We already know that a public library is a crucial component of any thriving community, but the Salt Lake City Public Library is hoping a new pilot program will make the space even more relevant to locals. The library is planning to be the first ever 24-hour public library, open 7 days a week, in the whole country. But the plan isn't just for local residents hoping to pick up the hot new bestseller around 2 a.m., the pilot program is sponsored by fundraising from the Downtown Alliance to become a destination for homeless teenagers in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City does not currently have a youth shelter that can house the young homeless population, as Utah laws prevent anyone under 18 from being away from family members for more than 48 hours. The Salt Lake City Public Library (SLCPL) is hoping that its extended hours, which will be for everyone, will serve as a safe destination. Director of the Downtown Alliance Jason Mathis told SFGate that currently in his home city, "there are not a lot of safe, warm places for homeless youth to go in the evening, and they're a very vulnerable population."
SLCPL executive director John Spears echoed his sentiment, and also pointed out that with these new hours, there would be more programming to bring in all kinds of members of the community, including midnight movie showings and workshops.
Salt Lake City councilwoman Lisa Adams is concerned about all of the questions the new pilot program will raise, saying that it's a "bad idea to pursue." Adams believes the library should extend hours to 11 p.m. or midnight, but not later, fearing the library will become a gathering space for homeless people. Instead, she is pushing the Downtown Alliance to spend its money outside of the library on homeless shelters. However, again, according to Utah law, these shelters would do very little to help homeless youth.
Spears countered Adams' fears, stating that there would be increased security during the late hours.
The library's 24/7 pilot program will last for two years, after which the city and library will research and analyze how the extended hours worked and where to go from there.
Image: Salt Lake City Public Library/Facebook