Pima County’s Library Advisory Board has a new appointee from Green Valley, and he has his homework cut out.
Retired attorney and real estate broker Carl Schuster begins a four-year term on the board in July, replacing six-year board veteran and two-time president Tom Ward of District 4 County Supervisor Ray Carroll’s staff and joining the other District 4 rep, Shirley Geile of Tucson. Ward’s latest term expired this month and he didn’t seek reappointment by Carroll due to other commitments.
Ward, also of Green Valley, spoke with fondness for his time with the group, which as an advisory body to the county Board of Supervisors on policy for a main library, 26 branches and a bookmobile operation is one of the most prestigious appointments Supervisors have, he said. In monthly meetings over his years on the board, he credits the group for establishing a temporary library in Sahuarita and calling for a larger, permanent facility, establishing branches in Marana and Wilmot, and overseeing the recent expansion of Eckstrom-Columbus Library in Tucson.
He’s also proud of the fledgling, nationally recognized Nurses in Libraries program, in which experienced health professionals provide information on numerous topics including disease immunization and help young mothers who visit libraries with their children, and a program in which libraries team with the county’s Small Business Commission, encouraging entrepreneurs to use libraries as a resource. At one time, Ward chaired both the commission and the library board.
“This is the most dedicated, informed and productive board I’ve known,” he said.
Carroll praised the library system, saying, “The board is only as good as its staff, and this one is outstanding.”
It recently received a $100,000 MacArthur award to help develop youth programs, a report on which is due for library board review in the fall.
As Schuster gets up to speed with his new duties (he also serves on the Green Valley Council’s Executive Board and its Environmental Committee), he’ll become acquainted with challenges to meet demands for free and varied services, in times that are financially tight for libraries, to provide them while keeping up with rapidly advancing technology and looking ahead.
An evolving Community Impact Plan will become familiar, as what Executive Director Melinda Cervantes calls a road map to the future melds with local businesses, institutions, organizations and agencies that help library users and contribute to local economic development. Schuster was out of town and unavailable for comment.
The plan, aimed through 2016 and focused on 21st century learning, the e-book explosion, convening spaces for various tasks and activities, and self expression, was approved by the library board, then the Board of Supervisors last summer. It will help re-purpose bookshelf space phased out by a projected expansion of e-book collections, reconfigure work areas, and redesign meeting and workshop area.
Most exciting for southern Pima County is a proposed 20,000 square foot regional library on an as-yet undetermined site in Sahuarita that would replace the 2,000-square-foot temporary facility that opened in 2009 near the post office. The proposal is in review by the county Bond Advisory Committee for inclusion in the Board of Supervisor’s next bond request possibly later this year, said library administrator Pat Corella.
Even if it makes the list and voters approve bond funds, the earliest ground may be broken is one to two years from now, he said. Several developers have offered sites; about a half-dozen have been considered with Rancho Sahuarita pushing the hardest, but none has been chosen yet.
Kitty Bottemiller | 547-9732