Monday, December 31, 2012 0 comments

Helping Kids Cope With Juvenile Detention

Artwork in the JDC library
“The library has proven to be my best friend.”

The young man who told me this is not who you might expect. He is a temporary resident at the Pima County Juvenile Court Detention Center
(the PCJCC) and a constant visitor to the center’s branch of the Pima County Public Library.

PCJCC library is like no other branch that I have visited. When it started out in the early 2000s, it was simply a cart and a librarian delivering books to the living units. Now it is a cheerful, welcoming room with computer stations, shelves of books, and a staff of three. The library and the center are decorated with amazing artwork from the residents.

The staff at the center believe it is their job to provide a safe, nurturing, educational environment for the kids staying there before they
are released. For the young residents of the center, being in detention can be stressful and confusing. The library is a lifeline for many of them. The encouraging and dedicated library staff work hard to instill a love of reading and learning experiences that the kids will take with them and hold onto when they leave.

I spoke with two bright, polite young men when I visited the
PCJCC and its library. To protect their identities, I will refer to them as Reader One and Reader Two.

Before coming to the detention center Reader One, the young man quoted above, had never been in a library and really didn’t read much. Now he is a voracious reader and describes himself as “addicted to reading."

The library doesn’t just help these kids pass the time. For these two young men, there are a lot of experiences and stresses to cope with everyday, and the library helps them relax and clear their minds. Reading has helped them learn new things and improve comprehension and vocabulary. Reader One has learned to figure out a word from its context in a book, and he tries to use the words he has learned when speaking with his groups in the center. Reader Two told me “I think the opportunity to read more has helped me with my communication skills, being able to express himself.”

Artwork in the JDC hallway

Both young man think it is great to have the librarians around, and I can tell how much they both appreciate the staff’s help. They credit the library staff with broadening their interests and helping them discover thoughts and ideas they never would have pursued on their own.

The librarians have recommended books that neither of these readers would have thought of reading. And reader recommendation is huge between the kids in the center. Reader One likes to recommend books to other kids because he wants to use his experience with books to help others learn to cope. As Reader Two put it, “I like to recommend books to new kids because I know what it is like to be here. I know that reading is a different way to unclutter your mind and take your thoughts away from stress and aggression.”

Along with all the learning, reading is also an escape for these kids. Reader One expressed his interest in getting insight into characters and explains “It’s like I get sucked into my own movie.” Reader Two told me: “When I read a book, I feel like I am a part of it.”  He looks forward to his time in the library every week. It is one thing that he can’t wait to do.

Library mural
Before I left the center, one of the two youths told me, “The library will definitely continue to be a part of my life when I leave here.” The PCJCC library and its staff are proud to hear such wonderful results, and I was deeply moved by the way that books and the library have changed these two young men.

Sharing their new love of reading is something they are proud of and they clearly will take away a very positive experience from the center.

Written by Samantha Barry


A Unique Library, A Unique Librarian

Library entrance
Imagine working at a place where your goal is to have no customers. Sound ridiculous? That’s exactly what the employees at the Pima County Juvenile Court Detention Center (PCJCC) do everyday. They work with at risk youth, and their goal is to get the kids out of the detention center and into the best available environment that is right for their individual needs.

The staff at the detention center also work tirelessly to make the youths’ stay at the center meaningful and nurturing. To help accomplish this mission, the center includes a branch of the Pima County Public Library, staffed by two librarians and a page. I made a visit to the center to meet the librarians, administrators, and detention staff, and was deeply moved by the dedication and commitment they all have to the youth in the center.

I was expecting a much different experience than the one I had at the PCJCC. The library is larger than I anticipated and it has a wall of windows looking out onto a courtyard with a small garden tended by the youth. The room is inviting and bright, and there is a computer room full of resources for learning and exploration. It is a place where the kids want to read.

Juvenile Detention Center Library

William Bevill is one of the amazing staff at the center and he has a unique perspective when it comes to his job as Assistant Librarian. His mother, Jimmie, was a public librarian in Tucson and she began providing service to the
PCJCC while working for what was then called the Tucson-Pima Public Library. Back then, the library was no more than a cart full of books that was delivered to the living units once a month. Jimmie worked with detention center administration who were seeking a more hands-on, nurturing approach to service to incarcerated youth. Library service increased and eventually a space was made available for a library.

