The donation box sits next to a stack of $1 comics.
“Help rebuild a library,” a poster next to it pleads.
Inside, Mimi Cruz has placed a couple of Archie and Jughead comics. She’s expecting more by the end of the week, when her regular customers at Night Flight Comics bring in the books they’ve pledged to donate.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Cruz said.
Like many things in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., the library just … disappeared.
The rumor around the towns is that polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs had the Hildale/Colorado City public library closed many years ago. Some say the books were burned.
“I don’t know what happened to all the books in there,” said Stefanie Colgrove. “Nobody’s saying what happened to all the books.”
An effort is under way to rebuild the library. Nonprofit organizations that help those dealing with abuse and neglect in the Fundamentalist LDS communities are launching a book drive to replenish the missing books.
“We’ve had a lot of people start donating books,” said Bill Galvan with the Diversity Foundation. “We’re looking for all ages, titles, to try and build whatever foundations of a library we can.”
Posters and boxes seeking book donations have been put up at Night Flight Comics stores in the Salt Lake Valley. The southern Utah-based HOPE Organization is collecting used books and bookshelves in the St. George area.
“Knowledge is power,” said Cruz, who manages the comic book stores. “It’s just so sad that would be deprived to anyone in this day and age in our country. It’s from the Dark Ages.”
Paul Murphy has agreed to drive the donated books down to Hildale at the end of the month. He is the Utah Attorney General’s Safety Net coordinator who works to build bridges between the state’s polygamous communities, government agencies and nonprofit social service groups.
“I’m going to go through my house and find books I can add,” he said. “It’s a small idea that could have a big impact on just helping people.”
Colgrove is turning a section of her large Hildale home into a sort-of “lending library.” It will be free and open to anyone in the community.
“I remember coming and checking out books with my little brothers and sisters,” she said. “All of a sudden it was closed and the books are gone. One lady I spoke to, she told me it all got boxed up and Warren had them destroyed.”
It’s time to rebuild that, Colgrove says.
“You need a library,” she said. “You need books to read.”
Murphy said Colgrove’s idea could help mend fences in the deeply divided community.
“It means a lot for someone to say, ‘I want to help my community,”‘ Murphy said.
Under Jeffs, many have been kicked out of the FLDS faith and their families split apart — leaving often bitter divisions. The polygamist leader is currently serving a 5-years-to-life prison sentence for rape as an accomplice. He is accused of performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Colgrove said changes are happening in the communities. The FLDS and the ex-FLDS are starting to talk again.
“There are a lot of people that are starting to step out of their comfort zone and associate and stuff,” she said. “Books are a common thing. Books can kind of bring people together.”