The idea of a library in Moab all started with a handful of dedicated residents, a wealth of community support, and 425 donated books. On February 17, 1915, the Grand County Public Library, located in a corner of the county courthouse, opened to the public for the very first time. In the last century, the library has moved, changed, grown, and has even been named the Best Small Library in America. On Tuesday, Feb. 17 – next week – the library will officially celebrate 100 years of service.
Over this past century, the library has transformed along with Grand County. The library has moved three times due to building demolition, fire, and growth. It has expanded its collection, added new services, and kept pace with changing technologies. In response to local desires, the library has expanded in physical size, increased the hours of operation, added a branch in Castle Valley, and incorporated new ways for the public to use library services remotely. What has not changed over the last 100 years is the tremendous amount of support the library receives from the community.
Today, the library strives to provide access to materials, information, and services that meet the interests of all community members. The library currently has 56,780 items available for checkout. Those items include books, audiobooks, DVDs, iPads, and Museum of Moab passes to name a few. Grand County Public Library cards can also be used to checkout ebooks and eaudiobooks through the Utah State Library, and download digital magazines through Zinio. With a library card you can find information using Public Pioneer databases that Google searching cannot provide. Library card holders have access to databases on auto repair, home improvement, small business reference, poetry, science, genealogy, homework help, and much more. If you have an internet connection, visit www.moablibrary.org and you can utilize most of this from any location.
As most residents know, the Grand County Public Library is funded by county property taxes. The Utah State Library assigns value to many library services such as items borrowed, programs attended, reference assistance, and computer use. Each year, the Grand County Public Library uses those values to determine the return on tax dollar investment. In 2014, the return on investment for local tax payers was $7.93 in direct services for every $1.00 collected in property taxes. That adds up to $1,193 in services per household or $4.5 million to the whole community – multiple times larger than the library’s budget!
The excellent return on investment and the variety of services and programs provided is made possible through the hard work and dedication of library directors, staff, board members, volunteers, and friends. Recent library directors have focused on serving the community with excellence and have earned national recognition for Grand County Public Library (GCPL) as a result. Previous Director Eve Tallman saw the library through the many challenging stages of building and moving the library into our beautiful space at 257 E. Center St., and ushered it into its status as “Moab’s Living Room.” As a result, Library Journal named GCPL the 2007 Best Small Library in America. Under the leadership of current Director, Carrie Valdes, the Utah State Library named GCPL the 2009 Utah Outstanding Library and Library Journal has designated GCPL a Star Library four years in a row (2011-2014).
We couldn’t do all of this without volunteers. The library’s volunteers help with shelving, repairing books, assisting with story times, and more. In 2014, community members volunteered 1,385 hours. Also in 2014, the Grand County Public Library reported 163,554 checkouts. If you assume that the average width of a library item is one inch, and you stacked all of those checkouts on top of each other, it would measure more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. That is a lot of shelving!
To thank the public for 100 years of support and to celebrate the library’s anniversary we are inviting everyone to come and enjoy a slice of cake with us on Tuesday, Feb. 17. The library will be open during regular weekday hours, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., and we hope to have cake to share all day. The Castle Valley library branch will also have birthday cake and will be open during its regular hours from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Local cake maker Sweet Serendipity is donating a centerpiece cake, and the very generous Friends of the Library organization is donating everything else. The Friends of the Library is a non-profit organization that works to promote literacy and public awareness of the library. They have been instrumental in helping the library work on exciting projects, programs, and events – the library’s centennial is no exception.
The library is looking forward to many more years of service, and we have an incredible staff that is ready to take on the challenge. Thanks for the support, Grand County. The library would not be here without you.
Meghan Flynn is the Grand County Public Library’s head of adult services.