After William’s mother passed away he became intrigued with the idea of working with teens who would be in an environment where only school and books would be their primary source of education and recreation. He wanted to make a difference, and he saw his chance to do that at the

William is a dedicated advocate of the library and he works very hard to promote reading and library programs. The kids who visit the library get a Pima County Public Library card, and they can now browse the shelves to check out books. William looks at his patrons like any other kids who have a chance to read, and he sees the library and its resources as a way to stimulate them to love reading.

“Books can mean everything to them,” he shares with me and continues by saying “We see kids reading levels increase and their awareness of the world go up, their school work gets better, they discover things. I don’t know if they will all read when they leave. Our purpose is to get them to read here, try to instill them with a love of reading, get them a library card, and encourage tutoring.”

The library is not just for the youths staying at the detention center. William has worked hard to expand the library’s presence by introducing it to as many employees as possible. Many of the staff have library cards and several are avid readers who use the PCJCC library on a regular basis.


I was also able to speak with several of the youths staying at the detention center and will share their stories in another post. Let’s just say that their respect for the library and the librarians and their relationship with reading are inspiring. As William says, “This makes the PCJCC a special place. We take a strange, often sad environment and turn it into not just a library here, but a library for them to go to when they leave.”

Written by Samantha Barry
Sunday, December 30, 2012 0 comments

Groundbreaking Tucson Women

If you have visited the Quincie Douglas Library of the Pima County Public Library system, you may have seen a small bronze statue among the shelves. The statue depicts a Tucson author, Margaret Campbell, giving a copy of a book she wrote to a young Quincie Douglas, the library’s namesake.

Mrs. Margaret Campbell and
Mrs. Quincie Douglas
Why were these women honored with a permanent memorial?

In 1968 Mrs. Margaret Campbell was Arizona’s first African American novelist to publish a book, which was titled Iba the Dawn. It is a wonderful parable that takes place after the great flood of biblical times.

Born in North Carolina, one of 10 children, Campbell was raised in Cincinnati and relocated to Tucson in 1942 for health reasons. She was a well-known community figure in her South Tucson neighborhood not only for her publishing first, but also for her unusual dwelling. Campbell lived on Santa Rita Street in an underground home that she began digging herself to take shelter from the heat and dust of the Arizona desert. She eventually brought in workers to help her finish the home and to deliver a piano, which she used to give piano lessons to the children in the neighborhood.

Mrs. Quincie Douglas was born in 1905 in Oklahoma and came to Tucson in the early 1930’s with a family that she worked for as a domestic. She later became a well-loved community activist who helped residents of the neighborhood by starting a transportation program for people with limitations.

After retiring in 1964 Douglas suffered a stroke that limited her mobility. Not one to just sit by and accept her limitations, she campaigned to help other people suffering the same fate. In 1965, Douglas received $24,000 from the Tucson Committee for Economic Opportunity and started L.I.F.T.S. (Low Income Free Transportation Service), which was taken over by the city six years later and renamed Special Needs Transportation Service. Today, the service is known as Van Tran. The Quincie Douglas Library and the Quincie Douglas Recreation Center are named in honor of her.

The sculpture's home at the Quincie Douglas Library

The 18-inch sculpture was funded through the Tucson Pima Arts Council and created by local artist Richard Quin Davis, Quincie Douglas' grandson. The statue exists largely because of the effort of Gloria Smith, a local historian and former lecturer in the University of Arizona's African American Studies program. It was dedicated in 2010.

“What’s with that?” Arizona Daily Star.  Caliente section.  April 18, 2003.  Page  F44.

Guest opinion: Presence as varied as Arizona’s history by Gloria Smith on Feb. 19, 2007.

The mystery of Margaret Campbell, by Mark McLemore. August 31, 2011. Arizona Public Media.

Written by Samantha Barry

Friday, December 21, 2012 0 comments

Not Your Average Book Club

What do you do after a long and honored career as a college literature professor? If you are Dr. William Fry (Bill), you move to Tucson, Arizona and you start a library program where you can continue to share your knowledge.

Bill volunteers at the Oro Valley branch of the Pima County Public Library system, and has since its opening in 2002. He directs a program called Great Literature of All Time. And no, it’s not just a book club.

Dr. William Fry reading aloud from
Ring Lardner's "The Haircut"
Through the program Bill shares and promotes authors who are under-recognized, such as Ring Lardner, Aleksander Pushkin, and Edna Ferber. Oftentimes he introduces authors for the first time, which is no small feat because almost half of the attendees are former English teachers and professors. 

The program gives the Oro Valley community an intellectual outlet to share their passion for lifelong learning, and is more of a college-level seminar than a book club. Dr. Kathleen Assar, former Vice President of Pima Community College, has been attending the program every month. She said the program is “ opportunity for me to exercise the intellectual part of me that is so very important to my life.” 

