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The County Library

A Varied Diet

Photo of Louise Tefft

Louise Tefft, circa 1937

I believe we should provide residents of Jackson County
outside the city of Jackson the same benefit of library facilities
that are enjoyed by residents of the city. Books and papers bring
the world to our door. A healthy mind needs a variety in its
thought just as much as the properly nourished body
demands a varied diet. — Mrs. Louise Tefft: 1928 request to County Supervisor

Mrs. Tefft’s efforts in promoting the county library were recognized several years later when she received a letter from Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt congratulating her and extending best wishes. Mrs. Tefft, who started it all, said, “Books and papers bring the world to our door. A healthy mind needs a variety in its thought just as much as the properly nourished body demands a varied diet.”
Jackson Citizen Patriot: 1961

At the turn of the 20th Century, the state library established “traveling libraries,” which provided rural areas with books; these became so successful that people wanted permanent libraries in their own communities. Several varieties of libraries popped up in the county, from the private library that Miss Nellie Young operated out of her home in Brooklyn to a sprinkling of subscription libraries and free libraries in Springport, Concord, Parma, and Hanover. Thanks to the efforts of Hanover resident Louise Tefft, Jackson was one of two counties in Michigan chosen to start a county library program.

Hard Times

Miss Maud Grill – teacher, newspaper reporter, librarian – was more than qualified for the task. Most importantly, Miss Grill knew how to work with people and persevere in hard times. She was given an automobile and office space in the basement of the Carnegie building. One of her first tasks was to learn how to drive. Miss Grill traveled the county, establishing book stations and community libraries. She delivered books to schools, swapping out books at each station on a regular basis. Her personal diaries show how readily she racked up 3,000 miles a year. She recounted her efforts to get books out to county residents in her radio talk of 1929.

Photo of Maud Grill

Maud Grill, circa 1937

The first months have been very busy ones. Starting with absolutely no books at all, about 1800 books have been bought, 1000 books have been lent by the Michigan State Library. These 2800 books are now distributed to 19 stations in small town libraries, post offices, and oil stations where shoeboxes and canned good have been shifted to make shelf room. At one station, the task of placing books on shelves just vacated by tomato cans was suspended to charge the books out to interested patrons. At another, the children have greedily taken out easies and books like Peter Rabbit went out and came back three times a day. The country stations are reached by a very efficient Ford Coupe truck. So we do feel that it is true that “Michigan moves ahead.”
Miss Maud Grill: Radio Talk 1929

Worth Their Salt


Budgetary issues were always a worry. In 1933, just four years after the County Library opened; county-wide budget cuts were proposed. Once again it was Mrs. Louise Tefft of Hanover who approached the County Supervisors once again.

Dear Sir: Suppose a family’s budget for food looked like this: Meat per month $12; Milk per month, $5, Groceries per month $35; Salt per month .10. What would you think of the brains of the head of the house, if he said “Strict economy being necessary, let us cut down on SALT?” But to cut down on the relatively tiny amounts a community spends on its public library service is to cut down on the intellectual salt which gives savor to most of life; which brings out the flavor and the meaning of many of life’s happenings; which, in times of mental hardship and privation, can do more than any other one factor to make life palatable. Don’t cut the salt out of your budget.
Mrs. Louise Tefft: Oct. 2, 1933


The book budget at both public and county libraries suffered during this time, and often only one or two copies of popular books were in circulation. Protecting and reissuing books became a priority, so both systems employed Works Project Administration (or WPA) workers to rebind books. These workers collectively bound thousands of books and also served as librarians, researchers, and book truck drivers. While the WPA workers made wages just above the poverty level, city librarians made even less.

Miss Grill used this adversity to demonstrate the absolute necessity of the County Program. During the peak years of the Depression, the county circulated 12,000 books in one year. She claimed the increase was due to unemployed patrons reading escape literature. And in spite of the hard economic times, the county library expanded.
When she retired in 1952, it would take another talented strong woman, Miss Eudocia Stratton, to carry on. Despite her formal demeanor, Miss Stratton cared about her staff and encouraged them.

Photo of WPA County Library

WPA County Library circa 1935

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Tessa’s Literary Recommendation: 92 Stories by James Thurber

If you don’t know anything about James Thurber except that his name is familiar, you might want to start your acquaintance by watching the 2013 remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, directed by and starring Ben Stiller. This classic Thurber short story was also dramatized on film in 1947 with Danny Kaye, but Thurber hated it. No one knows if he hated the 2013 version.

