Starting a new life in a new country at the library

When I arrived in the United States in 2008, I didn’t expect to work in the library at all.

This article by Library Associate Bushra Faesal was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on December 19, 2015.

After living in two Arab countries — Libya and Jordan — for many years, I applied to the United Nations in Jordan to resettle in another country. They accepted my request as a refugee to the United States. And here I am.

When I arrived in the United States in 2008, I didn’t expect to work in the library at all. Especially because my previous work experience was in schools, administration, and as a secretary. The library — for me and the country I came from, Iraq — is a place for books and reading. After I got a part-time job as a program instructor with the library, however, I loved the place and the job.

The biggest part of my job was conducting computer classes for adults. This gave me a chance to become very close to patrons who were in need of learning opportunities or a job. Because of my previous experience in teaching and my own experience relocating to the U.S., I was able to help customers of all ages, from 18 to 85, by using signs and body language even when they spoke very little or no English.

Now I have a full-time job as a library associate. Patrons still remember that I was the staff member who assisted them in learning the computer or getting a job. They congratulate me, even though they are sad that I cannot help them in the way that I did before. Many of them remember and come to me specifically if they have questions.

I am a mother with three children, working hard to give them a decent life, and I push them all the time to study, study, study. If someone asks me why I love the library I say this: it’s a place that provides free services for all family members and the community. It doesn’t matter your age — we have something for babies, children, teens, and adults. The library offers Storytime for babies and children, crafts and art, games, book clubs, job help, access to a Pima County public health nurse, free reader glasses for adults, computer classes, free public computers, and the seed library. Anyone who has a skill in something or some area and would like to share it with the community should look at the library. It is the best starting place for finding out how they can do it.

Besides that, the library is an information center. You can come for the knowledge and information you want, whether it’s in regular books, e-books, magazines, reference materials, DVDs, or audiobooks, and our staff is here to answer questions you might have.

One time I answered a question about what the weather is like in the United Kingdom during the winter time because the customer intended to have a vacation in December. I am guessing this customer may have changed her plans.

My experience as a refugee helped me learn how to look for all of the resources and services available here in Tucson. When I helped patrons who were desperately looking for a job so they could be successful, I provided them with information they needed until they got a job. Because I knew what it was like to start your life from zero, I could see myself in those patrons who needed the most support and was overjoyed to be able to help them on their path. They would verbally express their appreciation or give me cards, which made me feel like I was getting another paycheck (in addition to the ones I received every other week). It was a payment from the patrons’ heart to my own heart.

Bushra Faesal has worked at the Pima County Public Library since December 2009. She began working at the Martha Cooper Library as a program instructor and is currently a library associate there. When she’s not working she enjoys reading, watching the news and movies, and cooking.