The June heat in 1979 was particularly brutal for my husband Steve and me, newcomers from back east. But we passed the test of that first summer. Even driving a red VW Beetle without air-conditioning we survived.
But to thrive in Tucson, we needed to build community from scratch. To begin that journey, I knew enough to head to the nearest library.
When I was a kid, a summer reading program at the library in Eastchester, New York rewarded my efforts with a sticker for each book read. Before school started again in the fall, my paper castle was covered with colorful lick ‘em on bricks. The books I read helped me shape the person I wanted to become. They invited me to dream and exercise new thinking.
When I was a teen, the library was the only acceptable weeknight alternative to work or home. Friends and classmates met for group assignments and more social pursuits. As an adult, I owe much to libraries. They have expanded my life in broad strokes, but also in the details.
When I was a new parent, the library served with books on pregnancy, child development, and parenting skills. And when my son was old enough, there was the magical StoryTime. Librarians modeled ways to draw a child into a story. They introduced great books that became old friends to me and my son. They taught us delightful songs, simple games, and finger plays to add to my stale repertoire of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “This Little Piggy.” Other moms and children who we saw week after week became friends and playmates.
When my mother-in-law’s health deteriorated, the library provided information about Alzheimer’s, ways to cope with caregiving stresses, and a meeting place for a support group.
My relationship to the library deepened when I pursued my secret passion to become a writer. Here I found workshops on journaling and poetry along with the facts to weave into articles, inspiration that sparked ideas for future projects, and workshops to hone my craft. Infoline is only a call away when I need to verify that one last piece of information before sending off a manuscript. The library website is on my navigation bar, and I get branch email blasts each week to keep me connected to opportunities.
Thirty-eight years later, Woods Memorial Library is still our library home. I don’t have to go as often as I did back-in-the-day when it took a visit to find bus maps or voter information. Now Steve mostly downloads from the website, but I still stop in to pick up books and take part in free workshops and presentations that inform and inspire. The people at the checkout counter were my first acquaintances in Tucson—familiar faces who always smiled back. That hasn’t changed over time—whatever location I’m in, I always feel welcomed.
The library is where I found tools to build my Tucson community. During this summer that marks my 38th year as a customer, I am serving as the Writer-in-Residence. You can visit with me at Woods Memorial Library or Nanini Library if I might be helpful in sharing writing resources or encouragement. And watch for writing workshops at locations around the system.
I’ll be around—feeling grateful.