How a library can transform Main Street

Magna Library 2Here’s a great article from today’s Salt Lake Tribune on the effect moving to Magna’s Historic Main Street has had on the Magna Branch of the Salt Lake County Library.   VODA staff worked on the conceptual landscape and site planning for the library a few years ago. More info on that project here.

Magna’s Main Street has definitely seen better days. With the completion of I-80 as a bypass road for the community, the old Main Street was no longer the main route heading west from Salt Lake City, and the street has suffered for it. While the street is filled with charming buildings and architecture, its still definitely a relic of an older time. As you’ll see in the article below, the new library on Main Street has drawn more people to Main Street, and the other businesses are benefiting from it. We applaud Salt Lake County for using a public library as a catalytic project to revitalize a community.

Move to historic Main Street paying off for Magna Library

By Lesley Mitchell

The Salt Lake Tribune

More space and a new location are paying big dividends for the Magna Library.

With a move to historic Main Street, visits were up one-third from June to October, to 120,270, over the same period last year, said Jim Cooper, director of the Salt Lake County Library System.

The library doubled in size, to 20,000 square feet, after opening in May in an $8.5 million building at 2675 S. 8950 West. Although the library is housed in a much larger building, officials worried that residents would be slow to adapt to the new location.

“We weren’t sure if people were going to come to Main Street to go to the library,” said Cooper.

The library had been in the Arbor Park Shopping Center at 3500 S. 8400 West since 1974. But the strip-mall location had a number of disadvantages, including the fact that the building needed repairs.

Space was also an issue. In recent years, the library began to outgrow the 10,000 square feet in the Arbor Park center. Construction began on the new building last year to accommodate a larger collection of materials for the growing community.

Many in Magna were in favor of the Main Street location in hopes that over time the library would help revitalize a struggling area. Another plus was that Salt Lake County owned some of the land on which the library would be built.

Bori Ly’s Kiwi Bakery is near the new location, and he’s already seen a difference on Main Street in just a few months.

“It’s been great for us,” he said. “People go to the library and then come over for a coffee and doughnut.”

Ly said the new library is attracting more people who come by car and by foot. His hope is that more visitors will attract new businesses.

To help capitalize on all the added activity, he has started a reading incentive program in which children, teens and adults can earn a free doughnut by reading books.

Magna resident Laura Jo McDermaid, a longtime advocate of the revitalization of historic Main Street, said she’s watched the library become more popular with residents of all ages.

Its sizeable children’s area encourages families to visit, and she’s been encouraged by the number of teens who are attracted by the more than two dozen public computers.

Because nearly one-third of Magna residents are Latino, the library has added a Spanish-speaking librarian and increased its collection of Spanish-language material.

“I see traffic at the library from the time it opens until the time it closes,” McDermaid said. “It’s had a big impact on our community. It’s a source of pride.”