Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Library of Michigan History and Tour of Rare Book Room

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Library of Michigan are hosting a program at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 27 on the various services the Library offers and Library history followed by a chance to view some rare documents and books that relate to Lansing and Michigan history in the Library's rare book room at 2:30 p.m.

Valerie Marvin, President of the Society, said the Library of Michigan is a tremendous resource for researchers of all kinds from those wanting to know more about their family history to authors and for those doing business-related research.

"The Library services are available at no cost and the Library is open six days a week," she said. "It's a hidden gem where some of the greatest secrets of Michigan history lay in wait, just waiting to be discovered."

The program will start at 1:00 p.m. with an overview of the Library of Michigan's history by Librarian Bernadette Bartlett.

Bartlett said the Library is one of the oldest state government agencies in existence, predating statehood.

The State Library was established in 1828 as a territorial library. Today, it has the largest collection of Michigan newspapers on microfiche and the largest collection of fiction books by Michigan authors or about Michigan, Bartlett said.

Attendees will also learn about some of the library's often forgotten historical trials including the 1951 fire in the Lewis Cass building that threatened the existence of the State Library, destroying 20,000 books and damaging another 30,000 books.

Bartlett will also discuss the Library's groundbreaking travelling library program that began in the late 1890s. The traveling library program was created by Mrs. Mary Clare Spencer, who was named State Librarian in 1893. She soon committed the Library to making books available to all people of Michigan. Books "of the best literature" were sent across the state in oak cases. The books covered topics ranging from ethics and religion to biography and travel and were sent to Granges, women's clubs, and virtually any legitimate group.

Marvin said that early librarians like Mary Clare Spencer and Harriet Tenney were early career women. "Tenney knew her historical significance. In her first report to the Governor she wore that 'By the advice of the Chief Executive of the State, and with the unanimous consent and approbation of the Senate, on the 31st day of March, 1869, this Library was placed in charge of a WOMAN.'"

At 2:30 interested participants will tour the rare book room and see early photos and rare books including books made from birch bark, foredge painted books and miniature books. Also on display will be rare sheet music written by a Lansing resident and an employee of REO Motors also with other treasures.

In addition birders will be given the opportunity to see several forms of an Audubon etching along with the original lithographic stone. 

The event is free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary. More information on the Library's virtual collections along with curated content can be found at http://michigan.gov/libraryofmichigan.

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