwhelming vote ratio as in 1921. The City Library Board consisted of 6 members, elected at large, with exclusive control of all monies credited to the Library Fund.

Suzanne Bowles at computer in 1985

Head Librarian Suzanne Bowles by the library’s new computer


Technology moves the Library into the future was the headline in 1991 when the Library’s card catalog project was completed to bring the library’s collections onto computers and increase ease of access for patrons and staff to find materials. The paper card catalog that only allowed a limited number of search points (title, author, and a few subjects) was replaced with a computerized catalog that allows for keyword and limitless search terms. The Library would now be able to interact and borrow materials from other libraries for patrons much easier.

Ruth Law photo

Ruth Law cataloging



By the late 1990’s, local and statewide financing trends, demographic changes, and the costs associated with providing technology-based services prompted interest in learning what advantages a District Library type of organization might offer the community, as opposed to a Public Library organization. In 1998, Library Board members and the Director researched District Library law at the Michigan Library Association.

Library Garden 2000s

The old library garden, which was maintained by the Grand Ledge Garden Club


The Library Board then discussed with other area governmental entities their willingness to participate in the agreement forming a District Library. With the help of the Grand Ledge Public School District, Oneida Township and the City of Grand Ledge, the Grand Ledge Area District Library (GLADL)  came into existence July 1, 2000. In November 2001 a proposal for 1.2 mills for the District Library was successful. A seven member District Library Board was elected.

2000 New Library Board photo from newspaper clipping

The new Board of the Grand Ledge Area District Library


In 2001, The Friends of the Grand Ledge Area District Library was organized through the leadership of Nancy Page. The Friends offer financial support to the Library for numerous Library needs, and through community support and advocacy.

Nancy Page photo

Nancy Page, the first organizer of the Friends of the Grand Ledge Area District Library


The successful formation of the Grand Ledge Area District Library soon accomplished its initial goals: replacing the library roof, public access to Internet resources, upgraded library catalog system to be accessible to the public, a dedicated youth/children’s library staff, enhanced youth/children’s programming, expanded hours year-round– including Sunday hours, increased materials in the Library collection, and the opening a Wacousta branch in Watertown Township in April 2002, and more.

Wacousta Branch Opening

A gathering at the opening of the Wacousta Branch


The Library launched its first webpage on October 27, 2005 as grandledge.lib.mi.us, to give patrons access to the library catalog anywhere anytime and to promote library services and programs.

Screenshot of what the first GLADL website looked like in 2005

A screenshot from Wayback Machine showing how the first GLADL website page looked


January 2007 saw another leap in access for the patrons of the Library. With the adoption of the MelCat service, patrons were able to access over 6 million items – in 2023 the statewide lending system now offers over 50 million items from over 50 public, school, and academic libraries. Patrons can search Melcat (mel.org) and request available items to be delivered to the library for easy checkout.

mel logo

MelCat Logo


Voters approved a 10-year renewal of the Library’s millage reduced to 1.1544 due to Headlee Rollback in 2010.  The millage was approved by 63% of the voters.

2010s View of the Main Entrance of the Library

The library in the 2010’s before the new sign and expansion


Preserving the past for the future – the Library is the home to the Grand Ledge Area Historical Society’s Archive – both for print collections and for digital access.  By digitizing newspapers, documents, scrapbooks, photographs, and other items the Library ensures that future generations will be able to explore and appreciate the rich heritage of our community.  2011 saw the digitization of the over a hundred years of microfilm of the Grand Ledge Independent – the newspaper and many more resources can be found on the Library’s Local History webpage.

Jan, 9, 1874 newspaper front page

January 9, 1874 newspaper front page


In 2017, GLADL completed a significant renovation project, including:expanding floor space by adding a mezzanine; upgrading facility electrical services and lighting to efficient LED’s and HVAC replacement in the Shipman Room; increased facility accessibility through addition of barrier-free entry and automatic doors, an elevator to the second floor and bathroom remodels on both floors; relocated filtered drinking fountain and added a water bottle filling station; painted interior walls for the first time since 1961, and upgraded flooring.

2017 New Library Sign

The new library sign and entrance


In September 2018, the decision was made to close the Wacousta branch location, however, GLADL continues to actively provide services to Watertown Township, including outreach to the Wacousta Elementary School, circulation by mail, programming for community events, and a materials dropbox at the Watertown Township Hall.

Wacousta Library Old Building Front

The front of the Wacousta Branch


In 2022, the Library presented to the voters a proposal to increase the millage back to the rate approved in 2001 – 1.2000.  Voters supported the proposal and the millage successfully passed, allowing the Library to continue to improve technology services, digital library access, expanded programming for all ages and increased physical and digital materials– and to go Fine Free!

Kids reading in the children's department

Kids reading in the children’s department


With the passing of the new millage, the Library was able in 2023 to add new shelving to the Children’s Area.  Patrons of all ages can enjoy easier access to picture books, non-fiction, and our expanding VOX talking book collection.

New juvenile shelving

The Ladies Library Association would be proud that its “vision” continues to be carried out, over 112 years after the Library was founded.

With grateful thanks to Joan Kane and the Grand Ledge Historical Society for resources.