‘It’s one of our crown jewels'

Woods residents celebrate library’s 50th anniversary

By: Jeremy Selweski | Woodward Talk | Published January 26, 2011

 The Huntington Woods Public Library celebrated its 50th anniversary on Jan. 16 with a three-hour ceremony that attracted about 200 guests. Pictured, Max Berlin, 14, of Huntington Woods plays a piano that was purchased by the Friends of the Library and the Huntington Woods Men’s Club in honor of the library’s anniversary.

The Huntington Woods Public Library celebrated its 50th anniversary on Jan. 16 with a three-hour ceremony that attracted about 200 guests. Pictured, Max Berlin, 14, of Huntington Woods plays a piano that was purchased by the Friends of the Library and the Huntington Woods Men’s Club in honor of the library’s anniversary.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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HUNTINGTON WOODS — With the Huntington Woods Public Library reaching its 50-year milestone this month, Toni Brandt was reminded of the importance of not becoming complacent.

“For me, this means that we need to keep getting better and keep growing,” said Brandt, who has been the president of the Friends of the Huntington Woods Library since 1993. “We need to embrace new technology and also work to keep print reading alive.”

Brandt joined an estimated 200 guests in celebrating the library’s 50th anniversary on Jan. 16. The three-hour ceremony featured presentations from library staff, city officials and others, as well as live musical entertainment courtesy of the Kidz Klez klezmer band.

“It was wonderful — we were able to celebrate our 50th year in royalty,” Brandt said. “It was just a fun, fun afternoon, and we had a really nice turnout throughout the day.”

When asked about the key to the library’s success and longevity, Mayor Ron Gillham offered a simple explanation: “Good things tend to last a long time,” he said. “I’ve been so pleased that we’ve been able to have a library of such great quality for so long, especially for a community of our size. It’s a marvelous asset for the city. It’s one of our crown jewels, and we’re going to work very hard to keep it that way.”

According to Phyllis Solmen, historian for the Huntington Woods Study Club, the city’s first library was organized in February 1942 by a group of women from the Study Club. It opened in the basement of Burton Elementary School with just 500 books on hand, gradually growing over the next two decades.

Then, in January 1961, the Huntington Woods Library officially opened to the public when construction on the building was completed. The small, single-story facility — which cost just $131,000 to build — was expanded five years later with an addition of more than 5,000 square feet. Later, in 1998, another major renovation took place with the installation of elevators, handicap ramps, Internet access and other improvements.

In its current incarnation, the building stands at nearly 11,000 square feet and includes more than 47,000 print titles, 2,800 CDs, 1,200 DVDs, and 140 magazine and newspaper subscriptions.

Library Director Anne Hage, who has worked at the library since 1988, said that the biggest changes she has seen have been caused by the advent of the Internet, e-mail and other modern technologies that have made research and communication easier than ever before.

“Those things have done so much to change the way the library operates in recent years,” she said. “And we have to make sure we keep up with them all. We have to keep catering to the community, keep giving the public what they want if we want to continue to be the cultural gem of the city.”

During her 20-plus years as part of the library staff, Hage has relished the opportunity to make so many good friends and acquaintances.

“Working with the community has always been the best part of this job — it’s like having another family,” she said. “You get to know a lot of the residents by name, and you get to see a lot of the kids grow up. Everyone here really appreciates the library.”

For head of circulation Sally Kohlenberg, who has worked at the library for 31 years, the library’s diverse range of activities is one of its greatest strengths. As examples, she pointed to its children’s story times and events, its summer reading program, the Friends of the Library book sales, and the Woods Gallery, an art gallery located in the basement.

“Our patrons really seem to love all the different things we offer,” Kohlenberg said. “I always say that even though we’re a small library, we’re also a cute one. People still get a lot of use out of us.”

Brandt believes that the library’s continuing popularity is due to a couple of main factors. “This has always been a community that has valued books and knowledge and education,” she said. “People here just really love to read. It also helps that the library is right in the middle of the city, along with the (Recreation) Center and Burton School, so people sort of flock to that area. It has always been the cultural center of Huntington Woods.”

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Friends of the Huntington Woods Library, which Brandt noted has raised more than $100,000 for the library over the years. She said that the organization strives to give back to the library and contribute to projects that make it “a better, friendlier place to be.”

Looking ahead, Brandt believes that the key to making sure the library stays relevant for another half-century is relatively straightforward: Don’t be afraid to evolve with the times, but always remember who it is you’re serving every step of the way.

“It’s the people who keep coming through those doors that are heart of our community,” Brandt said. “I still see a community of people who have remained interested in their neighbors — technology has not isolated us. I’ve been here for 32 years, and it’s never been an unexciting place to live. We really are like a big family.”

 

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