Until 1976, library service to the Glen Lake area was provided by a Traverse City bookmobile. When this service was discontinued, a group of citizens mobilized to establish a local library with a starter collection of 3,000 books donated from the discontinued bookmobile.
In 1977, the Glen Lake Community Library (GLCL) was formally organized to serve Empire and Glen Arbor Townships. Its first home was a small annex building at the corner of Front and Union streets in Empire. The library hired its first director and was open a few hours a week.
The library occupied this first space from 1977-82. The 600 square foot space became increasingly cramped and was plagued with maintenance problems. It became clear that a larger building was needed to serve the library’s growing number of cardholders.
A volunteer support group, Friends of the Glen Lake Community Library, was organized in 1978. Fundraising benefits the library with proceeds from an annual used book sale and biennial home tour. Friends volunteers assist librarians, sponsor educational programs, and underwrite weekly “Stories and More” activities for preschoolers.
In 1979, Kasson Township joined the library’s service district.
In 1982, citizen leaders from Kasson, Empire and Glen Arbor Townships came up with a plan to purchase the old Empire Fire Hall, secure a 20-year, rent-free, renewable lease from the Village of Empire, and launched a Capital Campaign. Aptly themed, “A Case of Do or Die”, door-to-door and friend-to-friend fundraising activities, and a Rotary Charities grant, funded the construction costs. The finished 1,500 square foot building more than doubled the size of the old library, providing an adult reading area, more shelving for books, a children’s area, and storage.
In 1996, a successful 20-year property tax millage supported by all three townships provided funding to double the size of the library to 3,000 square feet. The new wing included a small meeting room, a computer room, an office, and additional shelving space for the library’s growing collection of 17,000 books and magazines. Weekly hours expanded to 44 and the library was open six days a week. In 1997, the library’s first full-time director, David Diller, was hired.
In 1999, a significant bequest from the Merle L. Roniger Trust became the foundation of a restricted fund for future development of the library. The Thomas and Geraldine House Trust in 2003 and the Julie Weeks Memorial in 2016, were added to this fund, establishing a strong foundation for future growth. Despite increased crowding for the collections and lack of programming space, the GLCL was unable to consider expanding as there were
adjacent residences on either side of the building.
In 2013, the property to the east became available and the library was able to purchase it with funds from the restricted savings created by bequests. Now the GLCL was to begin planning in earnest for future expansion.
In 2014 the library Board conducted a facilitated strategic planning process. Key to planning was the realization that additional year-round space was needed for the collections, programs and services for users.
In 2016, a 0.28 millage was overwhelmingly supported by voters in all three townships. A Community Survey sought public information about library services and community meetings gathered public input. A professional assessment of the library facility was conducted.
A statewide search resulted in the selection of Quinn Evans Architects of Ann Arbor to lead the project in 2017. An exciting new exterior and floor plan was developed to accommodate the library’s 30,000 holdings including an expanded children’s area, quiet reading area enhanced with a fireplace, study rooms, work desks, expanded computer area and a 50-seat program room for educational activities and public use.
In 2018, a volunteer-led, community based Capital Campaign was launched.