After serving as the Interim Director since October 2016, Amber Mathewson has been appointed to the position of Library Director. Having spent more than 25 years in the field, Amber brings not only a wealth of experience but a passion for literacy, intellectual freedom, and creating welcoming places for people of all ages.
We recently sat down with Amber to check in on all things Library related, including what makes her most proud, her hopes for the future and of course, what she's currently reading.
On some of her favorite Library memories:
When I first started working for the Library, I drove the Bookmobile in Arivaca. One time it was broken down and I couldn’t stand the idea of the people not having library service, so every day I’d load up my big green station wagon with a card table and books and leave those in the spot where the Bookmobile usually parked.
I had the opportunity to open the Miller-Golf Links Library in 1999, an experience that will always be special to me. We did a lot of team building activities as we pulled everything together (including shelving all of the books!). We also did quite a bit of outreach to schools in the area letting them know we were there and ready to welcome their students and families.
Having lived in Sahuarita since 1988, both the Sahuarita and Joyner-Green Valley Libraries have always been near and dear to my heart. Working at the Joyner-Green Valley Library—both as the children’s librarian from 1996 to 1998 and the managing librarian from 2005 to 2011—gave me great pride. I loved, and still love, getting to know the people in my community. It was a real treat to do so while so close to home.
On why she wanted to be the director of the Library:
Simply put, the staff of the Pima County Public Library is amazing. They have such a passion for the work they’re doing to help improve lives in our community. Working alongside them to improve early childhood literacy, increase workforce and economic development, and address community issues surrounding poverty and homelessness will be something we can all take pride in doing.
I look forward to standing with them in making sure people know that the Library is for everyone, and that we have the tools and resources people need to build brighter futures.
On what makes her proud of the Library:
We’ve always been a forward-thinking organization. Over the years we’ve built a culture that embraces saying “yes” whenever possible because we’ve seen it lead to amazing things, including our Bookbike, Seed Library, and Health Nurse programs. Whatever my role has been—from writing grants to supporting colleagues’ ideas—I’ve been proud to know that I’m part of an organization that is so exceptional at identifying the needs of our community and bringing programs and services that benefit so many to fruition. Our staff is incredibly committed to making things better and I love that I get to support them in executing their ideas.
On what she hopes for the future of the Library:
Our field is rapidly changing and incredibly vibrant. I’m excited to continue our work future-proofing the Library and looking forward to anticipating the ways in which our customers need us today and the way they’ll need us tomorrow. I want us to continue going above and beyond across all areas of the work we’re doing, whether that be in the traditional customer service sense or through innovative programming that fills in gaps in peoples’ knowledge and experience.
As we move into the future, we need to ensure that all people know they are welcome in the Library. Be it neighbors newly-arrived to the United States or families who’ve called Southern Arizona home for generations, we will continue committing ourselves to providing assistance and education to anyone who needs it.
On what she wants people to know about the Library:
The Library is truly a place for the person who wants to take the next step, but may not know what that step is. At the Library, our number one goal is to help you get there no matter where you're starting from.
- For the person who needs a job…
- For the entrepreneur who has a dream…
- For the parents who want to instill a love of reading…
- For the student who could use a little extra support…
- For the newcomer who is building a network of support...
For all of these people and so many more who turn to the Library every single day, we are here to guide you and provide you with the information you need to learn and thrive. Ultimately, I want everyone who has a Library card to understand how powerful it is. It doesn’t just allow you to check out books anymore, although you can certainly still do that! It’s the key to a successful future.
On how her greatest strengths will benefit the Library:
I believe in the vital importance of strategic planning and it has been a cornerstone of my focus within the library system since 2000. It’s my job to set the vision and direction for the Library so that we can ensure achievable, measurable outcomes that are recognizable in the community. I value relationship building as a key to success. Clear communication will not only improve our overall organization health, but will allow us to strengthen and expand the many relationships we navigate every day, from interactions with our customers to government leaders. By establishing and maintaining healthy relationships across multiple arenas, we’ll be better poised to address our community’s needs and create programs and services that will benefit everyone.
It won't come as a surprise, but Amber says she's always working her way through multiple books, sometimes as many as four at a time! Currently, she's enjoying: