Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Jerri Williams moves books Jan. 31 into a building that will be used as a library in Colorado City, Ariz. Donated books have been pouring in.

Stefanie Colgrove's little idea keeps getting bigger.

Boxes filled with books keep arriving at her home, sent from all over the country by book lovers who have heard of her idea for a library in the Fundamentalist LDS communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

"There's a lady coming up from Chandler, down the Phoenix way," she told the Deseret News. "She's bringing 2,000. I would say there's close to 5,000 books we have to start going through."

Colgrove wants to open a library in the FLDS communities. Aside from the local school libraries, there hasn't been a public library there in many years.

Now, she could get government support. The Mohave County, Ariz., Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Monday on funding a library there. While some politicians question it, Colgrove remains undaunted.

"We are going to have a library either way," she said. "We just might have to all volunteer to run it."

Roots

It started with the idea to lend out books in her home.

Colgrove, an ex-FLDS member who moved back to the border towns to raise her family, wanted a library for everyone. The rumor was that FLDS leader Warren Jeffs ordered the old library closed and all of the books disappeared, she said.

Local community groups offered to help start a book drive and collect used bookshelves. After a story first appeared in the Deseret News in January, Colgrove was flooded with books. The huge numbers of donations led her to sign a deal for a building with the court-controlled United Effort Plan Trust (the FLDS Church's real-estate holdings arm), which controls homes, businesses and property in the FLDS communities.

Now, the future Hildale/Colorado City library is a log building on the corner of Central and Johnson streets. Colgrove and the "Friends of the Library" have been working with the Mohave County Library District to create a formal, county-run library.

Censorship

When she first visited the site of the future library, Kathy McGeehee had concerns.

"There's going to be no censorship. It'll be an actual county library and the community would not be in control of the library," the district's development director said.

McGeehee said they had problems with the first library, with books being censored by community members to make them unreadable.

"There was a Nancy Drew book in the old library. It was so censored so much there were only two or three words on the page that hadn't been blacked out," she said.

A bookmobile that would venture to the border towns never really caught on, McGeehee said, but the idea of a permanent facility is getting a lot of support.

"We have a lot of people very excited about it in the community," Colgrove said.

To become part of the Mohave County Library District, the friends of the Colorado City library group would have to sign a deal that they abide by county policies — including no censorship of any reading materials.

"It's a parent's job to censor what their children read," Colgrove said. "If you're a good parent, you'll know what your child reads. That's your job."

Signing on to the county library system will also enable the Hildale/Colorado City library to get access to online services, interlibrary book loans and children's story programming. Colgrove said Mohave County residents are already paying a library tax — with the nearest county libraries several hours away.

"The people up where we live have been paying the tax and their money's been going down to Bullhead and Kingman," she said.

Questions

The library is on Monday's consent agenda to include in next year's county budget. But Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson has some reservations.

"I'm not supporting any polygamist activity, I can tell you that," he told the Deseret News.

Johnson has not made up his mind if he will vote for or against the library. He said money is tight, and he worries about duplication of services with a pair of school libraries nearby.

Johnson, an outspoken critic of polygamy, also worried about FLDS influence on the library and the part-time employee Mohave County would pay for.

"You've gotta watch that whoever's there is not another long arm of the prophet's work," he said.

McGeehee said the flood of community donations has made the library less expensive to fund. Gas prices make a reinvigorated bookmobile service almost impractical.

"They have the building," she said. "They are offering that building, which is why it's such a good deal for the county."

The cloistered FLDS community may be warming up to the idea of a public library. Colgrove said she approached the Colorado City Council, made up entirely of FLDS members, with her library idea.

"I didn't have any negative reaction," she said. "They could have said, 'We won't allow that in the city.' They said, 'Thank you for letting us know. Thanks for coming in and sharing."'

Colgrove said there are so many benefits to a library, she doesn't see anyone shunning it. Regardless of what happens, McGeehee said she believes the library will open.

"They're very driven," she said of Colgrove and the friends of the library group.

Colgrove said the library's success will be because of its many supporters.

"I'm so amazed at people from different cultures," she said. "They may not approve that this is a polygamous community, but they've stepped up and lent a helping hand. It's wonderful."


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