This year, the Troy-Miami County Public Library celebrates 120 years as a fixture in Troy. The library has been in many locations until moving to this one 40 years ago. But the library’s history is not in the bricks and mortar, financials, and statistics. The library’s history is in the experiences of those who use the library to participate in story times or other programs. The library’s history is in the selection of books — whether they are in print or digital — that have a positive impact on our lives. The library’s history is in the experiences our children have when using the bookmobile. The library’s history is finding records of family members or property histories at the Local History Library.
The first Troy library was actually in a private school in 1813 on the corner of Water and Market streets. The 19th century also brought the establishment of eight libraries that were not free and were not open to everyone. The books were also required to be “the proper kind.” The offer of aid from Andrew Carnegie was turned down by the citizens of Troy at a meeting. But, a service club saw the importance of a library and made it their first project as a new group. In 1896, the women of the Altrurian club in Troy started a tax-supported library and the principle of community responsibility for a library was established. Troy businessman Joseph Hoagland donated $500 to the cause and the city council refurbished a room in the city building to be used as the library.
It is said that one outraged male citizen said to an Altrurian, “What do we want with a library anyway? It will only be a place of assignation.” But the Altrurians prevailed.
Though the library’s name has changed through the years, many of the experiences have stayed the same. Children still find joy in choosing their library books. (Adults do, too). Programs are still focused on learning early literacy skills while having fun (the first story hour was held in 1924). People still do research. There is still a bookmobile to reach people who aren’t able to get to the library (although it is currently disguised as a Transit van). And the Dewey Decimal system is still in use.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Miss Grey in a report from 1950. She said, “A library, if it merits a place in the community, must be more than merely an agency for the circulation of books, commendable as that activity may be. It must encourage constructive thought by every means available, further educational and cultural interests for the benefit of the community, and promote worthwhile social effort. Certainly it makes no difference whether a good idea comes from reading a book, seeing a film, listening to a record or speaker, or participating in discussion. The citizen should have at his disposal every media possible for the communication of ideas. The library’s primary service is to be a center for human curiosity, not just to satisfy that curiosity, but to stimulate it.”
Thank you for celebrating this milestone with us.
Rachelle Miller is the director of the Troy-Miami County Public Library
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