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Pima County librarian works to support unhoused Tucson children

Arizona Daily Star Featuring Layla Duncan

I think I became a librarian because I love learning, but I don’t love teaching. I mean, I was a kind of teacher, which was great, but it wasn’t a traditional classroom teaching.

I worked as an adult basic education teacher at the local Fred G. Acosta Employment Forces Center for nearly ten years. In that role, I helped the youngster improve her reading skills so that she could pass her GED test or apply for admission to Pima Community College. These students were ambitious. Life prevented me from pursuing a traditional educational path, and I wanted to get a better job, explore colleges and majors, and generally put life on hold.

I quit that job to spend time with my kids and loved (almost) everything about it, but eventually decided I wanted to start a slightly different career path. Long story short, I ended up going to the University of Arizona for my Master’s degree in Information and Library Science. And almost 17 years later, I still love what I do.

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To be honest, young people have always been my favourite, but now I’m the student assistance librarian at the Pima County Library, serving classrooms in grades 1 through 12 and beyond. is great.

What gives me the most joy these days is working with the children of families who have been evicted and are temporarily living in hotels. Twice a week, whenever possible, I bring my children books, snacks from the always generous community food bank, games and crafts to keep them active, learning, and frankly Say, I try to give parents and caregivers a break.

We had fake snowball fights, played endless Connect Four games, squashed polymer sand with our fingers, and built indoor obstacle courses with pool noodles. Learning happens naturally. What’s the difference between crayons and pastel sticks, how many button shards can you pick up with this super-strong magnet, and what do you use to keep your pool noodles arched?

Despite the stress and strain these families experience, the children are always interested in learning new things, show me what they can do, and know when I will be back. I want to These families also want to put their lives on hold, and while they wait and work for it, I really enjoy providing them with a little fun and after-school learning.

I know that when they finally reunite in their own homes, the library is here for them, always free, and full of people willing to help them learn what interests them most. I hope you will.

Homing Project is working to build a tiny home village in Tucson. The pop-up house is one of 15 planned for the first village and can be seen at the Tucson Mall starting January 13th.Video: Pascal Albright/Arizona Daily Star

Pascal Albright

Layla Duncan is the Student Support Librarian for the Office of Regional Liaisons at the Pima County Public Library. She has been with the Pima County Public Library since July 2007, working as part of the Youth and Tween Restoration Practice and Young Adult Services team.

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