The Phoenix Public Library system has served the community for more than 125 years through the hard work and dedication of many librarians, including local librarians (pictured left to right) Eric Rueda, Yucca Library; Matthew Rummele, Acacia Library; Matthew Dieckman, Acacia Library; and Heather Kendall, Yucca Library (photos courtesy of Phoenix Public Library).

In 2023, the Phoenix Public Library system celebrated 125 years of serving residents. The venerable institution consists of 17 libraries, and during fiscal year 2022-23 those libraries hosted over two million visits. But libraries are more than just “where the books live,” they serve as community hubs, says Eric Rueda, branch manager at Yucca Library.

“We partner with social agencies, schools, public institutions and community groups in our communities and often pool resources together to offer a rich variety of program offerings from workshops, trainings and social services,” Rueda said.

And these community hubs would be nothing without the librarians and other staff who bring all those resources and programming together.

So, we set out to learn more about these special people and the libraries they serve, and they told us why they love their job, what is unique about their branch and what makes libraries an integral part of the community.

Matthew Dieckman

Meet Matthew Dieckman, Acacia Library

Matthew Dieckman began his library career nearly eight years ago as a library assistant. A librarian now for three years, he is the assistant branch manager at Acacia and says that he has supported libraries all his life.

“As a child, I attended programs at the branch where I now work,” Dieckman said. “My time as a library assistant showed me how libraries directly impact communities. This inspired me to become a full-time librarian.”

His favorite part of being a librarian is building relationships with customers and connecting with the community. “Presenting storytimes is also great. It lets me engage with families and nurture a love for reading.”

Something that might surprise people about the job? “How much time we spend helping people with our printer. They don’t teach you this when you get your Library Science degree,” Dieckman said.

Located at 750 E. Townley Ave., Acacia Library opened Jan. 5, 1969. It was designed by architect Bennie Gonzales, who also built Ocotillo Library. Dieckman said that the architect designed many buildings in the 70s and 80s in the Phoenix metro area including the Scottsdale civic buildings and renovations of the Heard Museum.

New at the branch is the Teen Adventure Hour, and “there are a lot of teens who have responded to it,” Dieckman said. “It is mostly a Dungeons & Dragons program where teens get to build their own characters and go on adventures.” The program will continue into the summer months.

Acacia Library opened Jan. 5, 1969. It was designed by architect Bennie Gonzales, who also built Ocotillo Library. New offerings include Teen Adventure Hour (photo courtesy of Phoenix Public Library).

Heather Kendall

Meet Heather Kendall, Yucca Library

While she pursued various other professions before deciding to go back to school in her 30s to become a librarian, Heather Kendall has now been a librarian for 20 years — 19 of those years with Phoenix Public Library. And much like her coworker, she has always loved the library.

“Cholla was my branch as a child, and I looked forward to every visit,” Kendall recalled. “Unfortunately, it was not very close to home. So, in about the fourth grade, I took it upon myself to write a letter to the mayor asking for a library. I provided him with the cross streets of a vacant plot of land upon which to build my library. I remained a loyal library user, even though I never received a response.”

For Kendall, it would be impossible to narrow down to one favorite thing about being a librarian, but she says, “I suppose I like the fact that every day is different. You just never know what may happen or what questions you’ll get when working at the library.” And surprising as it may seem, “I’ve never heard a staff member shush anyone,” Kendall said, “and we can’t read on the job!”

The Yucca branch, which opened in June 1969, is located at 5648 N. 15th Ave. “It’s so easy to get to us!” the librarian said. “The bus stops right up the street, we’re very close to the light rail, there’s plenty of parking and we’re right in the center of Phoenix. Most importantly, we have the friendliest staff in the system. Why? Because we all love our jobs.”

Eric Rueda

Meet Eric Rueda, Yucca Library

Currently the branch manager at Yucca, Eric Rueda began working at Phoenix Public Library in 2007, and has been a librarian since 2012.

“I knew I wanted to become a librarian within the first month of working with the Phoenix Public Library,” Rueda said. “At the time, I was working on my undergraduate studies in 2007 when I found a part time job shelving library books at the Century Library.  I always had fond memories of visiting public libraries as a kid, so it was no surprise I immediately fell in love with the job.

