Thirty years ago, the Nanini Library stood alone on a secluded desert lot off Shannon Road, an 11,750-square-foot structure with 23,000 books.
Today, the library is neighbors with the Pima County Sheriff's Department and the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles, is physically twice its original size, and has approximately 110,000 books and other items.
"The library has grown with the community," said Kristi Bradford, Nanini Library manager, who has been with the library for 20 years. Since 1979, the library has developed with Northwest Tucson and expanded its services to residents.
On Friday, the library is holding an open house, "marking the fact that we've served the area as a great library for 30 years," said Bradford. The celebration is from 2 to 4 p.m., with cake served and music presented by the Fourth Avenue Strings.
Bill and Rosemary Nanini, longtime local residents and philanthropists, donated the land for the library in 1978. "The original intention for the land was to be used as a type of government center," said Steve Nanini, son of Bill Nanini and current head of Nanini Investments.
The building was constructed with funds approved in a special bond election in 1974. It was named after Sam and Giaconda Nanini, Bill's parents and original Northwest Tucson settlers.
"They did a lot historically to improve Tucson," said Steve. "They loved this area and wanted to leave something behind." The Casas Adobes shopping center, Omni Tucson National Golf Resort, and a lot intended to be used as a botanical garden which is now the home of Pima Community College's Northwest Campus and the YMCA are all contributions of the Nanini family.
"They were dedicated to the notion that Northwest Tucson is a great place to live," said Steve regarding his family's role in developing the area.
Nanini Library was opened Sept. 25, 1979 and dedicated Oct. 6, 1979. The 30-year celebration was originally planned for earlier this fall, but was postponed out of respect for the Nanini family and community when Bill Nanini passed away.
"This branch has always been one of the most busy branches in the Pima County system," said Bradford. She reflected on the hectic environment when the materials were temporarily moved to an old Liquor Barn on Ina Road during the expansion in 1989.
Within the past two years, two remodeling projects have been done to accommodate the needs of library patrons. One of the projects implemented a self-checkout system. "On Fridays, we used to have three lines of people waiting to check out books, now people don't have to wait," said Bradford. "We're trying to keep up with the needs of the community."
Although the library may not be an official government center, the two meeting rooms open four nights a week serve as a community gathering spot to groups such as the Census, Boy and Girl Scouts, local political groups, and others.
"Twenty years ago, libraries were quieter. Today, they are vibrant community gathering spaces for all ages, birth through retirement," said Bradford.
When asked how the library has made an impact on the community in the 30 years, Bradford responded, "To me, you can look at our numbers. Circulation, story times, what's fun about it is when people come back and say things like 'my kid got into college because of story times.' It's all about promoting early literacy skills.
"Even though we're hidden, people come because it's making a difference in their lives," said Bradford. "They bring their kids because they came when they were kids. That's the story of this library, tucked away but still vital."
Steve Nanini acknowledged the importance of the facility and its service to the community, but recognized that it's time for change. "It's a great source for me, the community, and everybody, but it's antiquated and needs change."
A conference room, computer rooms, and an addition for more books are just a few things that the library could use when and if funds allow. "My grandmother and I attended the original dedication 30 years ago," Nanini said. "It's time to make improvements."
Nanini Library celebration
Friday, June 25
7300 N. Shannon
Cake and music
Some statistics on the Nanini library
• Approximately 550,000 books are circulated every year
• 5,000 new library cards are registered each year
• Seven story time sessions are offered each week with about 20,000 attendees per year
• It has a monthly gate count between 20,000 and 25,000 people.