Beyond the Library

A Brief History of Sickness in Auburn Hills Libraries


Though little is known about how Auburn Hills (then Pontiac Township and Amy) fared during the 1918 flu, we do have a record of how the first library in our community dealt with another devastating disease.

In the 1930s, the Community Club of Auburn Heights—as Amy was renamed in 1919—started a library in the voting booth with books donated by the women of Christ’s Church on Lone Pine Road in Bloomfield Hills. The library was operated largely by one resident: Mildred Thorpe.

A vintage photo of a group of people standing in front of a truck

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The Auburn Heights Fire Department (renamed the Pontiac Township Fire Department in 1951) is pictured above around 1945. In the background, you can see the white voting building which had earlier served as the first public library of Auburn Heights. At the time, the fire station was next to the voting building in what is now Downtown Auburn Hills.

Within a few years, a family that checked out many of the “best books” from the library came down with smallpox. To prevent the spread of the disease, the whole collection was destroyed and the library shuttered.

Our patrons will be glad to know that we have no plans to discard of our collections in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re thankful that our understanding of the spread of disease has improved in the last century. Instead of discarding contaminated collections, we’re instituting a “cleaning and quarantining” process for library materials to ensure our patrons can safely borrow library materials.

As we live out a new moment in our library’s history, we thank our patrons for their continued patience and understanding.

Sources:

Randall, Natalie Kilmer. Pontiac Township 1827-1983: The End of an Era. 2nd ed., J&M Reproduction Corp., 1983.

Thorpe, Gary. Excerpt from a letter about Uncle Earl and Aunt Mildred Thorpe. July 2000. Auburn Hills Historical Society Archives.

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