Books, Concerts, Digital Resources and Early Literacy Programs and Beyond
This year marked the 65th anniversary of the Ferndale Library’s grand opening at its current location at 222 E. Nine Mile Rd. Next November will actually be our 90th anniversary: the city established its first library located at the other side of our west parking lot, at 130 E. Nine Mile, (currently the location of Foley & Mansfield Attorneys at Law).
Files on the Ferndale Library, preserved in the collections of the Ferndale Historical Museum, record that the library contained more than 2,000 books for circulation in its first year. Etta Vivian, the head librarian in 1930, issued nearly 1,500 library cards in that first year alone, with the help of just one assistant.
Incorporated into a village in 1918, Ferndale started seeing a boom in population right after it was founded as a city in 1927, eventually deemed “the fastest growing city in the U.S.”  A wave of newly hired autoworkers on Henry Ford’s assembly lines in Highland Park settled here, surging population numbers to above 20,000 by the year of the library’s opening.  By the end of its first decade, these new citizens had access to more than 10,000 books, and in 1937, a small group of volunteers formed the Friends of the Library, the first group of its kind in Michigan at that time, to support library programs and services.
When the library was moved from the 130 address in 1954 to its current 222 location, on Nine Mile, a collection of young volunteers, including Lincoln High School students, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and Campfire Girl Troops, as well as the general public, dutifully carried books and materials to the new state-of-the-art facility, complete with the latest 1950s architecture and Herman Miller designed furniture.
The library went without any major renovations until 1987, when new ceilings and lighting were installed. The next big renovation came in 2007, three years after the City of Ferndale established the library as an independent body with an elected Board of Trustees. A strategic planning process, bolstered by a series of public surveys that showed enthusiasm for increased library services and activities, led to an expansion project of the existing 12,000 sq ft building. City Council approved a Library Improvement Plan in February, 2007, with a groundbreaking in May of that year.
Kevin Deegan-Krause, a former Library Board President at that time, and 2007’s President, Mary Ann Neal, were among many Ferndale residents who advocated for modernizing the library so that it could become an anchor of the downtown as a source of cultural enrichment and universal access to information. A millage to renovate and upgrade the building into a technologically advanced, environmentally-friendly space was voted over 2 to 1 in favor, demonstrating considerable support and excitement for expanded library services.
Letters to the Editors of the Woodward Talk and Daily Tribune found Ferndale resident Judy Arnold encouraging support of the millage, deeming the library, in its former state, to be “dreary, cramped for space, lacking accessibility,” with “inadequate resources” and was “not a reflection of Ferndale’s vibrant, unique, cutting edge community.”
The library was doubled in size, expanding its youth services area, (known as the “Kids Corner”), as well as the computer lab. It would also be a “green space” with high-efficiency geothermal heating/cooling, and an ecologically minded green roof to recycle rainwater. The library was awarded a silver certification in 2012 for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The $3.7 million expansion, proclaimed the Ferndale Citizens for a Better Library, was necessary to ameliorate the facilities and assure the city had “a strong, healthy public library,” it being “a vital resource that will add to the quality of life.” Preceding this organized effort in 2007 was the similar “Library Task Force,” which conducted auxiliary surveys back in 1998 that concluded the library to be “a key measure of the health and vitality of a community.”
While expanded hours and more access to computers were among the top desires for expanding the library 12 years ago, the surveys also found continued demand for programs and events. Activities like Storytime and holiday parties for children, as well as family-friendly entertainers, author lectures, art exhibitions, bake sales, musical performances, puppet shows, book clubs and more have been a staple on the library’s yearly calendar of events, going back to its inception in 1930.
By 2010, the Library’s official mission was officially declared to be as a resource that “strengthens the community by providing access to materials and services that inform, enrich, entertain, and empower.” The newly renovated library opened in August 2, of 2010.
Back in 1954, the library’s noble card catalog had 40 drawers, arranged by author, subject and title. In the mid-1990s, the library began using an online catalog, and since 2009, the library has leaped ahead into the 21st century in terms of services. Patrons can now access to eBooks, audiobooks, digital magazines, online databases to scholarly articles, online maps and travel information, self-checkout stations at the youth and circulation desks, expanded Kids Corner with a playspace, and access to Wi-Fi enabling devices.
