Since its construction in 2002, the Oro Valley Library has become a focal point of the community. After being open for nearly a decade, the library has expanded in all aspects, and encompasses some of the most sought after programs in the region.
The library caters to all age groups, being a place for individuals, families, teens, and retirees alike.
Mayor Satish Hiremath, who personally donated to fund the construction of the children’s room, said the library plays a significant role in the lives of Oro Valley residents.
“In the absence of a true community center, the library has been the cultural center of the community,” he said. “To watch that grow to really become the center of Oro Valley has been phenomenal. The staff is incredibly talented, and the Friends of Oro Valley puts in an incredible amount of time.”
According to Cheryl McCurry, the youth services librarian, the library originally stood at 15,000 square feet and grew out of that almost immediately. It now encompasses 25,000 square feet, and is more accommodating for its patrons.
McCurry has been with the library since its doors opened in July of 2002, for a “soft opening,” which allowed the staff to experiment with using the facility before the official opening a month later.
Since those initial days, the library has constantly been improving and updating their facilities and technology.
“We have fabulous technology now—smart boards and surround sounds,” said McCurry. “People tend to think of libraries as only books, but (libraries) are so much more.”
Jane Q. Peterson, the library manager, said keeping up with technology is important for staff members.
“We try to keep up because we have to,” she said. “That’s what our customers want. We are fortunate to have Cat (technology librarian Catherine Strong), because every time new technology comes up, she learns it and then trains us. All staff members take two computer classes a month to stay up to date.”
Speaking of computers, the library boasts 41 public use computers, which include Internet access desktop computers, catalog-only desktop computers, and library laptops. There is also a specific computer classroom that had recently been updated due to a generous donation, and includes 10 computers, wireless keyboards and mice, and special artwork. This space is reserved for computer classes only, and residents of the community are invited to participate in lecture-based learning classes, and hands-on training on various computer topics.
The main room
One of the most used spaces is the main conference room, as many groups from the community rent it to host meetings. The space may not be used to solicit business, and functions must be free and open to the public. Pending these conditions, groups are eligible to rent out the space, which can hold up to 100 people, free of charge.
Inside, it is adorned with a mural depicting the town of Oro Valley in the past, present and future. The mural was created in 1997 and originally hung in the Town Council Chambers, but was presented as a gift to the library.
Just outside the conference room hallway, local artists can display their work.
Adult services librarian Mary Kim Dodson is in charge of organizing the rotation of artwork, which occurs about every six weeks. This not only allows artists to present their work to the public, but it can also lead to sales.
Some of the most popular spaces at the Oro Valley Library are those for younger users. The children’s room features a changing display of books, eight computers that have Internet access, and a large stuffed tiger. This room also hosts a number of activities, which has an emphasis on reading.
The teen scene
Dodson said the Teen Zone is unique because teenagers are not usually included in the process for designing their space, and libraries are not usually fortunate enough to devote an entire room for teenage books, music and activities.
However, in 2005, the Friends of Oro Valley were able to purchase this room, and asked the Teen Advisory Board to participate in the creation process. After two visits to separate libraries, the teen members decided both what they wanted the room to look like, and what it should contain. It now consists of a flat-screen television, beanbags for lounging, a snack machine and several gaming systems.
The Teen Advisory Board (TAB) is one of the library’s many groups consisting of teens from the area. The group meets on the third Saturday of every month. The members plan activities, hang out in the library, and are active in the community.
Merely describing the library will never do justice to the other subtleties of this space. There are nooks and crannies stationed throughout, which are dedicated to reading, the Oro Valley Historical Society has a rotating display case and art is on display throughout the structure.
“It’s a really nice, quiet environment,” said Oro Valley resident Fatima Wasti. “I come here everyday because I’m studying for the National Board Dental Examination, and the library staff is really friendly. They ensure that this is a quiet space so people can concentrate.”
One thing is for sure, the library would not be the same place if it were not for the hundreds of residents who dedicate their time by volunteering each week.
The library itself has around 100 volunteers, and on a typical day, four to six members can be found helping to shelf books.
The Friends of the Oro Valley Public Library has also been an important volunteer group since the very beginning – before the library’s existence.
Its members can also be found in the library each day helping to run their Book Shoppe.
The Friends of the Library is a volunteer, non-profit organization that, amongst many duties, supports the library by promoting its value in the community and raises money to enhance the library’s general budget. The group was instated in 2001, before the construction of the library, and has been raising money ever since. They achieve this goal through The Friends of Oro Valley Public Library Book Shoppe.
What was once a cart with books and a tin for buyers to leave money on an honor system has grown into a full-fledged section within the library complete with an extensive collection and an office. The store is open six days a week, and usually raises anywhere from $3,500 to $4,000 per month. Between this and other major fundraising events, the group raises $70,000 to $100,000 annually. Almost a year ago, they opened a second location, Book Shoppe Too, which serves as their site for sorting donated books. It also contains a larger selection of classic and western literature, as well as collectible books.
Joanna Dumis, manager of the Book Shoppe, said volunteers usually participate in a range of activities that includes sorting, pricing books, making signs and displays, and assisting with volunteer training.
“It’s totally donation based and totally volunteer based,” she said. “Obviously I have to love it because I spend 20 to 30 hours per week doing it. It’s kind of like a job, but the library is where my friends are, and I feel like this is a worthwhile place to donate my time.”
Peterson said it is these volunteers who lend themselves to what is the overall commitment of the Oro Valley Library.
“We are the instruments of life long learning. We believe you are a learner your whole life,” Petersons said. “Learning does not end after high school or college. All of us will always be in the process of learning, and we will do whatever we need to make that happen.”
Popular Programs at the Library
The Great Literature of All Times Club, lead by Dr. Bill Fry, is a popular library forum that draws one of the largest followings at the library. The forum meets the third Thursday of each month, and examines great works of literature.
“I call him Oro Valley’s rock star,” said Peterson. “Oftentimes I find myself going to his forum completely disinterested in whatever the work may be, and afterwards whomever we’ve studied has become my favorite author. This is my favorite hour of every month.”
The Job Search and Career Building Help for job seekers meet every Friday. Lead by former executive Beth Cole, the meeting includes a presentation on a specific topic followed by a group discussion.
Job seekers can also consult with a library professional on accessing library and online resources related to employment resources. To schedule an appointment call the library at 229-5300.
Homework Help meets every Tuesday and Thursday night to receive help in middle and high school math, Spanish, French, English, reading, social studies, or school counseling. Retired teachers Bev and Dan Dutz are have been tutoring for eight years at the library.
The Storytime program is held four times per week at the library, and is the most attended children’s events. For more information about the weekly schedule visit the OV library website which can be accessed through orovalleyaz.gov.