Detroit Public Library

Detroit Public Library
Detroit Public Library
Detroit Public Library logo
Established 1865
Location 5201 Woodward Avenue,
Detroit, Michigan 48202
 United States
Branches 24
Size 7,572,562
Access and use
Population served 918,849
Other information
Director Jo Anne Mondowney

Detroit Public Library
Built: 1921, 1963
Architect: Cass Gilbert
Architectural style: Italian Renaissance
Part of: Cultural Center Historic District (#83003791)
Significant dates
Designated CP: November 21, 1983
Designated MSHS: January 24, 1964[1]

The Detroit Public Library (DPL) is the second largest library system in Michigan by volumes held (after the University of Michigan Library), and is the 20th largest library system in the United States.[2] It is composed of a Main Library on Woodward Avenue, which houses DPL administration offices, and twenty-three branch locations across the city. The Main Library is part of Detroit's Cultural Center Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places adjacent to Wayne State University campus and across from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Designed by Cass Gilbert, the Detroit Public Library was constructed with Vermont marble and serpentine Italian marble trim in an Italian Renaissance style. His son, Cass Gilbert, Jr. was a partner with Francis J. Keally in the design of the library's additional wings added in 1963. Among his other buildings, Cass Gilbert designed the United States Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC, the Minnesota State Capitol and the Woolworth Building in New York City.[3]



A stand-alone public library in Detroit dates back to 1865. An 1842 state law requiring the Detroit Board of Education to open a library resulted in a public reading room opening on March 25, 1865 in the old Capitol High School at State and Griswold Street. In 1872, the Centre Park Library opened at the current location of the Skillman Branch in downtown Detroit at Gratiot and Library Street. The first branch library opened in 1897 when the Detroit Water Commission library was opened to the public; in 1905 this library was turned over to the Detroit Library Commission.

Several additional branches opened shortly afterwards, including one in the Old Main building of Wayne State University. But it was not until 1910 when Andrew Carnegie, the great American library philanthropist of the early 20th century, donated funds did Detroiters decide to build a larger central library to supplement Centre Park. Property near Woodward and Kirby was purchased and in 1912 Cass Gilbert was commissioned to construct his design of a three-floor, early Italian Renaissance-style building. Due to delays and World War I, the Main Library did not open until March 21, 1921. It was dedicated June 3, 1921.[4] The library system's bookmobile service began in 1940.[5]

The north and south wings opened on June 23, 1963 and added a significant amount of space to the building.[6] The wings were connected along the rear of the original building and a new entrance created on Cass Avenue. Above this entrance is a mosaic by Millard Sheets entitled The River of Knowledge.[7] As part of the addition, a tripych mural was added to the west wall of Adam Strohm Hall on the third floor. The mural by local artist John Stephens Coppin is entitled Man's Mobility and depicts a history of transportation. This mural compliments a tryparch mural on the opposite wall completed in 1921 by Gari Melchers depicting Detroit's early history.[6]

Detroit Public Library is also a founding member of the Detroit area library network (DALNET). Historically, DALNET ran the Integrated Library System (online library catalog) for the library but the library later purchased its own servers, after the mainframe computer era began to wane, and the library now runs its own systems. The library continues to be a member partner in the consortium.[8]


The Detroit Public Library is a publicly funded, independent, municipal corporation. The Detroit Public Library Commission whose members are appointed by the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education, is the governing authority for the system. The commission establishes policies and administer the funds. There are 7 Library Commissioners, with the seventh commissioner being the current president of the Board of Education, who is an ex-offico commissioner. Library Commissioners are appointed to 6 year staggered terms. There is an annual general meeting where the president, vice president, and secretary of the commission are elected, and monthly meetings held at the Main Library which are open to the public. The commission appoint and hires the Director, Deputy Director and all other employees are hired by the commission, upon the recommendation of the Director.


The Detroit Public Library offers users books, magazines, records, CDs, videos, DVDs and electronic materials through access to subscription databases. It also houses the Burton Historical Collection (named for historian and donor Clarence M. Burton), the Hackley Collection, and the National Automotive History Collection. Additionally, there are online collections, including one on Detroit Tigers and Baseball Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Ernie Harwell. The Ernie Harwell Online Exhibit is part of the Burton Historical Collection.The Detroit Public Library Online Catalog


The library also offers practical advice to Detroiters through their TIP service, short for The Information Place. Librarians and support staff have access to a TIP database and offer free community information and referral service on matters such as food, housing, transportation, financial aid, legal advice, education, counseling, health care and family support. Library clients can search the TIP database themselves when visiting the library.

