By Michael Evans
“I like to see myself as a community hostess,” says Mary Anne Heider, manager of the Chapman Branch of the Salt Lake City Library. “I like to welcome people into the ‘house’ of the library, and to host events that we think a broad spectrum of people will enjoy.”
The Chapman Branch is celebrating 100 years in the same Carnegie Library building at 700 South and 900 West, with a series of events relating to the historical period of its construction, plus every decade since then. Central to this celebration are Chapman Chats held on various Saturdays at 2 p.m. Some are in English and some are in Spanish, but there are generally two Chats per month.
The centennial series began in January with a slide show by Nan Weber about the namesake of the branch, Annie Chapman, who was at the center of Salt Lake City’s first free libraries, including locations at the Ladies Literary Club on South Temple and on the top floor of the City-County Building, before cancer took her life in 1903.
A temporary west-side branch, named for Annie Chapman, opened in 1913, but John D. Spencer of the city’s Library Board sought help from the Carnegie Foundation in 1916 to build a permanent structure, and the present Chapman Branch began operating on May 27, 1918. The Carnegie Foundation helped fund over 2,509 libraries around the globe between 1898 and 1929. Out of 27 Carnegie libraries built in Utah, only Mt. Pleasant and the Chapman Branch are still functioning as libraries.
Annie Chapman’s new branch library was deliberately built next to the old Riverside Elementary School to bolster public education, and the J.D. Spencer Branch was constructed next to Jackson School in 1920 for the same reason. Heider has managed the Chapman Branch since 2011 and asserts, “I specifically wanted this job to lead this branch through its centennial.”
One very special Chapman Chat will be part of a birthday celebration and ceremony on June 2 with cupcakes and ice cream, plus a “Hollywood Canteen” style Big Band Concert in the parking lot at 7:30 p.m., celebrating the 1940s. It is also the day when signups begin for the popular Summer Reading Program, so the library will be extremely active between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.
A Chapman Chat in July involves a square dance and Laurel & Hardy comedies. The ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s all have movies and events scheduled to evoke the looks and happenings of those decades. All year long there are book collections that highlight each decade from 1918–2018. Ms. Heider has recruited many Chapman Chat presenters from the immediate neighborhood because she wanted the folks nearby “sharing their passions.”
The month of April commemorates 1918 — the founding year of the library — with a series of films focused on World War I. Two Chapman Chats by Chip Guarente of the Fort Douglas Military History Museum and Connor McManus will cover this grim conflict.
On any given day when it is open, the Chapman Branch provides air conditioned comfort and a studious atmosphere to patrons inside its simple, but elegant, Neoclassical interior. It offers access to the entire world via printed books, e-books, movies and music via electronic media, a wireless hotspot, plus computers linked to the Internet for job seekers and scholastic research. There is also a section with governmental publications meant to help immigrants, and guides to naturalization for new U.S. citizens. Family films are shown on the last weekend of every month, with English language movies playing the last Friday, and Spanish language movies featured on the last Saturday.
“Nowadays, libraries are a conduit for people who do not have access to technology and information,” said Heider.
“Libraries are constantly evolving. Now they are gathering places. They are not just where people come to check out a book. One of the greatest community-supported endeavors in the history of the United States is public libraries — long may they wave,” said Heider.
To find out more information about the Chapman Centennial, visit www.slcpl.org/chapman100.