Betty Dance a volunteer re-shelves books at the Smithfield Public Library.
SMITHFIELD – Having a public library in Smithfield was as important to the early pioneers as it is to modern Smithfield residents. The first library was housed in the Smithfield Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building in 1868.
Support for a public library continued to grow, and in 1917 a room was dedicated for reading in the Tithing Office, located at 35 West Center. That same year, the community formed a commission to steer the course of their own city library.
The commission submitted an application to the Andrew Carnegie Foundation for a grant to help build a library. The Carnegie Library opened in 1922 at a cost of $20,000. They received a grant of $12,000 from Carnegie, and the city made up the balance.
Marilyn Benavides, the current director of the Smithfield Library, said the new addition to the west of the building took about a year to build, and was finished in 2015.
Although the Smithfield Public Library has many of the same services as the other public libraries in Cache Valley, they may also house one of the finest historical painting collections of any library in the state of Utah.
One notable artist, with 32 paintings hanging in the Smithfield Library, is Mary Teasdale. The artist was born in Salt Lake City and was known for her impressionistic style of painting. She was one of the first Utah women to study in Paris.
Teasdale attended the University of Deseret (1882-86) and when she graduated she furthered her studies by working with J. T. Harwood. She was sent to France with two other women to study under William Benjamin-Constant, Jules Simon, and James Whistler.
“The city purchased the Teasdale paintings in the summer of 1933. The mayor of Smithfield was Dr. Reese,” Benavides said. “He saw the collection for sale and bought it for the city.”
Work by other early Utah artists J. T. Harwood, Lee Greene Richards, and Florence Ware are also part of the library’s collection.
“We have people come from all over the state to look at our painting collection,” Benavides said. “When Scott Mathison was the governor, he came to our library to look at Teasdale’s paintings.”
She said the paintings are a community treasure.
“Many of the paintings were refurbished before they were put on display,” Benavides said. “We also have some local artists that have donated paintings to our library.”
Benavides, who was born and raised in Smithfield, said she has been working at the library for a long time. She said it is well supported by the community.
“I love working here,” she said. “We love to meet the people and help them find joy in checking out books.”
She said at the last library board meeting they received a $10,000 donation from Cache Valley Bank. Darrel Simmons and Lori Emmitt from the bank awarded the library with the check.