The Salt Lake City Public Library system's main branch building is an architecturally unique structure in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is located at 210 East, 400 South, across from the Salt Lake City and County Building and Washington Square.
The Salt Lake City Public Library was originally housed in the Salt Lake City and County Building in 1898. Thanks to a donation of land and money by a John Quackenbos Packard in 1900, a new library was built in downtown Salt Lake City; the building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This building remained in use until the library outgrew it by the early 1960s. The city library was then moved to a new home across from the City and County Building at the intersection of 500 South and 200 East. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on December 28, 1962, and the building was dedicated on October 30, 1964. In 1965, the old library was renovated into the Hansen Planetarium, funded by a donation of $400,000 from Beatrice M. Hansen.
1994 hostage incident
On March 7, 1994, a gunman took several hostages in a conference room on the second floor of the old main branch building. The library was evacuated and SWAT teams were called in during a six-hour siege, which ended in the death of the gunman and the freeing of the hostages.
Move to the current location
After celebrating the library's 100th anniversary in early 1998, an $84 million library bond was approved to relocate the library in a new building, north half a block, to its current location. The firm Moshe Safdie and Associates partnered with a local architecture firm, VCBO Architecture, to design the building, which opened to the public on February 8, 2003. The former building in Library Square houses The Leonardo, a museum of science, technology and creativity.
On September 15, 2006, a small bomb exploded in the third floor of the main building. No one was hurt, and the damage sustained by the building was a broken window. Eastbound traffic on the streets of 400 South and 200 East was closed as 400 people were forced to evacuate.
Suicides and attempted suicides
In July 2005, a woman jumped from the roof of the building to her death. In March 2011, a woman jumped from the fourth floor inside the building and died. In April 2012, a man jumped from the balcony inside the library to his death.
On June 10, 2013, at approximately 4pm, a 21-year-old man jumped to his death from the roof, prompting the closure of the library for the remainder of the day.
On November 13, 2013, at approximately 4:15pm, a 21-year-old man was witnessed jumping from the roof of the building. The man survived the fall and was taken to LDS Hospital for his injuries. The event prompted the closure of the library for the remainder of the day.
The Salt Lake City main library covers an area of 240,000 square feet (22,000 m2) in a five-story tall, wedge-shaped building. The structure includes 44,960 cubic yards (34,370 m3) of concrete, and 176,368 square feet (16,385.1 m2) of glass, including a five-story curved glass outer wall. The Vancouver Public Library, also designed by Safdie, shares a similar design—most clearly apparent in the main foyer and the sweeping outer facade.
The building is housed within Library Square, a landscaped and paved plaza that encompasses the city block. Much of what is now landscaped, open space had been planned to be covered by outbuildings, but Rocky Anderson, Salt Lake City's mayor at the time of the library's opening, asked for these to be left out in favor of creating a public park. A later initiative to create a new headquarters for the Salt Lake City Police Department was also struck down and the building was subsequently placed a block east, directly across from library square. The square is also occupied by shops, a community writing center run by Salt Lake Community College, studios of radio station KCPW-FM and, most notably, The Leonardo Museum, which is housed in the library's former building. The Square itself is paved with limestone from Israel.
The entrance to the building's interior leads to the "Urban Room", a foyer that contains more shops and extends upward for all five floors, ending with a 20,000 sq ft (1,900 m2) skylight.
The building is topped by a garden on the roof planted with trees, grasses, flowering bulbs and various perennial plants, as well as tended beehives. In addition, there is a community garden outside of the library's ground floor and a "seed library" from which any patrons can receive seeds for their own gardening.
Other notable features of the building include:
- Fireplaces on four of the floors and were designed to resemble a column of fire when viewed from 200 East and 400 South.
- A "lens" on the south side of the building, which helps to warm the building during the winter, and saves on heating costs.
- A gallery displaying works of local artists.
- A coffee shop with a private staircase providing direct access to the "Canteena," an area which contains the young adult section.
- A children's library that is visible from all floors and has special areas for children to read and for baby care.
- A spiral staircase and three glass elevators.
The library's collection comprises over 500,000 books, subscriptions to over 60 newspapers and magazines, an expansive digital library with a variety of resources, 163 internet-capable computers.
A notable item in the collection is a 19th century edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America, which was purchased by the library in 1903. The copy is not an original print, rather, it is from a later run commissioned by Audubon's son John in the 1850s. Unlike the first run, the copy's illustrations are not hand-colored, but they are an early example of the then-revolutionary process of chromolithography.
- John S. H. Smith (August 7, 1979). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Salt Lake City Public Library". National Park Service."Accompanying 4 photos, from 1979". National Register of Historic Places Inventory.
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- News, Deseret (2001-12-18). "Seed is back at work for Library Square". Deseret News. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
- News, Deseret (2002-08-14). "Library Commons design OK'd". Deseret News. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
- Peterson, Eric S. "On the Blight Side". Salt Lake City Weekly. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
- "About Us | SLCC Community Writing Center". www.slcc.edu. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
- Leonard, Wendy (August 30, 2014). "City Library Turns out 50 Pounds of Honey". Deseret News. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
- "The Plot | Salt Lake City Public Library". Salt Lake City Public Library. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
- Berry, John N. (15 June 2006). "Library of the Year 2006: Salt Lake City Public Library-Where Democracy Happens". Library Journal. Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
- "Library Journal Past Winners". Library Journal. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
- Warchol, Glen (December 13, 2010). "Utah's copy of rare bird book has been well loved". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Salt Lake City Public Library.|
- SLC Public Library Main Page
- USA Today article on SLC Main Library
- Archidose article on the library
- Salt Lake City Public Library at FamilySearch Research Wiki for genealogists