As Naomi Perry admits, the first steps down to the in-progress Stockton Legacy Library & Community Resource Center are a bit daunting.
Housed in the basement of Stockton Town Hall, formerly a school, access to the library and community center is still dark and cluttered, but Perry has been working hard to improve the space.
“Like I said, it feels like you’re walking into the abyss,” she said. “Hopefully we’re going to brighten it up a lot.”
The walls along the staircase to the future library and community center have been painted white, but Perry hopes to cover the walls in murals depicting the history of the town. While a recent Stockton resident, Perry has ensured the history of the town is woven throughout the entire renovation project.
Down the stairs and past a space that will house the town’s filing cabinets, the most complete room in the future library is freshly painted, with new wood laminate flooring and bookshelves. Perry said the room will house adult fiction books in a library that has already received more than 3,000 donated books of all genres and reading levels.
In the fiction section, there’s a computer and desk, which will facilitate checkouts. Perry said she hopes to acquire tablets that library patrons can use to aid their search for books.
If everything proceeds as planned, the library will have access to digital and physical books through the Utah Library Association. Perry said the library is already working toward non-profit status to apply for grants and other funding.
A quick tour of the basement space shows there is a lot of work left to accomplish, but Perry remains undaunted. As she moves from room to room, she gives a detailed description of the children’s reading area, complete with comfortable places to sit, and other features yet to be finished.
Perry, a recent graduate of the University of Utah’s College of Social Work, said she came up with the idea for a youth space after moving to Stockton in April. The mother of two children aged 12 and 14, pitched a youth program to the town’s planning and zoning board this summer.
While Perry originally intended to install a modular in town so young people would have a safe place to meet and hang out, Mayor Mark Whitney approached her about using the basement space at Town Hall.
Then Perry learned access to the nearest library, in Tooele City, was $30 for non-residents. The fee for non-residents at the Grantsville City Library is cheaper at $10 per year, but farther away.
“Anyone out this way, we didn’t really have access,” Perry said. “And it’s quite a ways to get over into Tooele, especially if you’re a kid.”
While there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation in Stockton, Perry said the town needs a place where kids and adults can meet.
“You can ride motorcycles and target shoot and all of that fun stuff outdoors,” she said. “But there’s nothing where kids can come together in a building and … have somewhere to meet a friend or read a book.”
Libraries are important to Perry, who said she moved more than two dozen times growing up, mainly in California, Oregon and Utah. She said libraries were always a place with activities going on and a place for kids to meet or read.
“Moving that many times, I really didn’t have that many friends,” Perry said. “I was a loner in school. So I would always try to find out what was going on in the community.”
While there will be plenty of computers and tablets inside the library and community center, Perry said she would like to enforce one rule: no cellphone use. She said life for today’s kids is dominated by technology and it limits their confidence and ability in face-to-face social interactions.
“Everything is technology now,” Perry said. “But I think that that’s an injustice as well because when I was a kid, I had to go knock on my friend’s door and ride my bike over and things like that.”
In addition to the library, Perry hopes to create spaces for practical classes such as woodworking, sewing or music. The classes would be taught by residents and offered free or for a fee, and listed on a whiteboard for library and community center patrons to browse.
Any of the classes offered at cost would help fund the library as well, Perry said.
“So we figured if you’re going to do the class for free, it’s free for you to do it,” she said. “If you’re going to charge $10 a person to learn guitar, then we’re going to charge you like 15 percent of what you make.”
The center would also feature a tech room in the space formerly occupied by the town’s water master. Perry said the room will feature computers on a round table, so anyone using them will face toward other people and not just the wall.
As the plans for the space grew, Perry said the town offered up more rooms in the basement. She said Whitney and Stockton Police Chief Travis Romney have been supportive throughout the process.
An Eagle Scout from Stansbury Park, Tyson Turner, built several pallet bookshelves for the library.
In addition to support from the town, Perry said the community has chipped in by donating books and underlayment for the wood laminate flooring. She admits she has been reluctant to ask the community for help with physical labor, relying on herself, her children and her fiancé, Anthony Walsh.
“All I want them to do is come enjoy the center once it’s done,” Perry said. “That’s all I want.”
Once the flooring is complete and everything is painted, Perry said she plans to open the library. While finishing work will still be in progress, she said she hopes to open within the next several weeks. She said she plans to be heavily involved with the community center aspect of the project and Walsh will likely volunteer at the library.
Once the library is open, Perry said she will ask for community support manning the checkout desk and other volunteer help.
For Perry, the project is a way of giving back to Stockton, which is exactly the type of place she hoped to live.
“I love small towns,” she said. “I was looking for a place, a small, tiny place, that I can go out somewhere and work, or stay there and build something.”
The Stockton Legacy Library & Community Resource Center has a Facebook page with updates on progress and there is a box in the Town Hall for books and other donations.