However, if the wry humor of these movies appeals to you, or if you enjoy the so-called War between the Sexes, then you want to try more Thurber. The familiar household battleground was a frequent topic in his work. He was a famous wit and cartoonist, writing and drawing for The New Yorker from 1927 well into the 50’s.James_Thurber_NYWTS

One collection JDL owns, 92 Stories, also contains some original drawings, which have a distinct flavor of the cartoons of the early 20th century. (Dorothy Parker famously remarked his cartoons had a “semblance of unbaked cookies.”) Two of his most renowned stories are collected here—The Greatest Man in the World and If Grant had been drinking at Appomattox.

The volume The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze is reproduced in 92 Stories in its entirety, with many fun accounts of daily life. For those who suffer lazily rather than mend or replace torn or ill-fitting clothing, The Gentleman is Cold from this volume is required reading. (I subsequently checked over my own winter clothing, which I found mostly lying in a basket with the (still) dirty items from a long vacation.) We must all be relieved, I’m sure, that fashions have changed so much since those tedious and fastidious days.

The JDL library also owns the Library of America volume of Thurber called Writings and Drawings. Don’t put this reading off too long—winter won’t wait, and these stories are much too dry for the cold season. ~Tessa August 2015 4.5 out of 5 stars (less a half star for those stories I found too, too much like my own life)


Tessa’s Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

The new Harper Lee book Go Set a Watchman features the main character from To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout, as an adult returning home to Maycomb, Alabama, from New York City. She must deal with issues surrounding her family, the community, and her own life.

ToKillAMockingbirdCoverThe humor in this book is as enjoyable as in To Kill a Mockingbird—lots of great Southern talk, church folk, and descriptions that take me back to my Florida childhood. However, the book needed more editing. Inevitably this will be compared to Mockingbird, and that book neared perfection. In this, there were typos. There were sentences that didn’t make sense. There were literary allusions that couldn’t be figured out. But these were few. There was one passage that really bogged down in logic and debate that could have been handled better. The plot lacked completion, cohesion, and polish. The ending was anti-climactic, unfinished, abrupt, and needed closure. (Yes, I’m being redundant. It was bad.) I think that Harper Lee never really finished this manuscript.GoSetAWatchmanCover

But there were also passages that were sheer genius. I really enjoyed the Coffee, where she would catch parts of conversations, overlapping, which would yield to hysterical possibilities. The analogy of a scale worked for me there. I have attended such social occasions in the South and suffered through in the same way, serving things up to the important folk and then back to the children or unmarried.

The time jumps were brilliant–I loved and delighted in them, enjoying the mental challenge to be alert for time locational clues. These were better than any other such book, I believe. Her internal reasons for the childhood flashbacks were completely logical and tied in so nicely with the book’s present.
The overall impression I have, and had before I read this, is that this is the book she wanted to write–this is HER story, as she experienced it as a young adult. I imagine her family was alarmed by all the fame and notoriety and they would not let her publish anything that was critical of the family. I’m sure they enjoyed Mockingbird’s hero worship of her family and father. But reality is that she actually was this spoiled, sheltered, sharp-tongued woman who thought herself (and sometimes was) brilliant and blameless.

Sadly her family was by no means faultless and sterling–and they had to live in the Alabama of the Civil Rights Era, which was neither a safe nor a comfortable place, as portrayed in the book. The steps they took were not what she wanted, nor what we see, from afterwards and outside, as “right,” but she helps the reader understand that there might have been people doing what Atticus did, with seemingly good intentions. We judge them at our own peril.
Still, I wish she had gone back and finished the book. I wish she had told us more of her accommodations to her family, her family’s adjustments to her city ways, and more of Alabama’s small town life in those days. Even so, highly recommended. ~Tessa 4 out of 5 stars August 2015


Tessa’s Travel Guide Recommendation: 50 Hikes in Michigan: Sixty Walks, Day Trips & Backpacks in the Lower Peninsula by Jim DuFresne

JDL received the 3rd edition of Jim DuFresne’s 50 Hikes in Michigan as a donation from the author himself. DuFresne is a lifelong Michigander and has authored multiple travel and outdoor books, including this Explorer’s Guide entry. The well-organized, portable book is suitable for keeping in the car while traveling, although not one you would want to carry on the trail itself. This edition contains 10 extra walks, which explains the subtitle.


