Hooked from the beginning

This article by Librarian Anna Sanchez was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on Jul. 20, 2017.

The Valencia Library opened when I was about 11 years old. I said goodbye to the Main Library and hello to my very own neighborhood library. I remember the smell of the brand new books and my excitement at finding new things to read.

I was curious about lots of things and my mother never said no to any book I might want to borrow, no matter the subject. I recently lost my mother and while going through her belongings I found a library card from 1971. It brought back a flood of happy memories of outings with my mother, which always included a stop at the public library.

In junior high school, my friends and I would take the bus downtown. Do you remember the Old Pueblo Transit Company? We would watch movies at the Fox Theatre and sometimes go bowling at the alley up on North Stone Avenue. Eventually we would make our way to the Main Library on South Sixth Avenue. It was a wondrous place.

Did you know that back then you could check out beautiful framed reproductions of famous paintings? There were masterpieces by Picasso, Dalí, Kahlo, Rivera, van Gogh, and many other great painters. We would look through them all and imagine them hanging from the walls of our modest barrio homes.

Our favorite room in the library was the music room. There was bin after bin of albums. All kinds of music: classical, blues, country, Broadway musicals, and of course, rock. We would grab some albums and get comfortable in one of the many listening booths. With the records on the player and headphones on, we would listen for hours.

I didn’t visit my library much in high school. I was way too busy hanging out with my friends and doing typical teenager things. I would drive by the Valencia Library sometimes and think of it fondly. It seemed to be calling to me, “I’m still here, when are you going to come visit me?” 

After my first year of college, my mother suggested that I apply for a page position at the library. It was a good part-time job with the City of Tucson and it would provide benefits. My first interview was at the Valencia Library and I was heartbroken that I didn’t get the job.
Soon after I got a call from the Main Library Downtown. I interviewed and got a call later that afternoon. “Congratulations, you got the job. When can you start?” “How about next week,” I said, “How about tomorrow,” they said.

That was the beginning of my almost 40-year professional relationship with the public library. I loved working at the Main Library. It was always so busy and so many important people seemed to walk through our doors on a daily basis.

I was a page for a year and then I got promoted to Library Technical Assistant (LTA). Back then, we staffed the periodicals room, helped people find back issues of magazines, and researched questions from the Reference Librarians. Who remembers the Index to Periodical Literature? I loved doing research. I loved the hunt and the pleasure of finding that obscure fact that someone was looking for.

Our role in providing reference assistance grew when Infoline was introduced in 1980. We no longer only staffed the periodicals room. We learned to answer questions quickly using the resources of our Infoline wheel and we also began working behind the reference desk.

That was it! I was hooked. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education in 1982, but continued working at the Library. I worked in City Hall at the Governmental Reference Library, where I honed my reference skills. I decided to pursue a Master’s in Library Science. I have worked in specialized libraries and school libraries, but my favorite continues to be the public library.

Public libraries serve as community and cultural centers. I currently work at the El Pueblo Library in the El Pueblo Regional Center. We are one of the smallest in the Pima County Public Library System, but we have all of the resources of the entire library system at our disposal.

We can get you any book as long as it is available at one of our libraries and we can often borrow books from other library systems through Interlibrary Loan. We offer Job Help, computer classes, and Homework Help during the school year. We have DVDs, Large Print books, and a large collection of books in Spanish to meet our community’s needs.

I hope you’ll stop by and see us. We’re here to help you unleash your full potential.

Anna Sanchez is a native Tucsonan. She serves on the Nuestras Raíces Team that develops programs to meet the needs of our Latino-American and Spanish-speaking community. She also serves on the Adult Services Team and the Library’s Executive Team. Anna has previously worked in Planning and Community Development. Through the library, Anna has found her way to give back to her community.