Bill has inspired many people to keep literature and learning in their lives. One such person, is Marion Doane, a retired English teacher. Marion has been attending the program since the beginning and was inspired to start her own program called Leading Ladies of Literature...And Some Men, Too. 

The format for the Great Literature of All Time program is markedly different than an average book club. To prepare for each session Bill researches biographies for background information and shaping influences in the author’s life and shares that information with his fellow readers. He also reads aloud from the assigned readings, which the group enjoys. Bill believes that reading aloud shares a different perspective and he stated, “I love oral 
interpretation of literature."

September's author
Bill has loved literature and hearing it read aloud since he was a small boy. He remembers listening to his mother read Huckleberry Finn before he was in kindergarten and his passion grew from there. As a professor for many years, Bill was able to share his passion for the written word with his students and colleagues. Now he continues that mission at the library.  He stated, “I watched the Oro Valley library being constructed, and knew I wanted to be a part of the library community.”

Bill taught literature and writing at a Maryland college for more than thirty years and served as Chair of the Literature Department. His teaching expertise brought him many awards including Outstanding Professor for the State of Maryland, Professor of the Year Award in 1990, a national award from Who’s Who among America’s Teachers and a nomination as Outstanding Educator from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. In 2010, Bill won the prestigious Julianna Yoder Friend of the Humanities Award given by the Arizona Humanities Council for his outstanding teaching of literature for the Oro Valley Public Library and for The Learning Curve, an independent art and humanities series in Tucson.

In addition to his teaching, Bill has published numerous articles for academic periodicals and developed a series of literary travel-study tours, both domestic and international. Since retiring to Oro Valley in 2001, he has designed and taught many humanities programs as well as designing and leading literary tours for CRIZMAC, an art and cultural educational publishing company that offers domestic and international tours and seminars.

Bill’s experience, knowledge and passion have helped him create an amazing literature program at the Oro Valley branch that provides intellectual challenge, unique readings, quality discussions and a chance for Oro Valley residents to spend time with like-minded people.  The program is a real commitment and a real challenge. Richard Johnson, Financial Advisor for Merrill Lynch with a degree in English literature, says the readings and the time spent with the group provide magic every month, because, "The artists tell us something about themselves."

Written by Samantha Barry
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 2 comments

Sit and Knit

The yarn bounty
After 25 years of knitting and crocheting, I am still amazed at what a ball of yarn can do. For just a couple of dollars per skein you have a material that can be made into a scarf, a bag, a necklace, a hat, a sweater, or even a blanket big enough for two. You can create a gift for a loved one or a treat for yourself.

What is even more amazing is the way that I feel while creating a project with yarn. I find the simple act of knitting or crocheting soothing and there have been recent studies that show these activities can have positive effects, like lower levels of depression, a decrease in blood pressure, and a decrease in pain and memory loss.

On a recent visit to the Santa Rosa branch of the Pima County Public Library I was thrilled to take part in their Sit and Knit program. The program is designed for children and provides a fun, creative, and soothing activity for many children after school.

At the beginning of the class, children streamed in after their early release day from the nearby Drachman Montessori Magnet School. The children were restless and loud and vying for attention from the knitting instructors, Diane Senders and Cathy Dingell. After the harried moments of signing in, selecting their yarn, and grabbing their needles an amazing thing happened: the children all settled down and focused on their projects.

Diane Senders helps a student with her knitting

The transformation was quite remarkable. The children listened attentively, asked for help, and concentrated on their work. Diane and Cathy helped the newer students get started, but many that were already old pros with the needles just sat down and started knitting. One 4th grade girl that I approached was calmly and steadily working on a multi-colored hat. My attempts at engaging her in conversation were met with polite, simple replies while all her concentration was focused on her project.

It turns out that the repetitive actions needed for knitting and crochet can bring the mind and body to a state called a "relaxation response" that is quite similar to what people experience with techniques such as repetitive prayer, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, and other relaxation disciplines.
These results can have significant health benefits for people who knit and crochet.

But all that research doesn’t really mean much to the kids, they just know that they love to knit. Each student starts with a small project that they can complete quickly, such as a wristband, which provides an immediate sense of accomplishment. The kids also take pride in helping newcomers to the club.

All the kids were anxious to show off their work, wanting to tell me why they chose the colors, what they were making, and for whom they were making the item. I asked them all why they like to come in and knit. One student, Sunday, said “Because it’s easy.” Another student, Hope, said she liked the teachers. Indeed the skill and the patience of Diane and Cathy did make the whole thing look easy.

