Bibliophile enjoys nearly five decades at city library - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Bibliophile enjoys nearly five decades at city library

March 7th, 2019 development
Bibliophile enjoys nearly five decades at city library

By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor


A Chandler librarian with almost five decades under her belt enjoys sharing her love of books and energizing children in two languages at the downtown library.

The Chandler City Council has honored Cecilia “CeCe” Martinez for her longevity working at the city’s downtown library.

She started as a page – the first the city hired, at age 14, through what was called the Neighborhood Youth Corps in the late 1960s.

Today, Martinez, 64, works as a library associate, reading stories in English and Spanish, playing music and getting children dancing around the library during a bilingual storytime every Tuesday morning.

She also helps people find books, assists them with using computers, answers phone calls and directs people to the right place to see librarians.

“There’s a lot of nice people here at the city,” Martinez said. “I’ve met a lot of nice people. I’ve had a lot of nice bosses, too. I like Chandler a lot and I grew up on the south side of Chandler. It’s grown so much out there.”

She said in 1973, Chandler had about 25,000 people and the landscape and businesses in the city have changed since then. The city had 258,952 residents as of Dec. 1, according to officials.

Growing up as one of 14 children, Martinez said her father worked in construction and did electrical work for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

She said he built the former Boys & Girls Clubs building in Chandler and was getting ready to build a church when he died of a heart attack at age 57.

As a teenager, Martinez said she enjoyed entering the library world at the downtown library, which was in a different location at the time. She has fond memories of being trained by Jean Griffith, a now-retired librarian.

“I loved my boss,” Martinez said. “She’s one of the greatest bosses. She would teach us how to do things. Everybody did everything. We didn’t have our specialties of what we have now. We had to learn how to be on desk, how to do catalog cards, how to look for books for people, how to mend books.

“I mended books for about 25 years and I loved that job. It would give you a satisfaction of putting back together again the books and it would give me the satisfaction of making it all nice.”

Martinez worked over summer vacation and after school, only taking a break when she finished high school to get her license to become a hairstylist. After working for a while as stylist, she decided she preferred library work.

Upon her return, she worked as a library aide, taking on more tasks than a page including assisting people at the desk, helping patrons use copy machines and steering them towards the books they were seeking.

“It was easier because we were a lot smaller in those days and people were different,” Martinez said. “They’ve got a different outlook of life. We didn’t have as many people and then we started growing.”

She said she enjoyed working on the “bookmobile,” which gave more children access to the library’s treasures.

“We would take books out to their location and then we would tell them, be back in two weeks,” Martinez said.

She also remembers moving into the current downtown library at 22 S. Delaware St. after it was built in the late 1990s. Martinez and her colleagues temporarily worked in a bank building while they waited for the downtown branch to be constructed.

When Martinez first started working for the city, it only had the one library downtown; now it has three other branches – Basha, Hamilton and Sunset.

Martinez has seen many other changes. She said she sees fewer books in Spanish now on the library shelves and believes it is because people are learning English more.

The libraries also loan out DVDs and offer computers for visitor use.

Children can play with technological toys, including a device that is like an X-ray machine at the downtown library. LEGO and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) clubs that meet at the libraries give children a chance to build and explore technology.

“They just remodeled the children’s section not too long ago,” Martinez said. “It looks really nice. Kids can use their minds in creating things with LEGOs.”

A highlight of her job is reading children’s books during the bilingual story hours at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays. Sometimes she reads the books in Spanish and then throws in English words and other times she tells the stories in English and tosses in Spanish words. Babies to children age 5 typically attend the storytimes with their parents or grandparents, many of them hoping to learn Spanish, Martinez said.

“They’re so cute when they’re dancing around and doing the jumping around we do,” she said. “We do a lot of dancing. It’s good for them. A lot of kids don’t get out nowadays because they like to play with computers. We get them out there and get them to dance. … We play it in Spanish and sometimes in English.”

She also engages the children in crafts.

Martinez has four adult children and two grandchildren. She enjoys reading nonfiction, including biographies on the late Presidents John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. Martinez also likes fiction, including the books “Flowers in the Attic” and “Petals on the Wind” by V.C. Andrews.  She likes reading about old ghost towns including Tombstone. Besides working at the library, she also works part-time at Elmer’s Tacos in Chandler.

Martinez has carried her late father’s advice with her throughout her career and life.

“My dad always said if you learn, you can go to different places,” she said. “Learn how to read, you can go to different places.”

Martinez is grateful to the women she worked for who took her under their wing when she was younger and answered her questions.

And seeing people she knew years ago also gives her a kick.

“I even see the kids that had a crush on me when I was a teenager,” Martinez said. “I do miss some of the winter visitors that would come in. We would show the 16-millimeter films at night.”

She has advice for newcomers to the library.

“Just enjoy your job,” Martinez said. “Learn as much as you can.”