It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life

This article, by Annie Wicks, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star, opens a new window on June 20, 2021.

I have been with the Pima County Public Library now for eight years. I have been fortunate enough to have spent almost the entire eight years serving children and their families.

When I was in school studying to become a librarian, I was certain that I wanted to work with adults in a community college or university setting. An internship in reference services and a volunteer opportunity with the Bookbike program changed everything for me. Volunteering with the Library changed my outlook of how dynamic the public library is and how much good public libraries do.

From the beginning, I worked with passionate people and a vibrant, diverse community that loved and supported the Library. It quickly became clear how much libraries served as community centers. For example, at the Eckstrom-Columbus Library where I started my career, we offered English Language classes, Job Help, citizenship and GED classes, an afterschool snack program, volunteer opportunities for teens, Storytimes, arts and crafts events for all ages, and access to computers and technology that community members might not otherwise have.

Planning children’s programs proved to have a bit of a learning curve for me. My family did not attend Storytimes when I was a kid, so I did not have a full grasp of what they were all about. Our Storytimes are about having fun and listening to stories. They’re about getting kids to wiggle and dance and be silly. Storytimes also provide us with an opportunity to talk to parents about brain development and early literacy. My first storytime? Well, let’s just say that it needed improvement, for sure! As time went on, I took part in as many learning opportunities as I could and relied heavily on my supportive coworkers for advice and suggestions on how to improve.  

My approach to working with kids? First and foremost, it is important to me to get to know all of the kids who visit our library. Something as simple as “Hey, buddy. How was school today?” can go a long way with building rapport with a child.  I want our library to be a welcoming place for children of all backgrounds, and I always want them to look forward to visiting the Library.

In addition to Storytimes, I have hosted STEAM programs and Read to a Dog. One of my best memories involves a parent whose child attended Read to a Dog. Her son, a second grader, did not like sitting for a story or reading on his own. His parents heard about Read to a Dog and decided to give it a shot. They became regular attendees and the boy started loving reading to the dogs so much that he practiced reading at home in anticipation of coming to Read to a Dog. I could see his reading proficiency increasing on a weekly basis. Seeing him begin to enjoy reading was a pretty cool thing to watch unfold.

The last year has been a long one for everyone. The COVID-19 restrictions, while necessary, have been tough for all of us. I miss seeing the kids and interacting with them during programs.  I cannot wait for the day when we can all get together again and share stories and rhymes and books and songs. Having the opportunity to work with children and to have a positive impact on their lives has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

Annie Wicks is a Children’s Service Librarian at Dusenberry-River Library. Last year, she received a Ben’s Bell, opens a new window for “making the library a welcoming, warm place for children of all ages and backgrounds.”