What is the first thing you do when moving to a new city? For me, I check out the public library.
That’s exactly what I did when my husband and I moved to Tucson three years ago. I had taken the first step in my new city — I was the proud holder of a Pima County Public Library card.
I expected to find great books to borrow; DVDs; magazines; and maybe a library book sale or two … that’s what libraries do — or so I thought.
What I actually found at Pima County Public Library was an astonishing and almost endless source of entertainment, book groups, dozens of craft and community programs, and educational opportunities. I was hooked, and knew I had to find a way to support my amazing library. I joined the Friends of the Pima County Public Library, a nonprofit supporting and funding the programs and services that the library offers. I began volunteering immediately.
This year marks the Friends’ 50th anniversary. How do we support the library? We sell books, music, and movies at the Book Barn, 2230 N. Country Club Road, and online. The proceeds then go back to the library to support public programming that may not otherwise be funded.
In 1968, a group of 10 Tucson library supporters launched Friends because they believed that the public library was the center of the community. Since then, the Friends organization has grown to over 1,500 members and almost 300 volunteers who support the library because of the difference it makes.
We’ve come a long way since our first donation of a $500 scholarship to a library science student at the University of Arizona. Over the past 50 years, Friends of the Pima County Public Library has grown to be a best-of-class library fundraising group.
Last year alone, we contributed $270,000. We support the annual Summer Reading Program, and numerous others, including GED and computer classes, LGBTQ+ author events, and teen programming.
Our book sales are not to be missed. Volunteers help pack the Book Barn with thousands of books, including popular fiction, classic literature, history, cookbooks, and books on science, health and the arts. We also have books in Spanish and other foreign languages.
The Book Barn also has an outstanding children’s selection, providing families an inexpensive way to stock their homes with books. Like many book lovers, I remember my parents reading to me when I was little. Access to books develops reading readiness and imagination; and, from a child’s point of view, reading a great story — or having it read to them — is just plain fun.
Since 1999, we’ve donated $3.6 million to the library through Friends’ memberships and book sales. We may have started selling books in a carport but today, you can purchase inexpensive, gently used books during monthly sales at the Book Barn, at our store in the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, and from fully stocked book carts at 18 library locations. We also sell books online on Amazon, and ABEBooks, (just visit pimafriends.com/online).
Our library’s award-winning programs engage the entire community: senior citizens and children; immigrants and refugees; English-language learners; bridge players and Mahjong aficionados; nonprofit organizations and job seekers; nature lovers and news junkies. Even Tucson’s doggy friends come to the library to listen to children read stories during Read to a Dog, a free program offered at more than a dozen locations.
Show your support for Pima County Public Library and join the Friends today. Visit your neighborhood library and join in on the fun. Attend a program — there is one for every interest and, of course, don’t forget to check out books and other materials. Most importantly, open the world to a child in your life by helping them sign up for a library card today.
Friends of the Pima County Public Library. She is a long-time library lover who finds something new every time she visits.Maura Robinson is the President of the