Salt Lake City staged a ceremony Saturday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Chapman Branch library, which was called the greatest civic and cultural development the city’s west side had ever seen when it opened.
Hundreds of people christened the opening of the library in Poplar Grove in late May 1918, when the neighborhood was home to a growing immigrant and worker population.
The Carnegie Foundation donated today’s equivalent of nearly $500,000 as part of a massive effort to build thousands of libraries worldwide.
There were about a dozen in attendance on Saturday. Mayor Jackie Biskupski and her son were among them.
Biskupski said it was an honor to mark the historic anniversary of the branch, which she noted was named after a woman, Annie Chapman, the city’s first public librarian.
“This is a prime example of what it means to celebrate someone from 100 years ago who was a woman and was leading in this whole system of library service,” Biskupski said. “We should be proud of that and celebrate that.”
City Councilman Andrew Johnston, who represents much of the west side, recounted how he bought a home in the neighborhood nine years ago without knowing anything about the area. He said he worried he’d made a mistake when, the next day, he went out for a bike ride.
“I rode down Ninth West and I came across Chapman Library,” Johnston said. “For me that morning, Chapman was a wonderful, wonderful sight.
“It gave me comfort that there is an edifice and institution here that anchors this neighborhood,” he added. “Everyone is welcome to the city library.”
Johnston called on city residents to pitch in as Carnegie did, because it’s becoming difficult for the city to maintain its public institutions.
“If you have the means, give a lot more,” he said. “If you don’t have the means, come on in and enjoy it. Use it.”
The library recently underwent about $250,000 in cosmetic upgrades. Several historic windows have been refinished. The basement, which hosts a children’s area and stage for screenings and other events, sports new carpeting. Yellow paint brightens up the room.
The two open reading rooms upstairs remained largely unchanged. The library system worked to retain the building’s historic nature, and, on Saturday, the mayor unveiled a new plaque noting the building’s spot on the National Register of Historic Places, where it’s been since 1980.
“While so many things have changed in those 100 years,” said Peter Bromberg, the city library system’s executive director, “the core value of the library to the neighborhood and to the community has remained amazingly constant.”