Jennifer Martin, a 3rd-grade teacher at Gilbert Elementary School, always had a passion for bringing the joy of literacy to her classroom, community, and the world. With an extended school closure, remote learning time, and a lack of a nearby public library to Gilbert Elementary, she decided to take the initiative and create a neighborhood library. With her home inside the Forest Bluff Neighborhood close to Gilbert, it made sense to utilize her garage as that neighborhood library. After several weeks of preparation, “Ms. Martin’s Neighborhood Library” opened to the community on Saturday, August 29 at 9 a.m. Her grand opening was highlighted on KVUE.

In creating the library, she used her experience building libraries as a volunteer several years ago in Uganda as inspiration. “My ultimate goal is to get books into the hands of children and to create excitement around literacy,” she shared.

Martin’s personal collection of more than 1,500 books fills the shelves built by Chris Levack of Levack Outdoors. Donations from friends, fellow teachers, former parents, and former students helped add more to the collection.

No library card is required, and visitors may check out two books at a time. For safety, visitors must observe social distancing and wear a mask and gloves when handling books. Gloves will be provided. After opening on Saturday, the library will continue to operate Monday through Fridays from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. for as long as the need in the community exists.

“We are fortunate to have many staff members that also live in the community we serve, and I feel that goes a long way with building relationships and being in tune with the needs of our students,” said Gilbert Principal Lindsey Gonlzalez, “Ms. Martin truly fosters a lifelong love of learning and reading for her students, this is just one more example in a long list of her efforts and she continually inspires us.”

Bookshelves filled with books in teacher's garage Bookshelves filled with books in teacher's garage