AzLA Newsletter is going to begin featuring a Library of the Month in every issue. This issue we will be highlighting the Sierra Vista Public Library (SVPL). The SVPL is located in Sierra Vista, AZ, approximately 75 miles southeast of Tucson. The building is part of the Sierra Vista City Complex located in a beautiful setting surrounded by baseball fields and a botanical garden. The original building opened in 1965. Renovations have created a modern 30000 square foot building that features a variety of unique roofing configurations.
The library has an operating income of $1,260,447. The collection includes 84,388 books; 4,876 audio materials; 1,570 video materials; 39 state licensed databases; 3 other licensed databases; and 214 print serial subscriptions. The service population is 43,972 with 28,890 registered borrowers. In 2017 the total circulation was 329,161 and the library had 179,030 visits. Pre-COVID, the library provided 50 service hours a week, 10-7 M-R, Friday 10-6, and Saturday 10-4. The most utilized services Pre-COVID were the house wifi and the circulation of the collections.
Post-COVID, SVPL responded to a City Manager order and closed March 18. The library remained closed till May 18. At that time the library started new service hours, with curbside delivery 10-2 Monday thru Thursday and Friday 3-6. They offer wifi in the parking lot 24/7 and the front lobby is open for temporary computer use (4 computers). The staff had to close the lobby a couple of times because too many people were showing up to take advantage of computer and internet access. Starting this Fall they will have lobby pickups with an option for curbside service. None of the SVPL staff has tested positive, however there have been other city staff from other departments that have tested positive. The staff have been able to offer full services during the COVID outbreak, with Virtual Story time, Virtual Book Clubs, circulation services through reserve and curbside pickup. The ebook and audiobook checkouts have skyrocketed and the youth librarian has even been able to keep the Crafts service going by sending kits home with users. Through a LSTA grant from the state library, SVPL, now offers 36 hotspots for checkout also.
At the beginning of the stay-at-home order in March, The staff discontinued fines through the shutdown. The service was so well received that a new no-fines policy was implemented . Effective September 8, all materials kept past its due back date will no longer accrue daily overdue fees. However, items cannot be kept indefinitely without penalty. Individuals who keep an item past its due date may receive a bill for replacement, and some may be charged for lost or damaged items. The most utilized services post-COVID are the curbside service pickup and the eResources collection.
The current director of SVPL is Emily Duchon. Her title within the City of Sierra Vista hierarchy is Art, Culture, and Education Manager. Emily has dual Master’s degrees, a MLS from the University of Wisconsin, and an MPA from Northwestern University. She has been the manager of the library for 5 years and her career included positions as Youth Services Manager at Yuma County Library District and Teen Librarian at Waterford Wisconsin Public Library District. Emily’s favorite service offering pre-COVID is the bike checkout program. The library has several styles of bikes to loan at no charge, from all-purpose bikes to cruisers to an adult tricycle, even a couple of kids’ bikes. Helmets, locks, and local maps are included. Out of town visitors are welcome to participate in the program also. The bikes checkout for three days, with one renewal. Her favorite post-COVID service is weekly program craft kits. The library offers one for adults and one for kids, examples include art and crafts projects and educational examples, like making a birdhouse making jewelry, or etching.
Emilty believes her biggest challenge as a rural public library director is funding, as with most of us who run a library in Arizona, funding is always an issue in rural conservative states. Her biggest challenge post-COVID is the political influence of the COVID environment, she claims, “the politicization of COVID makes everyone on edge, anxious, in this environment, trying to keep everyone happy has been the biggest challenge, if you are open, some want to know why, if you are not open, some want to know why not.” Things are not all that bad though, she still is getting to enjoy her biggest benefit which is leading and growing the skill set of her staff. She told the Newsletter that many of her staff end up continuing their education and going on to get MLS. Emily’s most memorable moments from managing the SVPL have to do with the beautiful rural setting that surrounds the building. She states that, “my most memorable library story from here is the beauty and wildlife of a rural AZ library, lots of wildlife outside the library, bobcats, javalinas, rattlesnakes, scorpions and millipedes inside, and two coyotes have become regular visitors.” When asked what her favorite collection item is, Emily replied, “I would say the pretend and plays. They’re kits I constructed beginning a few years ago that consist of a variety of different pretend toys and costumes for ages 3 and up. For example the gardening kit has a smock, gardening toys, and a variety of books on gardening, flowers, etc. There’s kits for being a musician, a doctor, a dentist, a park ranger, a hairdresser….you name it! As a kid I really loved to pretend so it was an homage to that but also highlights the importance of make believe and telling our own story to our library kiddos.” After our interview, I was proud to be associated with this fellow AzLA member, she is why libraries build stronger communities.
SVPL is a beautiful and amazing library that has ample seating with endless views and sometimes it’s’ very difficult to keep from escaping mentally out the window. One of its most unique features is the Storytime bronze mural at the front of the building. The mural presents two children reading books with a background of the endless story options that could be dancing in the minds of the children. There is so much offered through the library services that one patron remarked “I’ve honestly seen them do more than big city libraries.” The interior of the building is just as welcoming and cosmetically appealing as the exterior with a variety of very comfortable chairs and tables. There is also a cafe and patrons are welcome to bring the food and drinks into the library. We who live in Sierra Vista are so fortunate to have such a lovely facility, such a friendly, knowledgeable staff, and such an eclectic schedule of services and programs. Our local library is overflowing with fun options, programs and events for the whole family. Great job Emily.