Kalamazoo Central Library
315 South Rose Street
Kalamazoo Public Library History
The origins of the Kalamazoo Public Library were humble. In 1860 the local school district inherited 123 volumes from a failed township library. With that tiny collection, a library was opened for a single hour per week, its use limited to students of the school district and their parents. It grew through the Civil War years until it had 2,800 books, and opened to the general public on 12 October 1872. From that modest beginning, Kalamazoo Public Library has continued to grow until it now offers 120,000 people almost 400,000 books and a variety of other media from five buildings. The library continued to function under the direction of the board of education for more than a century until 1990, when voters agreed to form a district library which would function under its own board of trustees.
The library's early headquarters in cramped rented facilities gave way to a fine new Romanesque structure completed in 1893 with a $50,000 gift from Dr. and Mrs. E. H. Van Deusen. By the late 1920s the library had grown so much that it spilled over into the adjacent Peck and Kauffer houses on Rose Street. The depression and World War II delayed a much needed new building, but after a spirited campaign, and a favorable millage vote in 1955, the library's second new building replaced the old one on 25 May 1959. The library continued to grow, filling even this new facility to bursting. The departure of the Kalamazoo Public Museum in 1996 provided the opportunity for a major renovation of the existing building to take advantage of the vacated space, and to add the third floor that was planned when it was built. Over the years, the library also added four branches, Washington Square, Eastwood, Powell and Oshtemo, each of which began in a school and eventually acquired its own building.