Even before the contents’ pages, there is a great graph listing the hikes by name, then region, distance, major features and notes. The contents page has a map facing it that shows all the hikes by number. These trails are all over the Lower Peninsula, in all types of terrain. At the beginning of each entry is a small box which gives details including distance, time, difficulty rating, GPS, and more. Each entry also has a map of the trail with significant features marked. Then the chapter will give a brief introduction and any historical significance followed by access directions and, finally, a breakdown of the trail itself. Photos accompany the sections, giving a sample of the views.

A proven listing in Michigan outdoor guides, this is a great book to check out or purchase for fresh inspiration and new horizons. Thanks to Jim DuFresne for donating this new edition.~ Tessa July 2015 3.75 out of 5 stars

5 Healthy Towns Recipes – “Our Own Backyard”

Healthy food options can be had as close as your local Farmer’s Market. Brad West had some great tips for staying healthy straight from the garden! If you’d like to attend the next 5 Healthy Towns healthy eating class featuring ‘Great Lakes Goodies’ on September 16 at the Whistlestop Depot in Grass Lake, call (517)522-8211 to reserve your spot!



Asian Sugar Snap Pea, Cucumber, and Radish Salad

(serves 8-10)

  • 4 cups snap peas, blanched for 30-60 seconds and then cold shocked
  • 2 bunches radishes, thin slices
  • 1 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and thin sliced
  • 1 spring onion, sliced thin julienne
  • 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1-2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger root
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2-4 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 2-4 Tbsp. minced cilantro (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve on a bed of spring greens

Feta and Green Olive Dip

(serves 8-10)

  • 8 oz. feta, crumbled
  • 8 oz. lite cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup Daisy sour cream
  • 2-3 tsp. fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup spring onion, minced
  • 2/3 cup chopped green olives ( can use any olive)
  • 1 Tbsp. minced parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well serve with fresh vegetables, pita bread, crackers, etc.


Lebanese Stewed Green Beans, Potatoes, Chick Peas, and Tomatoes

(serves 8-10)

  • 4 cups green beans, trimmed and snapped
  • 3 pounds redskin potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups onions, sliced into julienne strips
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh garlic, minced
  • 2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. agave syrup (can sub 2 tsp. brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot, sauté onions in olive oil until golden. Add garlic potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, water, cumin, allspice, and agave syrup and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook stirring frequently until potatoes are done, 40-45 minutes. Turn off heat and add parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Fresh Beet, Carrot and Kohlrabi Salad

(serves 8-10)

  • 4 cups fresh beets, grated
  • 4 cups fresh carrots, grated
  • 4 cups fresh kohlrabi, grated
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup spring onion, thin sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Keep beets, carrots and kohlrabi in separate bowls. Combine all other ingredients and whisk well. Divide dressing into three equal parts and mix with each bowl of grated veggies. To build salad put down layer of beet salad first, layer of carrot salad next, and layer of kohlrabi salad on top. Garnish with minced parsley.

Nectarine Blueberry Crisp

(serves 8-10)


  • 8 cups blueberries
  • 8 nectarines, seeded and diced
  • 1/2-1 cup brown sugar (taste and adjust according to how sweet your fruit is)
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. lemon juiceTopping:
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup whole grain flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well until cornstarch and sugar are dissolved. Pour into a buttered cake pan and put into oven preheated to 325 degrees. Combine all topping ingredients except melted butter. Mix well, then add melted butter and mix well until the topping absorbs all the butter. Bake filling 40 minutes, pull out of oven and stir well. Spread crisp topping over the top, return to oven and bake another 20-30 minutes until the topping is a nice golden brown color. Serve with Greek Gods Vanilla Yogurt for topping.


The Hub

The new Public Library quickly became a Hub providing services and meeting facilities for a variety of patrons: book clubs, garden groups, genealogical societies, and the Boy and Girl Scouts, to name a few. Men checked out books to study farming methods, learn repair techniques, and find out about the latest in technology. One of the most popular books was a manual explaining how to repair the Model T. In 1909, the Jackson Art Association organized and held lectures and mounted exhibits of artwork loaned by residents as well as from museums and galleries in Detroit, Chicago, New York, and the like.

