Library workers keep the wheels turning

This article by Brandon Milligan, the library's Delivery Manager, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on July 26, 2015.

If you haven’t heard the story about the professional truck driver who works at the library, it goes something like this.

My mom told me that when I was 5 years old a tractor trailer passed our car on the freeway, and I said, “I’m gonna drive one of those when I grow up!” I graduated from Sahuaro High School in 1986, then worked for a landscaping company until I was 21 and could take the Superior Truck Driving School training course. For the next 13 years, I drove tractor trailers, tow trucks, school buses, and then I drove garbage trucks for the city. When I started having some physical problems and could no longer operate the heavy equipment, I took a medical transfer to the library.

That’s right. The library.

I admit I was apprehensive about this transition. I mean, who thinks an independent-minded truck driver has anything to contribute to a team of highly-educated folks who work with people and books all day long? I started my library career as a Customer Service Clerk at the Woods Memorial Library in 2002, and I immediately realized I not only liked working with the public, but I was good at working in a team environment.

And I found out real quick—much to my surprise—that the library is staffed with a wide variety of talented people, not just librarians.

My background in the transportation field came in handy as folks used the library to find auto mechanic do-it-yourself information. Based on what they needed, I was able to determine if the Chilton manual on the shelf or the Alldata database would better serve their needs. The male customers seemed to gravitate towards me because I was the only male employee at Woods at the time, and I seemed to make them more relaxed about their library experience.

As part of my job I processed all of the damaged items, “incomplete return” items—customers sometimes return only five of the six DVDs that come in the box set—as well as the Interlibrary Loan requests. Did you know that you can ask the library to borrow materials from other libraries in Arizona or maybe even another state? After three years at the Woods library, I worked at the Mission Library for another three years, and my job title changed to Office Support Level III. I also processed the damaged and incomplete return items there, so I was asked to re-write the procedures and to start teaching a class to new employees.

I felt totally inadequate to be training my peers; however, it was a huge success! People told me that I made it easy to learn, and the process made sense the way I explained it. Basically, I see what needs to be accomplished, and I find the easiest most straightforward way to do it. When I transferred to the brand new Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Library in 2007, there was a lot of opportunity to help train the new staff, and I enjoyed being the trainer there.

I have found it very rewarding to share what I do with others and watch them become more confident in themselves. I liked being a peer mentor so much that I got involved with our library’s mentoring program called Growing Librarians. I was eventually promoted to the Library Technical Assistant Supervisor position and worked at the Valencia Library for two years overseeing all of the branch circulation duties.

In 2014, I was given the opportunity to bring together two of my passions—driving and the library—when I was asked to be the library’s Delivery Team Manager. I couldn’t say, “Yes!” fast enough. The Delivery Team is responsible for transporting your requested material from the library it’s at to the library where you can conveniently pick it up saving you time and gas.

We start our day at eight in the morning at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, load up three trucks, then head north, south, and east on three routes that cover 25 of our 27 branches and 197 miles daily. We move library materials, supplies, some furniture, and interoffice mail, loading and unloading anywhere from one bin of books at a small branch to 25 bins at the larger branches. We’re also the ones who transport the plastic swimming pool for the bubbles Storytime program, so I guess you could say we deliver smiles to young and old alike.

As much as I’ve enjoyed working customer service at the library, I always missed the physical labor involved in transportation work. Now I’m able to get out in a truck and do a delivery route when one of my three drivers is out sick or on vacation. I also have a dedicated route once a week so I can deliver the library’s discarded books, DVDs, and CDs to the Friends of the Pima County Public Library warehouse. When you buy items at the Friends’ book sales, those proceeds come right back to support library programs throughout the year.

I’m a professional truck driver-library worker with a career that I can see myself having until retirement. But I’m in no hurry for that time to get here.

My top 5 library services and programs and why:
1. Bookbike Program – Giving away free books.
2. Read to a Dog – Hearing kids read out loud to a non-judgmental audience.
3. Deposit Collections – Delivering books to folks who can’t get to the library.
4. LGBT Author Events – Bringing in an author to discuss their material.
5. Summer Reading – Watching the excitement of the kids as they collect their prizes for reaching their goals.
Brandon Milligan, a 13-year library employee, enjoys reading, riding his bicycle on The Loop, and most of all, riding his motorcycle to work every day. Every year he participates in the annual Rolling Thunder Run—the world’s largest single-day motorcycle event—to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.