This article by Alex Lyon was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on Jan. 19, 2019.
Have you ever thought about working at a library? Dreamed of what it must feel like to read books all day and work in a quiet environment? I hadn’t either until I saw a job posting with Pima County Public Library.
If you looked at my résumé, you’d ask yourself, “Why is she working at the library?” I’m a graphic designer with more than 10 years of experience. If you’ve ever been to the Sahuarita Library, you’d know it because all of our newsletters, flyers, bulletin boards and book displays always look stellar. Or, if you’ve asked about how to use Word or PowerPoint, it’s likely I gave you more information than you ever needed to know.
When I discovered the Sahuarita Library had an open position, I was struggling for purpose. I didn’t work in a healthy environment and it was affecting my well-being. So when I saw that the library six miles from my house had a vacancy, I applied.
Well, I can tell you now that a job at the library involves very little sitting in a quiet space and reading all day. The library staff is often pulled in a dozen or more directions at once. I’m signing new customers up for library cards, I’m helping children pick out books for school projects, I’m checking in materials arriving from our 25 other libraries, and much more.
The library has so many free resources that it took me nearly a year to remember how to access each one. Even after more than two years, I’m still learning. I want to be able to help all of our customers with any of their needs, like downloading e-books, using genealogy tools to research family history, or getting started with live online tutoring. We’re also one of the smallest libraries in our system. We’ve got limited space and a limited staff. Needless to say, things can get a little stressful.
The Sahuarita Library has seen many changes since I started. The most positive for me personally was having Tenecia Phillips join us as our library manager. She is strong, caring, supportive and an amazing librarian. With her help and the support of my co-workers, I started believing that I can do anything.
Tenecia encouraged me to do grand, eye-catching displays, which I love. She knew I had the creative background but could see that I was getting in my own way and afraid of stepping outside the box. We’d brainstorm the next display and then I’d say, “It’d be cool if we could do this ...” and Tenecia would always ask, “What’s stopping us from doing that?”
Since those conversations, we’ve had magnificent displays that include Martin Luther King Jr., Wonder Woman, a giant iPhone with earbuds, a three-dimensional bubble gum machine, and a tree growing out of the corner of our building — don’t worry, it’s all made with construction paper.
What people may not realize is that the library isn’t just an institution for intellectual freedom, but a way to help and improve the lives of everyone. It was here that I remembered how awesome I am and can be. It was here that I remembered I can do anything. It is here that I feel like I belong and I matter.
So, what’s next? In the fall of 2021, Sahuarita will have a brand new 20,000-square-foot library designed by Tucson’s very own award-winning architecture firm, Line and Space. Our new library will be a hub for knowledge and self-improvement, and I can’t wait to be part of the next chapter on our journey.
Alex Lyon is one of three full-time staff members at the Sahuarita Library. Her colleagues regularly praise her for her kindness, humor, adaptability and helpfulness. She and her husband, David, have been a part of the Sahuarita community since 2007.