Mission and Strategic Plan

The City Library's Mission Statement

The City Library is a dynamic civic resource that promotes free and open access to information, materials and services to all members of the community to advance knowledge, foster creativity, encourage the exchange of ideas, build community and enhance the quality of life.

The City Library's Strategic Plan

The City Library has chosen six community outcomes to provide a focus for developing services, collections and programs. Along with community partners, staff has developed a rich array of initiatives and experiences to help achieve these goals.

Enjoying Life

People make time for entertainment to lighten up, enjoy life, and unlock creativity.

The City Library celebrates creativity and inspiration. The facilities are inviting and fun to explore. Collections include movies to entertain, music to inspire, and books and magazines to learn about the newest trends. Programs encourage family and friends to come together for events, children’s paper airplane contests, outdoor concerts, Author’s Live events, or tango classes. Experiencing The City Library reminds us we live in a smart, active and creative city.

Exploring New Ideas

The community openly explores ideas and engages in conversation, discussion and dialogue, especially about ideas they may never have encountered before.

Curiosity and engagement are essential to advancing knowledge. Lifelong learning results when natural curiosity comes in contact with a neutral venue where all information can be explored without judgment or bias. The City Library is also the community’s urban living room, a place where people engage with one another on any topic, from city planning to medical discoveries to world politics.

Ensuring Early Literacy

Every child has an equal chance to succeed. The youngest children have expansive early literacy and early learning opportunities.

The City Library will step up efforts to provide parents and children with the language and literacy foundation children need to be ready to read when they enter kindergarten. A love of books and stories doesn’t just add to the richness of one’s life, but also builds important reasoning skills, encourages community engagement, and promotes the creativity necessary for the entire society to tackle important issues.

Accessing Technology

Everyone in the community has access to technology and the skills to use them.

Using technology is no longer optional. Without access to technology and the skills to use it, individuals my be left disconnected from friends, family, work opportunities, news, information, entertainment and much more. The City Library is already a hub of technology access, providing computers and internet access for public use. Further efforts will be made to identify those in the community without access or the needed level of skills and provide modern technologies, information and courses to keep everyone up-to-date.

Creating Local Solutions and Bridging Divides

The community works together to address challenges and generate innovative solutions to create and sustain the best place to live, and then makes it happen. Our focus will be on sustainability and City, State, and National urban initiatives. The community finds ways to bridge the east/west racial, cultural and socio-economic divide to strengthen our city.

Sustainability requires the attention and hard work of the whole community. The City Library will lead by example, reducing the system’s carbon footprint with a number of energy-saving initiatives. As an organization devoted to community building and empowerment, we can help foster the passion in all Salt Lake City residents to make our city as clean, healthy and efficient as possible.

Within any community, actual and figurative divides exist. The City Library can be a catalyst for bridging the divides that inhibit positive perceptions and collaboration between eastside and westside neighborhoods. Rich cultures exist on each side of the freeway and by offering the encouragement to explore new neighborhoods, meet each other, and share personal stories, views and traditions, Salt Lake City residents can find greater opportunities to advance and celebrate the city’s collective culture.

History of The City Library

Public Libraries in the Utah Territory

The first library books in Utah were brought into the region circa 1851 under the direction of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Titles included translations of Greek and Latin classics and works by noted English authors. These volumes constituted the Utah Territorial Library. The collection was later divided between the Utah State Supreme Court Law Library and the University of Utah Library.

In 1872, a small group of women organized the Ladies Library Association, and on December 16 opened a public reading room with 400 books in the First National Bank Building. The reading room closed in 1876, and the books were placed in storage.

On September 1, 1877, the Masonic Order established the Masonic Public Library. Although by 1891 the Library had grown to 10,000 volumes, lack of public and financial support prompted the Masons to donate their collection to the newly founded Pioneer Library Association.

1898-1921: Establishment and Early Growth

Within a year of Utah's admission to the Union in 1896, legislation was passed providing for the establishment of free public libraries. Under this law, the Free Public Library of Salt Lake City opened on February 14, 1898, on the top floor of the City-County Building. Its core collection consisted of 11,910 books from the Pioneer Library Association. Annie E. Chapman, librarian for the Pioneer Library Association, was chosen for the same post at the new library to facilitate its transition from a private to a public institution. Miss Chapman served in this capacity until her death in 1903.

