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Introductory Material

Local history matters. It should be a frequently visited keystone in our understanding of the past. Over the years, however, community histories have been far too often ignored in the creation of "professional" history. Those who write history for their livelihood had often viewed the almost always volunteer-created local histories as too weighted down with petty concerns of neighborhoods and the sheer ordinariness of daily life to shed significant information on the broader trends in American life. In truth some local histories, like some works of academic history, are narrowly rooted, but collectively Michigan's published local histories are a resource that is fundamental to our understanding of the past.

Local history, not surprisingly, is most often written for and is usually most important to the community described in the text. Local histories explain to the people who live in a place why that place is what it is. Local history creates a context that many will lovingly embrace, others will purposefully reject, and some will try to ignore, but to which everyone in the community must eventually react. As important as this sense of a place is for those who live there, local history is more than just a local concern. The importance of community history goes beyond the place which is described.

The history of communities is a fundamental element of all history. In the sweep of national histories, surveys of large military conflicts, or biographies of great individuals, we sometimes forget that what underlies and explains "great" history takes place in local communities. Local history is made up of the seemingly mundane; the development of neighborhood commerce, the ebb an flow of community spiritual values, or the outcome of local elections. The emphasis on local issues rather than grand narrative or complex analysis makes community history easily criticized. It is too parochial say some, or too fixated, claim others, on the minor details of lives in towns and villages that appear to be little more than gas stations off the freeway.

Yet from learning these seemingly mundane pieces of information about local places there comes a broader sense of American culture, nuanced by the peculiarities and unique attributes of each community that contributes to the composition of the whole. Ultimately it is the history of local communities, large and small, that creates the context for the individual of exceptional merit, that explain the roots of military conflict, and that, in the end, creates national history. The issues and beliefs that frame and explain democratic societies start at the bottom and work up. Leaders may propose, but popular leaders find their fundamental ideas in local community values and successful leaders are those that can shape programs that reflect ideas that people, "back home," will follow. Local history may well be written primarily for a local audience, but the implications that can be drawn from these volumes goes far beyond the city or county boundaries that delimit their scope.

Because of our belief in the importance of local history in defining American culture, the Clarke Historical Library has worked with diligence to locate, acquire, and maintain what has become one of the finest collections of Michigan local history. As this bibliography attests, the Clarke now makes available thousands of volumes of community history.

Similarly it is the belief of the Library's staff and Board of Governors in the importance of local history that inspires us to publish this volume as well as to make its content available over the world wide web. We hope it will increase use of the material found within the Clarke both as a means to better understand state history and, through the best examples of the genre, as a model for the continuing production of new community histories.

In preparing this volume a debt of gratitude is owed to two individuals. Evelyn Leasher worked long hours to locate, edit, and prepare the entries found in this publication. Her tireless work went far beyond that called for by her positions and demonstrated over and again that a simplistic belief in the ability of computerized retrieval of bibliographic records to replaced skilled reference librarians and complex research strategies is more a matter of wishful thinking than documented reality. Computerized catalogs markedly change the skills and search strategies that need to be employed to find material from the days when a researcher could "thumb the cards," but skilled researchers and sound search strategies remain critical to finding wanted material. Computers, sadly, do not "just do it."

Thanks is also owed to Christina Alger. As the student assistant who worked on several phases of this bibliography Chris logged long hours on the computer searching out bibliographic material and even longer hours entering the found entries into the word processor. If computer searches and data entry was not a cruel enough assignments she was also pressed into service as one of the volume's proofreaders. This bibliography would be much the poorer without Chris.

Frank Boles