In the fall of 1949, the Associated Women of the Soda Springs Farm Bureau decided to create a City Library as their community welfare project. The Farm Bureau donated $100 towards the project and a Library Board was named: Mrs. Mary Neilson, Mrs. Cyril Lau, Mrs. Heber Lau, Mrs. Bernie Crawford, and Mrs. Henry Burgin. The City Council cooperated by moving the Police Department to the basement of the then City Hall, which is currently the Police Station. The vacated backroom was tiled and shelves were added before it was presented to the Library Board for their use. The women of the Farm Bureau canvassed the community for books and donations. The library was officially opened March 31, 1951, for 6 hours per week and boasted 1,670 books. In 1952 the hours were increased to ten hours per week with one evening. In 1957 a bequest from the estate of August Branford for $1,000 was received.
As the library grew it became apparent that a larger facility was going to be needed. In 1960 Milton and Emma Horsley announced their intentions to build a library for the community as a monument to the Horsley family who had been early settlers of the area. The building cost $40,000 and was written up in the American Library Association pamphlet on Small Library Buildings as an ideal example for small communities. The 40 x 60 foot structure had 3,400 square feet of completely open space easily supervised by one person. By 1961 the collection had grown to 3,614 books with a circulation of 7,683; 90% of which were children’s books.
The City Council budgeted $1,600 per year for expenditures. Both Mary Neilson and Rhea Lau served on the Library Board for the first 25 years of the library’s existence. Bernie Crawford resigned her board position in 1952 to become the first librarian. By the early 1970’s the library’s budget was $7,000, and circulation had reached 14,000 books annually. The next 20 years brought continued growth and by 1991 circulation had reached 44,000 items yearly, and the library was moving towards automation.
An automated circulation system was added in 1994, followed by a computerized card catalog the following year. In 1996 the library added an internet connection, and a Soda Springs Public Library website was available in the autumn of that year. By January of 1997 the library had one internet computer with a black and white printer available to all patrons. In 2015 the library provides patrons with five high-speed Internet computers and the option of color or black/white printing. Two “gaming” computers have been added for entertainment value as well as information related needs.
The library is a member of the Library Consortium of Eastern Idaho which provides an online database available from any site with internet access. Patrons are given access to their account and the library’s website. A search of all Consortium members catalogs is available online. Through the advances of the Consortium adding OCLC capabilities, Interlibrary loan circulation is rapidly rising. Books are easily available to patrons from around the world. An indoor book drop was added to the south wall of the building in 2004, replacing the outdoor book drop that had limited space for patron’s items.
Technology continues to be the fastest changing element in today’s library. The library currently generates 45,000+ circulations annually and is open 46 hours per week. As of January 2015 the library had over 2,300 patrons from Soda Springs and its surrounding areas. Seven employees help patrons with their entertainment and informational needs. A close relationship with the schools has promoted children to attend the library frequently. Free weekly story times are held for pre-school children. A free summer story time brings over 450 children weekly during the month of June creating a lively atmosphere of learning.