My Story – An Unexpected Librarian

This article, by Sharon Yang, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on February 19, 2023.

When I grew up books were scarce because I lived in a small village in the Chinese countryside. In place of books, we had storytellers who told us stories after dinner, when children gathered around to listen to a neighbor who related all kinds of interesting tales. I still don’t know where all those stories came from, but we all listened, wide-eyed and attentive.

When my cousin brought classical literature back from big cities, I started to fall in love with these famous stories and written history. After that, I began to borrow more books from friends and relatives and learned more about the world outside. I started to dream about big cities—a bigger world beyond my village. Some of the popular books that I recall included translated versions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Pinocchio.

My first experience with the public library was very impressive. That was after I arrived in America twenty years ago. I visited Nanini Library and I asked for a few books. The librarian was super nice, and she reserved books for me. At that time I didn’t know about the library system and was awed by the services we could get free. Little did I know that later I would become a librarian myself and work at that same library for 13 years! It wasn’t in my dream as a child to become a librarian, but it has all worked out rather nicely, I think. As they say, life is full of surprises.

The first library I worked was Himmel Park Library, which has a unique community. People asked for a wide range of books, and college students came to use our resources or reserve space for activities. New immigrants from all over the world came to ask about learning English. We started the first English Language classes in the system. We were lucky to have a retired professor volunteer to be an informal instructor. I am glad we now have system-wide English classes taught by trained volunteers, sponsored by our Welcome to America Team. It has been a huge success.

Tucson is such a diverse community with a lot of history and many cultures. During the pandemic, I explored areas and historical sites such as Honeybee Canyon, King Canyon, Bowen House, and Mission San Xavier del Bac. It was amazing to learn about the history of this unique place, about those who were here before and how we formed the fascinating community we have today.

Downtown Tucson is also full of rich cultural diversity and historical landmarks, not to mention the variety of food: Mexican, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Indian, and of course American. In this vibrant area, Joel D. Valdez Main Library is among other important noteworthy sites: Club Congress, the Old Courthouse, and Tucson Museum of Art.

Inclusion is a key element of our society, as well as in the Library system, and is what makes this country strong. Being a Chinese immigrant, I am aware how different cultures collide, but we embrace the difference and respect others. Each of us is unique in different ways. Yet we embrace the same values of truth, kindness, and beauty.

Biblio Lotus is a team within the Library that was established during the pandemic in 2021. The team formed to fill in the service gap at a time when Asian population is increasing in Pima County. The goal is to develop programs and create resources that highlight Asian culture. There is still a long way to go. We welcome community members who are interested to participate and want to give us ideas. Community voices mean your voice!

I am proud of being a librarian at Pima County Public Library. I am proud of where I am from, and I am proud of Tucson—my second home. I love serving the community that I belong to!

Sharon Yang has worked for Pima County Public Library since July 2006 as an adult services librarian. She is a member of the Biblio Lotus and Welcome to America teams. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling, drawing, and Chinese folk dancing.