Michigan Bucket List: Cool Libraries to Visit
When was the last time you walked into a place that had racks of the latest magazines that you could pick out and take home? Or step into the same space and attend a seminar on local craft beers, make some copies, or log into your email from a bank of available computers – all for free? Oh, and these places have thousands of books both on shelves and online. They’re all waiting for you to get your next hankering for a great classic novel, a murder mystery, a travel guide, cookbook or stacks of children’s books. Michigan’s libraries have evolved into multi-faceted gathering and community resource centers that are about so much more than just checking out books. If you want to pick a few to put on your Michigan Bucket List, we’re sharing some ideas for cool libraries to visit.
Michigan libraries each have their own character. At last count, the state had nearly 400 public library systems covering both peninsulas. These had more than 650 locations open to the public. Some of our favorites include:
Mackinac Island Public Library: this lovely little shoreline building on your to-visit list the next time you’re on Michigan’s most popular island. While visitors can’t borrow books, they can marvel at the eye candy both inside and out. The interior design was done by the late Carleton Varney, the same man who for years brought his signature splashes of color to the island’s Grand Hotel. But it’s the outside that is even more of a showstopper: the library’s back porch overlooks the Straits of Mackinac and the famous Mackinac Bridge. No other library has a back-door view quite like this one.
Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library: This library at Michigan Technological University in Houghton has lots of modern amenities for its students, but it’s a treasure trove for Upper Peninsula history buffs. The team overseeing its Copper Country Historical Images help people search for photos and information dating back a century or more. If you want to know what early mining days in the U.P. looked like, how Finnish immigrants and others banded together to build these rugged towns, this library’s stockpile of images can make history come to life.
Glen Lake Community Library: Tucked into the tiny town of Empire, at the edge of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, is a bright, welcoming little library that has been the pride of its regional community for years. Renovated and expanded with a reopening in 2020, this space filled with natural light and comfortable reading areas is inviting to locals as well as visitors. It’s also just a few blocks from a beautiful stretch of Lake Michigan public beach.
Library of Michigan: This state-run library located in Michigan’s capital city of Lansing is a huge repository for publications, legal documents and even genealogy research. Anyone researching their family history in Michigan can find county guides, vital records, plat maps, newspaper clippings and dozens of other resources to help shine a light on details from past generations.
Detroit Public Library: This main library branch on Woodward Avenue in Detroit is part of the oldest library system in the state – and one of the most beautiful with mural art and architecture. According to Michigan records, the state’s first library was opened by a pastor in Detroit in 1817 as a members-only establishment. By 1865, it had become a free public library. These days, there are also 23 branch libraries across the city.
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Photo credit: BCBSM