At Woods Memorial Library, forming community bonds is at the forefront

This article by Alina Rowe was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on January 20, 2020.

I was living in San Diego where I was working as a librarian for almost six years when I was offered a position with the Pima County Public Library. As a native Tucsonan, it was time to go back home.

I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arizona. While there, I was enrolled in the Knowledge River program, which afforded me the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant at Woods Memorial Library, 3455 N. First Ave.

The manager encouraged me to come up with programs that were geared toward teens and adults. I created a cultural night series where I invited leaders from diverse communities to present programs about their cultures. We had a town hall session with the founder of the Arab Oasis and a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe shared information about healing with desert plants. We also hosted a night of traditional Aztec dancing presented by local Chicano leaders.

I also helped plan a weekly Bilingual Storytime. Each week, between 30 to 60 people of all backgrounds attended. My experience at the Woods Memorial Library gave me a great opportunity to meet and familiarize myself with the diverse community the library serves. In December 2018, when I accepted the manager position at the Woods Memorial Library, I knew it was where I would continue to thrive, grow and make a difference.

Our library is extremely busy. In fact, we have anywhere from 300 to 500 people walk through our doors on any given day. We may have a large group of rambunctious teens enter the library after school, small children reading to a dog, or customers at every one of our computers with another 10 people waiting for the next one.

We may be louder than other locations but it’s because we have many youth enjoying a place to hang out with their friends. We offer a place where they can socialize, create and just be themselves. There are limited resources and safe places for our local youth, so providing a safe place for them is important to us.

I love my job because, as a woman of color, I can serve everyone, and most of all I can serve those who see themselves in me. I look like them, speak languages they speak, and I am part of the community we serve. It can be intimidating to ask for help and I want everyone to know — regardless of sex, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity—that we, and I, are here for them.

My work here has had many challenges, but even on the toughest weeks, I reset for the new day and continue to greet everyone with a smile and a “Good Morning.” I strive to acknowledge everyone and be positive, warm and welcoming. I am not perfect and I own my mistakes but I still come to work and greet everyone with the same enthusiasm as the day before.

I also work with amazing people. My staff members are resilient, team players, and I can depend on them. Every day holds a new adventure, a new challenge, a new chance to be kind, and a new opportunity to serve. We have a new teen space where youth can gather and use computers and we offer programs for all ages, every day of the week. We love seeing people learn new skills and awaken curiosity and creativity in themselves.

My favorite time is when we offer pop-up programs like our Hot Chocolate and Cookies event. It’s events like these that allow us to just simply say, we appreciate you! Because, while library customers appreciate us and the services we provide, we too, benefit from our interactions with them and the bonds we form with our community.

Check out all the great things happening at Woods Memorial Library!