Search: Library Catalog Website



Jackson District Library Receives State Award

The Jackson District Library (JDL) has earned the 2015 Citation of Excellence Award from the State Librarian for its devotion to customer service. The library will receive a trophy and $500 at the Michigan Library Association’s annual conference in Novi on Friday, October 30.

“Year after year, Michigan’s libraries consistently expand services and find new ways to serve their communities,” said Randy Riley, State Librarian in a press release announcing the awards. He added that “the 2015 nominations demonstrate how creative, impactful and diverse libraries are across the state.
Michigan libraries of all types are successfully focusing on what is unique about their communities and are successfully tailoring services to meet those evolving needs.”
JDL is being recognized for being actively involved in moving the community forward through initiatives aimed at education, career development, health improvement, economic and workforce development, and human services. Staff promotes Jackson and champions financial stability across the community.

“This award is a wonderful tribute to the dedication and passion of the more than 150 men and women who work together as part of a well-oiled team to serve the residents of Jackson County,” said JDL Director Ishwar Laxminarayan. Last year Jackson County residents checked out an all-time record high of 1,210,716 items from the library’s collection. Additionally, more residents used the library’s free computers or wireless hotspots and attended programs and other enrichment activities than at any time in the past decade.

“From patiently teaching a small child how to love books gently, to researching economic statistics for a new business start-up, or coaching a senior citizen in how to use a new smart phone or tablet, the Library staff is making a difference in residents’ lives every single day,” added Laxminarayan. “JDL is committed to building on its glorious history and will continually endeavor to inspire our community to discover, learn, and succeed!

Young Poets

Enter The 2016 Young Poets Contest

Young Poets Contest

The Jackson District Library is pleased to announce the twelfth annual, “Poets Among Us: Young Poets Contest 2016.” With almost 10,000 student entries during the first eleven years, this event has proven to be very successful with students, teachers and parents. Over the years, entries have been received from entire classrooms, as well as students participating on their own who have a love of poetry. Poems have covered subjects as diverse as animals, divorce, hard times, family fun, friendships, sunsets, and war, to name just a few. I would like to thank you for your past support and encourage your participation in this year’s program.

The contest is open to all students in grades Kindergarten through 12 and all home-schooled students in Jackson County. Included in the contest packet is a list of websites for teachers and descriptions of various types of poetry. This packet also contains the necessary materials and forms to allow you to incorporate the contest into your schedule including the Student Rules and Registration Form to be completed by each student. (One form must accompany each poem submitted.) Please note that entries must be submitted online or postmarked by January 22, 2016.

A panel of poetry judges will review all the entries submitted. We will publish the award-winning poems in a small booklet and on our website. In addition, the top poets in each grade level will be given the opportunity to read their poems at the Young Poets Awards program to be held in April 2016. These readings will be recorded and made into podcasts available on our website.


Tessa’s Children’s Book Recommendation: The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

If you haven’t kept up with children’s books over the last couple decades, you may have missed a terrific author. Nancy Farmer’s books have covered topics such as cloning, long-term effects of pollutants, social progress and culture change. In The ear, the eye and the arm, she takes us to Zimbambwe in the year 2194, when General Matsika, chief of security, suddenly finds that his three children went on an Explorer Scout adventure alone into the city center and were kidnapped. The kidnappers distracted them with an illegal blue mutant monkey–then chloroformed them.
The three detectives hired to find the children are called Ear, Arm and Eye, because of their unique skills. Arm has extremely long arms and legs and he can sense emotions as well as having premonitions; Ear has extremely sensitive hearing; and Eye, of course, can see the fleas on an eagle. Their mothers lived in a village near a nuclear reactor which leaked plutonium into their water.

The story gives us a tour of the huge city of Harare, from the busy market to the toxic waste dump where the poorest, slaves, mine for plastic and then on to a small traditionally African country contained within Harare, completely cut off from technology, medicine and the laws. The children are nearly rescued by the detectives time and time again, but there is a conspiracy, some African black magic, and a fine dinner at the top of the highest building in Harare before the great ruckus brings it all to a satisfying end.
Be sure to take special note of the excellent Shona word shooper. We don’t have an English equivalent: it means to say the one thing calculated to keep an argument going (or get it started). Some of you, I’m sure, know someone who is an inveterate shooperer, like Tendai’s sister Rita, or you immediately think of that blatant shooperism, such as “Just what do you mean by that?” Nancy Farmer is brilliant, and this book is timeless and funny. ~ Tessa March 2011 5 out of 5 stars


The Challenges

In order to meet the growing demand for books, a branch of the Public Library was established on the east side in 1915. The Eastern Branch started in a remodeled bank building, moved to a small building on Orange Street, and later settled on East Michigan Avenue.

pg_17a CHALLENGES 1 Eastern branch

The Eastern Branch was just a very small wooden building but I thought it was fabulous because you didn’t own too many books – you got them for Christmas and birthdays and things like that – and I just remember friendly librarians and Grandma taking books home too for my mother and for the rest of the family. We were all readers.
— Interview with Connie Hobde: 2014

The decade of the 50s was one of growth in library services. The Jackson County Library Program quickly outgrew its space and moved to a new building on West Avenue in 1954. The “neighborhood branch,” or what’s more commonly known as the Bookmobile, provided easy access to books. The County also had a similar service.