Stereographic travels and phonographic concerts

Art Gallery 2nd Floor Carnegie Building circa 1906

Art Gallery 2nd Floor Carnegie Building circa 1906

“The Jackson Public Library is an unusual social and civic center, declares Mr. J. Jones, a newcomer here.” He particularly mentions the splendid collection of stereographic travel tours for home use, the privilege of using the library on Sunday, and the “newly-instituted phonograph concerts.” — Jackson Citizen Patriot: April 4, 1917

The Wartime Hub

In wartime the library served the community as an information hub. Posted maps showed battlefronts. Books and pamphlets helped women Hooverize intelligently so that meatless Tues and wheat-less Wed shall be days of joy and not of gloom. The juvenile section was enriched with Uncle Sam’s Boy at War and The Adventures of Arnold Adair American Ace.
During the WWI, head librarian John Clevenger led the Victory Book Drive, which sent books to camps in the U.S. and “over there.”

Jackson Head Librarian John Clevenger organized the library at nearby Camp Custer.

Jackson Head Librarian John Clevenger organized the library at nearby Camp Custer.

During WWII and the Korean Conflict the Jackson County Dad’s Service Club purchased up-to-date technology books honoring the young men and women who had served. The Public Library dedicated a room in the Carnegie Building to house these books. Jackson Junior College had a similar program for their students who served.

The Jackson Public Library was also a hub for young people. Children attended musical programs, storytelling, and library week events in the second floor children’s room. Did you know that we had stereoscopes in the children’s room? It was a viewing thing with two eyepieces and you put a card in out in front of that which had a picture on it only it had two pictures, one for your left eye and one for your right eye, and so when you looked through the lenses at it, it made it look three-dimensional. — Interview with Natalie Field: 2014

Children's group

Children’s group

Old Flappers and New Philosophers

Older Students from nearby schools came to do homework and socialize. Jackson Junior College student Len Crandall was an avid reader who often went to the public library. He wrote in his 1932 diary about books and his girlfriend Mary:

The note she wrote me in the library today seems to indicate that she really does like me. I wonder? Shall I ask her to go steady with me? I don’t know. . . Worked all day, played “hearts” at Ben’s until 11:30 and then came home and read Fitzgerald’s Flappers and Philosophers. I wish I could write like that. — Jackson Junior College student Len Crandall: 1932

Jackson Junior College students in front of Marsh Hall circa 1930

Jackson Junior College students in front of Marsh Hall circa 1930

The City Library was doing a yeoman’s job of providing services for city residents. But county residents were underserved. They were hesitant to come to the big city and could not check out books at the library. What did people in rural Jackson County do to satisfy their “book hunger?”

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Tessa’s Paranormal Romance Review: Burn for Me: A Hidden Legacy Novel by Ilona Andrews

Ilona Andrews is a husband-wife team known for urban fantasy. They already have two great series going: Kate Daniels and The Edge. Both these series start off with some great world-building and entertaining characters. Now the Andrews have another new series which veers more towards romance than the others, although the first two series have elements of romance as well.

Readers have already commented on the cover—it’s misleading. The half-naked man and sexy outfit on the woman would make you think this was a bodice ripper or steamy romance. Instead this book has enough plotting, substance and character that my husband is enjoying it.


This series is set in Houston, where the main character, Nevada, runs a detective agency with her family’s help. But the Houston in the book is way different from our reality: superpowers have appeared, result of a serum created in the 1800’s, and most power and influence resides in the Houses (families) of those who have the greatest powers.

Two catastrophically powerful men are on a collision course as one uses the other’s teenaged nephew to rob a bank. Nevada is employed by the huge detective business that holds her loan—but it’s all for show, since the firm knows she doesn’t have the magic to bring in this incredible fire mage. If she refuses, she loses her home and business, putting her family out on the street. But if she contacts him, he will probably kill her. Nevada must be skilled and wily to get herself out of this situation.

All the books by this team are recommended! Give them a try. ~ Tessa July 2015 3.75 out of 5 stars


The Munificent Gift

Andrew Carnegie circa 1880

Andrew Carnegie circa 1880

Industrialist Andrew Carnegie established the Carnegie Library Fund to create libraries around the country. In 1900, a library committee in Jackson applied. Funding was calculated on a strict formula based on population. The city agreed to purchase the necessary land and provide annual operating funds. Carnegie generously awarded Jackson $50,000, but “JACKSON WANTED A LIBRARY LIKE NONE OTHER.”

