Image by Andy Thompson

On Monday, January 9, I visited Clifford Library, a branch of Lapeer District Library, and met with Rachael Smyczak — branch manager.

Having visited Clifford many moons ago, before I even considered library school, I had an immediate fondness for the library as it is housed in a historic schoolhouse. If history is your thing, please take a moment at the end of this post to view the slideshow I’ve embedded.

You ask, “Where in the world is Clifford, Michigan?” For starters, the Village of Clifford is in the northeast corner of Lapeer County which is considered to be the lower Thumb area. From my home library of Sandusky District Library, Clifford Library is 25 miles southwest or about 35 minutes. For those not familiar with the area, Clifford Library is about 80 miles (1.75 hours) almost due north of Purdy-Kresge Library, home of the School of Library and Information Science, on Wayne State University‘s downtown campus.

Service Area, Size, and Operating Budget
Unlike the other libraries visited thus far for the 30Y.30L project, Clifford Library is a branch belonging to Lapeer District Library — which serves all of Lapeer County sans Almont (serviced by Almont District Library), Attica (serviced by the Attica Township Library), Dryden (serviced by Dryden Township Library), Imlay City (serviced by Ruth Hughes Memorial District Library), and North Branch (serviced by North Branch Township Library — which was toured for the 30Y.30L project). Note: Clifford Library neighbors North Branch Township Library.

If the Clifford Library were independent and not a branch library, it would likely serve Burlington Township (population: 1478) and Rich Township (population: 1623) in addition to the Village of Clifford (population: 324) — definitely a Class 1 size library! (The Lapeer District Library is designated a Class 6 agency.)

Other relevant facts and figures:

  • Circulation 2010: 2,472
  • Number of items in the collection: 2,517
  • Operating budget: $42,688
  • Staff: 2
  • Hours open to the public: 15

Rachael shared an old newspaper clipping (Lapeer County Press: November 18, 1969) that detailed the Clifford Library prior to the move in its current location. My notes read:

Prior to the library, the area had bookmobile visits twice a week. As of 11/11/1969, the library had 500 books. I found it interesting the writer stated, “[It’s] expected that 1,000 books can be maintained at the library.”

“Trailer house” library — custom-made for $2,600. The trailer consisted of a library room, coat closet, and a small service room. Quoted from the article, “The book room has wood-paneled walls, fluorescent lighting and a red-carpeted floor.”

The LDL’s website gives an overview of the history of the current Clifford Library:

Many patrons who use the Clifford Branch Library feel nostalgic as they walk through the front doors of the former Clifford High School, and more recently the former Clifford Elementary School.  After closing its doors in the mid 1960’s, the building underwent renovation in the late 1970’s.  The large rooms on the lower level have received new windows, insulation, separate bathroom facilities among other repairs, where the library now occupies space.

The upstairs of this charming old school is still in need of many repairs and renovation.  Someday, if possible, we would like to see one of the rooms restored into the schoolroom that it used to be.  There are desks, bookcases, and many books that have been saved for this purpose.

In January 2003, the Lapeer County Library System underwent a restructuring transition and changed its name to Lapeer District Library.

About the Branch Manager
Rachael Smyczak has worked for Lapeer District Library since she was 16. “It wasn’t Taco Bell. I never left…I get to touch books everyday.” Having graduated with her MLIS degree in 2009 from Wayne State University, she’s been the Clifford Branch manager for nearly 2 years now and delivers story hour to all eight branches of Lapeer District Library.  Prior to our interview at 2p, Rachael already had a very busy day by visiting the Metamora and Elba branches for story hour. About her story time duties, Rachel says, “I get paid to sing songs, dance, and play with glitter!”

Favorite review sources: NPR and BookPage. 

Advice to those entering the profession: “Right now there is a lot of discouragement in the field. If this is something you love, stick with it.”