Community officials gathered at the Tooele City Library Monday evening to celebrate what may be a historical first — the library’s new six-day-a-week operating schedule.
Library patrons frequently requested that the library expand its operating hours and be open on Mondays, library director Jami Carter said during Monday’s celebration. But financial difficulties resulting from the Great Recession prevented the library from following through.
A $39,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services made the expansion possible by enabling the library to purchase a newly-installed self-checkout system. The system reduced the number of additional staff needed to move toward a six-day schedule.
Though the library has a long, vibrant past, Carter said that last week marked the first time in known history that the library has opened for six days in a given week.
The Tooele City Library, which was originally located at 47 E. Vine St., was built in the early 1900s with funds from a $5,000 Carnegie grant. Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American businessman, funded the construction of more than 2,500 libraries in an effort to make them more available to the public. The library moved to its current location about 13 years ago. The old library building now houses a museum.
More than 100 years later, the Tooele community continues to support its library, Carter said.
“I am proud to be a part of this city — and a part of a community that embraces its library,” she said during Monday evening’s presentation.
Tooele City Mayor Patrick Dunlavy also spoke during the presentation, highlighting the library’s growing popularity and calling it the “centerpiece and focal point” of the community.
“It’s becoming more of a community center” than a repository for books, he said. “And when that happens, the library really assumes a role that can change lives.”
The library has seen a dramatic increase in attendance during the past five years, according to Juan Lee, a data coordinator for the Utah State Library. Between 2008 and 2013, the estimated count of library visitors increased by more than 46 percent. For comparison, Tooele City’s population grew by roughly 10 percent during the same time period.
“It’s been a remarkable change from the past five years,” Lee said, “and I think the community sees that.”
That jump makes Tooele City’s library the second most well-attended library of its size in the entire state library system. According to Lee’s calculations, more than 22,000 patrons attended one of the nearly 400 public programs available at the Tooele library, for an attendance rate of roughly 58 percent.
Among other libraries serving a population between 29,000 and 39,000 people, only the Springville Public Library saw greater program attendance, with nearly 36,000 patrons and a 60 percent attendance rate.
The Pleasant Grove Library came in third, just behind Tooele, with 24,000 patrons and 40 percent attendance. At the other end of the spectrum, the Cedar City Library had just 7,000 program patrons and 23 percent attendance.