Our teenage library downtown is suffering a premature death spiral. Technological advances have stifled traffic in libraries in ways unimaginable, but there is more to the story in Salt Lake. The decay of the City Library is not due to split spines and bad bindings; the award-winning structure is stunning. It is a sad commentary that most friends of mine have never once been inside this incredible building. Simply put, the library has been lost in the consciousness of Salt Lake.
Judging the book by its cover, you’d think the library would be sprawling off the page. Instead, the library has for some time been “all fur coat and no knickers”; whittled down to a budget line that grows with nothing to show. Despite the banal buzzwords and feel-good images laid out in a neat city budget book, the library is a ghost town. Fancy initiatives or “outreach programs” won’t fix that. Neither will “technology.” It is nonsensical as most patrons have a computer in their pocket.
The library must professionalize and prioritize. It should not be used as a loitering spot. The Library Board should explain why librarians have become de facto social workers and why the Board seems to cater to anything but the average taxpaying resident. Dignification of librarianship as a craft and great public service must be restored. More than merely throwing money, this is about cognizance of the ideals of the institution; seen in the astounding architecture, in the books and artistry within, but lacking in all the space between.
The library should be reimagined but should stick to inspiring works instead of technologizing. A cultural hub with a museum-like air, where residents, tourists, professionals and students want to come to be inspired; to muse, to explore, and safely enjoy the library how the architecture intended it to be — a place that reflects how we see ourselves, our city and our society.
Nicholas Rush, Murray