HILDALE – Dignitaries and residents from Hildale and Colorado City, Arizona, and the surrounding area gathered in Hildale Friday afternoon for a momentous event in the small community: the opening of the very first public library the area known as Short Creek has ever had.
“It’s the first, and I’m really excited about this,” said Christene Timpson, a resident of nearby Centennial Park, Arizona.
“A library offers the opportunity for education and broadening people’s understanding,” she added.
Timpson was not the only visitor to the brand new library who was feeling very enthusiastic about its existence on Friday.
Following a grand opening program and ribbon-cutting ceremony, the doors were officially opened to the new Hildale Branch Library, which is operating under the umbrella of the Washington County Library System.
Community members young and old crowded in to have a look around, browse through books and movies, and, yes, sign up for library cards.
Also present in the crowd were members of the Washington County Commission, Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, and Hildale Mayor Phillip Barlow.
Housed in a building formerly owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the new library was once used as a Sunday school facility for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS.
Its conversion from an FLDS religious building into a public, government-operated library is just one more sign of the changing times in the once cloistered Short Creek community. And the times, they are a-changing.
Within the last few years, a Subway restaurant opened in Hildale (the first major national chain business of any kind to ever exist in the community); a Dollar General store has popped up in Colorado City; and the Washington County School District has begun operating a K-12 school in Hildale.
In any other community,the opening of a new library might generate moderate excitement, but it wouldn’t necessarily attract senators, commissioners and the community at large. But Short Creek has never been like any other community.
The existence of a library, where many different types of ideas can be accessed and where broadening one’s horizons, gaining knowledge and thinking independently are encouraged, has not always been a desirable addition in the once predominantly polygamist, FLDS-populated Short Creek area.
In fact, in the past, the FLDS church has reportedly actively blocked the creation of a library. Volunteers once spent years collecting books in hopes of turning an old schoolhouse in Colorado City, taken over by the now state-managed United Effort Plan Trust, into a community library.
In 2011, members of the FLDS church allegedly burned all of the books in a massive bonfire outside of the schoolhouse.
“They ordered that they be burned, and it’s just so reminiscent of the burning of the books in Nazi Germany,” Washington County Commissioner-elect Dean Cox said. “Having the opportunity for people to learn and to read and to explore and expand their horizons I think is just a wonderful opportunity for all.”
In an ironic twist, that former FLDS schoolhouse where the book burning took place is now the Common Grounds Community Center, out of which a community thrift store is currently operated and where various public events are now hosted.
For instance, on Sunday a free Thanksgiving feast will take place at the center, open to all who wish to come.
Like the former schoolhouse, the Sunday school-turned-library has gone from a religious facility where outsiders were not welcome to a public gathering place where all are welcome.
“It will be a meeting place for other groups to assemble,” Cox said, “and it’s just going to be a wonderful blessing, I think, to both communities.”
About the Hildale Branch Library
The Hildale Branch Library will serve residents of eastern Washington County as well as patrons in Arizona who are currently served by the Mohave County Bookmobile. The ability to serve residents living in two different states has been made possible through a cooperative agreement between the Washington County Library System and the Mohave County Library District.
Hildale Branch Library
- Where: 440 E. Newel Avenue in Hildale.
- Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. t0 4 p.m.
- What’s available: Books, e-b00ks, DVDs, CDs, Internet access, English-language-learning materials, job seeker programs, and story times for children.
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