When Ben Campbell first attended monthly chess club meetings at Wheeler Taft Abbett, Sr. Library, he didn’t realize the role the library played in the community. But before he knew it, he was volunteering to help with club activities.
Now, five years later, Campbell’s role as a volunteer has expanded to other parts of the library, like helping with summer activities in the kids’ wing.
“I’m glad that I can help other people get engaged, or help other people enjoy the things they do at the library,” Campbell said. “I started when I was a lot younger so I didn’t pay as much attention to the impact on the community. But now that I have used [the library] as a resource, I know that it’s pretty valuable, and I’ve seen that grow as time goes on.”
Campbell and fellow longtime volunteer Tyler Hedrick, both recent graduates of Mountain View High School, stand as a testament to the tradition of community engagement the library intends to foster.
This Saturday, June 9, the library is marking its 10-year anniversary in the style of community involvement that has helped it flourish.
The festivities kick off with a musical story time fit for all ages and continue with the library’s Read to a Dog event, where kids can practice reading out loud to therapy dogs. Local artists Mary Ellen Palmeri and Ken Tesoriere will guide attendees through hand-crafted bookmaking and acrylic painting, respectively. Attendees can also tour the Bookmobile and write notes to the library about why they love it. And of course, there will be cake.
Since 2012, 1.3 million people have walked through the library’s doors, and it has drawn in 8,000 attendees through 668 programs for adults and 49,000 attendees through 2,196 programs for children and teens.
Library associate Sherryl Volpone has been at the Wheeler Taft branch of the Pima County Public Library system since it opened in 2008, and credits a great connection between the community and the library for the high community involvement.
“They’re receptive to it,” Volpone said “That’s what makes it even better.”
Volpone said the library offers activities for all ages, whether it’s computer classes, job help or making steampunk jewelry.
“Every age group has something they can do here, which is kind of nice,” she said. “We try to do a little bit of everything, and we try to do what they want to do. I think that might be the key.”
For families and children, the library offers a variety of programs to get kids involved. A recent Thursday morning story time event pulled in an audience of 85 children in the kid’s wing, where the bookshelves are shortened for the smaller readers. The airy, natural-light-filled building is a family environment where children weave between the shelves and a cluster of toddlers plays ring-around-the-rosie while a parent waits in line to check out books.
Library visitor Sara Daer said she brings her children to story time frequently during their weekly trips to the library because it keeps them engaged. For her part, she enjoys the environment of the library.
“It’s just a nice calming place,” Daer said. “All these open windows make it feel like you’re outside still.”
The library has worked to focus more on community interests in its programs over the last 10 years. Volpone said the library pays attention to what people come out to see and learns what topics to count on to be hits, such as dinosaurs, which drew a crowd of 150 at a recent program.
But the library’s commitment to engagement extends past its glass walls through outreach. Volpone takes monthly trips to three local preschools near the library to read to students and visits Marana Unified School District schools once a year to teach students online resources.
Volpone hopes this tradition of community engagement continues into the library’s next decade.
“I have loved this place for 10 years,” she said. “It’s a really amazing library and I’m grateful for all that I get to do, because I get to see the people, and they’re usually pretty happy.”
The 10-year celebration will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 9, at 7800 N. Schisler Drive. For more information, visit library.pima.gov/locations/ABB/ or call 594-5200.
Ava Garcia is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.