Librarians reflect the reality of the world we live in

This article, by Brie Chillious, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on June 19, 2022.

It would be a very huge understatement for me to say that I love my job. I love my job as a Children’s Librarian, in terms of what I get to do at Quincie Douglas Library, which is informing our patrons and kiddos what’s happening at their library! I love what I do for our patrons (especially for our wee little ones!), and it never feels like work. Nevertheless, how I strangely ended up in public librarianship was quite the journey. For me personally, I never thought I would end up working in libraries, but my relevant experience of where I have worked says otherwise. It ultimately ended up with me doing what I love as a lifelong career: to be a part of an amazing and innovative library system that is working hard to meet the intellectual, informational, and recreational needs of its beautifully rich diverse communities in Pima County.

I’m occasionally asked, “Why did you move here to Tucson, of all places?” My usual response: “I wasn’t happy back home. I needed to be happy elsewhere, therefore, I decided to take the plunge and move out of state.” Plus, the job market in New York wasn’t particularly warm and welcoming for recent Library graduates as competition for landing entry-level positions was extremely difficult, disheartening, and grew quite frustrating, especially for anyone who had limited work experience to begin with.

As a unique solution to my dilemma, after graduating with my Masters from library school, I ultimately made the decision to move southwest and join the AmeriCorps program, where I served as a VISTA service member (Volunteer in Service to America). My first year of service was in 2019 at the early literacy organization Make Way for Books as their Digital Divisions Specialist. There I worked in helping to promote the organization’s app, called the Make Way for Books App. And then… 2020 happened. It was around this time I reached out and met with the Library’s Literacy Initiatives Program Manager Kendra Davey after inquiring about possibly volunteering at the library.

One meaningful conversation with Kendra led to another and not too long after that, I did my second AmeriCorps term with the library as the Early Childhood Education Coordinator. I had the unprecedented privilege to join the library’s Anti-Racism taskforce, amongst other active work groups. It involves staff having productive, ongoing conversations that are both complex and strategic in an effort to make the library become a more anti-racist entity. It began in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by police due to police brutality. His death was catalytic in having sparked conversations around the ongoing racism and violence against Black communities across America. As of today, I am still an active member of this amazing taskforce, working to create meaningful change from within, which coincides with fulfilling the plans and goals of the library’s detailed Community Impact Plan.

I think it’s really important that we (libraries and every other public serving entity) reflect the reality of the world that we’re now living in. If we don’t, we’ll be doing a huge and unfair disservice to the communities we serve. As long as I am able to continue to carry out my duties in my new role, such as getting to know and continuing to build trust with our patrons, I will continue to vocalize, listen, advocate, and push for social change in my line of work as a public librarian. Doing so will ultimately have me, as well as the rest of my colleagues, become a more empowered, knowledgeable, compassionate and empathic workforce of service providers to our patrons on the frontlines within the libraries right here in Pima County.

Brie Chillious is a Children’s Librarian at Quincie Douglas Library, where she has worked since October 2021. When not at the library, she enjoys reading, sewing, gardening, and researching Biblio-paraphernalia from