Sitting in a board meeting isn't usually considered an opportunity, but lucky are those who get to gather at the Salt Lake City Library — some of the most coveted meeting space in the valley.
"One thing we wanted to create with this library was a gathering place for the community," said Dana Tumpowsky, public relations manager at the library.
The old library building hosted approximately 200 different groups annually. The new library at 400 South and 200 East has already hosted more than 1,000 different groups since its opening in February 2003. The main library contains nine meeting rooms of varying sizes. There are community meeting rooms available at each of the branch libraries, as well, bringing the total of rooms available in the city library system to 14.
The bond passed in 1998 for the main library project included the expansion of the Sprague and Foothill libraries to include public meeting rooms.
"Right now, we are booking public meeting rooms through the end of 2004," Tumpowsky said.
Meetings open to public participation and which adhere to library policy and guidelines are free of charge. Larger events that require more specifications, including food service and cleanup, audio/visual technology or after-hours activities, may require a fee.
Private functions such as weddings and high school dances can be accommodated. Many events are also held in the adjacent plaza property and land east of the downtown library, which is under jurisdiction of the city.
"We've struggled in finding a place that would create the atmosphere we are looking for in our event," said No More Homeless Pets program director, Julie Castle. The group has rescheduled a meeting to this fall.
The library is a perfect fit, because dogs are allowed inside the building, she said. Five of the best restaurants in the area have agreed to donate "tasting" foods for their meeting. Fund-raisers are just one of the many events held in the library, and the incorporation of foods and animals exhibits how the library can handle varied operations.
"It's a good fit for our patrons. Our space and our location just work," said community affairs secretary Elizabeth King.
Accommodations for multiday and multiroom conferences can be made a year in advance as opposed to the regular 6-month-in-advance schedule.
In the first year following the remodelling of the building, more than three million patrons took advantage of the library's facilities. The newness is attractive and so is the 300-seat auditorium equipped with a full-projection system. Built-in screens and microphones enhance the library's meeting rooms.
"The architecture is stunning; the facilities are world-class, and the centralized location has created an anchor for the southeast area of downtown, right on the TRAX line, with convenient garage or metered parking and supportive community shops," Tumpowsky said.
In its opening year, Tumpowksy said the library launched an array of programs that helped make the community aware of the life on Library Square. "That energy is captivating," she said.
"I think the public is drawn to use the library for a number of reasons: the new Main Library has become a community gathering place — a so-called marketplace of ideas — where the entire community feels comfortable in sharing and celebrating our diversity," Tumpowsky said.
"The diversity of the groups is the most interesting," she said. "Looking at that helps to understand how diverse a community Salt Lake City has become."