When Julia Henika died in March of 1899, Wayland was still a pioneer town. But people of vision, like Julia, refused to relegate Wayland to a backwater town remote from the urban centers of Grand Rapids to the north and Kalamazoo to the south. Julia bequeathed, in her will, the sum of $2,000 to be used to construct a library for the citizens of the Wayland area. With contributions from her mother, husband and the city a lovely, stone, Richardsonian structure was built for under $3,000. That structure, now a State of Michigan historic site, still houses the Henika District Library, an institution that, to this day, presents 19th Century charm along with 21st Century services.
The first librarian was Fannie Hoyt, who was employed in 1916, at age 48, to oversee library operations. The library was open afternoons and evenings on Mondays and Wednesdays for a total of six hours per day. Prior to Miss Hoyts employment the library served only as a reading room, open occasionally and sporadically under the watch of volunteers of the Ladies Library Club. Miss Hoyt served as librarian for 32 years.
Dorothy Peterson succeeded Miss Hoyt and served for 28 years as librarian. It was under her tenure that the library converted from coal to oil heat, and because the oil heat allowed for constant heating, running water was installed, along with a bathroom. The first telephone was also installed during her term. During the 1960s it became apparent that the original structure wasn’t big enough to house the growing collection, so an addition was built, tripling the size of the library.
Barbara Crofoot-Keeney became Henika’s third librarian in 1976. It was during her nine years of service that the library became automated, that the basement area became a cheerful children’s library, and that the library was placed on the State Register of Historic Places.
Lynn Mandaville our fourth librarian served 29 years. During those years the library’s exterior was renovated, the interior redecorated, the Internet was incorporated into library services, and the automated circulation system put on the library computer network. The library ceased being a department of the City of Wayland and reorganized as an independent district library.
Elysha Cloyd was the fifth director of the library and served 8 months ending in 2015.