County, United Effort Plan Trust rally to provide Hildale library

Stock image | St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A new library planned for the tiny community of Hildale is getting closer to completion, as county officials look for a temporary building and make plans for a more permanent location.

County officials will tour a possible location for the library Thursday, County Library Director Joel Tucker said. The building — the Steed Sunday School building on Newell Avenue — is currently owned by the United Effort Plan Trust and became available Monday, UEP special fiduciary Bruce Wisan said.

The new library is scheduled to open in March if all goes as planned.

“Access, really, to the world — connection, connectivity,” Tucker said. “I see potential; I’m excited.”

The new library will provide access “to a meeting space that’s not the church,” among other benefits, Tucker said.

The library will also bring Hildale residents access to information, educational opportunities, educational programming for children and adults, book clubs, WiFi, Internet access for online job applications and more.

Even if the Steed building doesn’t work out, the UEP will help find another location, Washington County Commissioner Zachary Renstrom said. Renstrom is also a member of the Washington County Library board of directors.

“The UEP could not have been better in this whole process,” Renstrom said. “They’ve been very accommodating and they’ve agreed that a library for (Hildale) would be just a wonderful asset to have out there for everyone.”

Aerial view of the Steed Sunday School building, the blue T-shaped building in the center of the image | Image courtesy Washington County, St. George News
Aerial view of the Steed Sunday School building, the blue T-shaped building in the center of the image | Image courtesy Washington County, St. George News

Demographically, every area of the county has pretty good access to a library except Hildale, Renstrom said.

“It’s an area that for various reasons … unfortunately, has not been served very well,” Renstrom said. “If there’s a way we can help that community, that’s definitely our goal, is just to help.”

In the long term, the county would like to construct a new library building in Hildale, Renstrom said. Libraries are more efficient if designed and built for the purpose rather than retrofitting an existing building, Renstrom said.

Computers have already been ordered for the Hildale library, as Tucker has been preparing for the library’s opening even before seeing the inside of the Steed building.

The last piece of the puzzle will be hiring a branch manager, Tucker said. The library will open with just a single employee and limited hours.

Libraries in Washington County are funded through a specified library property tax, Tucker said. In order to fund more staffing, the county will need to grow — which increases the amount of money raised by the property tax — or taxes would have to be raised.

Right now, the project is being funded by adjustments in the overall library budget and it’s been difficult to make that work, Tucker said.

Donations welcome

The county has asked the Utah Legislature for an appropriation to help fund a new library building in Hildale, Renstrom said. If that doesn’t happen, the county will look at other options such as fundraisers or trimming county budgets to save up enough money for a new building, a process which could take five to seven years.

In the meantime, donations for the project are welcome.

“We’re always open to donations if anybody wants to support the cause,” Tucker said. Donations can be made at any library branch and donors can specify that their contributions be used for the Hildale project.

“I’m hoping to get a larger reach to let people know that, ‘Hey, we’re doing this great project, a little bit over budget, and we would love the support and help to make this a reality.'”

The community of Hildale has had a hard time, especially with the recent flooding fatalities, he said.

“It’s an underserved community, and we want to help them in any way that we can. Putting a library out there is the best way to help serve, from my perspective and what I can do,” Tucker said.

“I’m really excited to see this come to fruition.”

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