By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – From librarians to politicians to devoted bibliophiles, fans of the city’s libraries gathered at Henry Ford Centennial Library Oct. 28 to celebrate the library system’s 100 years of service.
Interim Library Director Julie Schaefer chaired the event, with speakers Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, City Councilmember Leslie Herick, Dearborn Public Library Foundation representative Brain Church and recently retired Library Director Maryanne Bartles sharing the legacy of and praise for the library system.
Also speaking were state Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-2nd District), state Rep. Patrick Pepper (D-15th District), and Library Commission Chair Marcel Pultorak.
Bartles was honored for her decades of service by Herrick, Church and Santana, and Pepper recognized and honored the library system’s milestone, presenting a plaque to Schaefer.
Schaefer said she appreciated seeing so many of the library system’s friends and partners present.
She said the women of Dearborn’s Garden Club were among the first to recognize that the “sleepy little village” of Dearborn needed a library, and they funded the initial planning phase and established a library board, with Clara Snow as chair.
On April 1, 1921, Isabelle Chaffin from Massachusetts arrived to take charge of the new library, and library room was located in the village hall that is now part of the Dearborn Historical Museum.
However, the library’s centennial is celebrated in 2022 because in 1922 a vote was taken during the annual township election to establish a free public library.
Hammoud said libraries are quintessential to any thriving municipality, and Dearborn’s library buildings and staff keep the community moving forward.
“Libraries serve as the sandbox of democracy,” he said. “They serve as a beacon for hope on so many levels.”
Hammoud said he was thrilled to be at the centennial, and said his administration will continue to support both literacy and the city’s libraries as they enter a second century.
“Knowing the tumultuous times that we have ahead, hopefully, in partnership together, we will ensure this institution not only stays afloat, but also rises to higher levels than we have ever seen,” he said.
Bartles said that one of the advantages of retirement is that she can finally step back and enjoy the library system’s benefits.
“You are in good hands with this incredible staff,” she said.
Santana said the library is a place where people can explore, read and have a place of peace while broadening one’s horizon as children and as adults.
Pepper jokingly said that it didn’t seem possible that he had been around for 70 of the library system’s 100 years, and he has fond memories of the city’s bookmobile.
He said he spent many days at the Bryant Branch Library at Mason Street and Michigan Avenue – or so his parents believed – because it was often his alibi.
Pultorak, 82, said he has had a Dearborn library for more than seven decades, and was fortunate to have a family who encouraged him to read.
He said that while the Internet offers vast amounts of information, it will never replace libraries because it isn’t curated to provide a reliable range of information.
“The library can save you your most precious resource, which is time, and it can also save you money,” he said. “So, please use your library and invite people to use the library.”