Salt Lake City Public Library

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An Interior View of the "Urban Room"

The Salt Lake City Public Library system's main branch building is an architecturally unique structure in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is located at 210 East, 400 South, across from the Salt Lake City and County Building and Washington Square.


The Salt Lake City Public Library was originally housed in the Salt Lake City and County Building in 1898. Thanks to a donation of land and money by a John Quackenbos Packard in 1900, a new library was built in downtown Salt Lake City; the building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[1] This library remained in use until it outgrew the building in the early 1960s. The city library was then moved to a new home across from the City and County Building at the intersection of 500 South and 200 East.[2] The groundbreaking ceremony was held on December 28, 1962, and the building was dedicated on October 30, 1964.[3] In 1965, the old library was renovated into the Hansen Planetarium, funded by a donation of $400,000 from Beatrice M. Hansen.[1][2]

1994 hostage incident[edit]

On March 7, 1994, a gunman took several hostages in a conference room on the second floor of the old main branch building. The library was evacuated and SWAT teams were called in during a six-hour siege, which ended in the death of the gunman and the freeing of the hostages.

Move to the current location[edit]

After celebrating the library's 100th anniversary in early 1998, an $84 million library bond was approved to relocate the library in a new building, north half a block, to its current location. The firm Moshe Safdie and Associates partnered with local architecture firm, VCBO Architecture to design the building, which opened to the public on February 8, 2003.[3] The former building is now The Leonardo museum.

On September 15, 2006, a small bomb exploded in the third floor of the main building. No one was hurt, and the damage sustained by the building was a broken window. Eastbound traffic on the streets of 400 South and 200 East was closed as 400 people were forced to evacuate.[4]

Suicides and attempted suicides[edit]

There have been several public suicides at the library since its relocation. In April 2008, a woman jumped from the third floor balcony inside the library and died. [5]

In July 2005, a woman jumped from the roof of the building to her death. In March 2011, a woman jumped from the fourth floor inside the building and died. In April 2012, a man jumped from the balcony inside the library to his death. [6]

On Monday June 10, 2013 at approximately 4pm a 21-year-old man jumped to his death from the roof prompting the closure of the library for the remainder of the day. [7]

On Tuesday November 13, 2013 at approximately 4:15pm a 21-year-old man was witnessed jumping from the roof of the building. The man survived the fall and was taken to LDS Hospital for his injuries. The event prompted the closure of the library for the remainder of the day. [8]


The Salt Lake City main library has an area of 240,000 square feet (22,000 m2) and is a five-story tall, wedge-shaped building. The library has a collection of over 500,000 books as well as subscriptions to over 60 newspapers and magazines and 163 internet capable computers.

The structure includes 44,960 cubic yards (34,370 m3) of concrete as well as 176,368 square feet (16,385.1 m2) of glass. One of its features is the five-story curved glass wall. Designed by the same architect, the downtown Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library has a very similar design. This is clearly apparent in the main foyer and the sweeping outer facade.

Outside the library is Library Square, a landscaped and paved plaza. Originally, much of what is now landscaped open space was to be out buildings, but Mayor Rocky Anderson asked for these to be left out and create a public park. There are several shops on the square as well as the studios of radio station KCPW-FM. Library Square is paved with limestone from Israel.

Upon entering the five story building, one enters the "Urban Room", which has the same limestone paving as the square. The room extends for all five floors and ends with a skylight of 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2). More shops line one side of the Urban Room.

A rooftop garden completes the structure. It is planted with trees, grasses, flowering bulbs and various perennial plants.

The whole library depends on natural lighting, reducing the need of lights in the library. A huge five story glass wall is where most of the light comes from.[citation needed]

Exterior of the Salt Lake City Public Library's main branch building's west side, as seen from 200 East.

Other features of the library include:

  • Fireplaces are located four of the floors and were designed to resemble a column of fire as viewed from 200 East and 400 South.
  • A "lens" on the south side of the building which helps to warm the building during the winter, saves on heating costs.
  • An art gallery displaying works of local artists.
  • A Coffee Shop with a "private staircase" which gives direct access to the Young Adult's Section.
  • A Children's library.
  • A Spiral "grand staircase" and three glass elevators.
  • One of the largest, if not the largest, graphic novel collection in a public library.[citation needed] This is due in part to Night Flight Comics formerly being located in Library Square and making numerous donations.[citation needed]
  • A zine collection, which has about 1,500 zines, 15 subscriptions, and a number of reference books.[citation needed]
  • The library has also won Library Journal's 2006 library of the year award.[9]


  1. ^ a b John S. H. Smith (August 7, 1979). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Salt Lake City Public Library" (PDF). National Park Service. "Accompanying 4 photos, from 1979." (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory. 
  2. ^ a b Carma Wadley (September 5, 2009). "O.C. Tanner: A gem of a building - Business turns old Hansen Planetarium into flagship store". Deseret News. Retrieved March 18, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "History of The City Library". Salt Lake City Public Library. 2003. Retrieved March 18, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Salt Lake Tribune". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved September 19, 2006. 
  5. ^ "Tragedy In Salt Lake City Library". LISNews. 
  6. ^ "Death at Salt Lake City Main library a suicide, police say". Salt Lake Tribune. 
  7. ^ "Man commits suicide by leaping off Salt Lake City library roof". Salt Lake Tribune. 
  8. ^ "Jumper attempts suicide at Salt Lake City library". Salt Lake Tribune. 
  9. ^ Berry, John N. (15 June 2006). "Library of the Year 2006: Salt Lake City Public Library-Where Democracy Happens". Library Journal. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 

Coordinates: 40°45′35″N 111°53′02″W / 40.7597°N 111.8839°W / 40.7597; -111.8839

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