By December 30, 1900, library holdings had grown to 14,515 volumes and the facilities of the new institution proved to be inadequate. In October 1900, John Quackenbos Packard donated a prime building site located south of the Alta Club on State Street. It was valued at $20,000. A new building was completed at a cost of $100,000 and formally opened on October 27, 1905. The staff consisted of Joanna Sprague, who replaced Annie Chapman, and six assistants. According to the terms of the donation, the building, with library reading rooms and a hall suitable for lectures on literary, scientific and educational subjects, was to be perpetually maintained and open at reasonable hours free of charge for the residents of Salt Lake City. The Free Public Library, as it was known, served as the main depository of Salt Lake City until October 1964, when the Main Library building on 200 East and 500 South was completed. At that time, still bound by the terms of Mr. Packard's gift, the old library building was renovated by the Mr. and Mrs. George T. Hansen Foundation as a planetarium and space science library.

From 1906 to 1921, the Library expanded to include eight branches. By the end of 1912, there were three branches in public schools (Bonneville, Emerson and Franklin), a fourth branch located in the old drink dispensary at the Warm Springs Sanatorium, and another at the Western Telegraph Office. A sixth branch, named in honor of Miss Chapman, was opened in 1912 at 610 West North Temple in the same building as the Horsley Department Store. Its collection consisted of approximately 1,500 volumes. On February 15, 1917, Salt Lake City was awarded $25,000 from the Carnegie Foundation to build a separate building for this west side branch. Salt Lake's Carnegie Library was built at 577 South 900 West and dedicated on May 28, 1918, as the Chapman Branch Library.

On April 7, 1914, the Library Board of Directors decided to open a branch in the Sugar House District. On November 1, 1914, the Sprague Library, named in honor of Joanna Sprague, opened with a collection of 2,335 volumes. This first Sprague Branch Library was built by A. S. Smoot and was located at 1035 East 2100 South. The present home of the Sprague Branch Library at 2131 South 1100 East was completed and opened on December 5, 1928. In 1935, the American Library Association awarded the Sprague Branch facility with the "Most Beautiful Branch Library in America" award.

On May 14, 1921, another branch opened at 800 West 100 North. Named for one of the first library board members, the John D. Spencer Branch Library remained in operation until 1965.

1950-1990s: The Second Main Library and Booming Branches

By the 1950s, the crowded conditions in the Main Library on State Street made a new building necessary. Through the tireless work of two library board presidents, Jacob A. Kahn and Gail Plummer, plans were formulated for obtaining a site and constructing a new library. The building program was included in a city capital improvement bonding program which passed successfully. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on December 28, 1962, at 209 East 500 South, and dedication ceremonies took place on October 30, 1964.

To spearhead a drive for a new Main Library, the Friends of the Library was established. The group proved successful with the approval of a $2.5 million bond for construction. This volunteer program continues to donate time and support to the Library through fund raising and community activities.

In the 1960s, the Library Board of Directors agreed to a community drive for a branch in the Rose Park area. The facility was dedicated on April 6, 1965, at 1185 West 1000 North.

The 1980s demanded further library growth in response to community needs. On April 20, 1985, and May 18, 1985, respectively, the Library opened the Avenues Branch Library at 455 'F' Street and the Anderson-Foothill Branch Library at 1135 South 2100 East. The Anderson-Foothill Branch was named to honor a gift from Reese C. Anderson.

From August 1989 to September 1990, the Sprague Branch Library underwent major remodeling. Improvements included a new rear entrance, an elevator, foundation stabilization, new energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems, and more usable space on the lower level.

Further demands for additional library services in the 1990s resulted in the expansion of the two newer branches. The Anderson-Foothill Branch Library expansion, which doubled in size, was completed in the fall of 1991. Expansion of the Avenues Branch, supported by a generous donation from Corinne and L. Jack Sweet, was completed in June 1994. In honor of their support, the branch was renamed the Corinne and Jack Sweet Library in October 1993.

On January 13, 1993, the roof of the Chapman Branch Library collapsed under the weight of an abnormally heavy snowfall. The library building was closed for ten months while renovation took place. The branch operated out of a temporary location at a Smith's Food & Drug Center parking lot at 828 South 900 West. The library building was reopened on November 15, 1993.

On September 28, 1996, with a great deal of community support, the Day-Riverside Branch Library was opened at 1575 West 1000 North, replacing the Rose Park Branch Library. The name honors both the late Library Director, J. Dennis Day, and the Jordan River site.

Growth of the Salt Lake City Public Library System has seen an increase in staff from seven in 1905 to more than 250 in 2004. Also by 2004, the volunteer program, initiated to supplement services provided by library staff, grew to 200.

