In 1856, Royal Oak Township established a library funded by penal fines and run by the township clerk. After considerable growth Royal Oak Township residents voted a .25 mill tax to establish a public library on April 3, 1916. The library became a city library in 1922 soon after the City of Royal Oak was incorporated. After "struggling with space" and making several moves, the library dedicated its current 42,000 square-foot library building in April 1963 at 222 East Eleven Mile Road. After 43 years, this building was thoroughly renovated and rededicated in 2006.
The library is located in southern Royal Oak, across the green from city hall and the police station, one block east of Main Street, in the downtown business district. It is near several principal routes including Woodward Avenue, I-75 and I-696. The library is open 60 hours per week and closed on Sundays. Free parking is available in the Farmer's Market lot across Troy Street from the library; the neighboring metered parking on Williams Street provides free handicapped parking spaces nearer the ramp to the main civic plaza entrance to the library. There are a few free five-minute parking spaces near the north door for patrons who are only returning materials to the outdoor return box.
The Royal Oak Public Library is a Class VI library serving 60,062 (census 2000) Royal Oak residents. It is a member of The Library Network (TLN) cooperative which includes over 50 libraries; most public libraries in TLN offer reciprocal borrowing to residents of other TLN communities. Royal Oak Public Library also participates in the statewide Michicard program, which allows Royal Oak residents to borrow print materials from participating libraries throughout the state.
One-third of Royal Oak residents are registered for library cards, and the gate count in recent years exceeds 250,000 annually. Circulation of library materials in FY 2003/04 was 260,000. The collection includes over 109,000 books, 250 periodical subscriptions, as well as various media: videocassettes, DVDs, CD-ROMs, and compact disks. Thirty computers offer Internet access and a variety of databases. A Training Center offers instruction to the public. The staff includes 10 professional librarians, including the director.
The library accomodates patrons with physical impairments, starting with the automatic doors at the entrance and the restrooms. Visually impaired patrons will find a large-screen monitor for one library catalog in Adult Services, a closed-circuit TV ("Optelec") which enlarges printed text and a Xerox Reading Edge machine (on request) which converts printed text to audio.
Royal Oak Public Library's Adult Services (AS) librarians have developed a fine collection of reference books and answer nearly 30,000 questions for patrons every year; they oversee Internet computers in the adult area which host about 35,000 user sessions annually. The library houses many US and Michigan government publications and documents, all of which are managed by the AS staff. Adult Services librarians host several free programs such as a book discussion group, Internet training, a poet-in-residence workshop, summer reading program, and literary programs/author appearances. All programs are funded by the Friends of the Royal Oak Public Library.
The Youth Services Department offers an abundance and variety of programs for youngsters, including storytimes; craft sessions; science, music and puppet programs year round; and an extensive and successful summer reading program for more than 1,000 children. Young adults in grades six to twelve have their own summer reading program, among others. All programs are funded by the Friends of the Royal Oak Public Library.
The library promotes its services and programs on its web site at www.ropl.org, and on the city's cable channel, WROK. A library newsletter, the Leaflet, is published four times per year and distributed to every household in Royal Oak inside the City's Insight magazine. The Youth Services Department publishes Twigs, a calendar of programs for children and distributes it to students in all public and private schools in Royal Oak.
On November 4, 2003, Royal Oak voters passed a 1-mill dedicated tax to fund library operations and building improvements for 20 years. This new revenue source will stabilize and secure funding for the library until June 2023, enabling us to improve the facility, collections and services.