Ruth Vine Tyler: Guiding the Destiny of the Library

The Head Librarian of the Salt Lake County Library System from 1938 to 1971 was Ruth Vine Tyler. Many of our readers may be familiar with the library branch in Midvale named in her honor. Although officially her title was always “Head Librarian,” she performed the duties of a director and is considered the first director of the library system. When she started at the newly created library system there were no dedicated funds, no salary, no library buildings, and no books.

Ruth Glade Vine was born in Salt Lake City in 1899, and married Wilfrid M. Tyler in 1919. She worked for around 17 years for the Salt Lake City Public Library before she was hired as the Head Librarian in 1938 by the Salt Lake County Library Board. As mentioned in our previous blog entry, she realized after being hired that there was no money to pay her salary or money for anything else, since no mill levy had been issued to provide funding for the new library system. The Library Board, led by superintendents from the Granite and Jordan school districts, arranged for her to work for the school libraries until funds became available in 1939.

Ruth Vine Tyler served as the heart of the creation, expansion, and vision of the library system for 33 years:

“The Head Librarian of the system is Ruth V. Tyler (Mrs. Wilfrid M.), appointed by the original board in 1938, who has guided the destiny of the services to date. She has been active in an advisory capacity in the Utah Congress of Parents and Teachers, the Adult Education Council of Greater Salt Lake, the Utah State Folklore Society, the American Library Association, the Mountain Plains Library Association, the Utah Library Association, of which she is past president and member of the Legislative Committee.”

Salt Lake County Library System Annual Report, 1964.

In addition to her extensive professional involvement, Ruth Vine Tyler also advanced her education by taking a year off (without pay but with help from a grant) in 1954 to study library science at UCLA, and traveled extensively, including touring the world during the entire summer of 1961 (again without pay). She was also a consistent proponent of educational opportunities for her staff, including repeatedly proposing to the library board that they should at least partially fund staff obtaining a Master’s degree in Library Science, but was always denied. She was also an advocate of obtaining additional benefits for library employees throughout her career.

Ruth Vine Tyler presenting to children. Salt Lake County Library System Scrapbook, 1943-1970

An interesting discovery in the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Correspondence demonstrates her dedication to library services (and provides a glimpse in to her personality):

Salt Lake County Attorney’s Correspondence, series AD-006.

When she retired in 1971, the Salt Lake County Library System had 62 full-time and 65 part-time employees, a headquarters building, 10 library branches, 4 bookmobiles, 4 deposit stations, services to 56 schools in the Granite and Jordan School Districts, story times for children, adult education programs, book lectures, and 120,359 registered patrons.

Salt Lake Tribune, 12-31-1971
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The County Library: Beginnings

The superintendents of the Granite and Jordan School Districts first proposed the idea of establishing a library system to the Salt Lake County Commission in 1938. By April of 1938, a library board had been established and their first meeting was held at the Salt Lake City and County building. After the first librarian, Ruth Vine Tyler, was hired, it was discovered that there was no money to actually run the library system or pay employees since a mill levy had not been issued. The superintendents subsequently paid the librarian to work for their school libraries until 1939, when funds from a mill levy were available.

By the middle of 1939, the library had “services established at twelve different points, mostly in school buildings, 4,175 borrowers were registered and the circulation totaled 43,691 articles loaned.” Huge advances had been made by December 1940, as by that time “the library operated out of 37 different agencies, had processed and owned over 33,600 books, had circulated, during 1940, 342,800 volumes and had in the the two years registered 14,736 patrons.”

During the early years, most of the library services were held within schools. The library built their own building (part library/part administration) in Midvale in 1940-1941, with the library paying for materials and the Work Projects Administration (WPA) doing the actual construction and supervision.

To quote Ruth Vine Tyler: “The county library has always recognized and enthusiastically participated in extension to various and sundry organizations within and outside of its own legal limits.” This included supplying books to: an organization operated by the American Legion and located at Camp Williams, to a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp in Big Cottonwood Canyon, a Methodist Community House at Carr Fork in Bingham Canyon, and also to inmates at the state prison. The library system also provided books and a librarian to the wounded World War II soldiers recuperating in the Camp Kearns hospital, and to the children at the County Hospital that were stricken with polio during the epidemic of 1944.

