BRIGHAM CITY — Brigham City’s library started out as a small community project, but was transformed 100 years ago with a grant from businessman-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
The Brigham City Library is celebrating its centennial as a Carnegie Library in 2015, with a series of activities leading up to a birthday party on Dec. 7.
“The library originally existed as a kind of single frame building,” said Elizabeth Schow, circulation librarian. “It did get a little bit of budget over time, but it was a very small structure.”
According to a history of the library, posted on its website at http://bcpl.lib.ut.us/, Brigham City residents became interested in starting a library in 1897, when a local newspaper informed them that a Utah town with only 960 residents already had one.
“What’s wrong with Brigham’s 3,000 inhabitants that they do not catch up in the procession of advancement with little Fairview?” asked the editor, Mansfield S. Snow.
Local wards of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began fundraising, and completed the building of a small library in December of 1898. The construction cost just over $1,000, and the walls were covered with cloth and wallpaper. The 300 books on the shelves were collected by youth groups, who knocked on doors and asked for donations. Ongoing funding for the annual budget of $200 came from benefit concerts, and a charge of 5 cents per week for each book checked out.
The first librarian was John Baird, who was also the operator for Brigham City’s first telephone, according to the library’s website. The phone was placed in the library, with free rent for the telephone company in exchange for paying Baird to be both operator and librarian.
In 1913, the deed for the library was transferred from the LDS Church to the city. The mayor at the time was Robert Leeming Fishburn Jr.
“Fishburn’s administration applied to the Carnegie Commission for funds to establish a new Carnegie Library in Brigham City. The commission donated $12,500 for construction of the new building, and the city provided the building site and agreed to pay for its maintenance,” according to the book “Mayors of Brigham City, 1867 to 2000,” written by Kathleen Bradford and produced by the Brigham City Museum.
“In 1915 the building was completed and opened to the public, so we’re celebrating the birth of our Carnegie Library as we have it today,” said Schow.
Carnegie donated funds for the building of more than 1,600 libraries in the U.S., including 23 in Utah, according to the Brigham City History Project at www.brighamcityhistory.org.
The Brigham City Library building is marked as a historic site, but it’s not exactly as it was when first opened.
“We’ve had a seismic upgrade,” said Schow, adding “We have an addition, from the late 1970s, that is attached to one side.”
The building does still have its old stained glass windows.
The library will host anniversary events throughout the year, many with a “100 Years” theme.
“We’re going to do ‘100 Years on the Silver Screen,’ looking at movies that cover a glimpse of life over the past century,” said Schow.
Films were selected to represent each of the decades from 1910 to the 2010.
“We’re also doing another movie series, ‘Off the Pages Afternoon Movies,’ using different books that have been turned into movies,” she said.
The license to screen these popular mainstream films was paid for with a donation from Brigham City business Hansen Motors. In the licensing agreement, the library was asked not to name the movies in public media. The list and schedule can be found on the library’s website, and the first screening starts at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 14.
Part of the anniversary celebration is a “100 Word Story” writing contest. There’s also going to be a service project where community members can help knit, or crochet, 100 hats and scarves.
“Our summer reading program will include a 100 book challenge,” said Schow. “Our children’s librarian is picking out 100 well-known children’s books.”
Library staff members are also compiling a list of their 100 favorite books, to be published during National Library Week, in April. In June, library patrons will be asked to help fold origami cranes, 100 in each of 10 paper colors, to decorate the building.
Library staff is including modern times in the centennial celebration by planning special book chats.
“We’ll do them over Facebook,” said Schow. “You can check out a copy of the book here, then join us online.”
Those who want to dress for the celebration can purchase a centennial T-shirt for $10, while supplies last.
The final event of the year will be the birthday party in December.
“We’re still working on the details,” said Schow. “We’re planning on it being lots of fun.”
Contact reporter Becky Wright at 801-625-4274 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ReporterBWright.