A library state of mind

This article, by Ellery Page, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star, opens a new window on October 17, 2021.

I had fallen in love with the library a few years into my part time position as a page—seeing what people put on hold and learning about the programs offered. I saw teen events like the Bob Ross Paint Along, adult programming hosted by the Master Gardeners, and weekly Mahjong Mondays. I enjoyed Read to a Dog and every kind of StoryTime theme you can imagine to promote literacy skills for children. I remember cleaning out the meeting room closet as a page. It was like seeing a time capsule of library events over the years. 

There are many places in the world where we’re asked or most often, demanded, to prove ourselves. To earn it, or to pay for the space we take up. The library is a place where that narrative, that myth of meritocracy, is not needed. It is a place that deeply connects people, information, and resources.

Empowerment is taken seriously at the library. It was one of many layers of falling in love with the job and the services we provide. Empowered… what a wacky word. It makes me think of charged up electronics and graphic comic book heroes when I say it, but it means something else in the library—something closer to capable, to be able to, and to be. At the library, for me, empowered means realizing that, as a team, we can answer anything. If we can’t answer it, we can find the place where the answer can be found. We don’t do things for people, we show them how to do those things for themselves.

I came into my full time position one month before the library closed down to the pandemic. The job I thought I was going to do lasted a little over a month and since then I have done so many unexpected jobs for the library and for Pima County when the library was closed. I have worked at the smallest branch, and the largest branch. I spent a month isolating at home. I worked for another Pima County Department taking temperatures back in the early days of the pandemic, when masks were still hard to come by. 

I had several amazing opportunities in the midst of—and because of—the changes COVID-19 brought about. These included working in Joel D. Valdez Main Library’s makerspace producing mask straps with 3D printers and screen-printing masks for staff. I am also part of the Behind the Shelf podcast—streaming wherever you listen to podcasts—editing team. During the process, I enjoyed learning about the formation of the Seed Library and BookBike, both celebrating 10 years in 2022. Most importantly, I got to participate in the formation of the library’s Antiracism Taskforce, which you can learn about in a podcast episode to be released in upcoming weeks. 

A very valuable thing I’ve learned has been how we not only serve the public, but how we serve and support one another. One of my favorite things about my job are the people I work with. I’ve never been so enthralled by coworkers—so fundamentally different, but connected by the service we provide.

This past year of constant change has made me think a lot about the diverse ways the library and collections are shaped. I’ve seen the creativity and endurance of colleagues who are not only helping people find books, but are doing so much more, and this gives me hope for how libraries will be shaped by their communities going forward.

Ellery Page is a Library Associate who has been working for PCPL for eight years, seven of which as a page and the last year and a half as a library associate. Ellery Graduated from the U of A with a degree in Fine Arts—emphasis on printmaking and a minor in poetry.