This article, by Charlie Touseull, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on August 21, 2022.
I love libraries and I love being a librarian. I have always had a passion for reading. As a native Tucsonan, I have been a patron of the Pima County Public Library since I was a kid. The first branch I was familiar with was the old Main Branch, which is now the Tucson Children’s Museum. My parents also took me to the Mission and Valencia branches quite often, where I attended Storytime and browsed the stacks. Back then, they seemed never ending, places of wonder, places of magic.
When I got older I discovered that I enjoyed writing. That, in turn, inspired me to be a lyricist and vocalist for several metal and hardcore bands in the Tucson area over the last three decades. Those experiences in the music scene offered me a glimpse of how people working together could forge a better place out of almost nothing. These acts of community building and mutual aid had a profound impact on me, ultimately influencing me to seek out a career that promoted literature, education, and creativity.
I recently became a public librarian after working the past 15 years at the University of Arizona. While I loved working in a prestigious academic library, I realized that I could best serve my hometown by using my skills and passion for information sharing and literacy by working directly with my community.
Libraries are places where history resides, and, on those shared shelves, a profound understanding of our past can be made if you are willing to read through the pages. That rich history, that depth of varied experience and perspective, is what makes our physical and electronic collection so exciting to browse. It does not matter the subject, libraries are important places that help to anchor our collective understanding and perceptions of the world.
I love what public libraries represent. We offer places for education, recreation, rest, networking, safety, creativity, and stillness, just to name a few of the attributes that our diverse patron base has come to appreciate about our spaces.
Chances are, if you ask 50 people what they think about their local library you will get just as many answers. Our library can be a place for a teen to do homework or for someone without internet access to use WiFi. It can be a place to find that new bestselling novel, or to checkout a stack of DVDs to binge during the hot summer months. Libraries are places to be alone and read, or places to gather with the community to hear a poetry reading or listen to a live music performance. Libraries are places that assist our community to actualize the best version of themselves while building stronger ties to their neighbors.
I work at the Joyner-Green Valley branch; in that building, I see a cross-section of people who live in the area. If you were to visit and spend time in any of our other 26 branches, you would experience the diversity and uniqueness that makes up each of those distinct neighborhoods. In each location, library staff is doing their best to offer outstanding service and create a welcoming environment for all who come through the doors.
There are no other places in our society that offer so many services free of charge. In these uncertain and turbulent times, knowing that libraries exist as hubs of stability and comfort for my community brings me a sense of happiness, and to be a part of an organization that is rooted in genuine empathy and equitable service for all validates all those years I spent in school and working in retail jobs.
A couple of months ago I wore a Cat In The Hat outfit to my branch while distributing new library cards to a large group of kindergarteners. For the kids, seeing me in that silly costume offered a unique experience that made them see libraries as a place of wonder, a place of magic. To directly engage my community in small daily acts of positive change and personal growth is something that brings me joy. It gives me hope that I am helping to build the foundation for something brighter to come.
Charlie Touseull is the Tween/Teen Librarian at Joyner-Green Valley Library. In his spare time, he enjoys collecting vinyl, studying history, and going to shows with friends. He also loves spending time with his two rescued dogs, Chewie and Han.