Originally constructed as Brigham Young Academy in 1891, this historic building has been utilized as a house of learning for children and adults for over a century. Today, the building continues to enrich the Provo community as the Provo City Library, promoting endless educational opportunities in art, literacy, and community activities.

The building that currently houses the Provo City Library was not always a library. The structure has taken on many roles in the community throughout the years, and it started as the home of the Brigham Young Academy, Brigham Young University’s predecessor. Architect Don Carlos Young designed the building, with help from the principal of the Academy, Karl G. Maeser. When completed in 1892, the impressive edifice was one of the largest school houses in the West.

A contemporary newspaper article reporting on the dedication event described, “Visitors have been arriving since yesterday morning and today the street leading to the Union Pacific and Rio Grande Western depots was crowded with old and new students of the academy.” The Brigham Young Academy dedication was a momentous event in Provo’s history. This significant day in 1892 brought Utahns from all across the state together to celebrate the beginning of the building's rich history. Over the years, the name of the building changed to fit whatever need that it was currently filling. It was once the “High School Building” and later the “Education Building.” After many years of use, the building closed in 1968 and stood vacant for almost 20 years. During this time the building deteriorated and endured significant damage due to negligence. Eventually, fearing the historic structure might be demolished, the Brigham Young Academy Foundation led an effort to preserve the building, fronting an initiative in the late 1990s to preserve the building for a new purpose. Through their fundraising and lobbying, the city preserved the building, and in 2001, Provo dedicated the former academy building as its new Provo City Library.

The building continues to host the Provo City Library, whose mission today is to “provide [the] community with an inviting center for information, instruction, learning, leisure, and cultural opportunities.” The vision of this historic library includes providing excellent services, staff, and collections, promoting digital literacy, and providing opportunities to participate in educational programs and projects. The library website offers tours of its resources and collections as well as a calendar of events appealing to various age groups such as “Teen Talk,” “Minecraft Club,” and “Author Links” with various authors. Similarly, the Provo library’s collection of literature spans from children’s books, to adult research materials, to rare historic books in the library’s Special Collections.

In the twenty-first century, the Provo library has made significant efforts to digitize its collection, and it offers an extensive database of online books, movies, and music. Library card holders can manage their books, appointments, and other library needs online or through the Provo City Library’s App. The library also hosts an exhibit area on its top floor, known as “The Attic,” which displays art, science, and artifacts for the community to view during specific hours.  As the Library’s mission statement suggests, the library also offers rooms for events and recreation. Originally built for the academic use of Brigham Young Academy, the historic building that houses Provo City Library continues to uplift and educate all those who enter its doors. 

Images

Academy Square Front view of the Provo City Library with the sign marker. Source: Contributed by Amber Felicia, April 2021 Creator: Amber Felicia
Enter to learn Front entrance of the Provo City Library, featuring the historic “B.Y. Academy” inscription, as well as the “1891” stone marker further up (below the white tower) Source: Contributed by Amber Felicia, April 2021 Creator: Amber Felicia
Namesake A statue of Brigham Young in front of the Provo Library. Young was the founder and namesake of Brigham Young Academy, the original institution housed in the building. Source: Contributed by Amber Felicia, April 2021 Creator: Amber Felicia
Architectural preservation This historical marker located on front-right corner of the Provo Library’s Courtyard describes the the history of the library courtyard’s gates. Source: Contributed by Amber Felicia, April 2021 Creator: Amber Felicia

Location

550 N University Ave, Provo, UT 84601

Metadata

Emily Shaw and Amber Felicia, Brigham Young University, “Provo City Library,” Intermountain Histories, accessed September 30, 2023, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/555.