The Berkley Public Library is celebrating its 90th birthday this year, and is holding a party Thursday, Oct. 11, that the public is welcome to attend.

The Berkley Public Library is celebrating its 90th birthday this year, and is holding a party Thursday, Oct. 11, that the public is welcome to attend.

Photo provided by the Berkley Historical Museum


Berkley library to celebrate 90th birthday

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published October 3, 2018

 A photo provided by the Berkley Historical Museum shows visitors looking through the selection of books at the library.

A photo provided by the Berkley Historical Museum shows visitors looking through the selection of books at the library.

Photo provided by the Berkley Historical Museum

BERKLEY — One Berkley institution is celebrating its ninth decade of existence in 2018.

The Berkley Public Library is celebrating its 90th birthday this year, and will do so with a party from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, at the library, located at 3155 Coolidge Highway.

The event will be a celebration for the library and also will have activities for children, including a balloon artist. Highlighting the birthday party will be storyboards with articles and photos from the Berkley Historical Museum that will tell the story of the library.

“It’s just a fun opportunity to kind of celebrate the library’s place in the community,”  Library Director Matt Church said. “The Friends of the Library are putting this on. We’re super grateful for their support over all of the years. They provide a lot of the funding for our programming and some of our services. So it’s a fun time to thank them for their contribution and celebrate the milestone together.”

According to Jeffrey Tong, of the Berkley Historical Museum, the city’s Woman’s Club started the library in 1928, which he said was pretty typical of cities during that period of time.

Tong said that a letter from one of the club’s founding members that the museum has acquired details how women felt bored because their houses were spread out from each other, they didn’t have any phones and they were tired of sitting at home, so they formed the Woman’s Club.

“One of the first things they did was, people were complaining they didn’t have any books, so they volunteered and started the library,” he said.

Tong said the library was able to get a few books from the Detroit Public Library; the Berkley Public Library’s collection has now grown to about 70,000 hardcover and paperback books, according to the library’s website.

Since its inception in 1928, the library has occupied several buildings on Coolidge Highway before settling in 1964 at its current space. It later was renovated and expanded in 1998 to what it is today.

“It started out just as a small collection put on by a volunteer group, and now it’s a great library serving the whole community,” Church said.

“I think definitely, within the last five years, we’ve continued to grow in terms of programs that we offer, in terms of just variety of collection. We’re able to offer a few new digital services while still maintaining a strong print collection.”

Church, who’s been the director for the last five years, said that while digital services have been on the rise, there still is a strong interest in physical items, such as books and movies.

“We’ve also seen a lot of growth in online, downloadable content,” he said. “We’ve actually been pushing more resources in that direction to make sure that we’re serving people. When I started here five years ago, we had just one downloadable service. We now have three downloadable services. So we’ve got downloadable movies, music, magazines, books, books on CD. So, a good assortment of stuff.”

Tong has lived in Berkley for all of his 75 years and remembers going to the library’s first location in a small, cozy building on Coolidge to get children’s books, and later, when it moved, heading to its new location to borrow Perry Mason books.

“They’ve always had a wonderful, friendly staff. They’ve always had (that), when they built the first library,” Tong said.

While some people might worry about the popularity of libraries in today’s digital age, Tong doesn’t worry, as he said there still are many people heading out to their local libraries.

“To this day, if you go to the Berkley Public Library any night, you’re going to find it just jammed,” he said. “A lot of people think people don’t use the libraries anymore, and I’m telling you, go to the Ferndale library at night; go to the Berkley Public Library. It’s hard to find a seat. There are people there using it, checking out books.”