All told, there are 21 public libraries in San Juan County. Twelve belong to the San Juan School District, seven to the County library system (two of which partner with school district libraries), one at White Mesa Community and, finally, the USU Blanding Campus Library.
Perhaps it is only fitting that the community which traded its birthright name for a library—exactly 100 years ago –should now be blessed with five wonderful libraries: the elementary school, middle school and high school; the county library; and the college library.
Even as the college campus in Blanding started small, so did their “library”. Initially, it consisted of donated texts and literature kept in a few bookshelves located in a small trailer-turned-classroom.
As Merry Adams Palmer was the English instructor who maintained the classroom, she was the inherent caretaker of the books. Thus, when the college moved into their adobe science building – the first building constructed on the College of Eastern Utah-San Juan Campus — in 1986, Merry became the part-time librarian of the growing collection.
Though available textbooks provided material for student research reports, much of the information was outdated.
KC Benedict, who came to Blanding with her physician husband, had a master’s degree in library science. She was initially hired as a consultant to cull the collection, and then eventually became the college’s first (and only) full-time librarian.
Under KC’s direction — and even through her considerable personal donation — the library in the adobe building grew to the point they needed more space. KC was instrumental in acquiring eight ceiling-height rolling shelves to accommodate the library’s collection.
Still, the library lagged behind the needs of the fast growing student population and unfortunately — after the death of her husband — KC left the area to take a job with the Utah State Library System. KC’s post was ultimately filled by two part-time librarians, Susan Young and Heather Raisor, both of whom still work in the library.
Twenty years after the initial book collection was moved into the adobe science building, a 31,492 square foot Health Science Library building was completed on campus. Susan and Heather moved their rolling shelves into a beautiful new library, where the shelving took up a fraction of the space rather than a whole room.
Beau Bradford accepted the move as his Eagle Scout Project and 90 volunteers spent about 500 hours transporting books and furniture across campus.
The new library is a credit to the university and the community, containing 25 student computers, scanner and copy machines, four group study rooms, a special collections room, a staffed reading and writing lab, and over 30,000 books, as well as journals, magazines, newspapers, audio books, music CDs, and movies.
The librarians can help patrons access thousands of eBooks, as well as Pioneer Online and other databases. The library also has a cozy reading area with couches and chairs. It is no wonder they have had more than 250,000 visits since opening their doors in 2006.
Though the computers are limited to student use, community members may acquire a USU library card at no charge. Excluding holidays, the library is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. For more information, call 435-678-8137.