120 Years of the Salt Lake City Public Library

February 14, 2018, marks the 120th anniversary of the opening of the first Salt Lake City Public Library (then known as the Free Public Library of Salt Lake City). In celebration, the Library hosted Mayor Biskupski, who proclaimed the day "Salt Lake City Public Library Day," and City Council Vice Chair Chris Wharton, who shared his remarks on the value of the public library for District 3 and Salt Lake City. City Library Executive Director Peter Bromberg also shared his perspective of the history, present, and future of The City Library, Librarian Cherie Willis led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday," and everyone enjoyed birthday cake (with 120 candles!)

City Library Executive Director Peter Bromberg’s Remarks

We are here today to celebrate the 120th Birthday of the Salt Lake City Public Library. Over the last twelve decades, a lot has changed, but throughout that time The City Library has been a constant presence for the educational and cultural needs of the people of Salt Lake City.

In 1898, Salt Lake City had roughly 52,000 residents — today our city has nearly 200,000 residents, and the metro area is home to more than a million people. The last 120 years have involved rapid growth and constant change — a rate of change that continues to accelerate, moving us into what Futurist Michael Edson calls a “deeply weird” world — a world that will challenge us in ways we cannot imagine. But in a “deeply weird,” rapidly changing world, everyone in Salt Lake City can be assured that their public library continues to play a vital role in supporting the health and vibrancy of our community.

When the Salt Lake City Public Library first opened, it was known as the “Free Public Library of Salt Lake City” and housed on the top floor of the City-County Building just across the street from where we now stand. I’m sure the Library’s first Director, Annie Chapman, couldn’t predict everything that the Library would become and what Salt Lake City residents would need from their public library more than a century after her tenure. But Miss Chapman and the other founders of the Free Public Library of Salt Lake City did foresee the importance of building the Library on a foundation of timeless values – the values of free, open, and equitable access; Access not only to information, but to spaces, tools, and perhaps most importantly, people. Our founders had a deep belief that such access provided a path for all to self-direct, develop, and grow. A path to fully participate in democracy, in the economy, and in their community.

That vision guides and inspires us today. 120 years later, the Library continues to be that unique and vital space where everyone is welcome to discover, explore, grow, collaborate, and engage with their neighbors. We continue to be the manifested expression of the community’s belief in its own potential, and in its own ability to learn, evolve, envision and create a better future, and collectively address our shared challenges. I stand before you today and assert that the values and purpose that gave rise to Library in 1898 remain inviolate, alive, and highly relevant to the residents of Salt Lake City 120 years later.

The ways in which we breathe life into those values, and bring our purpose to life in service of our patrons has changed. We still have a collection that promotes learning and discovery, but that collection has evolved to promote learning in new ways; providing access to Creative “Maker” Labs; Discovery Kits that include sewing machines, telescopes, and laptops and hotspots that help bridge the digital divide. We provide reliable high speed broadband access – certainly a necessity for full participation in society and in our economy in 2018 -- for those in our community who lack such access. We continue to improve access for all by removing unnecessary barriers, such as a late fines that created inequitable barriers to library use.

Looking forward, I am confident that the Library is on a path for another 120 years of continued vitality and meaningful service to the community. Because regardless of the unforeseeable changes that every organization has to navigate in our rapidly changing world, the bedrock of the Library's success has always been our staff -- a cadre of smart, compassionate, and dedicated people who are deeply committed to supporting and advancing the success of every patron they serve.

With that, it is with great pleasure that I’m able to share this day with you to mark an incredible milestone for our public library and for the people of Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City Mayor Biskupski's Proclamation

WHEREAS, the Free Public Library of Salt Lake City was founded on February 14, 1898, with 11,910 volumes in the top floor of the City-County Building; and

WHEREAS, over the last 120 years, The City Library has grown to serve all corners of Salt Lake City with beloved libraries located in the neighborhoods of Poplar Grove, Sugar House, the Foothills, Rose Park, the Avenues, Glendale and Marmalade; and

WHEREAS, boasting a collection of more than 750,000 items, The City Library serves as a dynamic civic resource offering free and open access to information, materials, and services that advances knowledge, spurs creativity, builds community to all who pass through its doors; and

WHEREAS, technology has changed rapidly in its 120 year history, The City Library continues to develop creative, innovative, and engaging ways to serve Salt Lake City’s 21st century information needs; and

WHEREAS, The City Library serves as a vital community place, a community classroom where everyone is welcome, fostering the exchange of ideas and civic discourse; and

WHEREAS, The City Library has stood the test of time, demonstrating its position as a foundational institution of Salt Lake City.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Jacqueline M. Biskupski, Mayor of Salt Lake City, do hereby proclaim February 14, 2018, as

Salt Lake City Public Library Day

and encourage all residents to join me in celebrating the City Library’s history of enriching lives for the past 120 years, and to look forward to the next century of innovation and learning.