The Jackson District Library traces its roots to 1863 when a group of men formed the Young Men’s Association. On March 15, 1865 a reading room was opened at 272 West Main Street on the second floor of the Durand block. After much debate and many motions and counter motions, it was decided to subscribe to 21 newspapers and four magazines. In 1865, 239 books were donated; while in 1868, $1,000.00 was spent for books. The library now had 1800 volumes and the organization was incorporated under the laws of the state in 1869.
On April 23, 1885, the state legislature passed an act enabling the libraries of school district number one, school district number seventeen, and the Young Men’s Association of the City of Jackson to combine; forming a tax supported free public library in the City of Jackson. Previous to this legislation the library was supported by a subscription fee of $2.00 per year plus other donations of interested citizens. Between 1864 and 1906, the fast growing library was housed in four different locations in downtown Jackson.
In 1901, Andrew Carnegie donated $50,000 for the construction of a new library building in the city of Jackson. Mr. Andrew Carnegie’s original gift was increased by $20,000 through the personal efforts of Mrs. Zelie P. Emerson who knew Mr. Carnegie when she lived in Pittsburgh in the earlier part of her life. The agreement as signed in 1901 provided that the City of Jackson should spend a minimum of $7,000 each year for the maintenance and operation of the library. The Carnegie Library opened to the public in 1906 and was one of 53 Carnegie libraries built in Michigan.
The Jackson County Library, a separate institution, was established in 1929 to serve residents outside the city of Jackson and expanded to include thirteen branches. In August 1977, the voters in Jackson County approved a tax levy to establish and maintain a single library system in the county. The Jackson District Library was created by merging the Jackson County Library with the Jackson Public Library beginning in January 1978.