While the YMA was open only to members, public-spirited men such as W.H. Withington, George Dodge, and Michael Shoemaker were instrumental in the opening of a free public library in Jackson.
As YMA president, George Dodge declared:
Let this free library be once established, and every citizen will
look upon it with pride, would willingly be taxed for its support,
and the time will not be far distant when as a city we may justly
be proud of a library which is positively free to both the rich and
the poor alike. Its influence for good could not be estimated; its
power as an educator of the people would be unmeasurable. — George Dodge: YMA Minutes 1882
The Free Public Library
Many groups took advantage of the programs and literature offered at the public library. Jackson had a large German population, and the library served it by regularly acquiring German books. Lists of new books were published in the local newspapers, including the German paper, the Volkefreund.
While men used the library reading room to read their newspapers and periodicals, the most active users of the public library were women. Many belonged to women’s clubs, literary clubs and book clubs. They not only eagerly borrowed books but also frequently used the library to conduct research for programs they presented at their club meetings.
These women’s clubs, of no mean size, come here to find help in
their work, often taxing the Library’s usefulness and capacity
to its utmost extent. — Celia Waldo, Head Librarian: 1889 Annual Report
Children were frequent users of the library. Staff designed programs such as Storyhour and magic lantern shows to encourage reading and to familiarize children to the library.
Children flock here by the hundreds every day. Out of a circulation
of a hundred thousand books every year, a generous third of them
are charged to these little men and women. The boys and girls of
today are the legislators of tomorrow. — Celia Waldo, Head Librarian: 1889 Annual Report