Pima County library ninjas: Adventures in read running

August 17, 2019.

So many people still think of the library as a quiet place to check out books, use a computer, do research and not much else. However, little by little, people are realizing the library is so much more.

Some people are surprised to know the library is not confined to a building but can travel, reaching new and diverse communities. While the Bookmobile is better known to the public, it is part of the library’s Readrunners Department, which also houses the Books by Mail and the Deposit Collection programs.

Unsurprisingly, Books by Mail does just that— provides books to customers by mail. The customers who use this service are homebound or are unable to visit the library. This service is entirely free! How it works is we send items to the customer through the mail. When the books have been read and the reader is ready to return them, they send the items back and new ones are on their way!

To these individuals, Books by Mail means everything. We cannot recall the number of letters and calls we have received from customers expressing their gratitude. When we receive those, we hang them up on something we call “The Wall of Love.” One note that we remember, as much for its simplicity as its kind sentiment, read, “We like you.”

Another fun part of our job is getting to know people without ever meeting them. Since everything is delivered by mail, we get to know who they are through their writing and the books that they enjoy reading!

Part of the process involves knowing and understanding their likes and dislikes. We choose books based on their reading history, favorite and not-so-favorite authors, and the genres they like. It’s incredibly gratifying when we get notes or comments on how much they loved the book we sent. It’s a win-win for the customer and us.

Let’s not forget about the Deposit Collection! Four times a year, we drive a van around the county and deliver books to numerous facilities. The books we deliver are ones that have been generously donated, as well as books the library no longer needs. Community support is vital to the success of the Deposit Collection program. It’s lovely to see the different communities in Tucson aiding one another all because of a love of reading.

Even though we only make the trek a few times a year, the residents and activity coordinators know us by name and by sight. They also know our schedule by heart. Even with that, we tend to swap out books so fast that the residents and staff refer to us as Library Ninjas, Book Santa Clause, or Book Ninja Santa Clause. Any of those names is fine by us.

It is moments like these that make us come in to work with a smile every day. Just knowing the impact that we’re having on these individuals makes us love the work we do. We will always be grateful for what we do and we won’t ever forget how many lives we have changed.

These moments and these stories will always stick with us. To have a program that serves different members of the community outside of a local library is astounding.

Connecting readers to books and making friends while doing it is just about the best thing we can think of.

When Pima County Public Library staff members Kathy Do and Joseph Mayhew aren’t on the road or busy mailing books, you can find them — where else? — at a library. Kathy spends her time at Valencia Library, and Joseph at Quincie Douglas.