Photo gallery



Branch Address
Herbert Bowen Branch 3648 W. Vernor/W. Grand Blvd.
James Valentine Campbell Branch 8733 W. Vernor/Springwells
Chandler Park Branch 12800 Harper/Dickerson
Henry Chaney Branch 16101 Grand River/Greenfield
Jessie C. Chase Branch 17731 W. Seven M./Southfield
Edwin F. Conely Branch 4600 Martin/Michigan
Douglass Branch for Specialized Services (formerly The Frederick Douglass Center for Specialized Services)[9] 3666 Grand River/Trumbull
Divie B. Duffield Branch 2507 W. Grand Blvd./14th St.
Thomas A. Edison Branch 18400 Joy Rd./Southfield
Elmwood Park Branch 550 Chene/Lafayette
Benjamin Franklin Branch 13651 E. McNichols/Gratiot
Bela Hubbard Branch 12929 W. McNichols/J. Couzens
Thomas Jefferson Branch 12350 E. Outer Drive/E. Warren
Elisabeth Knapp Branch 13330 Conant/E. Davison
Abraham Lincoln Branch 1221 E. Seven Mile/Russell
Main Library 5201 Woodward Ave
Mark Twain Annex/Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church 4741 Iroquois
John Monteith Branch 14100 Kercheval/Eastlawn
Francis Parkman Branch 1766 Oakman Blvd./Linwood
Redford Branch 21200 Grand River/W. McNichols
Gabriel Richard Branch 9876 Grand River/Stoepel
Sherwood Forest Branch 7117 W. Seven Mile/Livernois
Rose and Robert Skillman Branch (formerly Downtown Library)[9] 121 Gratiot / Library
Laura Ingalls Wilder Branch 7140 E. Seven Mile/Van Dyke

The Douglass Branch for Specialized Services is the base of operations for the bookmobile service, and it also houses the Library for the Blind and the Physically Handicapped and other special services.[5]

Former branches

  • John F. Gray Branch[9]
  • George Van Ness Lothrop Branch (At the southwest corner of West Warren Avenue and West Grand Boulevard-demolished October 2009)[10]
  • Henry M. Utley Branch ( 8726 Woodward Avenue, now "The Family Place". )[10][11]
  • Magnus Butzel Branch (At the southwest corner of Harper Avenue (I-94 Service Road) and East Grand Boulevard; demolished in 1998)[10]


  1. ^ "Main Detroit Public Library". Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Retrieved September 1, 2010. 
  2. ^ "The Nation's Largest Libraries by Volumes Held". American Library Association. 
  3. ^ Meyer, Katherine Mattingly and Martin C.P. McElroy with Introduction by W. Hawkins Ferry, Hon A.I.A. (1980). Detroit Architecture A.I.A. Guide Revised Edition. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1651-4. 
  4. ^ "DPL History". Detroit Public Library. 2006. Retrieved 2011-04-18. 
  5. ^ a b Carlisle, John (Detroitblogger John). "Magic bus." Metro Times. June 15, 2011. Retrieved on August 13, 2011.
  6. ^ a b George Bulanda (September 2008). "The Main Detroit Public Library". Hour Detroit ( Retrieved December 9, 2010. 
  7. ^ "The River of Knowledge Mosaic". December 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2010. 
  8. ^ "DALNET– Historical Timeline". The Detroit Area Library Network. November 2010. Retrieved 2011-04-18. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Locations & Hours." Detroit Public Library. Retrieved on April 26, 2009.
  10. ^ a b c "Detroit Public Library Branches, 1914". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  11. ^ "The Family Place". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 

References and further reading

  • Christen, Barbara S.; Flanders, Steven (2001). Cass Gilbert, Life and Work: Architect of the Public Domain. W.W. Norton. ISBN 0393730654. 
  • Hill, Eric J. and John Gallagher (2002). AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3120-3. 
  • Meyer, Katherine Mattingly and Martin C.P. McElroy with Introduction by W. Hawkins Ferry, Hon A.I.A. (1980). Detroit Architecture A.I.A. Guide Revised Edition. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1651-4. 
  • Sharoff, Robert (2005). American City: Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3270-6. 

External links

Coordinates: 42°21′30.9″N 83°4′0″W / 42.358583°N 83.066667°W / 42.358583; -83.066667

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