This article by Amanda Baus was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on May 18, 2019.
To many of us, the library and the librarians who staff them hold a place of reverence in our hearts and minds.
We attended story times when we were children. They bequeathed us with our first library cards — passports to learning, to our futures, and to success. They helped us find services that found us our next jobs or got us more comfortable with technology. Likely they also recommended reading material that have become our favorite books of all time. Maybe we developed aspirations of doing for others what our librarians did for us.
My relationship with the library began at Mr. Eddie’s story time at the Nanini Library when I was 4 years old. I learned to read early, developing a voracious appetite for literature that kept the workers at the service desk challenged to keep me satisfied. The library was always the place growing up that served as the “treat” if I behaved myself during mom’s slew of errands. When I turned 14, I joined the library Teen Advisory Board.
The experience brought me even closer to the people I had spent my life idolizing, drawing me a measure further into the library’s lofty folds. I was intoxicated by the feeling that I was slowly becoming one of them, integrating with these larger-than-life figures that had possessed a mythological quality from the positions they occupied on the other side of the desk. Next for me was a job as a library page.
With that, the library that had always been my happy place became my occupation, and doing for others what my colleagues had done for me was my mission. I can’t adequately describe the thrill I felt when I finally found myself in that place behind the desk, and those people who had been gods became friends. I worked my way up and into a half a dozen different library locations around Tucson, including my longest stint of almost nine years at Oro Valley Public Library.
The library gave me many things over the years, not just important skills and a constant, predictable paycheck. It more than supplied me with an endless fount of reading material on any subject I cared to peruse. It was how I met my husband of 10 years. I made lasting friendships with my co-workers, through one of them even expanding my cat family. It furnished and fed my dream of becoming an author, and in 2017 after publishing my first book, I conducted a signing within its four walls.
Now, after nearly 12 years as a dedicated employee, my relationship with the library has come to a close and I am a customer once more.
It was in contemplating this change that I came to understand something important. My role as a customer wouldn’t be any less necessary or important than my role as a public servant had been. For we, loyal library customers, perform another function on behalf of the library. We supply the need that the library strives to satisfy. We are the reason its doors open in the mornings. It is for us that it combs through catalogs of new materials, selecting only the best for us to enjoy. They have us in mind when they design innovative programs and services. We put the “public” in Pima County Public Library.
For me, leaving the library isn’t an end but rather a new beginning, for it is and always has been the foundation upon which my dreams are constructed.
So I stand upon a precipice, eagerly anticipating how the role the library plays in my life will change as I journey into the future and toward the new, unimaginable blessings and adventures it has in store for me.
Amanda Baus is a former library worker and the author of Before 22: Stories and Poetry Composed Before the Age of Twenty Two. She greatly misses her library colleagues but is enjoying her new role as a loyal customer and looks forward to filling the library shelves with her own creative works. You can find her online at amandabausauthor.com.