Karina Reyna is the assistant manager at the Valencia Library, a branch she visited in her youth.

Libraries have always been a special place for me and I wholeheartedly believe that they have shaped who I am today.

I loved reading growing up, thanks to my mom, and she would often take me to the Valencia and El Pueblo libraries. At the Valencia Library, I would rush over to the children’s section looking for the next “Arthur” book. I must have checked those books out a hundred times. El Pueblo always had picture book kits, little plastic bags with a picture book and a cassette recording of the story, and I devoured those.

When I was 11, I discovered “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in my middle school library. It changed my life. I remember curling up by one of the windows in the library, falling in love with the story. I could see myself getting my Hogwarts letter and going off to be part of the magical world. I am still waiting for my letter (I fear my owl got lost somewhere on the way), but the Harry Potter books brought magic into my life. They sparked an insatiable hunger for books, been the foundation for many friendships over the years and have inspired trips to locations featured in the books and movie adaptations. I even got a wand tattoo on my finger so I could cast some spells.

Libraries once again worked their magic on me when I started college at the University of Arizona. I was looking for a part-time job and one of my friends who worked for Pima County Public Library suggested I apply for a job. To my delight, I found myself at the Valencia Library again, but this time as a Library Page.

All that the library had to offer blew me away: English classes, after-school programs for kids, storytimes and help with the computers. Even more than that, I could see how much staff cared about the community and the difference they made. It felt incredible to be able to help customers, especially those who spoke Spanish and felt uncomfortable asking for help. That is when I realized I wanted to become a librarian. I cannot begin to describe how thankful I am to my Valencia family because it was my colleagues who encouraged me, answered my questions, and provided me with hands-on experience while I was in school.

I got my master’s in Information and Library Science in 2015 and have worked as a librarian for four years at several locations. After nearly 10 years, I’m so happy to say that I am back at my childhood branch, but this time as the assistant manager. I’m even more excited that I get to come back now that Valencia is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Valencia Library first opened its doors on Oct. 15, 1969, and was a 7,800-square-foot building that served around 27,000 people. Many years and two renovations later, our 18,000-square-foot building is a community hub for nearly 92,000 people.

It’s been wonderful getting to know and serve this community again. Since starting here in January, I’ve heard many stories from community members about their ties to the Valencia Library. I have seen old storytime attendees who are now starting college come up to the desk to say thank you and hello to staff they knew, heard stories from many about family trips to the branch when they were children, and customers who come back to tell us they got that job they were applying for.

From the Valencia Library family to yours, thank you for 50 wonderful years. Please join us on Saturday, Nov. 2, in celebrating 50 years of community.

The celebration starts at 10 a.m. at 202 W. Valencia Road. There will be performances by Las Trillizas y Dulce, Gertie and the T.O Boyz and Ocotillo Ballet Folklórico. We will also have a community altar for Day of the Dead, sugar skull decorating, giant games and piñatas.

For more information about the Valencia Library Fiesta, go to tucne.ws/valenciafiesta.

In addition to her love of the Harry Potter series, Valencia Library Assistant Manager Karina Reyna loves the Lord of the Rings and Shadowhunter series. She also enjoys folklorico dancing and speaks Italian. She will celebrate her 10th anniversary with Pima County Public Library in 2020.