Patrons line up to check items out at the library in 1986.

Patrons line up to check items out at the library in 1986.

Photo provided by the Rochester Hills Public Library

Library celebrates 100-year anniversary this year

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 24, 2024


ROCHESTER — The Rochester Hills Public Library hit a major milestone this year, celebrating a century of service.

The library has deep roots in Rochester, dating back to 1924, when the residents of Avon Township voted to support a library and the first library board was appointed.

“2024 is our 100th year. The voters of what was then known as Avon Township approved a millage in 1924 to build a public library, and that is basically what we are celebrating — from that day on. We’re celebrating our current location, our original location on Main Street, and everything we’ve been throughout the years,” said Betsy Raczkowski, the head of communications and community engagement at the library.

The library has a number of plans spanning the entire year to pay homage to the library’s hundred-year history, buildings that served as home to the library, staff members past and present, and library traditions both long-standing and new.

There will be displays throughout the library detailing its past, plus celebratory programs and special events, limited-edition swag, a 100-book reading challenge, and more.

Patrons can upgrade their library card in honor of the anniversary by visiting the circulation desk to choose between five designs, including three limited edition centennial cards available only in 2024.

“Our graphic designer did a complete redesign of all our library cards, so there are five new designs — three of which are only available this year — and they speak to our history. There is some historical imagery there and some celebratory imagery just celebrating our 100th birthday,” Raczkowski said.

Community members can visit a dedicated centennial page on the library website — — for a kickoff video, an interactive timeline, before and after photos, a “share your story” feature, an archive of historic library board meeting minutes, and more.

“On the homepage, we’ve got our 100-year logo, and it leads you to our centennial page,” said Library Director Juliane Morian. “The centennial web page itself is a really cool destination for people who want to dig in on the history of the library.”

According to the timeline, the “Avon Township Free Public Library” opened to the public on Feb. 7, 1925, in the first portion of the First National Bank, at the corner of Fourth and Main streets. After outgrowing their initial space, the library board purchased the Griggs residence at 210 W. University Drive to remodel for use as the library. When Eva Parker Woodward — daughter of Avon Township pioneer Lysander Woodward — passed, she left most of her estate to her housekeeper, Mary Louise Welters, with the condition that when she, too, passed, the entire estate was to be used for the construction of a new library building, the timeline states. The library board officially adopted the estate in January of 1948 and held a groundbreaking for the newly named “Woodward Memorial Library” in 1950.

In November of 1984, following an election, the city of Rochester Hills was born, marking the end of the Township of Avon. The library’s official name became the “City of Rochester Hills Public Library,” or the “Rochester Hills Public Library” for short, according to the timeline.

After once again outgrowing its space, the library board decided on a new location on a property between Paint Creek and Olde Towne Road, directly across from the post office, where the library sits today. The timeline states the new 70,000-square-foot library building opened to the public on Nov. 1, 1992.

For an even deeper dive into the library’s history, the public can purchase “A Necessity of Life: The History of Rochester Hills Public Library,” by Deborah Larsen, which is for sale at the Friends’ Library Store inside the library. Larsen — a historian, librarian and writer — said the book takes the library’s story from a predecessor organization founded in 1872 to the present day.

“When I wrote the book, I was struck by a quotation by Henry Ward Beecher. He wrote in 1859, ‘A library is not a luxury but a necessity of life.’ When we were going through the COVID and the shutdown and there was a lot of discussion about who were essential workers and what were essential services, and things like that, I was reaching out electronically to the library every single day to get materials to do research and to watch videos. It was a lifeline. And I think that COVID really showed us how truly important that library was — and always has been. When push came to shove, there was so much that the library had to offer. It really was a necessity of life, and I wanted to show that in the book,” Larsen said.

“The thing that has remained constant over the years is the library’s responsiveness and our ability to be ready for whatever is coming in the future,” added Raczkowski. “I think that’s a big part of what we’re celebrating.”

Library staff have been planning for the centennial celebration for the past six months.

“We’re leading up to a gala in October where we are going to be celebrating our yearlong events for the centennial, and, if there are any major renovations in the library — which we are slated to have — that would be an opportunity for a grand unveiling of some of our updated spaces within the library,” Morian shared.

At press time, the two main areas that were slated for an upgrade this year include the storytime room in the youth services department, which will be expanded, and a furnishings refresh for the second floor adult services area, plus “a surprise new element” that Morian said will be added to the second floor.

“I feel very fortunate to be the 10th head librarian to lead this organization,” said Morian. “It brings me pride to know that I get to be the privileged caretaker overseeing the library entering its second century of service, and I am committed to ensuring the library’s success and longevity by providing resources that entertain, inform and empower lifelong learning.”

The Rochester Hills Public Library is located at 500 Olde Towne Road in downtown Rochester. For more information, call (248) 656-2900 or visit