1975–85: Years of Growth
Much of his first eighteen months on his new job,
Director Lewis was involved in the planning and construction of the new
Farmington Branch. Shortly after the Branch opened, Mr. Lewis began
effectively examining each aspect of library operations to identify changes
that would make the library services more responsive to community
Children's programming was completely revamped to follow educational
concepts, incorporating a number of age-appropriate activities into six- or
eight-week series of registered programs. Twice a year, librarians visited
each elementary school to encourage children's participation in the Summer
Reading Club and other programs. Quarterly program booklets were developed to
highlight the programs for all ages. Public response was overwhelming since
there were few leisure programs offered by other community groups in those
years. As a result, registered library programs received maximum booking on
the first morning that parents could register their children. To further
address parents' needs, the Parent-Teacher-Professional Collection was
Mr. Lewis brought a level of managerial competence and imagination that was needed to meet the burgeoning demand for library services. He methodically compiled Library policies and operating procedures, and systematically educated staff in how to provide the highest level of professional library service to the community. He would establish, as detailed below, a local and Michigan legal collection, and an array of business reference tools that would make the Library an essential information provider for the business and professional communities
The Farmington Hills Branch became the housing agent for the Oakland County
Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in September, 1973, with an
initial 380 handicapped patrons. Within a few years, demand for these
"talking books" resulted in registration exceeding 1,000 patrons,
county-wide. Library staff working with these special materials also
delivered library services to the senior citizen centers and nursing homes in
the area. A special collection of large print materials was developed. Other
special collections on gerontology and the deaf/hearing impaired were
Large portions of the book budget were allocated to "retrospective" ordering
to assure that staff purchased the best titles in each subject area. Since
the Hills Branch opened without a basic collection, Mr. Lewis was determined
that new purchases would better reflect a high quality of information. The
Reference Collection was expanded, with additional special collections
developed: the Law Collection was enhanced by a gift from attorney Robert
Pugh; the library became one of 130 Foundation Center affiliates nationwide,
thereby establishing the Grantsmanship Collection.
The Farmington Branch increased its special collection on Michigan and
Farmington History. Local historian Kay Briggs greatly enhanced the
collection with a donation of over 1,000 rare books and first editions on
In April, 1984 the Library began a pilot program, opening a "storefront Branch" in the shopping mall at Muirwood (northwest corner of Grand River and Drake Road). Stocked with popular reading materials, and offering children's programs, the new Branch was the joint inspiration of Jerry Beznos, who operated Muirwood and offered the Library three months' free space, and the Library Administration. However, traffic at the Branch could not justify the investment of staff and materials, and the new Branch ceased operation at the end of June, 1984.
In 1986, the family of Robert Cook, another local historian, donated Mr.
Cook's lifetime avocation: indexing of the Farmington Enterprise and
Observer, 1888 —1980. Mr. Cook noted the births, deaths, weddings, and
important events that were recorded in this local news that were recorded in
this local newspaper. This resource is considered invaluable!
Audio-visual materials were enhanced, with a Friends' donation to create a
videocassette collection in addition to 16mm film, 8mm film, filmstrips,
records, and cassettes.
Also in 1984 the Farmington Friends of the Library purchased the library's first
computers—actually, data terminals—which were used to access remote research databases—the commercial Internet forerunners by a decade of what would become the World Wide Web.
The library subscribed to advanced online search services such as Dialog, BRS, Lexis, Nexis, Knowledge Index, and BRS After Dark. Staff were
trained with new skills to perform database searching during any hour the
library was open. The Farmington Community Library was unique among its peers
in taking such an approach; other libraries required appointments or only had
a limited number of trained searchers. Instead, the Farmington Community
Library expressed these beliefs:
- that electronic information was an important component in library
- that all Adult Services staff should have basic competencies in
learning to use these new computer resources;
- and that staff should market the value of these new resources to the
rest of the community.
From this perspective, the library was in the forefront
of information technology—a position it would maintain from that point forward. Staff held training sessions in the high schools
and gave demonstrations to the business community. To encourage use of
Westlaw, the legal database; local District Court Judges sponsored breakfasts
for area attorneys to encourage training.
During the height of the demand for staff-assisted database searching, staff
performed over 1,000 searches per year with revenue of $34,000. Each search
was offered on a cost-recovery basis which included the telecommunications
charges, time in the mainframe computer, plus 20% overhead.
The Friends also provided the first computer equipment for the Children's
Departments, with educational software and games. It quickly became apparent
that children were adept at learning new computer skills. From the early 198
0's to 1996, there were four generations of computers and software purchased
for children's use.
The Farmington Community Library became one of the highest circulating
libraries in the Wayne Oakland Library Federation. Such heavy use soon led to
various renovations to fully use the 38,000 square feet in the Hills Branch.
In 1977-78, the Library for the Blind and Handicapped was moved to quarters
in the lower level, with good access to the elevator for walk-in traffic and
for mail deliveries. The public library paid $27,000 for this renovation,
with Oakland County paying the remainder of the costs.
The Library Board recognized that additional substantial renovations would
be required to fully use the lower level of the Hills Branch. Appropriations
funding from the City Councils were not fully accommodating the Board's
perceived library needs. In May 1979, two issues were placed on a special
election ballot: one would have created an independent taxing authority in
the Library Board and the second would have granted a tax levy of 1.5 mills
for library operations. Both proposals were defeated.
At budget hearings the following year, the two City Councils approved
funding of $141,000 for relocation of the Children's Department to larger
space in the Hills Branch. The Farmington Friends of the Library, as a large
group of citizens, attended the Joint City Council budget meeting as
proponents of the needed library improvements. Their voices were once again
The Children's Department moved to approximately 7,000 square feet in the
lower level. A Conference Room, seating 75 people, was added to accommodate
some Children's programming and to rent to small groups for meeting room
space. Maximum shelving was added in the adult collection. In 1981–1982, the
Councils approved purchase of a security system at $28,000 per year for three
years, with the Friends also agreeing to financially support this major
Director Lewis and his staff recognized the operational changes occurring in
the library profession. Lewis and the major members of the Wayne Oakland
Library Cooperative agreed that an automated library system was needed to
replace the manual systems that were labor-intensive and slow. Seven members
agreed to pool their monies to jointly purchase access to GEAC, a
Canadian-based automation system. In 1983, library staff linked each book in
the library collection, creating an accurate inventory for the first time in
over twenty years. Library circulation exceeded 500,000 items per year and
was projected to only increase!