Carnegie Library before 1970s, Utah State Historical Society Digital Collection

Tooele city has long supported local education and culture.  The Tooele City Library Association was incorporated in 1864 to “establish a library of books, maps, charts, and scientific instruments.”  A library board member encouraged the city to apply for a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Library Foundation to build a dedicated building.  Using the $5000 grant, Tooele built its first library building, and the Tooele Carnegie Library opened in May 1911.  By 1957, the library had over 8,000 books in its collection. 

Libraries are so common today that people often take for granted a city will have one.  In the late 19th century, a small town library was rare.  Andrew Carnegie story epitomizes the American immigrant success story.  He came to America very poor, educated himself, worked hard to build a steel empire, and became the richest man of this day.  While he was a ruthless businessman that showed little mercy to his many low paid industrial workers during his career, later in life he became one of America’s most important philanthropists.  The Carnegie libraries made it social mobility possible for millions of people because members of the working class had access to education.  Many Carnegie libraries are still vibrant community centers.   

A new library opened in 2000 on the west side of downtown.  To transfer the book collection, the children of Tooele formed a line from the old library to the new.  They handed each book from one hand to the other until they were all safely relocated. 

This building is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is one of 16 remaining Carnegie Libraries still standing in Utah.  In the entire state, cities built 23 Carnegie libraries.  At some point, the exterior brick was painted white.  Although some popular fashion designers like this look, it is not what is best for historic buildings.  In 2019, Tooele City had the white paint removed and the grout repaired on the building so it would look the same as the original builders intended.

Painting of Carnegie Library located in the Tooele City Library

Andrew Carnegie 1913, Library of Congress Digital Collection