On May 16, 1971 the new Troy Public Library opened its doors for the first time to the public. Marguerite Hart became the first children’s librarian at the Troy Library. Hart possessed a passion for libraries and their role in communities and was determined to provide children with proper library services. She once said:
The public library has a choice of roles to play in a community. It may be a vital, telling force, a source to which its patrons turn first, or it may be a passive entity, doing its work as a background for community activity. I believe that like the City of Troy, to which it belongs and which it represents, our new library must take a prominent place. Before children are able to read independently, a librarian helps them to know the library as the place they may explore when they do read. She helps them discover reading as a pleasurable experience, the quality of which derives from the attitudes within the library and that of the community it serves.
In early 1971, Hart wrote to dozens of actors, authors, artists, musicians, playwrights, librarians, and politicians of the day. She asked them to write a letter to the children of Troy about the importance of libraries, and their memories of reading and of books. Hart received 97 letters addressed to Troy’s young people from individuals who spanned the arts, sciences, and politics across the 50 states, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, the Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. Those writing included First Lady Pat Nixon; Michigan Governor William Milliken; then-Secretary to the Pope; Michigan State University President Clifton Wharton, Jr., the first African-American president of a major U.S. university; Neil Armstrong; Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown; authors Isaac Asimov, Hardie Gramatky, Dr. Seuss, Dr. Ben Spock, and E.B. White; and actors Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Vincent Price, and Dan Rowan and Dick Martin.
The collection of letters is available for viewing on the Troy Public Library’s website: Our History: Letters to the Children of Troy, May 1971.