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.

This entry was posted in records online, Salt Lake County Library System, Salt Lake history, Utah Archives Month and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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