Our History: Letters to the Children of Troy, May 1971
Though library service officially began in Troy in 1962, the current Troy Public Library building at 510 West Big Beaver was not opened until a decade later in 1971.
The original Library, in 1962, had 1,000 books and was housed at Troy High School. As the city's population swelled, so did the Library's collection. By 1965, the Library moved to a storefront on East Square Lake Road and Livernois. Two years later, it moved again to an even bigger location on Rochester Road. In 1968, Joseph Howey was appointed the new director of the Library. He aggressively built the Library's collection to 22,282 books, and began the search for a permanent home.
In 1970, due to the Library's growth and the City's expanding population, the Troy City Commission voted to fund construction for a permanent Library building with a 30-year bond. The ground breaking for the new Library at 510 West Big Beaver was on January 24, 1970; construction continued for 16 months.
On May 16, 1971 the new Troy Public Library opened its doors for the first time to the public. The entire Library stood in the space occupied by the current Youth area.
In 1982, the City began the construction of an addition to the Library, which brings the building at 510 West Big Beaver to it current size. This addition opened to the public in 1985.
Letters to the Children of Troy
In March 1970, Marguerite Hart became the first children’s librarian at the Troy Library. She was hired to plan children’s activities and to develop a children’s collection for the booming youth population in the City. Hart was a native of Detroit. Before arriving in Troy, Hart was the children’s librarian at the Madison Heights Public Library for three years.
Hart possessed a passion for libraries and their role in communities. She was determined to provide children with proper library services. She once said:
The public library has a choice of roles to play in a community. It may be a vital, telling force, a source to which its patrons turn first, or it may be a passive entity, doing its work as a background for community activity. I believe that like the City of Troy, to which it belongs and which it represents, our new library must take a prominent place. Before children are able to read independently, a librarian helps them to know the library as the place they may explore when they do read. She helps them discover reading as a pleasurable experience, the quality of which derives from the attitudes within the library and that of the community it serves.
In early 1971, Hart wrote to dozens of actors, authors, artists, musicians, playwrights, librarians, and politicians of the day. She asked them to write a letter to the children of Troy about the importance of libraries, and their memories of reading and of books.
Hart received 97 letters addressed to Troy’s young people from individuals who spanned the arts, sciences, and politics across the
50 states, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, the Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.
Those writing included First Lady Pat Nixon; Michigan Governor William Milliken; then-Governor of California Ronald Reagan; Michigan State University President Clifton Wharton, Jr., the first African-American president of a major U.S. university; first-man-on-the-moon Neil Armstrong; Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown; authors Isaac Asimov, Hardie Gramatky, Dr. Seuss, Dr. Ben Spock, and E.B. White; and actors Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Vincent Price, and Dan Rowan and Dick Martin.
In collecting these letters, Marguerite Hart created a snapshot of the cultural and political landscape of the early 1970s. She accumulated a diverse anthology of letters that enriches the Troy Public Library’s remarkable history, and one that is a lasting tribute to the children of Troy – past, present, and future.
To view more Letters to the Children of Troy, please click on the link below.