Story hours for children began in 1941, and audiovisual materials, including artwork, were added to the collections. The first bookmobile was purchased and put in to service in 1950 (more to come on the bookmobile fleet!).

By 1970, the library system had 62 full time and 65 part time employees. Besides their presence in schools and through the 4 bookmobiles, the library branches at that time included: East Mill Creek, Granger, Holladay, Kearns, Magna, A. E. Peterson, Sandy, C.S. Smith, South Salt Lake, and a branch named in honor of Ruth Vine Tyler.

Source: Salt Lake County Library System History, 1938-1970. Written by Ruth Vine Tyler, 1970.

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Utah Archives Month: 2019

It’s that time of year again! October is nationally recognized as Archives Month, drawing attention to the importance of archives across the United States. Utah’s theme this year is “Education in Utah” and there will be special events held by archives, including tours, exhibits, and conferences.

In a series of entries on this blog throughout October, we will be highlighting a collection received from the Salt Lake County Library System. These records are being digitized and will soon be browsable on our website.

The Salt Lake County Library System has documented their history through compiling scrapbooks and photographs since 1939. The archives has been lucky enough to have a retired librarian/branch manager volunteer her time to digitize this collection, which includes the years of 1939 through approximately 2004. Please stay tuned!

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Lost House: West Jordan

Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs, serial 37-121.

Located at approximately 1200 West and 7267 South in West Jordan, Utah, this house was built circa 1888.  This image was taken by the Salt Lake County Tax Assessor in 1938. By 1970 the tax assessor notes that this house was “vacant and abandoned, windows and doors broken and boarded up. Partitions and floors falling in.” It appears that it was torn down by 1976.

Plot plan drawing of house, 1938. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Cards, serial 37-121.

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Beatrice M. Hansen

“Philanthropy,” said Thoreau, “is almost the only virtue which is sufficiently appreciated by mankind.”

Certainly all of Utah is the beneficiary of the charitable works of Mrs. Beatrice M. Hansen, who died this week in Salt Lake City at the age of 88.

~Obituary of Beatrice M. Hansen, Deseret News, 08-05-1981

Beatrice M. and George T. Hansen’s house in 1936. 1409 Federal Way, Salt Lake City. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs, 05-2164.

Mrs. Beatrice M. Hansen (1891-1981), Salt Lake City resident and philanthropist, is well known for contributing the funds to found the Hansen Planetarium (now known as the Clark Planetarium).

The building that the Hansen Planetarium came to occupy was constructed in 1905 as the Salt Lake City Library, on land donated by John Q. Packard.  Mr. Packard also paid to construct the building, with the provision that the building always house a library.

In 1964, Gail Plummer, President of the Salt Lake City Library Board, was able to push through the construction of a new City Library building, as the library had outgrown its current building.  When the City Library moved to its new location on 200 East 500 South, it would leave the historic building vacant.  Mr. Plummer had the idea to put a planetarium in the old library building.

Concerned about the fate of the old library building, Mrs. George T. Hansen called Mr. Plummer in March 1964 and asked what his plans were for the building.  When Mr. Plummer told her about his idea, Mrs. Hansen called back with a donation of $400,000 to remodel the building and buy a star projector.  The donation was officially accepted by the Salt Lake City Library Board on March 31, 1964.

The Planetarium opened on November 26, 1965, as the “Mr. and Mrs. George T. Hansen Planetarium, Space Science Library and Museum.”

Salt Lake County Archives is the home of the Hansen Planetarium Historical Records Collection, created at the time of the planetarium’s move to the new Clark Planetarium building in 2004.

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Santa Fe in SLC

Built in 1937, this house is located at 55 East Forbush Avenue in Midvale.  Photo taken in 1938. Parcel 22-30-306-030.  

Happy almost-end-of-summer!  The Archives took a brief hiatus from compiling entries for this blog, but we now return with a very interesting Tax Appraisal Photograph taken in 1938.  Enjoy!

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Where Is It?

A number of our readers may be able to identify the following residences, which are part of a larger “hidden” village that is currently uninhabited.  It is, of course, within Salt Lake County limits.  The first photograph was taken by the Salt Lake County Assessor in 1941 and the second in 1939.


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