Every other week, a large brown bus pulled into our small parking lot with the promise of a new adventure in books. Entering the bookmobile was like entering a sanctuary. Oh the decisions to be made! I had an overwhelming feeling of panic! I wanted to choose the “right” book within the short time allotted to us! I thought that the librarian had the best job in the world! I assumed she drove the bus home and sat in her driveway, reading books all night long!
— Letter from Mrs. Betsy Orrison: 2014

pg_17b CHALLENGES 11 - bookmobile

Bookmobile, Eastern Branch, Orange Street circa 1955

Lots of times while I was driving, the girl who was working
with me – she sat at a little table, kind of like desktop, right
behind the driver – she’d be getting the records of where we
were going and what books had been loaned out and how
many and getting them filed . . . Women didn’t have to dress
up so they’d dash down the street to the bookmobile to
check out a novel or two.
Interview with Mrs. Bessie England: 2014

Duplication of services and financial stresses led to talks about merging the County and Public Library systems. In 1970, voters rejected the idea. Some feared the city would lose control to the county, but others chafed at the fact that they were taxed by both the city and county to support the libraries. But from the librarians’ perspective the budget situation was dire, Lorraine Butchart, Acquisitions Director, recalls:

If you think back to the tone of the 60s, 70s, any time the municipalities had financial difficulties, the first place they would cut would be the libraries . . . so we were always on the chopping block. Both library systems had very strong directors prior to that time, Clare Sergeant and Eudocia Stratton, and those two people were very adamant about supporting the agencies of the government that they represented but both
faced the same peril of no money. It became apparent that the only way public library service was going to survive in Jackson County was for a merger.
— Interview with Lorraine Butchart: 2014

No Funds

No Funds

Joseph Warren, the City Manager, called me into his office and he said, Jack, ‘you’re gonna have to put a committee together and the only way we’re gonna survive this is if we merge the libraries’. . . . Finally, the vote came, and we were successful. Interview with Jack Daball: 2014

It was no small task, in 1977, to find ways to unite two separate administrative systems, space, finances, collections, and two separate staffs with separate contracts. The process, led by a newly appointed Jackson District Library Board, took almost a year. After an intense search, David Leamon was hired to head
the new Jackson District Library.

And I would say that if you look at the directors who were
involved in the district library after the consolidation –
David Leamon had to create a new image, and he did that
very well in his ten years. Virginia Lowell brought us into the
technology world, Richard Douglass, Bessie Burnett,
Luren Dickinson – they had to go out and they had to
integrate themselves into the community.
Interview with Lorraine Butchart: 2014

In 1993, the library joined the computer age and a partnership with Jackson Community College. Automation replaced the card catalog, collaboration replaced duplication of services, and technology brought the entire system up to date.

to Top

Follow the rest of the story!


New Books & Brews Book Club


Books & Brews book club meets at Bifferhaus Brewing Company on 1st Wednesdays.

Cure your Wednesday night slump with a book paired with a pint.


Adults 21+ are welcome to discuss good books and sample good brews at JDL’s Carnegie Library’s Books & Brews book club. The group meets at Bifferhaus Brewing Company (900 Lansing Ave, Jackson) for a non-traditional book discussion in a brewery atmosphere.


Books & Brews meetings are the first Wednesday of the month, beginning October 7. Stop in and mingle at 5:30 PM; the discussion starts at 6:00 PM.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Our October read is Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. Books are available at the Carnegie Library’s Reference Desk.


Participants are responsible for their own drinks. Bifferhaus does not serve food, but outside food is welcome.


September/October 2015 Newsletter

From Reading Room to Public Library: A 150 Year Journey

In this issue of Chapters, Lynne Loftis and Diana Agy continue the journey with part five in a series of richly detailed and thoroughly researched pieces covering Jackson District Library’s 150 years of history. Next, we look at the debate surrounding the legalization of Marijuana in Michigan. The Jackson Mayoral Candidates also take the stage to answer your questions, and the library begins gearing up for Halloween. Got your steamy pumpkin-spiced beverage in hand? Let’s go.





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

to Top

Follow the rest of the story!


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