SAN TAN VALLEY — In another week or two, a long-awaited amenity lacking in this community of 120,000 people will finally open its doors.

“We are so eager to open up, and we hope to serve the community in the way the community really needs it,” Erik Surber, manager of the San Tan Valley Library, said. “I’ve always said the library is the living room of the community, the heart of the community.”

It’s part of the new Pinal County government complex off Bella Vista Road, east of Central Arizona College's San Tan Campus. A library was a late, sudden change in building plans for the complex, but Surber said it has worked out.

“I think it’s a beautiful design. You can see we have different areas where people can read quietly or sit and gather and work collaboratively. We have shelf space for a growing collection. It’s a smallish collection right now but we’re always adding to it.

“There’s beautiful natural light in here, as you can see,” Surber continued. “They didn’t forget the teens, they didn’t forget to have space for children or computers, so yeah, I’m happy with it.” After more than 20 years working in and managing libraries, this is the first time Surber has been involved in starting a new one.

“At this point in my career it feels like I’ve done everything, but this is a first for me. It’s fun because it’s a blank canvas and we can develop this library, with the input of the community of course, using all the best practices that we’ve all learned. The other staff also have previous library experience, so we’re all bringing something to the table here.”

Experience they have in common is working with young adults, and they’re working to make that corner of the library special. Besides a big young adult collection, there will be board games with room to play.

Here and elsewhere in the building, the books are brand new, with a lot of recent popular titles as well as classics. Patrons may also borrow audiobooks for adults and children; videos and music CDs; large-print books, children’s books and books written in Spanish. There’s a big selection of graphic novels for children, young adults and adults.

Although the library isn’t open yet, people have come to the door asking about it and the staff has been issuing library cards. Library cards are free to anyone living in Pinal County. They recently went to the Queen Creek library to sign people up.

Queen Creek has been the closest library for many San Tan Valley residents, who had to pay nonresident charges. “So we wanted to reach people there with a library card they can get for free,” Surber said.

They’re also working on a robust programming schedule for all ages. Programs will depend on available staff time, “but at the very least we’ll have children’s programming set up,” such as preschool story times.

“We really want the public’s input on this.” In fact, “Without volunteers, we would not be able to make this run.” Volunteers are needed not only to help with programs, but to re-shelve books; read to children; help people on the computers with basic tasks such as how to log in, save and print; and to act as greeters. Surber said he also hopes a “Friends of the Library” group forms.

Also:

  • There will be 12 personal computers for the public, and Surber said they hope to also have some Chromebooks, small laptops, for people to borrow.
  • The library will have “culture passes,” or a couple of free tickets, to enable families who might not otherwise be able to afford to see a museum, play or concert.
  • Surber is exploring options for the big blank wall inside the front door, such as a temporary gallery for local artists, changing every three or four months.
  • When the library opens in late July or early August, hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. A grand opening celebration is tentatively being planned for Oct. 9.
  • Follow the San Tan Valley Library on the Pinal County Library District website at www.pinalcountyaz.gov/Departments/Library/. Call the new library at 520-866-8035.

Patrons may also download the library’s app, PCLD, to look for books and other information. If people can’t find what they’re looking for, it can be sent over from another Pinal County library free of charge.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.