Written by Samantha Barry
Monday, December 17, 2012 2 comments


Okay, so you might have a very typical image in your mind of a librarian: conservatively dressed, perhaps wearing a cardigan, hair up in a bun, wearing glasses and sensible heels, and shushing people.

Georgia at the Quincie Douglas branch

Now let me shatter that image. Georgia is a young, energetic librarian at the Quincie Douglas branch of the Pima County Public Library system. She plays bass and sings in a band, plays bass in a community symphony, wears bright red lipstick, sports tattoos and body jewelry proudly, and she plays roller derby. Yes, I said roller derby.

One of Georgia's tattoos

Georgia grew up in the library. Her mother has been a librarian in the Long Beach, California system for 45 years. She started volunteering in the library when she was twelve and started working there when she was sixteen. She learned the importance of libraries and how they provide so many services and so much information for everyone in a community. Her mother always told her that “Librarians are the great equalizers of the community.” She has worked under this mantra in her own career as a librarian.

Georgia has a
Bachelor’s in Women’s Studies, with a Minor in Music Performance and worked for a domestic violence shelter after college. After deciding to go back to work in the library as a clerk in 2007, she received a scholarship from the Friends of the Green Valley branch of the Pima County Public Library (PCPL) system and attended library school at the University of Arizona. She was hired as a Librarian I at the PCPL’s Main branch in August of 2010 she worked in collection development. Georgia then moved on to the Quincie Douglas branch in June 2011 where she works as a Children's Librarian, which has always been her goal.

Georgia loves music. She played in a Prog Metal band called SoEra, a 60’s soul cover band called Drama Club, and the Arizona Symphony (the primary symphony at the U of A). She currently plays in a non-profit orchestra called the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra (SASO), which she is traveling with to China in the new year.

While attending a roller derby bout with a friend, she decided she had to be a part of the experience; she didn’t want to just watch from the sidelines. One problem: she didn’t know how to skate! She learned how, tried out for the team, passed her skills test, and now is proudly known on the team as Dewey Decimatrix. 

Georgia sporting her name proudly

I took my family to watch her in action at the Tucson Roller Derby in a warehouse
, which they call the TRD Wreck House, on the south side of Tucson. Her team, the Furious Truckstop Waitresses, were decked out in pink and black and surrounded by fans. I have to admit, that the excitement was contagious and the bout was impressive. I give all the skaters kudos for being out there!   

Tucson Roller Derby

How do libraries and the roller derby fit together? Georgia looks at both as ways for her to be active in the Tucson community. Working with the public at Quincie Douglas and being aggressive in the rink have helped her build confidence, learn how to work with people, be part of a team, be more assertive, and how to pick her battles.

She says “I always feel valued as a librarian, but not always as a roller derby skater.” Where the library came naturally, she really had to work at being a skater and learning the game. She credits both her mentors at the library (Librarian Beth Rubio)
and in roller derby ("wife” aka best friend in derby, Luna E. Clips) for helping her learn these skills and overcoming her fears. Luna also happens to be a Pima County employee, she is a public defender. “Seeing someone who nurtures you and encourages you makes you want to do the same thing. I try to do that for others in my life," she says.

Oh, and did I also mention that she bakes? That she has won pie contests? Her uniform number is 641.86, the Dewey Decimal number for baking.

Have you been in a library lately? You should go. Get to know the staff at the library. Not only are they amazingly dedicated to the library and their customers, they have a wealth of experiences. As Georgia says, “Librarians are interested in everything.”

Visit the Quincie Douglas branch and say hello to Georgia for me.

Written by Samantha Barry


Library Provides Therapy for One Woman

While interviewing staff, volunteers, and customers at the Woods Memorial Branch Library of the Pima County Public Library system, Managing Librarian Coni Weatherford introduced me to a women that visits the library almost every day. Her name is Robin.

Robin accessing the library's free WiFi
You might be thinking that you know an ardent supporter of the libraries that visits often or you might be thinking what a nice place for her to visit, but her story goes much deeper.

You see, it is a test of her strength and will to make a visit to the library. Robin has spent many years as a shut in. She struggles everyday with leaving her house. As part of her therapy, her doctor and therapist suggested she visit the library.

Now she is at the library most days. She leaves her house and her goal is the library. Why such a public place? Why a place that is teeming with kids? Robin put it quite simply, “I feel safe here.”

What a beautiful testament to how the library has saved her life.

Written by Samantha Barry