At the new Granite Library, Utah’s past and present collide

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The grand opening of the new Granite Library at 3300 South is scheduled for July. Thursday, June 2, 2022.

When Salt Lake County Library system officials began planning what would become the new Granite Library in South Salt Lake, library spokeswoman Sara Neal said, the architect and librarians posed a question to the community:

“What kind of library do you need? »

“Really, each branch is designed to take what the community around it needs,” Neal said. The location – at 3300 south and 500 east, on the site of the former Granite High School – is central to many people in South Salt Lake, and there was “obviously a community needs to have this as a space community.”

This community space, slated to open Friday, July 15, is a 33,000 square foot building that incorporates high-tech book sorting equipment, sustainable energy and water features, references to the history made when the space was a high school, and collections of new and archived books from two now-closed library branches.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The grand opening of the new Granite Library at 3300 South in South Salt Lake is scheduled for Friday, July 15, 2022.

A focal point for students

The Granite Library, one of 18 in the Salt Lake County Library System, covers territory that was once served by the small branch of the Calvin S. Smith Library at 3300 South – which opened in 1943 and closed last year – and the Columbus branch at 500 East, which was closed in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the closure of the Columbus branch, Neal said. Other system branches, housed in stand-alone buildings, were able to provide some services in fall 2020 – but the Columbus Community Center, in which the Columbus branch was housed, remained closed. The county permanently closed the branch a year ahead of schedule, Neal said.

The Columbus branch, located at 2350 S. 500 East in central South Salt Lake, served a large immigrant population living in nearby apartment complexes. (South Salt Lake’s population is 24% Hispanic and 10% Asian, according to the latest U.S. Census data.)

Every day, after school hours, computers in the Columbus Library were used by children doing homework or playing games. Many of these students did not have internet access at home during the pandemic.

The new Granite Library sits at the center of the massive Granite School District, which stretches from Magna to Holladay. School populations on the west side of the district have exploded, while schools on the east side are stabilizing after years of decline, district officials said in May. The district plans to redraw the boundaries of its elementary and secondary schools, but any decision would not take effect until fall 2023 at the earliest, a district spokesperson said.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The grand opening of the new Granite Library at 3300 South in South Salt Lake is scheduled for Friday, July 15, 2022.

Among Granite’s towering new white shelves are a children’s area, a dedicated teen area, and individual study and meeting rooms. “A lot of people use the library for meetings, whether it’s business meetings or study sessions, interviews,” Neal said. “Any kind of thing can happen to the library.”

The new Granite branch will feature books from the Columbus and Smith collections — but the majority of the books there will be new and have never been in circulation before, Neal said. A library of this size, she said, typically contains between 85,000 and 100,000 books.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A historic image of the Granite High School basketball team adorns the wall of a meeting room in the new Granite Library at 3300 South in South Salt Lake. The official opening of the library is scheduled for Friday, July 15, 2022.

Preserving Granite’s History

The combination of old and new books is just one example of the Granite branch merging past and present.

The exterior of the building features a concrete wall that follows the high school’s original brick line, Neal noted. The bricks of the original school were donated to elders when the school was demolished in 2017.

Also outside the building: An iris sculpture created by artist Day Christensen, whose great-grandmother was a Granite student, Neal said.

The former Granite High — which opened in 1907 and closed in 2009 — has produced notable alumni, including former U.S. Senator Frank Moss (whose Federal Courthouse on Salt Lake City’s Main Street name), animation pioneer and retired Pixar president Ed Catmull. , and several big names in professional football: Ed Christensen in the 1930s, Golden Richards and Gordon Jolley in the 70s, and Rick Parros in the 80s.

Granite alums might recognize some of the touches inside the new library. A line of study rooms, leading to a large assembly hall, is named “Farmer’s Way” – a nod to the school’s mascot. The lyrics to Granite High’s fight song are featured on the glass doors, along with images of the school band and basketball and cheering teams from different decades of Granite High’s history. school. And in a large assembly hall, the floor was saved from the school gymnasium.

The library installed a glass display case from the school’s alumni association, displaying school badges and historical artifacts.

The high school seal has also been preserved and is prominently displayed on a library wall. It was already on the floor and “apparently if you stepped on it you had to get a toothbrush and clean it because no one was allowed to step on the seal,” Neal said.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The old seal of Granite High School is housed at the new Granite Library at 3300 South in South Salt Lake City. The official opening of the library is scheduled for Friday, July 15, 2022.

What’s new at the library

The library will have a new automated sorting belt, which helps librarians sort books more quickly.

“The books are RFID tagged so it’s easier to track them, so a book will continue here and it’s actually sorted into the correct section [bin] of the library he needs to get in,” Neal said. For a county library system that moves about 9 tons of materials a day, across three different delivery trucks, this kind of automated sorting is a bonus, she said.

Familiar business resources — copying, faxing, printing — will be available, Neal said, “for people who don’t necessarily have Wi-Fi or a computer at home.”

A space dedicated to creators is planned to house 3D printing services, robotics, virtual reality technology, full access to Adobe Creative Suite, a laser cutter, sublimation prints and sewing and sewing machines. embroider. Such items, Neal said, are “super useful to have, but they can be prohibitively expensive.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) An audio-visual room, complete with a green-screen studio, is one of the amenities at the new Granite Library, at 3300 South in South Salt Lake, grand opening is scheduled for Friday July 15, 2022.

An audiovisual room – equipped with a green screen room and recording equipment for video, podcasts and music – can be booked online.

Outside, the library has an amphitheater, which can be used for library or community programs, Neal said. The library will also be the only one in the system to have an outdoor play area, she said. And the sidewalk is equipped to accommodate several food trucks. The new library is a LEED Gold facility, participating in a program of the US Green Building Council (a private, non-profit organization) that champions sustainable building practices.

Among the library’s sustainable practices: rooftop solar panels and water-bearing landscaping – with sections of fake grass, clumps of tall grass that are only cut a few times a year, and wild strawberries that hold the water and feed the birds.

“Not all water that comes onto the property goes into storm water,” Neal said. “He is actually contained on the property. It can just seep into the ground and be effective that way.

The granite branch of the Salt Lake County Library at 3331 S. 500 East, South Salt Lake, will host a grand opening, Friday, July 15, from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The event will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, featuring speeches from Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and others. After that, the day will include crafts, games and activities for children and adults. The event is free.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The new Granite Library at 3300 South in South Salt Lake is scheduled to open Friday, July 15, 2022.

Luz W. German