Find local history information at Manistee Library

Librarian and former First Lady Laura Bush said, “I have found the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.”

In Manistee’s early days, clubs and compiled book collections for their members to use, and the school district allowed anyone over the age of 21 to take books from the school library organizations. The community saw a need for a library and the Lakeside Club applied for a grant from the Carnegie Foundation to build the public library building (Main Manistee) in 1902.

The towns that received the grant had to commit to providing the site, funding the library with public funds, paying staff and providing free service to all.

Fun facts

A copy of Andrew Carnegie’s portrait was gifted to the libraries he helped fund in 1935 to commemorate his centennial birthday.

The placement of the large main desk was designed to deter theft, as it was placed between the open stacks and the door in the original layout of the library.

Manistee’s first bookmobile was purchased in 1946.

In 1992, Reference Librarian Pam Spoor successfully researched and wrote the application to have the library building listed on the Michigan State and National Registers for Historic Sites. A historical marker stands in front of the main building.

Manistee city decided not to renew its support for the library in 1982, and the first millage was defeated. A book sale, the sale of items the library no longer used, and donations kept it running. Manistee Bank and Trust came through with a donation of $15,000 in 1983, allowing the library to be funded through December. A second millage was successful in 1984.

Manistee County Library joined the computer age in 1985. Entering the library’s holdings took quite a bit of time, and the system became operational in 1987.

Two weddings have been held in the library.

Bear Lake opened the first branch of the Manistee County Library in 1963.


  • A brilliant portrait of a man who left an unending legacy, “Andrew Carnegie” by David Nasaw encompasses Carnegie’s life from his humble beginnings to his role as philanthropist and crusader who gave away the fortune he made in steel.

Michigan collection

  • Heidi Johnson’s “Angels in the Architecture: A Photographic Elegy to an American Asylum” is an homage to Thomas Story Kirkbride, whose approach to mental illness combined compassion with beauty and nature. The Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City, Michigan, closed in 1989, but photographs of its architecture stood testament to the theory that “beauty is therapy.”
  • Remembering his heroes and visiting with friends and family, Tom Stanton wrote “The Final Season: Fathers, Sons, and One Last Season in a Classic American Ballpark” for all those who grew up with the Detroit Tigers.
  • “Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State” by George S. May and Willis Dunbar follows Michigan’s past from the ice age through the 1980s, describing the beautiful landscape, ethnic groups, politics, and business. Touching stories and photographs are sprinkled throughout the book.
  • Join divers as they capture the history on the bottom of the Great Lakes. “Leelanau Underwater: Exploring Shipwrecks in Leelanau County and the Manitou Passage” by Chris Roxburgh is a beautiful photographic journey.

Local history

  • A fascinating look at Manistee County’s past, “Manistee County” by Shannon McRae tells a story filled with pictures of the lumber industry, tourism, and hard working people who build the local communities.
  • Published by the Manistee County Historical Society in 1954, “The Lumberman’s Legacy” by Curran Russell is a portrait of the lumber industry that built Manistee County.
  • “A Pictorial History of Manistee Michigan” by Manistee News Advocate
  • “History of Arcadia”
  • “Kaleva” by Andrew I. Brask
  • “Place Called Portage: A Collection of Memories by Those Who Experienced the Development of a Place Called Portage From 1912-1989”
  • “Pleasanton Township, 1863-1983”
  • “Proud of Our Past: Bear Lake: The History of Bear Lake Township, Bear Lake, Michigan”
  • “T23 North, R12 West: The Story of Springdale Township, Michigan” by Ben Townsend

Manistee County Library maintains local historical collections at all of its locations. Michigan history titles are also available. A pamphlet file is maintained at the main library that contains newspaper articles relating to historical milestones throughout the county, biographies, historical houses and buildings and more.

Our locations and hours of operation are available on our website,

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