The library was forced to cut spending on materials, staff and hours in 2012, resulting from the lingering impact of the 2009 recession. In late 2014, the city of Ferndale and the Ferndale School District joined in an effort to “stabilize” the situation “by forming a district library.”  This allowed the library to shift from Public Act 164 (in which the city served as the library’s fiscal agent), to the District Library Establishment Act, allowing it to ask voters for an increase beyond 2 mils to fund operations; this also made the library its own independent taxing authority, and applied four-year terms for elected members to its Board of Trustees.
In August of 2016, Ferndale residents went to the polls, with 65% of voters supporting replacing its millage for 10 more years, starting in 2017, thus restoring service hours and boost budgets for materials that had been reduced or cut in 2014. Beyond an increase in materials, the library was able to be open 58 hours a week, with services expanded to all seven days of the week. Jessica Keyser’s last day as Library Director came two weeks after the vote, but she expressed gratitude to The Woodward Talk, assuring that the library is “… now in a position to be very strong and very sustainable into the future…” with staff “working hard to make sure that the city gets a good return on its investment.” 
Head Reference Librarian Darlene Hellenberg took over as Interim Director from August 2016 through May of 2017. In the spring of that year, East Lansing-raised Librarian Jenny Marr relocated back to her home state (from a recent position as Director of a library in Kansas), to become the current Ferndale Library Director. Mrs. Vivian served as its first director from 1930-46, followed by Elizabeth Baker, 1946-52; Roger Walcott, 1952-60; Enid DeTar, 1961-77, Daidee Springer, 1977-84; Mary Trenner, 1984-2006, Douglas Raber 2007-2011, Kate Pohjola, 2011-2012, Jessica Keyser, 2012-2016, Jenny Marr 2017-Present.
Back in 1980, at the 50th anniversary, former Head Librarian Daidee Springer said that this library should be appreciated as “the catalyst for ideas in the Ferndale area.” She added: “Libraries play an important part in the life of the community; all can use them.”
In 2018, the library had an opportunity to refinance the 2008 renovation bond for a lower interest rate. In order to do this, the library needed to purchase the building from the City of Ferndale so that everything would be in the name of the library. This allows the library to save money every year for the remaining 10 years of this bond. Additionally, by owning the building, the library can now make long-range plans and adapt the building as needed to better serve the changing needs of the community.
The library is very active on social media, where patrons can find consistent updates of upcoming events. A monthly calendar is printed on the 15th of each month, available at the Circulation Desk. For more information on programs and services, please visit the library website www.ferndalepubliclibrary.org.
In 2019, serving a community just under 20,000, the library‘s has nearly 73,000 items circulating in its collection. There are 36 public computers accessible throughout the library. Current staff includes 10 full-time and 11 part-time staffers, with six rotating subs; 14 on staff have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences degree. The library is open 7 days a week, 10am-8pm Monday-Thursday, 10am-6pm Friday, and 12pm-5pm on Saturday/Sunday. Unique services include eBook and Audiobook access online, free/discounted passes to Michigan State Parks/museums and cultural destinations through the Michigan Adventure Pass, a loanable wi-fi routers to connect to the internet anywhere, fax and Xerox services, storytimes for children and more. Regular events include live music concerts, art exhibitions, author talks, board game drop-in events, music & movement storytimes for children, and Summer Reading programs.
The Ferndale Library prides itself on being a 21st century Community Center, in that it’s where the community, everyone and anyone, can convene and interact. That means that the library has had some interesting visitors over the years, like a group of caroling joggers during the holidays, an artist who designed full-body mascot suits inviting staff to try them on and become big green friendly monsters, or a full scale marching band (on two different occasions)! There have been magic shows, synthesizers, large Japanese drum ensembles, and even a turkey carving seminar by Ferndale’s own Farm Field Table. Over the past 9 years since its remodeling, whether it’s any of these interesting visitors, or just an exhibiting artist, lecturing author, or performing musician, they all say the same thing: “…what a great space!”
 “Ferndale Our City,” undated City of Ferndale publication, now in Ferndale Historical Museum files, cites Floyd Gibbons, “radio speaker and war correspondent,” who mentioned these facts about Ferndale in a June 1930 broadcast nationwide.”
 History of the Ferndale Library by Jean Spang, Ferndale Historical Society, March 2006.
 ‘Council, school board approve forming Ferndale District Library.’ Joshua Gordon, Woodward Talk. Nov 3, 2014.
 ‘Voters pass millages to boost Ferndale Library and school.’ Mike Koury. Woodward Talk. Aug 3, 2016.