Is Detroit closing the Bowen Library branch?

Is Detroit closing the Bowen Library branch?

Rumors swirled, but DPL says the Southwest neighborhood hub is staying open.

detroit public library bowen branch

Bowen Library Branch in Southwest Detroit. Credit: Darren56brown/Wikicommons

Ahead of a virtual meeting of the Detroit Library Commission on Tuesday, rumors began circulating on social media that the city planned to close the Bowen Branch of the Detroit Public Library (DPL) and convert it into a truck logistics center. 

Located on West Vernor Highway near Mexicantown and the Ambassador Bridge, the area already has a considerable amount of truck traffic. Some residents were troubled at the prospect of replacing a community hub with an operation that could bring even more air and noise pollution.

“We’re opposed to it being anything other than the library,” Elena Herrada, a longtime community activist, told Detour. “It’s a center that anchors the community and there’s nothing better than having it be a library.”

But at this point, we haven’t been able to verify the rumors, and DPL says there are no plans to close the branch. Some who work for DPL only first heard about the concern when residents showed up to the commission’s meeting and asked about the future of Bowen. 

“These permanent closing rumors being circulated have caught us all by surprise,” Katie Dowgiewicz, a spokesperson for the Detroit Public Library, wrote to Detour by email. “The library has no intention of closing the Bowen Branch as it is an integral part of its Southwest community, providing crucial resources, computers and internet access, programs and a gathering place for the neighborhood.” 

Dowgiewicz added that commissioners said on Tuesday they hadn’t been informed of any plans to close the branch and planned to check with the city about the source of the rumors. According to Herrada, community concerns about a closure have been ongoing for some time. She said the DPL system has tried to close the branch in the past and claimed DPL has neglected some upgrades to Bowen in the present. She added that the branch is also no longer on the list of locations on DPL’s website. 

But Dowgiewicz said that the six branches currently listed on the website are the only ones that have reopened, along with the main branch, under the DPL’s COVID-19 protocols. Fifteen locations have been temporarily removed from the website while they remain closed.

“A lot of research and consideration went into the library reopening plan in selecting which branches to remain open — to provide service across the city while maintaining the health and safety of both our employees and customers,” Dowgiewicz said. “So, for that reason only, the Bowen Branch remains closed.”

We’ve also reached out to the city and Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, whose district covers Bowen, but have yet to get a response. We’ll continue to monitor this story as we get more intel. Have any? Send us a message: aaron@detourdetroiter.com.

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Aaron Mondry is the editor of The Dig and a reporter who covers development, housing, architecture, real estate and land use in Detroit. He was previously the editor of Curbed Detroit.