Celebrating 50 years “at home” in the community

This article by Elizabeth Salper was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on Oct. 13, 2018.

There is a special place in the Amphi neighborhood where books fly and 7-year-old girls travel through time. That place is Woods Memorial Library.

With 1,300 people crossing its threshold every day, Woods Memorial is a busy “home away from home” — a diverse meeting place, alive with stories in the making. You might meet Rita, a first-grader who speaks Mandarin and English. When asked what she loves about the book she’s reading, she says, “I love time travel because I am curious about the future,” pausing to add, “there is work to be done.”

Chance, a longtime customer, is thankful to connect with the community and access the internet. He calls the library a welcoming place where staff exceeds expectations.

Many customers have fond and detailed memories of visiting the library as a child: a description of the original floor plan, a hilarious and defining moment during a magic show, a convincing request at the desk for “the grown up card,” and that most human experience — opening a book and discovering new worlds.

Libraries help grow readers and writers, but also nourish future librarians. Amy Barnhill, a former Woods customer, is one great example.
“Growing up, Woods was my neighborhood library. My mom worked there in the early 1980s, and some days my brother and I would go with her and help shelve the ‘easy’ stuff.” Barnhill said. “Years later, my brother and I worked for the library … and I still work here today.”
Woods opened its doors in 1968 as the North First Ave Branch Library. It was renamed Woods Memorial in 1970 to honor G. Freeman Woods, who served as a Tucson city councilman for eight years, was a Flowing Wells School Board member for six years, and served on the Library Advisory Board.

The library was renovated in 1998 and the front of the building was adorned with the “Flying Books,” artist Simon Donovan’s whimsical sculpture of 101 metal books. Donovan, inspired by whirlwinds of dust seen in the desert, wanted the “effect of a dust devil of books.”

Five decades later, Woods Memorial Library is more vibrant than ever and stands as a popular gathering place and community hub. You might join the monthly book club, reserve a packet of seeds, participate in a storytime, grab a healthy after school snack, or learn to speak English. That’s not all … you can have a library nurse check your blood pressure, design a marketable résumé, check out a Culture Pass, and even read to a dog.

In a recent Love Letter to My Library, 15-year-old Yakyra wrote, “I found a second home in Woods Memorial Library ... it’s somewhere where you’re treated with kindness and respect, no matter who you are or why you’re here.”

Come share your good memories with neighbors and friends on Saturday, Oct. 20, as we look back at the last 50 years.

The whirlwind of activities will begin at 2 pm:

  • 2-2:20 p.m.: Listen to guest speakers, including George Woods, son of the library’s namesake, as he shares memories of his father, his legacy as Tucson City Councilman, and his unwavering support of libraries.
  • 2:30-3 p.m.: Go way back with author Marge Pellegrino in a fun memory gathering workshop.
  • 2:30-4 p.m.: Enjoy light refreshments and check out activity stations, including a classic car show and DJ Ricky Washuk spinning hits of the 60s.

Don’t miss the hula-hoop contest, bubble making zone and craft table. If that’s not enough, there will be a book giveaway for teens and children, while supplies last, and a saguaro selfie station.

Elizabeth Salper is a Library Associate at Woods Memorial Library. She is a poet and founder of Urban Poetry Pollinators, a volunteer group, committed to cultivating and curating poetry in public spaces.