Plans went over budget by $20,000.


Old Friends

Mrs. R. H. ( Zelie) Emerson, a member of the Jackson Library Committee, wrote Carnegie, via his secretary, asking for the additional funds to “build the building Jackson deserves.”

Mr. Bertram, The current Library is located on the second floor of a good block on a business street, about in the center of the town. There is no elevator. Its quarters are pleasant, but as it occupies the whole floor; there is no chance of expansion. The book space is cramped, and the reading-room entirely too small for the growing attendance of the public-especially the children who are there in great numbers. The reason my previous letter was not typewritten is that it is in a way a personal letter to Mr. Carnegie. We were old friends in Pittsburgh years ago. Will you kindly see that it meets his eye? — Zelie Passavant Emerson: 1900

Zelie Emerson circa 1880

Zelie Emerson circa 1880

They were indeed old friends. As a young girl, Zelie Passavant and Andrew Carnegie had even spoken of marriage. Her father, William Passavant, a well-known Lutheran minister, objected on religious grounds. Zelie took the train to Pittsburgh to make her case, and in honor of their past friendship, Carnegie granted Jackson an additional $20,000.


My Dear Mr. Carnegie: Two years ago you gave us $70,000 for a Public Library. The City bought a magnificent site on Main Street. The bids overrun the sum given us at least $25,000 owing to the great advance in the cost of materials and labor. Nothing could be done to lessen the cost without cheapening the construction and so spoiling the building. You would not wish us to change it in any single particular. We would deeply appreciate your favorable consideration of this matter. Yours ever sincerely, Zelie Passavant Emerson: Feb. 14, 1903

Mr. Carnegie said “no.”

My dear Mr. Carnegie, believe me that the people of Jackson deeply appreciate your generous gift. The library building in its simple and serene beauty has set a new and high Ideal for public buildings in our town, and its perfect adaptation to all library needs will provide for the city a library home for ½ Century to come. — Zelie Passavant Emerson

The Building is a Peach

The building was due to finish in 1904, but labor unrest and construction problems increased the costs and delayed the opening for two years. The Carnegie building finally opened on August 21, 1906, to great fanfare.

There will be no more jibes and jeers as to when the new library will open its doors. They actually opened Monday morning. It’s safe to say Librarian Waldo was the happiest woman in Jackson. But the building is a peach–and its magnificence and convenience goes far to compensate for the long delay. Hundreds of our townspeople visited the library Monday and Tuesday to inspect its beauty and several ladies left flowers. — Saturday Evening Star: August 1906

Carnegie Building circa 1906

Carnegie Building circa 1906

My grandmother regularly attended the library to upgrade her skills and keep current with what was going on. I remember her taking us there and she told us the whole story of how Mr. Carnegie gave us the money to build the library and it was a place of learning and a place to be revered and held high in esteem in the community. — Interview with Dr. Edward Mathein:2014

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July/August 2015 Newsletter

From Reading Room to Public Library: A 150 Year Journey

Here Lynne Loftis and Diana Agy share the latest in a series of richly detailed and thoroughly researched pieces covering Jackson District Library’s 150 years of history. Find ways to explore the state’s destinations at reduced cost via the library, with the Michigan Activity Pass. And more summer fun is on the way, as we highlight several databases that can help you see what Detroit looked like in 1835, or appraise antique furniture. Let’s get this summer started!





The Michigan Activity Pass

The Michigan Activity Pass

Once you print a free Michigan Activity Pass you have one week to use it at any Michigan state park or recreation area, or at more than 100 participating cultural institutions, including many museums.

To take advantage of these offers you will need a valid JDL library card and you will need to print a pass—either from home or at your local branch.

To see what’s available you can do a simple search within a geographic range or do an advanced search, with limiters like “Kid Friendly” or “Music/Theater” or “State Parks.” This works great if you are vacationing at the lakes or enjoying the attractions that are close to home.

Local Jackson County attractions include Walker Tavern, near Brooklyn or the Mann House Historic Site, in Concord. Or use the pass to investigate the Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic Site at Cass City, or Tawas Point Lighthouse in East Tawas. Shepler’s Ferry Service is offering discounts on their ferry rides to Mackinac Island. There is so much to see and do!

Check out the Michigan Activity Pass guide for help.