A good friend at the Library

The Arizona Daily Star Monthly Library Series offers an insider's view of Pima County Public Library and the ways in which we're transforming lives in our community. This month, we hear from Lisa Winn, Library Associate, Flowing Wells Library.

Colleagues often walk into the Flowing Wells Library staffroom and say, “Lisa, your friend’s here!” More often than not I answer, “Which one?” It makes me smile to think about all of the friends I’ve made at the library, staff and customers alike.

I’ve always felt the library was a good fit for me. I’m an avid reader and I enjoy sharing what I read. So you can imagine my excitement seven years ago when I has hired by Pima County Public Library.

Although I had some library experience, I was looking forward to new and exciting challenges at Flowing Wells Library.

Flowing Wells had been open for about two years when I began working there. I immediately liked its intimate size and the staff’s friendly interaction with customers. It seemed like a great place for greeting and meeting people and sharing book knowledge.

I quickly learned, though, that in the Flowing Wells community the library means much more. For many, the library is a key resource in making connections and finding vital information. As staff, we’re here to empower, encourage, and equip them with answers.

I’ve taken on many roles here, including Volunteer Coordinator, Storytime Presenter, and Book Club and Knitting Club Facilitator. I’ve loved doing all of them.

I fondly remember my first summer recruiting teen volunteers. I was able to recruit two, including my daughter.

Happily my recruitment skills have somewhat improved and the numbers for teen volunteers have steadily risen. A few adult volunteers have been recruited as well. Jan has been volunteering with us for about five years. She has helped with Summer Reading programs, was our first Reading Partner, and for the past two years she has tirelessly served as our Homework Help Tutor.

“We need a Preschool Storytime presenter. I think you would be good at it!” This was the challenge given to me by former branch manager, Martín.

He suggested that I visit some Storytimes at other locations to get ideas. Boy was I invigorated! The presenters were awesome and so helpful. So I went back with renewed enthusiasm and prepared for my first Storytime. My first Storytime attendance? Two.

Since then the Storytime numbers have increased and my knowledge and skills as a presenter have grown as well. Debbie, the current children’s librarian at Flowing Wells, has been an inspiring mentor.

Watching her attentive interactions with the children and her mental calm in chaotic situations have been invaluable moments for me. Debbie’s passion for outreach to the nearby schools really peaked my interest. 

When I was first asked to fill in for her, I was extremely nervous but readily accepted the challenge. Now Debbie and I regularly visit several preschools and elementary schools in the Flowing Wells community and have developed a lasting rapport with teachers and staff.

In 2011, I shared an idea with Debbie that would involve reaching out to workers in the community. We put our heads together and collaborated on one of our library’s most successful children’s events, Community Workers @ Preschool Storytime.

Each September, community workers are invited to come to Storytime to read stories and talk about their professions. The positive response from the community and their willingness to be involved in this event has been overwhelming. For the last six years professionals from a wide variety of fields, from the postal service to law enforcement, have taken time out their busy schedules to participate.

“Flowing Wells needs a book club.” I’m not sure who said it, but I heard it and answered the call.

Former colleague Susannah and I came up with a name, created a list of books, put out the flyers and the book clubbers came. The First Saturday Book Club continues to meet at the library just beyond the non-fiction stacks and in front of the magazines and newspapers, sometimes spilling over into the children’s area. Book clubbers have come and gone for one reason or another, but the club continues to thrive and read on.

When the library was considering starting a knitting club at the library, I unselfishly volunteered to facilitate because I had tried knitting once and I had the yarn to prove it.

Strings and Things Knitting Club was formed at Flowing Wells in 2011 and began meeting weekly in the children’s area. Our initial goal was to help people learn to knit and crochet. As the group grew and evolved, more and more members wanted to give back to the community.

The group now knits and crochets special projects at least four times a year, donating the items to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, animal shelters, and other charities. Colleague and group co-facilitator, Beverly H., constantly searches for fresh and unique projects. A former library volunteer, Stella F. was so touched by the group’s efforts, she regularly donates yarn she finds in garage sales. Strings and Things eventually outgrew the children’s area at the Library and currently meets at the Ellie Towne Community Center.

Speaking of outgrowing, have you heard the news? Beginning Oct. 1, we’re undergoing a major expansion (from 5,000 to 13,000 square feet!) and renovation led by the award-winning Tucson architecture firm Line and Space LLC.

The renovation will give us the space we need for all the services we provide. We’re very excited about the project, which will include the addition of a large multipurpose room, separate spaces for teens and children, an updated collection, and more computers, among other things!

The expansion will offer even more chances for people of all ages to learn and grow. And when the doors reopen in late-summer 2018, we’ll be here to welcome back old friends, make new friends, share book knowledge, and continue to meet the changing needs of our community.

Lisa Winn grew up in Kansas (Go Jayhawks!) and has lived in several other states before settling in Tucson in 2008. She has been a part of the Flowing Wells Library Staff since 2010. Lisa loves spending time with her family and enjoys reading historical fiction as well as watching historical documentaries and movies.