Experiencing Northern Michigan: Mackinac Island Public Library & The Island Bookstore

For those of us who love literature as much as we love adventure and Northern Michigan, what could be better than kicking back and relaxing with a good book after a long day biking around Mackinac Island? Reading outside on a sunny spring day like today or finding a cozy spot around the big fireplace at the heart of the Island’s year-round library? Now that’s the epitome of Pure Michigan for us NoMi-loving bookworms.

Like most architecture on the Island, the Mackinac Island Public Library is adorable, with its brilliantly bright minty teal exterior and four white columns holding up a quaint front porch. Small yet stately, the library’s architecture is as charming as it is iconic. Nestled right on the water in one of the Island’s most prime locations, this unique NoMi library sits adjacent to a bike rack big enough for dozens of bicycles and is located right around the corner from a lovely lookout with expansive views of the Straits of Mackinac. The library serves over 500 year-round residents as patrons in addition to the thousands of tourists who make seasonal trips to the Island in the summers. While visitors can’t check out books without official library cards, the library does offer an ongoing used book sale year-round.

Dressed inside and out in that gorgeous teal, the library interior features walls of windows that let in spectacular natural light all day long. It’s truly breathtaking stepping into this dreamy building, humble in size (this is one of the smallest libraries I’ve ever visited!) with endless charm. The library features an open hearth area—perfect for quiet book club gatherings or cozying up with an old-fashioned newspaper or your favorite book—with a stunning tile fireplace as the centerpiece along the back wall with French doors overlooking Lake Huron, the Mackinac Bridge, and the Round Island Passage Lighthouse.

The original library on Mackinac Island, founded by Rosa Webb (who has a gorgeous room in the library named after her!) was built in 1936 on Market Street, and the Mackinac Island Public Library as we know and love it today is still considered a new building. Made possible by a Housing and Urban Development Grant, the current library was constructed in January 1992 and features diverse design influences. The bright, beautiful building was designed by Richard Bos of Royal Oak; the landscaping was designed by Deborah Silver of Detroit; the fireplace tiles were designed by Nancy Gorman of Glencoe; and the breathtaking interior was designed by Carleton Varney of New York.

The library has a great collection of children’s books in addition to fun toys and activities for kids, including several  cute animal hand puppets, which make awesome storytelling aids to help keep kids engaged while reading aloud! Engaging readers of all ages is vital to every library’s mission. An annual tradition for almost 20 years, the Mackinac Island Public Library celebrates their Summer Author Series each year, through which the library hosts local authors who live on the Island as well as those who write about themes central to Michigan and the Midwest in their work. 

For locals who stay on the Island year-round—or for those visitors who love visiting in the off-season to experience Mackinac Island as a real-life snow globe—the public library stays open five days a week, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Every summer, the library extends their hours on Tuesdays and Fridays into the evenings, open from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Their catalog offers a search feature where you can find brand new books, books from various New York Times Bestseller Lists, and 2019 Michigan Notable Books, including The Faygo Book by Joe Grimm, Building the Modern World: Albert Kahn in Detroit by Michael H. Hodges, and Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit by Lisa Ludwinski, who’s from Milford.

While we’re on the subject of books, I can’t not mention The Island Bookstore in Downtown Mackinac Island, where I had the pleasure of visiting on my trip to the Island last summer for the glorious Lilac Festival celebration. (Want more Experiencing Northern Michigan blog posts all about Mackinac Island? Check out my columns about touring historic Fort Mackinac, the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, the bicycle lifestyle and kite-flying fun on Mackinac Island, the Stuart House City Museum, and Mackinac Island Carriage Tours for more Island life goodness!)

Browsing around in The Island Bookstore, I found super cute cards with hand-painted lilac illustrations on them, a memory game where you match flowers together, and a book written and designed by students at Mackinac Island Public Schools for a fundraiser they organized. This sweet little book is all about how the Island functions during the winter months and what it’s like to live on Mackinac year-round. I found this topic so fascinating and was excited to support the school fundraiser, so I bought a copy, the memory game, the lilac cards, and a “Greetings from Michigan Booksellers” tote bag!

Reader, what’s your favorite library Up North? I’ve had the good fortune of visiting a few around Northern Michigan so far, and I’m excited to check out them all! And probably check out all the books, too. Are there any books you’re eager to read this summer on the beach, at the pool, in a hammock, or on a warm, lazy Saturday on your front porch? Whether you’re on Mackinac Island or anywhere in the world, there’s not much better, at least in my mind, than reading a good book in the great outdoors! 

Categories: Experiencing Northern Michigan, the four