Salt Lake City Public Librarys

640px-2007-08-09_--_salt_lake_city_library_4889500433When the Salt Lake City Public Library (SLCPL) was chosen as Gale/LJ Library of the Year in 2006, then-director Nancy Tessman asserted that “the building reflects the idea of an open mind.” SLCPL’s newest proposal—to keep its main branch open 24 hours a day, seven days a week—will put that concept to the test.

While many academic libraries stay open around the clock at exam time (and more than 30 in the U.S. stay open full-time throughout the school year), currently there are no U.S. public libraries that remain in operation 24 hours a day. If SLCPL executive director John Spears is successful in gaining approval from the library board of directors and Salt Lake City Council, the SLCPL downtown branch would keep its doors continuously open to the public on a pilot basis for two years. (Currently hours at the main library are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.) The extended hours, including staffing, security, and programming, would cost approximately $650, 000 per year—all of which would be privately funded.

The idea first took shape when Spears was approached by a group of community advocates, including Jason Mathis, executive director of the Salt Lake City Downtown Alliance, a nonprofit business and trade association; philanthropist Bruce Bastian, cofounder of WordPerfect software; and Bill Evans, former director of government relations for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). They expressed concern about the city’s homeless teenage population, and wondered whether it would be possible for the downtown branch to provide space for them at night.

While unwilling to change library policy for one interest group, Spears told , he realized that this posed a potential opportunity to serve a much greater part of the community. He proposed that the concept be expanded to keeping the branch open around the clock for everyone. The community group was enthusiastic, as was the library board when Spears suggested conducting a formal assessment for the project. “Like so many wonderful community initiatives, ” Spears told , “it started off as the kernel of an idea to positively affect one group and grew into something that could positively affect the entire community.”

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