Feature Librarian – Jason Macoviak @ Copper Queen Library

By John Walsh

In this issue we will be featuring the Copper Queen Library (CQL) and its director Jason Macoviak. The CQL is located in Bisbee Arizona, approximately 80 miles southeast of Tucson in Cochise County Library District. The building is located at 6 Main Street, right in the heart of the Bisbee Historic District. The Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 3, 1980. The Romanesque Revival Building was designed by local architect Frederick C. Hurst and constructed in 1907 by Phelps Dodge to house both the library and post office. The 114-year-old building continues to serve as a post office (first floor) and public library (second and third floors), and is the most used public building in Bisbee. 

The CQL has a long and colorful history. In 1885, the first library was housed in white two-story wood-framed structure. Like the current building, it housed the library on the upper floor and the post office on the lower floor. That building burned to the ground in 1888. The current building was built in 1907. It was designed by local architect Frederick C. Hurst. It has survived floods, fires, the Great Depressions, and the closing of the Lavender Pit Copper Mine.

The library is 114 years old, the longest continuously open library in Arizona, and is still thriving today. It has an operating income of $213,552. The collection includes 36,122 books; 1,296 audio materials; 2,629 video materials; 1 local licensed databases; 36 state licensed databases; 3 other licensed databases; 1 video streaming service; and 112 print serial subscriptions. The service population is 5,466 and  the total circulation is 44,243 items per year. The library is currently open with modifications, providing 32 service hours Monday -Saturday. In 2018, the Library opened the San Jose Annex. It is currently open three days a week for 15 service hours.

The CQL’s COVID response was similar to everyone’s; they closed in March 2020. The director’s first priorities were keeping the entire staff employed and remaining vital to the community. They immediately began  a pick up table on the second floor balcony and implemented drive up and walk up services. They began a Book Bundles and Movie Bundles program for children. The staff also developed a variety of passive, community based programs. One popular program was the outdoor art shows where patrons receive take-and-make bundles. This enabled the community to paint together and then the library displayed the art on the library balcony. Love Letters to the Universe was another popular community based program. To overcome the doom and gloom of COVID, the staff had community members write letters about what they were doing to keep going during COVID. The program was recognized by Arizona U.S Senator Sinema. She thanked the staff with a personal communication. Another community based program was the post it-read it-do it. The community really responded to this program. Community members could communicate through post-it notes and share ideas or share what book they just read. It engaged the community and kept the community together and communicating with each other in person. With support for its Friends organization, the library was also able to add Kanopy video streaming service.

The community based programs were not the only benefit to develop out of COVID. The staff had a laundry list of interior work to do and usually no time or space to do the repairs. The pandemic allowed the library the space and time to complete the list. The building was reroofed  and fresh paint was applied. The staff redesigned shelving to improve access and went through the book collection to evaluate for weeding or keeping. The pandemic also gave the staff time to expand into another classroom at the Science Lab annex where a tool lending library was added. The tool library is sponsored by the Bisbee Bloomers, a gardening group. People who need a tool for one time use do not have to buy the tool. The library circulates carpentry tools, gardening tools, and construction tools. The staff and director are proud of this service and claim that “Libraries usually provide tools of information, Bisbee is providing other tools to better their lives also.” The director is also proud of the staff’s commitment to keeping the community engaged with the Library. He explained, “The library was always a high energy community focused environment, highly social, we invited patrons in to visit with each other, during COVID that all went away. The library’s community based programs kept the community engaged throughout COVID and when it ended, they came back.”

The current director of CQL is Jason Macoviak. Jason grew up in Pennsylvania and received his BA in English Literature from Lebanon Valley College, a small private college in southeastern Pennsylvania.  He started at the CQL as a part-time library assistant in 2008 and became library manager in 2016.  Since then, he has had a storied career. He has worked with the Bisbee Community to make the Copper Queen the Best Small Library in America (Awarded by the Library Journal in 2019) He presented at the Association of Rural and Small Library Conference in Burlington, Vermont that same year. The CQL was also awarded the EBSCO Excellence in Rural Library Service Award by the Public Library Administration in 2019 which was presented to Jason at the American Library Association in Washington D.C. in 2019.  What a year!! Jason was also featured in Time Magazine in March 2020 in their article From Chris Evans to Eboo Patel, Meet 27 People Bridging Divides Across America

The current director of CQL – Jason Macoviak

Jason manages the library with one full time staff member and three part timers. His full time Library Service Coordinator, Alison Williams, has her own claim to fame as she was featured in the Library Journal’s 2021’s Movers and Shakers and was dubbed the Partnership Queen. He also has a committed group of volunteers who help run the CQ Library Annex, as well as help facilitate both kids and adult programs.  Volunteers also run The Friends’ Bookstore, which is located on the Post Office floor of the building. The staff believe the most utilized service for some time has been the technology element of the library. Doors opened or closed, the community utilizes hotspot lending, wifi, computers and charging stations. The outside services like newspaper racks, wifi boosters, and electrical outlets on the balcony did gain popularity during COVID. The CQL has always realized the importance of technology to library services and has funded it accordingly. They recently participated in the erate program and increased the wifi to a gig. Jason believes, “Bisbee is ready for the future.” 

When asked what his favorite service offering was, Jason smiled and exclaimed “the Seed library.”  The popularity of the Library Of Things started bringing in different services that could be utilized. Jason enjoys the way the Seed Library is producing plants that are adapting to the desert,  then harvesting the seeds to return to the library. This provides seeds that are grown to tolerate this environment, weather and soil for circulation to the community. He is also very fond of the Scholastic Literacy Partnership that provides different book titles to families.

When asked what is the greatest challenge of being a library director, every director interviewed for this newsletter immediately answered funding. Not Jason, he has cultivated many partnerships that have proven beneficial to the revenues of CQL. His biggest challenge is maintaining the building. The facilities are 114 years old, the oldest continuously open library in Arizona. He claims that the “biggest challenge now and will continue to be, is keeping the library around for future generations, making the building last”. The biggest benefit, he says hands down, is the Bisbee community. He cannot believe the patron support, city council support, volunteer support, and Friends support that he continuously receives. Jason reflected toward the end of the interview that “This is a community focused library and a community focused population. This is so true in Bisbee, the library is a reflection of the community.” In his never ending effort to keep the library around for future generations, Jason has received a number of grants and is in the process of applying for more. These include: The Freeport McMoran Grant to address code issues with the 2 balconies (ADA access, rail height) was recently submitted ($80,000). The Legacy Foundation Grant for funds to install 3 StoryWalks in 3 Parks in Bisbee’s 3 Wards. A Letter of Intent has  been accepted ($14,000). And most recently awarded, Arizona Community Foundation ($25,000), LSTA ($16,000), Private Donors ($20,000), WaterWise ($2000), these will provide funds to create a Preschool Literacy/STEAM Patio at the Copper Queen Library Annex. The grants have been accepted and construction will start this month. Jason’s commitment to his staff and community are honorable. He is one of the shining lights in our profession that prove to us all, librarianship has a bright future.

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