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.
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):
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.