The Manti Literary Club was instrumental in getting the Carnegie Library to Manti

MANTI—National Library Week runs from April 3-9, and May is Utah Archeology and Historic Preservation Month.

The Manti Public Library is here today thanks to the foresight of 12 women, founding members of the Manti Ladies Literary Club.

They started the literary club because they felt that they were not studying literature enough in their daily activities. They knew each other well enough to know that their interests were similar and thought it would be nice to get together once a week and share some of their favorite literature.

Their first meeting took place in the house at 372 South Main Street, where Freddie Keller now lives. It was also a Keller house at the time. As was customary in those days, women asked permission from their husbands and, in the case of an unmarried woman, from her father. Most men didn’t care, but a few thought the ladies had too much work to do to have an afternoon off once a week to study something as frivolous as literature.

It finally reached a point where the bishop got involved. It was decided that he would attend a meeting with the ladies to see exactly what they were up to. He was pleasantly surprised to find that not only were they actually studying literature seriously, but they were studying literature seriously.

He felt that what they were doing was beneficial to them, their families and the community. Thus, with the good graces of the bishop, they were able to continue their weekly studies. However, he made them promise to start each meeting with prayer. They did so of their own free will, and to this day every meeting begins with a prayer.

It soon became apparent to them that in this small community far from the crossroads of civilization, they needed more study materials. They did a survey of the books each lady owned and found 39 books that weren’t in all of their personal libraries. They set up a sharing system, with each lady taking turns supervising her little library. The system was run out of their homes.

Tragedy struck in 1906 from January 25 to March 15, when Manti was quarantined for smallpox. The books, which had been circulating to many homes (including others outside the literary club), were also quarantined and burned to help stop the spread of the disease.

Eleven days later, on March 26, the club voted to replace the books. At a club meeting on April 12, Libbie L. Hornung read a list of books destroyed at a memorial service. The ladies mourned the loss of the books, but quickly worked to replace them, and the idea of ​​a permanent public library in the community began to take hold.

They finally devised a plan, which included Andrew Carnegie and his famous foundation. Carnegie eventually donated more than 1,700 libraries in the United States and Canada, including three in Sanpete County: Manti, Ephraim, and Mt. Pleasant, which are still in use.

It made sense to apply for a grant from Carnegie, because that was what he was doing at the time. The women of the Literary Club received $10,000, and the building cost $11,000, not including land and annual upkeep, which would be an additional $1,000 per year.