Notes from the Road: Delightful Detroit

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Submitted by Gillian Harrison Cain, ATLA Director of Member Programs

Early this February, Denise McFarlin and I found ourselves in Detroit and the opportunity to visit with two of our members in the area, Sacred Heart Major Seminary and SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary.

Chris Spilker spent the morning showing us around the Sacred Heart Major Seminary (SHMS) libraries: the Cardinal Szoka Library and the Ward Library. The Ward Library was the original library space at SHMS (more on that beautiful space to come later), the Cardinal Szoka Library was created when they merged with another seminary and found they needed a larger library space. So what space did they find to use? A space that was originally planned to be a crypt. But crypt-like this library is not. The window wells are full of living, growing plants (something Denise of the green-thumb noticed right off) and there was plenty of lovely mid-morning light streaming in and showing off their very full shelves.

He next took us up to check out the beautiful Ward Library space, a stunning room with amazing decorative details that houses part of their bound journals as well as rare books collection. The chapel, another beautiful space at SHMS, is directly above the library. Or as Chris put it: “the spiritual nerve center is on top of the intellectual nerve center” at their institution. He shared with us that during a fire in the chapel a few years ago, thankfully someone remembered the library was below and they hurried to protect the books, ultimately saving the collection from major losses, but resulting in a semester-long closure while they had to get everything back on the shelves after the haphazard packing.

We then took a not insignificant drive out to Orchard Lake, Michigan, where we found a smiling Caryn Noel in the Adam Cardinal Maida Alumni Library. I resisted the urge to park in one of the spots marked “Librarian.” Upon entry, Denise and I found ourselves in an entry filled with well-tended plants, including and a tree with tiny oranges on it! Joined by library super-supporter Rev. Gregory Banazak and the Academic Dean Rev. Leonard Obloy, Caryn proceeded to ply us with huge green grapes and delicious “hallelujah” cookies (a protein-packed goodie from her personal trainer) and shared with us the details of their library. As part of DALNET (Detroit Area Library Network, a multi-type library consortium) they’ve recently migrated to Alma and Primo.

Viewed as a repository for Polish history and culture in the United States, the library houses an amazing collection of Polish-language materials (sometimes the only copy in the world) as well as materials from the site’s past as the Michigan Military Academy. The library serves not only the seminarians of SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary but also students of St. Mary’s Preparatory school which shares the campus. Young men in blazers were omnipresent as Caryn showed us around the library in the late afternoon. Stunned by the superior views of the lake from the library’s wall of windows, we found it hard to progress from the gorgeous view to the dark corners of the rare book room, but persevere we did. It was a special treat to see the canoe Saint John Paul II used to paddle around beautiful Orchard Lake when he visited many years ago.

Our thanks to Caryn, Chris, Rev. Banazak, and Rev. Obloy for their time and attention. It was a true pleasure to spend time in their presence and tour their libraries.

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