Open doors, discover new worlds at your library

This article by Librarian Mary Margaret Mercado was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on Aug. 17, 2014.

Game of Thrones, Minecraft, and, yes, Candy Crush. Throw in social networking, texting, movie streaming—and who has time for books?  

Well, at the risk of giving everyone an eye roll whiplash, I can honestly say books saved my life.

During the early sixties most folks had either never heard of learning disabilities or thought they were something a good head slap would cure. And here I was with enough disorders to jump-start a school psychologist’s career: ADD, dyslexia, OCD, and dyscalculia, among others.

Little did my mom realize what that 1 ½ mile walk to the public library would mean for her little first grader.

An armful of books and a library card later, my world changed. I read under blankets, in trees, at the table…well, you get the picture. Norse mythology, insects, haunted houses, drawing books, tongue twisters, joke books (Q. Which breed of sheep jumps higher than a house? A. All of them—houses don’t jump!), Dr. Seuss, the Blue, Green, and Crimson Fairy Books, dinosaurs, poetry—no section in the library was off limits.

From Garfield High School in East Los Angeles of “Stand and Deliver” fame to a master’s degree program at UCLA, books carried me through an uphill scrabble to success.

Each and every one of Pima County Public Library’s community branches is a launch pad for you or your child’s goals or dreams. Eye roll whiplash? Just read on.

Where else can you take advantage of free computer access AND live homework help tutors? Also, with a library card, anyone can connect every day from anywhere to free online homework help from 2 to 11 p.m., in addition to 71 databases covering a wide range of topics including job and résumé help.

You can choose to learn up to 45 languages from Spanish to Biblical Hebrew with Mango Languages. This resource helps me refresh the Spanish, French, and German I studied in college. Why stop at being bilingual—why not be multilingual? Native speakers of Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, and 11 other languages can learn English through this resource. [Note: Mango Languages has been replaced with Pronunciator.]

What are you waiting for?

You can also access information from Chilton Library to repair your car. My family’s 1981 Ford Bronco and 1970 F100 shortbed are still running thanks to my shade tree mechanic and the library. (Yes, Chevy owners with library cards can also use the Chilton database!)

The Ancestry Library Edition database connected me to my family’s Arizona heritage. Through it I was able to find a copy of my great-grandfather Santos’ death certificate—he was a casualty of a mining accident in Kearny, Ariz. I also traced both grandfathers and many great uncles through the mining towns of Jerome, Metcalf, Morenci, and Miami.

But of all the rich services you can “mine,” one of the greatest is the free Storytimes held at most libraries for children between the ages of 0 to 5. Be part of the miracle of transforming your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, godchild, or cousin into a Master of the Universe! A learning brain is a happy brain, and the language, social, and creative thinking skills joyfully acquired during Storytime will truly help youngsters, “be all they can be.” What a gift!

And as an added bonus, each week a picture book is featured on the Library’s Birth to Five page to inspire more bedtime or anytime reading.

As a small, lost Mexican-American kid, I discovered a world I’d never imagined existed between the crowded aisles of my public library.

Can you imagine a universe with no limits for all the children in Pima County? None of my teachers would have believed I would ever become a published author or a national reviewer of children’s books. Library doors are open to anyone willing and brave enough to cross the threshold into infinite possibilities.

I became the master of my universe. Will you become the master of yours?

Mary Margaret Mercado, the Youth Services Librarian at the Sam Lena-South Tucson Library, has been a librarian for 37 years. She’s the author of the children’s book Splat! and co-wrote Read to me/Vamos a Leer with Judi Moreillon. Both books are in libraries across the country.

Did you know?
The Pima County Public Library system includes 27 libraries in Tucson, Arivaca, Green Valley, Sahuarita, South Tucson, Ajo, Marana, Oro Valley and Catalina. Visit any library location to sign up for your free library card.
Infoline: 520-791-4010