Growing, dreaming, and reaching for more at the Library

This article, by Marissa Alcorta, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on July 16, 2023.

I’ve worked for Pima County Public Library for almost 15 years and that time has passed in the blink of an eye. This anniversary is weighty and special, and I can see how much I’ve invested in my career. It hasn’t always been easy. Working within one's community is fulfilling but can also take a personal toll. The past three years have been difficult for me, many of our staff, and our community. We’re all still trying to figure out how to do this work going forward. It’s a constant work in progress.

I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been provided and to have found a career that is personally fulfilling and enjoyable. It’s been a long road. In 2008, I returned to the desert southwest after two years in Indiana, working as an academic librarian. I missed home, the sun, the desert, the people, my community.

I’ve worked in various roles at Sam Lena-South Tucson, Martha Cooper, Richard Elías-Mission, Southwest, and Quincie Douglas libraries. In each role and different location, I’ve learned so much and have grown as a person and librarian.

I didn’t do it alone. Being a BiPOC staff member in any organization can be difficult. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with colleagues that have invested in me and mentored me. These colleagues have gone through similar struggles and chose to give me their time, energy, and knowledge to help traverse a sometimes hard path.

The Library is blessed to have amazing staff who truly care about serving their community. Wonderful examples of this are our affinity teams. I’m proud to serve on the Nuestras Raíces Team, which I’ve done since I arrived. This team focuses on serving our Spanish-speaking and Latine communities and is integral to highlighting Latine authors at our Tucson Festival of Books tent. In addition, we highlight and promote the Library’s Spanish language collection. This team is vital to the important work we do in historically ignored and marginalized communities.

Nuestras Raíces has been a home to me. This welcoming and culturally inclusive space helped me grow, dream, and reach for more. I’ve been mentored and mentored others. I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without the support from this wonderful team.

My new position as Deputy Director of Public Services and Customer Experience has been a major shift with a lot of growth and learning. This leadership role puts me in a privileged and unique position to make major decisions that will affect staff and our community. I am also one of the first BiPOC women in this leadership role. It sometimes feels like a heavy weight to carry, but I continue to be supported by colleagues who remind me I’m not doing this work alone.

I do not take this new role lightly. I want to further create inclusive systems of support for our staff that do so much for customers and community members. If they are not given what they need to thrive, they cannot continue providing resources and services that people enjoy, need, and deserve. I’m excited for the possibilities the future holds for all of us. I am still some years out from retiring, but I hope when I do, I can look back and say I made a positive impact.

One last thing! If you haven’t been to one of our libraries recently, please come on by. Our staff will warmly welcome you and ask how they can help. We have books, music, magazines, computers, incredible programs, and comfy chairs to sit in. We will help you find any resources you may need.

We have a place for you at our libraries. Please visit when you can, and bring your family and friends when you do. You are welcome! ¡Todos son bienvenidos!

Marissa Alcorta works at Joel D. Valdez Main Library where she serves as the Deputy Director of Public Services and Customer Experience. She will celebrate her 15th anniversary at the Library in November 2023. In addition to the Nuestras Raíces Team, she is a member of the Anti-Racism Team.