Murray • In the early 1900s, residents in this town and the surrounding territory who wanted something to read could choose from 515 books maintained by the Women’s Club in a library and reading room at City Hall.
But as it celebrates its 100th birthday this year, Murray Library’s choices are much greater.
The library now contains more than 75,000 books, magazines, CDs, movies and other items, and patrons check out more than a half-million of them each year.
An auditorium and meeting rooms provide a venue for performances and places for groups to gather, from the Utah Old Time Fiddlers to Overeaters Anonymous. And the calendar is packed with events — story times, game nights, teen book clubs, Boys Will Be Boys and Girls Will Be Girls clubs and more.
“It’s a popular library and an important part of the community,” said Shaun Delliskave, head of the Murray Library Centennial Committee.
The library, founded in the spring of 1912, is holding a yearlong celebration. The library had a float in the Murray Fourth of July parade, with Library Director Dan Barr and longtime volunteer Leslie Campbell serving as grand marshals; hosted an intergalactic fund-raiser in October, where Star Wars characters read stories; and last week unveiled a statue of a boy carrying books and drawings of a new stained glass window donated by Friends of the Murray Library.
Coming up on May 4 is another Star Wars event, called May the Force, and in the summer, the library will assemble a time capsule.
The public library was born in 1912 with an offer by the Women’s Club to turn over operations of its library and reading room to the city and donate its books, which had an estimated value of $1,000. The mayor and Murray Board of Commissioners accepted the donation and set aside a library fund of $150 to be used for maintenance, according to The History of Murray, a 1936 book compiled by city recorder R.R. Rasmussen.
In October 1914, the board accepted the deed to a plot of land from the Murray City Board of Education and the Murray First Ward and an offer by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to provide $10,000 to build the library, the book said.
The first library was built on Vine Street and a second library, on 6100 South, was dedicated in December 1965. In 1992, the two libraries were closed and consolidated in the current building at 166 E. 5300 South. The library leases its site from the Murray School District and is funded by a city property tax.
Barr describes the library’s collection as patron-driven and said the goal is for 25 percent of purchases to be their requests.
The focus, he said, is on popular materials. Books that are not being checked out are sold by Friends of the Library to raise money.
“We buy things just in time, not just in case,” Barr said. “Books have to earn their place on our shelves.”
The selection and the programs are big draws. Story times, when librarians read out loud to kids, generally draw 30 attendees, but 70 came to a recent one.
Parents are enthusiastic about the offering and the programs.
Katie Johnson said her children enjoy the story times and the crafts. Chaz Benson comes to the library every Tuesday with his 2-year-old daughter, Savannah. “She loves it,” he said.
Fabiola Busch, a regular at the library, said her two children, ages 4 and 6, like the activities.
“They do an awesome job,” Busch said. “I’ve been to other libraries, and it’s like ‘Shh, shh.’ They’re very kid-friendly.”
Visit the library
The Murray Library, 166 E. 5300 South, is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. More information is available at murraylibrary.org.