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The Downtown Library opened at the corner of Fifth Avenue and William Street on October 13, 1957. Alden B. Dow, a member of the Dow Chemical family, was the designer of the modern building. The new library was built to meet the ever changing needs of the patrons and the new technologies being introduced to libraries at the time.
An expansion doubling the size of the 1957 building was completed in 1974. A third addition was completed in 1991, again doubling the size of the library, in order to meet the needs of a growing collection size, rising circulation numbers, and increased programming offerings. For a more detailed history of the Library, see Grace Shackman's 1991 History of the Ann Arbor Library, 1827-1991.
The Downtown Library has an extensive Local History section, located on the third floor. Available resources include old city directories, back issues of local periodicals, genealogy reference books, high school yearbooks, and UM directories. Housed here is a collection of books, periodicals, maps and atlases, pamphlets, and local government documents about Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, including materials about the cities, villages, and townships in Washtenaw County. Additionally, the Downtown Library has historic local historic newspapers dating back to the 1800s as well as the more recent Ann Arbor News and Ann Arbor.com on microfilm. We also have other microfilm of historical interest including Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (1888-1948) and the Federal Census for Washtenaw County (1830-1930).
Electronic resources at the Downtown Library include 35 public computer terminals, a Macintosh training lab, and the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Print Disabled Assistive Technology Lab. Electronic resources in the Youth Services space include 12 game computers and five Youth Internet Stations for children 14 and under or their caregivers. Trackball mice are available for users who have difficulty using standard mice. There is also a laptop bar on the second floor, allowing laptop users to plug directly into the Library’s Ethernet connection.
There are meeting spaces and study rooms on every floor of the Downtown Library. Available on a first-come, first-served basis are two single-person study rooms on the third floor, two large study rooms on the second floor, and two small tutoring rooms on the first floor in the children’s area.
Aadlfreespace is located on the third floor of the Downtown Library. Groups expecting up to a maximum of 32 people may reserve it at no charge. For more details and to reserve the room please visit the aadlfreespace reservation site. Additionally, the fourth floor Conference room and the lower level Multipurpose Room are available for rental. For information about renting these rooms, please visit the Room Rental Page.
The Downtown Library features a large youth area, complete with a wide variety of children's books, DVDs, CDs, and audio books.
There is also a very popular saltwater fish tank located prominently in the area. Throughout the children’s space, there are a number of play areas, toys, and puzzles, and iPads with which young patrons may interact. There is also an art table for young library users to have hands-on, art-based experiences and changing displays designed to promote literacy and to spark children’s interest. The youth area is also home to a fairy door.
Teenagers will find a space dedicated to them in the Downtown Library. In addition to seating where teens can hang out, this area contains a variety of popular materials including: fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels.
The Downtown Library is also an exhibit space. There are regular changing exhibits on the lower level, in the Multipurpose Room and in the display cases right outside of the Multipurpose Room. Additionally, the third floor is an exhibit space. The third floor also houses a large selection of art and design coffee table books.