Salt Lake City’s main library

Salt Lake City main library
Salt Lake City’s main library building

Both my original plans for today weren’t meant to be; I wanted to go on a hike, but it started to rain. I had a tour lined up, but the guide had to cancel as he wasn’t feeling well. Crap, what to do?

Thumbing through my notes over lunch I found a nearby attraction I might not have bothered with on a sunny day: Salt Lake City’s main library.

From the outside it looks like a semi-circular office building with a mysterious ramp jutting out from the side. It could almost be mistaken for a small corporate campus.

Salt Lake City main library
Salt Lake City main library

Yet inside it’s a completely different experience altogether. The entryway leads to a five story tall atrium with a skylight above, the library itself on one side; and on the other small shops including a friends of the library bookstore and a cafe.

I know bean-counter types absolutely despise indoor atriums since all that empty air means paying for a beefier HVAC system and all the extra costs that entails. Worse yet, the main library features glass elevators which were being wiped down from the inside by a janitor while I was wandering around. So it’s always a rare treat when there’s a big atrium open to the public in a municipal building.

One thing the Salt Lake City main library is known for is their large collection of comics, graphic novels, and zines. I think that’s great actually — the internet and smartphone era has relegated libraries to much more of a niche audience, so why not cater to those niches?

Salt Lake City main library

The real not-so-hidden secret of Salt Lake City’s main library is on top. Most of the fifth floor is offices closed to the public, but from the elevator you can walk across a small lobby to an exit on to the rooftop. Fortunately the rain took a quick break as I made my way up there.

As you can see in the panoramic photo above, from left to right is the top of the elevator shaft, the skylight, and a rooftop garden.

But the interesting part is all the mountains in the distance. Even with the clouds the snow capped mountains are visible in every direction.

Although I haven’t been here long so far my big takeaway about Salt Lake City is despite being a relatively boring town, you can look in almost any direction at street level and see vast mountains in the distance. From a slightly higher vantage point like the roof of the main library those same mountains somehow look even greater, yet somehow even further away.