This is the first in a monthly series about what’s going on at the Pima County Public Library. Everything is free.

Spoiler alert: I’m going get a little braggy about the Pima County Public Library right now. Plain and simple, it’s 24-7 of Way Super Cool.

Step inside any of our libraries — we have 27 of them — or go online. You’re surrounded by tons of information, resources, and programs covering things you’re interested in, things you want to find out more about, or things you want to learn how to do.

Then I tell people that they can do all this for free at the library, and it just gets better. Here are five Way Super Cool reasons why:

1. It’s free, and it’s legal. It’s Freegal.

If music is your “thing,” you definitely want to know about Freegal. It’s like Spotify and Pandora, only it’s not. Sign up for a Freegal account using your library card, and you’re on your way to getting three songs that you can pick, download, and keep forever and ever once a week. That’s basically one album or CD every month.

Cue Pharrell William’s megahit song, “Happy.” Heck, why don’t you just download it on Freegal?

2. We love Geeking Out

When I was in high school in the ’80s, the best part about summertime was that I got to watch endless hours of MTV. This is why I can proudly teach my 9-year old daughter, Zoë, my 30-year-old moves.

This summer at the library, teens can channel their inner geek in our CreateIt classes. We’re offering TV studio production classes with Access Tucson, and teens can also sign up for photography classes or learn how to design games, Web pages, and apps. I’m guessing that 30 years from now, they’ll probably be teaching their kids how to start their own businesses.

Pima County Public Library’s CreateIt classes:

3. Surfin’ ReferenceUSA

If you have a small business or nonprofit and want to create good lists of potential customers and donors to reach out to, your new best friend is ReferenceUSA. This online power tool tells you consumer buying habits, and lets you search for business and residential information. And you can do it all from your home or office.

The library offers one-hour workshops every month to show you the ins and outs of ReferenceUSA.

Pima County Public Library’s ReferenceUSA news item:

Pima County Public Library’s ReferenceUSA short video link:

4. It’s perfect weather to plant your family tree

At home I have a big file folder with handwritten notes, scraps of paper, funeral notices, decades-old memorial programs, photos, and my hand-drawn family tree. I really need to get things in order here.

I can’t wait to start diving into our online research tools HeritageQuest and Ancestry Library Edition this summer. I’m planning to look into census records, books, and birth certificates to find out more about my mother and father’s family roots in Texas, as well as the roots we planted here in Tucson in the 1940s. Fortunately for me, October is National Family History Month so I have a little time.

Pima County Public Library Genealogy and Obituaries link:

5. The Cele Peterson Arizona Collection and the Steinheimer Collection

These collections of almost anything Arizona and the Southwest live on the third floor of the Joel D. Valdez Main Library. When you see them, you want to speak in a whisper. It just seems appropriate.

Toby, one of my friends and co-workers at the library, just told me about a book that I really want to check out (and by “check out,” I really mean “look at” since the materials in both collections are for reference only and can’t be checked out with a library card). The book is “Above Tucson: Then and Now” by James Glinski, which shows aerial photographs of Tucson in the 1930s, ’40s, and’50s compared to the same views in Tucson in 1995.

Now how cool is that?

Pima County Public Library Cele Peterson Arizona Collection:

Pima County Public Library Steinheimer Collection:

Kenya Johnson is the library’s community relations manager and a lifelong Tucsonan. If you want to share your Way Super Cool experiences at the library, email her at