Library History

Embark on a journey through the story of the Highland Township Public Library

How It All Started

Highland Township Library

The Milford Times (ca. 1981)
The following is a narrative written by Roscoe Smith with historical information from Our Highland Heritage by
Clara Mae Beach:

In her book Our Highland Heritage Clara Mae Beach, Highland historian, wrote that as she was searching for some 19th Century library records, a book inscribed in ornate Spenserian hand as the Library Book of the Township of Highland, County of Oakland, State of Michigan, 1856, was unexpectedly found in the township archives.

 “I was almost as thrilled as if I had discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls! Then when I saw that the first book listed, Gem of Fables, was numbered 512, I knew that there was an earlier record book. In 1856, 1857 and 1858, there were 109 books bought. If 35-40 books were added each year the Highland Township Library might have opened in the early 1840’s.”

According to Miss Beach’s research, “after 1858 there were no more books bought, and a note appeared on the cover of the 1856 book below the title: ‘As there is now no Township Library, this book is used for Book of Entry of Stray Beasts and ear mark for cattle, sheep and hogs.’ The country was engaged in a civil war, and the library had been discontinued.”

No library records have been found for the years between 1858 and 1908 but in searching the microfilm of The Milford Times she found several items concerning the library in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. In 1905 thirty-five books were purchased and in 1908 a purchase order for eighty-nine new books was made. The library’s collection had reached 645 books on the shelves.

Library records in 1915 indicate the collection had reached 865 volumes. The library was open for two hours a week with Mrs. Frank (Nellie) Keller as a librarian. The library at that time was funded only by the Township Board and small fines.

During the years of World War I the needs of the library suffered. After the war years and the recession of 1920-21, the library was reorganized and more adequate funding provided. In 1927 a one-quarter-mill tax was voted for its support.

The library has had several homes during its 150 plus years. One of the earliest known library locations was the result of the spring election of 1890 when the people of Highland voted to build a “new town house” for election purposes. The building was completed and occupied by October of that year. The building, which still stands on East Livingston Road, served as the township hall and library.                           

After 1941 the fire truck was also kept on site and at times the court procedures and library services were interrupted by the volunteer firemen appearing to leave on a fire run. The present township hall was built on North John Street in 1953. In the original town hall the library was located along the back wall of the stage. When the library moved to the new North John Street building, the library was given a room on the north end of the new building that is now occupied by the Clerk’s Office. In 1962 the library increased its space as it moved to a new addition on the south end of the township hall.

In 1972 the township acquired the then post office building (now the township auditorium) adjacent to the south end of the township hall, constructed an addition which connected the post office building to the township hall and moved the library to the expanded post office space. In 1982 the library once again greatly expanded its space and service when it moved into the former Highland United Methodist Church building on West Livingston Road.

At the time of the move to the former Methodist church building, the library circulated 90,000 books a year and had built a collection of 32,000 volumes. In 2002, the library enters a new era with the move to a new building on Beach Farm Circle. It would be fascinating to know what Nellie Keller, who was excited about a library of 865 books open two hours a week, would think about a library in Highland that houses a collection of 68,000 print and non-print materials on its premises, has access to thousands more books statewide and throughout the country through inter-library loan service, circulates over 100,000 books a year, has over 25,000 square feet and is open 54 hours a week.

And how thrilled Clara Mae Beach, lover of words, chronicler of Highland’s history, avid reader and dedicated supporter of the Highland Library, would be to see this magnificent library, nestled in the pine grove overlooking Downey Lake, on the Beach family land she loved so much.

The Highland Township Public Library that Miss Beach described as “already a force, an essential strength, in the life of the Highland community in the 1850’s” is now poised to continue its role for the next 150 years.   


— Roscoe Smith with historical information from Our Highland Heritage by Clara Mae Beach

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The Milford Times

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Highland Township
Public Library


444 Beach Farm Circle
Highland, MI 48356



Opening Hours

Monday through Thursday:
10:00am - 8:00pm
Friday and Saturday:
10:00am - 5:00pm
Sunday: Closed