BRIGHAM CITY – Businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie underwrote over 2,500 libraries in the world with more than 1,689 in the United States. Twenty three of those libraries are in the Beehive State. Only 10 of those buildings are used as libraries today. Cache Valley and Box Elder county still have two operating Carnegie Libraries each. Over the next couple of days Cache Valley Daily will highlight the Carnegie Libraries in our area.
Between 1883 and 1929, Carnegie construction grants underwrote more than 1,689 libraries in the U.S. He required only that the city demonstrate a need, provide the land, books and librarians and pledge an annual 10 percent match to cover maintenance. Carnegie spent nearly $56 million to build libraries.
The Brigham City Library, located at 26 East Forest Street, is a remodeled Carnegie Library.
Diana Huffman, a Brigham City reference librarian, holds a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and is close to finishing her Masters in Library Science from the University of Alabama. She said there was a process and some requirements that had to be met by a city to be awarded a Carnegie Library.
“There was an application process. The community needed to prove they could sustain the library,” she said. “The population had to be at least 1,000 people and they had to prove they had community support for a library.”
Early on, Brigham City had four congregations, or wards, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints charged with the task of constructing a building and collecting books for a place to read.
The early library was the Mutual Improvement Association (MIA) library. The library still has the original MIA record.
“It helped that the city already had a library when they applied to Carnegie for a new one,” Huffman, a North Logan native said. “The old structure was built in 1898 and became dilapidated. The structure was built out of wood, with walls made of paper and cloth to save money.”
“The…MIA library was not much more than a reading room,” she said.
Brigham City grew to the point that they could make application for a Carnegie Library.
“The city applied once in 1912 and was rejected, but in 1914 they made some changes and reapplied,” Huffman said. “In 1914, Carnegie gave them $12,500 to build a library.”
In the 1970s they added on to the original library. They essentially cut a hole in the back of the building and added more space. The front of the original Carnegie Library is an emergency exit today.
She said people nationwide submitted some weird plans, so Carnegie came up with a set of six templates and that’s why they all have the same look.
The Carnegie Libraries had a staircase in front of the building leading to the main floor.
“People climbed up to the front doors, symbolizing ascent to knowledge,” Huffman said. “On the outside of the libraries, there were two lampposts, or lanterns, on the cement guardrails that were a symbol of enlightenment.”
She said today’s libraries are much more than a building with books. They are important to a community. Libraries connect people, they provide shelter, there are reading times for children and someplace to go just to get out of the house.
“Libraries are a safe space where people, even low income and underprivileged, can come in free of charge and browse, read or visit,” she said. “Libraries have free computers and internet services for students and job seekers.”