Eagle Scout Mitchel Harker builds and donates ‘little library’ to Bennion Park
Aug 20, 2019 11:58AM
By Carl Fauver
Mitchel Harker (right of the little library) poses with his parents, two brothers and his fellow BSA Troop 1069 members before presenting his handmade Eagle Scout service project to the Taylorsville City Council. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
For more than a century, Boy Scout troops — affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — have been cranking out Eagle Scouts at a rate far outpacing the national average.
But that partnership between the church and the Boy Scouts of America is now down to its final few months. Church leaders announced more than a year ago that they will sever ties with the BSA at the end of this year. An entirely new youth service, activity and camping program is now being developed.
Because of these changes, Taylorsville City Council Vice Chair Meredith Harker said perhaps only one of her four sons will achieve the Eagle Scout rank they have long dreamed of accomplishing. So, she is grateful her oldest — Mitchel Harker, 18 — chose to complete a lasting Eagle service project, which she hopes may spark a trend throughout the city.
“As a teacher, I am a big supporter of reading for children and adults,” Meredith Harker said. “But not everyone can get to the Taylorsville Library when they want to. I’m excited to see people get access to books in another way. I hope we will see more little libraries in our city.”
“Little libraries” are fairly small, weatherproof boxes with doors on the front and shelves with books inside. Popular in many locations across the country, the boxes are receptacles for putting unwanted books in, or pulling a book out, to read and return.
Not long after Meredith Harker became acquainted with the little library concept, it came time for her oldest son to come up with an idea for a service project — the final major requirement for the Eagle Scout rank.
“I got the little library idea from my Mom, and I thought it would be a great project,” Mitchel said. “Nearly all of the materials were donated. I think our total cost (for the Plexiglas doors and hinges) was about $15.”
“Once word got out about what Mitchel was doing for his project, neighbors began making donations,” Meredith Harker said. “One neighbor donated old wooden pallets. Another neighbor has a nice woodshop where Mitchel did much of the work. It turned out to be fun for a lot of people.”
Several members of Mitchel’s Troop 1069 also assisted with the work, include his younger brothers Max (15) and Mason (13). Youngest brother Miles (10) is still not old enough to be a troop member. He is active in Cub Scouts.
“Building the box frame took about a week, while sanding, staining and glossing was another two weeks,” Mitchel said. “Then someone donated the roof shingles. The entire project took about a month to finish.”
The completed little library is about 2 feet tall and wide by 15 inches deep. The donation to Taylorsville City also included 35 books, completely filling it.
Mitchel, his troop and his family attended a recent city council meeting where the 2019 Taylorsville High School graduate formally donated his box to the community. Mom looked on in front of him — with the rest of the city council members — while his dad was somewhere in back.
“I think (the little library) turned out excellent,” he said. “I am very happy I chose this project.”
City officials said this first of what they hope could end up being several donated little libraries will now be installed at Bennion Park, on 3200 West at 5620 South. Taylorsville Community Development Director Mark McGrath is in charge of that part of the project. At press deadline, he was not certain whether it would be in place in late August or early September.
“We need to set a post in concrete to raise the little library off the ground a few feet,” McGrath said. “I would like to position it near the northwest corner of the park, closest to homes where people can walk to it more easily. It will be a nice addition to the park.”
His Eagle Court of Honor now behind him, Mitchel is looking ahead to a freshman year at Utah Valley University, followed by a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is proud of his Eagle service project and a bit melancholy that is brothers, and many other Utah young men, may not follow in his footsteps.
“It is kind of sad (the church will soon discontinue sponsoring Boy Scout troops) because I have loved it,” Mitchel Harker said. “If my brothers do not choose to stay with Scouting (by joining a troop not sponsored by the church), they will not earn their Eagle Scout rank, which would be a shame.”
Mitchel hopes to one day be a civil engineer, meaning his little library may end up being one of his smallest projects ever. On the other hand, if it accomplishes what some in the city hope it does, his elevated wooden book box could start a trend that leads to others throughout Taylorsville.