Saugatuck-Douglas District Library: A Brief History
Library service in the Saugatuck-Douglas area had its roots in the Saugatuck Union Literary Association, which opened a reading room in 1871. Later in 1898, Saugatuck became a station for the new Parmelee System of Traveling Library and there was a subscription library at the Charles W. Parrish Red Cross Drug Store. The Saugatuck Woman's Club organized a library for their members in 1904, which began a close association between the club and library service to the community.
The first "public" library began in 1927 when Judge George Underwood donated 52 books to start a library for the Village of Saugatuck. The books were housed at the Commercial Record Newspaper Office. The following year, the woman's club offered to house the village library and in 1935, the library moved along with the club to its new headquarters at the corner of Hoffman and Butler Streets, where it remained for more than 30 years. (1)
In 1965, a "district" library was created to serve Saugatuck Township, Saugatuck Village and Douglas Village. Myrtle Bird received statewide recognition for transforming the Library board from a committee of the city to a governing and decision making body, a district library. She was awarded the “1973 Citation of Merit Trustee Division” from the Michigan Library Association. Mrs. Byrd accomplished this by improving the Library to meet state standards and increasing local funding from the general funds of the municipalities in the Library district. In 1967 the official name became "Saugatuck-Douglas District Library." Finding a need for more space, the library board moved the library to a building almost directly across from the woman's club in 1969.
In the late 1970's, the library board once again began looking for a new home. The Village of Douglas offered to lease the former Douglas Athletic Club at the corner of Center and Mixer Streets in Douglas, where it remains today. Remodeling was undertaken and the library opened in Douglas in 1981.
In the mid-1980's, the library board leased the lower level of the building from the village and began a remodeling project in 1986. The basement was transformed into a Reading Room named in honor of Board President Paul Sobol. A room for programs in the lower level was named after former librarian June Fox. The project was completed in 1987. The project also included an office for the librarian, a restroom, kitchen and storage space.
In 1995 a millage of 0.30 mills in perpetuity created stable funding for the Library. For the first time the board could set the Library budget without considering the fluctuations in penal fines or depending on the contributions from the general funds of the municipalities. Charles Rickett, board president, lead the Library successfully through its first millage election and two succeeding elections in 2001, 0.2 mills for 10 years and 2006, 0.1 mills for ten years. The Library blossomed with the support of the property taxes and the establishment in 1999 of the Friends of the Library. Mary Mason was responsible for bringing the community together to create what would become a powerful asset for increasing and improving Library services.
In the 1990’s there was an 800 square foot addition to the south end of the Library after the 1980s nonfunctioning solar panel was removed. The Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club supported the project with a generous contribution. The “Readers’ Garden” was designed and funded by the Douglas Garden Club under the direction of Helen Van Mell and Jan Landry it was completed in 1998.
A major renovation of the Children’s Room was facilitated by the Friends of the Library in 2001. A Young Adult Room was created in the former Local History and Michigan Room as Virginia Oakley developed a collection well used by youth in grades five through college.
A major event for the Library occurred in 2006 when the public voted for a millage increase to purchase real estate. The Library evolved from “a moveable objects only” Library to one with a place.
The City of the Village of Douglas gifted the Library with the building and property at the corner of Center & Mixer streets on April 6, 2010. The Library leased this location from the City for twenty-nine years for $29.
(1) Lane, Kit. “One for the Books--100 Years of Library Service”, The Commercial Record, 8/12/1971