NOTE: While new carpeting is being installed at the Oshtemo Branch Library, access to some materials may be unavailable. Thank you for your patience.

About Oshtemo Branch Library


“Old” Chamberlin/Hurd School on West Main Street (M-43). Oshtemo Branch Library first occupied this building in 1966.
Photo by Sarah Hultmark, c.1981, History Room Photo File P-1296.

Serving Oshtemo Township

A group of interested Oshtemo Township citizens began meeting in 1964 to discuss forming a library. Their work continued for two years before the township board agreed to allocate funds for the project. In 1966 Oshtemo Station opened its doors in what was referred to as “the former Standard School building on West Main Street.” No other reference has been found to Standard School. The building also appears to have been called old Hurd School, and still stands on the north side of West Main near the intersection of 8th Street. 

The station began service with a volunteer staff and fewer than 1000 books. It had close ties with the Kalamazoo Public Library, which loaned books for circulation and provided matching funds to purchase new materials. In 1968, Miss Lillian Anderson retired from the Kalamazoo Public Library staff and became a volunteer at the Oshtemo Station in charge of ordering new books. 


Oshtemo Branch Library in the “new” Hurd School, 1989
Kalamazoo Public Library Archives Photograph, uncataloged

Why did the library cross the road?

Kalamazoo has now grown beyond the branch’s location, but originally it was still fairly rural. Early annual reports complain of many days closed due to heavy winter weather and of the mess engendered by the widening of M-43. But the little library persevered and quickly outgrew its original home. In 1972 it moved across the road into the “new” Hurd School, which had by then ceased to be used as such. A year later it officially became a branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library. Its first head librarian was Mrs. Betsy Watts.

An unusual form of library service was provided one memorable day in 1986 when a Bangor woman in labor was forced to stop at the branch by a blinding rainstorm. Her baby girl was born in the library parking lot, assisted by three nurses who happened to be in the library, and by firemen from next door who held a tarp over the woman's truck to protect all concerned. The rain abated, the family continued to the hospital, where mom and baby were doing fine. Since baby Ashley was too young for a library card, the library staff sent flowers instead. 


Oshtemo Branch Library at twilight, 1998
Photo: Fred Golden for David Milling & Associates (architects)

1997 Re-opening

Along with the branch’s newest patron and the township, the branch continued to grow. By 1995 the Oshtemo Branch was bursting at the seams. That year Kalamazoo Library District voters approved funding to prepare its facilities for a new century of service to the community. Ground was broken a year later for a new 18,000 square foot building to house Oshtemo Branch. Service continued in the old building until the new one was completed, then the old one was demolished.


The New Building

The whimsical new building arose like a medieval village around a castle. Designed to appeal to children and the young at heart, it features colorful, basic geometric forms. A circular path leads through the barrel-vaulted reading room, past the reference area, circulation desk, young adult and children’s rooms, and into a community meeting room. A quiet story room enchants young patrons with its floor-level windows and pillows. Windows overlook a hidden courtyard featuring Michael Hayden’s Time Bender, a mock sundial sculpture. A second Hayden piece, Excalibur, soars into a pyramid-shaped skylight over the audio-visual collection. It wasn’t long before the unusual building was immortalized in art, when local artist Mary Hatch used it as a background for her oil painting “Storybook Bride” in 2003.


The Gardens

The building sits on a ten-acre prairie that adjoins the township park. The large grounds allow more landscaping than at other library branches. Paths wind through native grasses and flowers that bloom all summer. The butterfly garden on the west side of the building began life as a vegetable garden for Loaves and Fishes maintained by library staffer Jim Clarey and volunteers. A “Rainbow Garden and the Pot of Gold” brightens the view from the children’s room. The two flower gardens are now tended by master gardener Jill Ongley, also of the KPL staff, and friends.