There have been many changes in the philosophy of collections and services in the City Library system over the years. Materials in a variety of formats have been added to meet the growing informational, educational, cultural and recreational needs of the community. In 1996, access to the richness of the electronic age became available when Internet service was offered to library patrons. By 2003, the Library's strong commitment to quality facilities, services and collections resulted in total holdings of 721,258, an annual circulation that surpassed two million items and one of the highest user ratios in the Western United States.

Recognition of the City Library's excellence was acknowledged by receipt of the John Cotton Dana Award granted in 1976, 1984 and 1985 by the American Library Association for outstanding public relations. Individual awards were given to J. Dennis Day in 1993 and 1995, and to Acting Director Nancy Tessman in 1996. Mr. Day was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Mountain Plains Library Association in 1993, and named to the Roll of Honor of the National Freedom to Read Foundation in 1995. He posthumously received the Special Recognition Award from the Utah Library Association in 1996. Ms. Tessman was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Utah Library Association in 1996. She also received the Association's Librarian of the Year Award in 2003. The City Library's Friends organization has received honors from the national association, Friends of Libraries, U.S.A.

1998-2004: A New Main Library

The year 1998 was an auspicious year for The City Library. On February 14, 1998, the Library celebrated its 100th anniversary. Hundreds of patrons of all ages enjoyed a centennial birthday celebration at each of the six library locations. That same evening, nearly 350 people attended a black-tie gala and silent auction at the Main Library.

Nine months later, on November 3, 1998, voters overwhelmingly approved an $84 million library bond. The bond covered the cost of a new 200,000 square-foot main library; parking for 600 vehicles; demolition of all of the buildings on the library block with the exception of the current library; an outdoor plaza; and replacement of the heating and cooling plant. The Library Board of Directors voted unanimously to build a new building after a thorough space needs study conducted in 1997 revealed that the Main Library was insufficient in several areas. It was determined that the most cost-effective solution was to build a new central library. Sixty-eight percent of Salt Lake City voters agreed when they cast their ballots in favor of the bond. In early 1999, the Board of Directors selected the architectural firm of Moshe Safdie and Associates in conjunction with local architects VCBO Architecture to design the new main library. The staff was heavily involved during the planning and design phase of the project. The ground-breaking ceremony was held on October 21, 2000, and the new library opened to the public on February 8, 2003.

The new building embodies the idea that a library is more than a repository of books and computers - it reflects and engages the city's imagination and aspirations. The east side of the block was preserved as a peaceful urban green space.

In addition to the new Main Library, the bond provided funding for the expansion of the Anderson-Foothill Branch Library and the Sprague Branch Library. The Sprague Branch Library expansion was designed to be below grade level in order to preserve the building's architecture. The completed project included a community meeting room, renovated space on the lower level for the children's area, and expanded collection space on the main floor. Remodeling of the east entrance along with the addition of plaza space and landscaping integrated the branch into the Sugar House Commons. The Grand Reopening of the branch took place on April 21, 2001.

The Anderson-Foothill Branch Library expansion and remodeling added 5,700 square-feet to the building, provided an expanded children's area and a community meeting room. The completed construction was celebrated at a ceremony on March 8, 2003.

Today's City Library: 2004 to Present

Since its opening, the Main Library has received numerous architecture awards and accolades. The entire Salt Lake City Public Library system was named Library of the Year in 2006 by Library Journal. In the article announcing the award, The City Library was described as "the place where democracy happens," noting the several ways The City Library serves to bring the people of Salt Lake City together to discuss local issues, celebrate our community's accomplishments, and provide residents with the information resources to lead productive lives.

The City Library's statistics have increased every year since the Main Library opened, setting records for the number of items checked out and the number of people attending events at all locations. Every year, The City Library circulates nearly 4 million items and has 140,000 registered library card holders. The library adds over 120,000 new items to the collection, bringing the total collection to nearly 1 million items. Every year, The City Library provides approximately 400,000 hours of public Internet and computer use, clocking more than 45 years of linear time. An estimated 3.7 million people visit City Library locations every year, making our system the second biggest attraction in the state of Utah. The City Library ranked number 1 of all City Services in the 2009 Dan Jones Survey.

The City Library is currently developing new branch libraries in the Glendale and Marmalade neighborhoods.

Directors of The City Library

Leadership of the City Library has taken place under the direction of the following:

1897-1903: Annie E. Chapman
1903-1940: Joanna H. Sprague
1940-1943: Julie T. Lynch
1943-1952: Ethel E. Holmes
1952-1959: Margaret E. Block
1960-1969: Robert E. Thomas
1969-1976: Richard J. Rademacher
1976-1995: J. Dennis Day
1996-2007: Nancy Tessman
2008-2011: Beth Elder
2011-2013: Linda Hamilton
2013-Present: John Spears