History of the Library

The Adrian District Library traces its beginnings to the formation of the Ladies Library Association in 1868. The population of the city was increasing, and a need was felt by the public for a circulating library. The women of Adrian joined together to hold a variety of fundraisers and to gather books with which to open a library, including the collections which belonged to the YMCA and the Adrian firemen. The library opened on the second floor of the Conger Building, located on the northwest corner of East Maumee and Broad streets (just two doors down from their present location, and was operated by volunteers. In 1887 a movement was started to join the 5000 volumes of the school district library, located on the third floor of the high school, with the Ladies Library Association collection. The ladies offered to the School Board their books and a building worth $1,150. In exchange, they asked that the new library be located on the first floor. After much debate, the City Council voted to lease a room on the first floor of City Hall for library use. The library opened in City Hall on January 5, 1890. Miss Margaret Jewell was chosen to be the first paid librarian.

As the usage of the library grew, the need for space increased, and a grant of $27,500 was secured from Andrew Carnegie. The City Council added another $5,000 and a suitable building was constructed. The Carnegie Library was dedicated on February 5, 1909 and opened to the public.

In 1915, the library changed from a school district library to a city library with its own library commission. With the new city charter in 1957, the library became a department of the city and the commission was eliminated. The library continued to grow and change with Miss Agnes Jewell becoming librarian in 1933 and Miss Emma Sihler taking over the helm in 1951.

In 1972 Jule Fosbender took over as Director, and in 1976 the need for additional space had to be faced once again. The decision was made to purchase the closed J.C. Penney store on East Maumee Street using invested funds. On June 12, 1978, the Adrian Public Library opened the doors to its new home.

In 1987 the Bank of Lenawee gave the City the property directly behind the library to be developed into a park, which is now called Library Square. Funding for the park comes from the Harriet Kimball Fee Estate funds.

In 1990 the library received a matching LSCA grant to renovate the lower level of the library into a meeting/gallery room and storage areas.
Jule Fosbender retired in the spring of 2006 after thirty two years of dedicated service. Carol Souchock became the director of the Adrian Public Library in November of 2006.

In May of 2007 it was discovered that the building had sustained severe structural damage due to previously unnoticed water damage. This resulted in an emergency closing of the front doors when the city engineer determined that the façade was in danger of falling off the building. Future investigation determined that an underground river was located below the elevator pit and extensive water damage was found on all four sides of the building’s exterior walls.

The City of Adrian, and the community, stepped up to the challenge of repairing the library. Mayor Gary McDowell stated that the city would consider this an opportunity rather than a disaster. After a $1.4 million unplanned and unbudgeted two and half year renovation project the “new” Adrian Public Library reopened in October of 2009. All four sides of the building’s façade had been replaced along with extensive heating, cooling and ventilation work. A new café, Teen Zone, and Loft with casual and study seating were installed along the south side of the library as part of the city complex construction project.

At this time the City of Adrian also relocated their city hall immediately to the west of the library in the 100 year old former Bank of Lenawee building. A new police station was constructed immediately to the east of the library. The 100 year old United States Post Office building east of the Police Station was renovated into a magnificent City Chambers building. J.E. Johnson, of Midland, was the general contractor for the city complex project which utilized over 40 local firms.

The library lost a great friend in October of 2011. Jule Fosbender, Adrian Public Library director from 1972-2006, passed away on Friday, October 7. Many current library employees worked for Jule and anyone who has ever been to the library has been affected by her achievements and accomplishments during her tenure as library director. Jule was a leader in the Michigan and national library community.  She was honored in 1994 as Michigan Librarian of the Year.  Jule recognized the importance of preserving local history and so it was fitting that the Heritage room was named in her honor.
Carol Souchock left her position as director in September 2013 to become director of the Plymouth, Michigan library.  Shirley Ehnis, who began her library career at the Carnegie building and served as Adult Services Librarian at the new building, was appointed as the director in November 2013.

Financial concerns in the spring of 2014 led the Adrian City Commission to levy a 1 mil tax dedicated to library funding.  The city continued to support the library from the general fund for the 2014/15 year.  Planning for the 2015/16 fiscal year began in December of 2014 with the City considering to cut the library's budget by about $368,000.  It was determined that the library should establish itself as a single entity district library.  With the approval of the State Librarian on February 6, 2015, the library began the process of becoming a district library and sought community support of a dedicated library millage.  On May 5, 2015, voters approved a dedicated ten year, 2.50 mill tax for the Adrian District Library and effective July 1, 2015 the library is no longer a department of the Adrian city government.

On September 28, 2017, Shirley Ehnis retired after 41 years of service at the library. Jennifer Wrzesinski started work as the new director on October 2, 2017. 

We look back with pride at the history of the Adrian District Library and look forward to the future.  As we respond to the changing needs of our community, and utilize technology opportunities, the library will continue to grow and change.