This article, by Kelly Kuper, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star, opens a new window on May 16, 2021.
The library has always been a part of my life, even before I started working here. As my mom likes to remind me, I was repeatedly kicked out of Storytime as a toddler for my disruptive behavior.
Despite these inauspicious beginnings, I grew up to be a children’s librarian who can shake her sillies out with the best of them. I’ve been privileged to craft and do science experiments with kids of all ages, as well as to play and read with the littlest ones at Babytime and the wriggliest ones at Storytimes. These days, we do not kick energetic toddlers out of Storytimes, though we might suggest some deep breathing to calm ourselves down if we are having a rough day (which we all do). The library can be here for the rough moments.
The library has certainly been there for the difficult moments in my life. When I received a scary health diagnosis as a child, the first thing I did was go to the library to see if there were stories about other kids like me in that situation. That experience has made me passionate about ensuring that anyone can find themselves and their circumstances on our shelves.
But the library can also be there for the joyful moments. I recently tracked my borrowing history around the time I met my now-husband. There were the Culture Passes I checked out when we were first dating, the audiobooks I checked out for road trips to see his family, the cookbooks we started trying as newlyweds. Today my borrowing history reflects many DVDs for quarantine date nights. I know I’ll take our future kids to Storytimes and borrow outrageous numbers of picture books for them, too.
I share this because it might be true for you as well. The library has been there for all the moments and milestones in my life, and I love that in this job, I get to be there to help in other people’s big moments and milestones, too. It might be parenthood, or retirement, or starting school, or a health diagnosis, or family history research, or an attempt at a new skill, or something else. I want everyone to know, especially our little ones, that we can always continue to ask questions and learn, no matter what stage of life we are in.
I remind the kids in Ready, Set, School that our minds are never done growing, that our skills and abilities are not fixed in one place for the rest of our lives. It’s something that grown-ups often need to hear, too. The library can be a jumping off point to that bigger goal, the next stage of life. We just need to be open to the possibilities.
I can’t potty train your child for you, but I have some great picture book recommendations that can help. You can try our Personalized Reading Recommendations service if you don’t see me in person! Are you looking for a job? You’ll have to interview by yourself, but we can print off your resumes for free and help equip you with the tools you need to succeed. We’re not doctors, but we can help you check out that cookbook your doctor recommended to you. Your questions matter, and we’re here to empower you to find the answers.
We love helping people even if we do not get to see the impact. That being said, be sure to tell your library staff if you get the job or an A on the assignment, or if you love the dinosaur books we recommended to you or your 4-year-old. Our lives may only intersect for brief moments over the front desk or in a Storytime, but we are so excited to celebrate those little victories of life with you.
Kelly Kuper has worked for Pima County Public Library since 2017. When not shaking her sillies out at Storytime, she enjoys reading, crafting, and poetry chalking.