Library celebrates 50th anniversary month with party, exhibit

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 8, 2021

  Lucy Engebretsen, 4, from Sterling Heights, prepares to paint a pumpkin during an Oct. 2 fall-themed party at the Sterling Heights Public Library. The  library is celebrating its  50th anniversary in October.

Lucy Engebretsen, 4, from Sterling Heights, prepares to paint a pumpkin during an Oct. 2 fall-themed party at the Sterling Heights Public Library. The library is celebrating its 50th anniversary in October.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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STERLING HEIGHTS — After a half century of existence, the Sterling Heights Public Library was overdue for a party and a monthlong look back at how it has become a central part of the community.

On Oct. 2, the library kicked off the anniversary month with a party themed around fall that invited people of all ages to enjoy cider and doughnuts, and listen to music by children’s act Miss Paula and the Candy Bandits.

In a statement, Library Director Tammy Turgeon commented on the anniversary party. She said she felt proud of the library, and she thanked both staff and residents for supporting it.

“It was great to see residents of all ages celebrate the library with us,” she said. “City Council members, retired library staff members, long-time residents and many families all joined us in recognizing the importance of the library and its place in the history of the City of Sterling Heights.”

Present at the party was a new lobby exhibit, “Cheers to 50 Years,” featuring archived photos, news clips and more about the library’s evolution from idea to institution. The exhibit will remain there through October, library staff said.

According to the library’s local history/archives librarian, Karen Turk, the “Cheers to 50 Years” exhibit covers the library’s history from 1971 to 2000.

“Patrons will learn about the library’s beginnings in the basement of City Hall, the introduction of its ‘online’ circulation system in 1978, and how our current building was funded by a generous Public Works Act grant from the federal government,” she explained.

According to officials, the Sterling Heights Public Library opened Oct. 27, 1971, in City Hall’s basement. In order to get a library started, the city had to traverse a couple of years’ worth of legal obstacles, such as a need to amend the city charter, Turk said.

She said the city established a committee to handle the process and worked with the state education department, as well as the attorney general. Also, an ordinance had to be passed in June 1971 to form the library, she said.

“By all accounts, the citizens of Sterling Heights supported the library; they had relied on the county’s bookmobile, but services were scheduled to end in December 1971,” she added.

Turk said the basement’s room only afforded around 1,000 square feet of space, though that was still enough to fill it with 12,000 volumes.

But it wasn’t long before that space was not enough. So in December 1974, the library moved out of the basement and into a ranch-style home located at 40285 Dodge Park Road; it reportedly opened to patrons Jan. 2, 1975. That home, with its 2,200 square feet, approximately doubled the library’s size, Turk said.

Eventually, Turk said, the library relocated to where it is today in 1979 and opened Oct. 1 of that year, offering the public a much roomier 32,000 square feet of space. She said the community’s support has made the Sterling Heights library special, adding that the support makes it possible to evolve to fulfill patron needs.

“We are especially thankful for our Friends, who commissioned the ‘Two Bears’ sculpture that has become the library’s unofficial mascot,” she said.

“Even our former employees are still invested in the library’s success. An example would be Ed Piet, our longest-serving (now retired) employee, who funded the Ann Marie Given International Language Collection in memory of his late wife, and the fireside reading area.”

Find out more about the Sterling Heights Public Library by visiting www.shpl.net or by calling (586) 446-2665.

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