Himmel Park Library: Where community comes together

This article by Librarian Heather Ross was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on Dec. 15, 2018.

I’ve long known that Himmel Park Library is a special place.

When I moved to the Sam Hughes neighborhood 12 years ago, Himmel became my home library: the place where I checked out stacks of books for both pleasure reading and school assignments, printed airplane boarding passes, and chatted with friendly staff members.

Back then, I had no way of knowing that I would eventually become the manager of Himmel Park Library. I never expected to be so lucky. I consider it a true honor and privilege to be responsible for Himmel — a word that, aptly enough, means “heaven” in German.

In June, we celebrated our 57th birthday, making Himmel Park Library the oldest neighborhood library in the city. Over time, there have been some changes to the building.

Most recently, a brand new ADA-compliant family bathroom was constructed. A few years prior, an interior facelift added a few more computers, a laptop bar, and comfortable seating. Despite these necessary upgrades, the original wooden shelves still line the library perimeter, and its cozy, homey feel remains unchanged.

One of the things I love best about this library is the strong sense of community you can find here.

Our customers’ roots run deep; many of them have been frequenting this library for decades. Customers who attended story times as children now bring their own children and grandchildren to library programs.

Our library is a place full of “regulars” who perceive Himmel as their home away from home, stopping by on an almost daily basis to read newspapers, check email, and borrow tottering piles of paperbacks. Customers mail us Christmas cards and bake us banana bread out of a recipe they found in the pages of a cozy mystery. Storytime moms exchange phone numbers and meet up for playdates in the park. On a typical afternoon at Himmel Park Library, you might find the meeting room crammed with adults practicing Spanish, children helping each other with computer games, and customers sharing tables and swapping stories. New bonds are created and old ones strengthened, every single day.

If you’ve visited Himmel Park Library within the last few years, you may have locked your bike to one of our handmade bike racks or rested for a few minutes on a bench with hand-painted tiles. Maybe you have appreciated the colorful hummingbird bushes, wooly butterfly plants and red yuccas. All these items were given to us by our community. The Himmel Park Beautification Committee, consisting of a group of neighbors who love Himmel Park and its library, raised money, solicited volunteers, and made a call to local artists who then donated their time and talent. Thanks to their efforts, the library’s exterior will be a beautiful, welcoming space for years to come.

During this holiday season, I realize anew how much I have to be grateful for, and how many gifts I’ve already been given.
I live in a city with spectacular sunsets, ringed with mountains and surrounded by prickly pears, saguaros and wildflowers. A fantastic array of local gardens, businesses, parks, and restaurants ensures that I’m never bored or hungry. And I work at a job that affords me the opportunity to work with a community of kind, generous, thoughtful people. I am so grateful to live in Tucson, and so proud to call Himmel Park Library my own.

Heather Ross is the managing librarian at Himmel Park Library. She has also worked at Woods Memorial Library and Joel D. Valdez Main Library.