A newspaper article from one of Jessie Turner’s scrapbooks indicated that the very beginning of the Okemos Library may be traced to this original statement:

There seems to have been the nucleus of the township library in 1849, for on April 14, the inspectors labeled and unlabeled library books and agreed to have a table and bookcase made for the township library, not to exceed $5.00 in cost.

I understand there were Friends of the Library back in the 20’s and 30’s.  Hope Borbas [beloved long-time librarian from the ’50s through ’70s after whom the library was named] said there were active Friends before she started as Librarian.   They originally started as a child study group.  Just before the library was built, the group divided into Friends of the Library and Child Study.

The original library was housed in the Township Hall located at Hamilton and Moore.  In 1957, the library was moved to an upstairs room at the firehouse on Clinton. After a few plans were submitted, a decision was made to go with a library/firehouse combination.  It was built by the township.  Betty Austin, a member of the Friends, knowing her talent in interior decoration, was asked by the Township Board to pick out the library colors and put it all together.  She made the drapes and chose the yellow chairs, and the Friends paid for them.  The Township bought what Hope Borbas calls the “ho-hum” things—tables, chairs, shelves, etc.  An open house celebrating the dedication of the new library was held in 1967.

Some of the very first programs of the Friends were open houses where art was displayed, organizations and volunteers explained programs, crafts were displayed and made, films and filmstrips were shown antiques were discussed and displayed.  In 1956 Ruth Stillman wrote A Short History of Okemos, [publication] sponsored by the Friends.  About 150 people attended a tea where Ruth first sold her book and autographed it.

There was also an active Junior Friends group at that time.  Many early programs were geared toward young people.

There was never much money in the coffers. Many of the programs brought people into the library, but money was usually raised only if there was something that was needed or wanted in the library.  In 1969, a photocopier was purchased, and box lunches with book reviews began.  We had rummage sales, flea markets, antique and collectibles sales, and auctions, and started programs for Senior Citizens.

Four or five years ago, we bought a projector and screen and began paying for many additional magazine subscriptions.  Around this same time, we again sought Betty’s help to add some pizzazz to the library. Two decorator rugs were purchased by Shirley Schwendeman, with Betty’s approval.  Plants were also added.

It was also five years ago that the first art auction was planned and held.  Now we knew what extra money was, as $1,000, and then $1,200 in profits were realized. . .with that Memorial gifts were added to the library and started a scholarship fund.

A couple of years ago, the Friends initiated the library name change.  Upon her retirement, the official name of the library was made the Hope Borbas Okemos Library.

FRIENDS ARE GOLDEN - Golden Anniversary Letter by Cecelia Kramer (2003)

A Golden Anniversary is something special. To have been a viable organization for 50 years is a hallmark that few groups achieve and needs to be celebrated. . . .

A number of changes have brought the Friends and the Hope Borbas Okemos Library to where it is today.  The umbrella organization that offers the library services had changed. The Ingham County Library was replaced by the Capital Area District Library in 1997.  The Library moved from “downtown” Okemos on Ardmore Street [attached to the firehouse,] to the corner of Okemos Road and Science Parkway in 2001.  The Township has had two unsuccessful attempts (1999 and 2003) to pass bond proposals to purchase land and construct a new building that would offer library patrons the much-needed space.

Our Mission remains the same as in the beginning.  That is, to maintain an association of persons interest in books, libraries, and cultural enrichment; to act as a liaison between the library, its patrons, and governing units; and to promote the use of the library by providing supplements to programs and activities.

The first Friends of the Library President Donald F. Winters so nicely phrased it, “May our library never lack for Friends, for Friends are Golden.”

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