“Seventeen years later and my passion for libraries continues to be everlasting.  There’s no other job quite like this and I’m very fortunate to work with an amazing team that shares the same enthusiasm for our public libraries.”

Yucca is the fourth busiest library in the system, and on Nov. 7, 2023, Phoenix voters approved a bond measure to expand Yucca Library in the coming years, doubling its size by adding 10,000 square feet.

“The additional space will provide a new meeting space, add study rooms, allow for additional public computers and much more,” Rueda said. “This capital investment project signals that our community appreciates their local libraries.  Expanding Yucca Library will ensure future generations get the opportunity to enjoy a modernized facility and public space for many, many years to come.”

Rueda added, “We work hard to maintain and create new partnerships that are aligned with our mission statement: ‘We connect today’s communities to a world of possibilities.’  We believe these coalitions are value added, helping individuals stay informed with what’s around their community and neighborhood.”

The Yucca branch opened in June 1969 and is the fourth busiest branch in the library system. Thanks to a 2023 bond approval, the library will double its size in coming years, adding 10,000 square feet (photo courtesy of Phoenix Public Library).

Matthew Rummele

Meet Matthew Rummele, Acacia Library

“I was sitting with a friend in a university library in college,” recalled Matthew Rummele. “She said ‘If all else fails, I’ll go back to school to become a librarian.’ My immediate thought was, ‘You can do that?!’ I immediately applied for a part time job at a library to see if it was a good fit and the rest is history.”

Rummele has been a librarian for 26 years, the past five of which have been at Phoenix Public Library. For him, the variety is his favorite part of the job – from creating programming for all ages, learning basic coding languages to help create braille and travelling to Guadalajara to build a Spanish language collection, to dressing up in a lion costume as part of a library card sign-up program.

“That’s really what I love about being a librarian,” he said. “I’ve been able to connect with and serve so many people in so many different ways and the job just keeps changing.”

Like Kendall, he’s done very little shushing in his career, “I think people who haven’t visited in a while might be surprised by how vital and boisterous a library can be, depending on what day they visit. They may find people taking advantage of a fast track to employment through a visit from the Mobile Career Unit, dancing in a Music and Movement program, or laughing with friends while crafting. There are times when it’s quiet and there are times when you can’t help but get caught up in whatever is going on.”

The Acacia branch recently partnered with the Homeless ID Project, “which helps people with lost or stolen IDs get replacements,” Rummele said, and it is first branch in the system to have an outdoor holds locker installed on site for people who can’t pick up their reserved items during open hours. “It’s exciting to be the first branch offering this new service!”

More than just “where the books live”

“Libraries are commonly seen as a place for books, but the reality is we are a place for people. We operate on a commitment to inclusivity,” Rueda said. “We are open to everybody. We provide access to resources and technology to support intellectual curiosity and personal endeavors. We offer a variety of educational programs focused on workforce reentry, early literacy, navigating higher learning, arts and culture and much more. We have moved on from being just a book depository to a public space for all.”

“We provide free spaces for people to gather and engage,” said Dieckman. “We provide free resources to people who may have fallen between the cracks and need access to technology and help with a job or housing search. We fill the gaps where we can.”

Rummele picks up on that theme, “The library is open to all of us and using it is free. The library’s reach transcends the actual buildings as well, with online access to countless streaming, reading, and listening options. Through our Culture Pass program people can visit area attractions for free, and you can even check out seeds and plant your own garden. If you want to learn how to do something, chances are the library will be able to help. Did I mention that it is open to all of us, and it is free?”

“There is nowhere else that a person can find such a wide array of resources of all types and for all ages or where one of the primary missions is to make every person feel welcome,” Kendall agreed. “Not only do we welcome our community members in all their diversity, we actively seek groups who feel marginalized by providing programs and services that will draw them in.”

“Your local library will always be there for you, ready and willing to offer a helpful hand,” Rueda concluded.

Phoenix Public Library is gearing up for a May launch of the Summer Reading Program, which encourages residents of all ages to read at least 20 minutes a day. This year’s theme: “Adventure Begins at Your Library.” The program runs June 1 to Aug. 1. Ask your local librarian for details or check out

WEB EXTRA: Looking for a great summertime read? Find out what our local librarians are recommending you check out this summer and beyond.



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