Editor’s note: Many people go about doing good deeds in their families, neighborhoods, organizations and church congregations. “Utah Valley’s Everyday Heroes” celebrates these unsung community members and brings to light their quiet contributions.
Pleasant Grove residents are banding together to support local literacy efforts through free library stands.
Monica McDonald moved from Washington to Pleasant Grove almost 15 years ago. The Brigham Young University alumna received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education at the Rexburg, Idaho, campus in 2005.
After working as a substitute teacher in Washington, the mother of three boys made the jump to Utah education, working as a teacher at Lakeview Academy in Saratoga Springs.
“They have declining enrollment in Washington state, so they need fewer teachers,” McDonald said. “I ended up in Utah because they always need teachers.”
Having grown up taking care of children with special needs while babysitting in high school, McDonald went into elementary education with the hopes of becoming a special education teacher.
Instead of completing her master’s degree in special education, however, McDonald had three children of her own, all with developmental disabilities.
“I would say my motherhood experience has been atypical,” she said. “We didn’t fit in places because my children were different. It would scare other kids.”
To make friends and connect to resources, McDonald founded a Facebook group for parents with children with special needs. From there, McDonald has fostered an ever-growing community of parents like her.
While in Washington, McDonald had seen free library stands around her neighborhoods and online. When she and her family were settled in Utah County, she decided to create one for her own community.
McDonald spent months researching kits online, and when the moment came, her husband spent hours assembling the stand that is now affectionately known as the Little Free Library of Central Pleasant Grove.
Pulling from the crates of children’s books that used to adorn her classrooms, the former teacher stocked the little library as often as she could.
Since its debut, McDonald said the community response has been overwhelmingly positive.
The library — located at 459 E. 200 North in Pleasant Grove, near Central Elementary School — is based off of a nationwide movement of resident-maintained stands that encourage children to take a book and leave a book behind.
However, McDonald said, there are no expectations. Those who pass by can take as many books as they want and nothing is expected in return.
McDonald said while the Pleasant Grove Public Library is a great resource, stands like the Little Free Library of Central Pleasant Grove allow kids to have an equal opportunity even if their access to the public library is limited.
“Every child is supposed to read for homework everyday,” she said. “How are they supposed to do that if they don’t have books at their houses?”
Additionally, she said, the little library allows families with library fines or children with special needs to have access to books, no strings attached. With the Little Free Library of Central Pleasant Grove, there are no late fees or costs for damaged books.
Unlike a public library, on the other hand, there is no way to control what books come in and when.
“I like to think of it as the Wild West of libraries,” she laughed. “It’s kind of lawless.”
Now, two other library stands have popped up in McDonald’s neighborhood, creating a “library loop” that kids frequently walk in an effort to find new books. In total, Pleasant Grove has seven well-known Little Free Library locations:
- 1384 N. 390 East.
- 459 E. 200 North.
- 1035 E. 550 South.
- 1365 N. 990 West.
- 3284 N. 1450 West.
- 1667 N. 270 West.
- 806 E. 1300 North.
All readers are welcome to take advantage of the Little Free Library of Central Pleasant Grove, regardless of age.
The most popular books at the library stand are board books, easy readers and young adult fiction novels. Book donations can be left at the Little Free Library of Central Pleasant Grove anytime.
Book donations or disturbed books are quarantined in McDonald’s home before they are released back to the Little Free Library of Central Pleasant Grove.
While the library remains stocked and awaits eager minds, the Little Free Library of Central Pleasant Grove’s Facebook page — monitored by McDonald — offers reading suggestions and virtual conversation.