Originally Published: November 12, 2017 5:58 a.m.
One day, Stuart Mattson looked out his office window and spotted a lady from Germany who a week or so before had asked him a question for which he did not have an answer.
Since Mattson had last seen her, though, heres what he thought she might want to know. When he spotted her in the parking lot he chased her down to the other side of the Civic Center to share his findings.
To Mattson, 65, that’s what a good public librarian does — tracks down what patrons need, want, or might intrigue them in ways they would never have known without an introduction.
“I can’t let go of a question,” Mattson admitted.
For the past 30 years, Mattson has been the director of the Prescott Valley Pubic Library, a job he came to after another seven years working in the Phoenix area where he spent time in both the university and public library system, preferring the community side of library service. He will retire from his career in January.
“This has to be a place for everybody,” said Mattson of the community pride and joy — he spearheaded construction of the 36,000 square foot expansion that replaced its prior 4,100 square foot “shoebox” — that became an integral piece of the town’s government complex off Glassford Hill Road in 2010.
Mattson defers credit for the success of this library to those he is fortunate enough to call his extended family. On a daily basis his crew of 26 full and part-time employees and some 150 volunteers do all they can to assure the public not only is able to select the latest fiction and non-fiction titles they wish to read but have computers to do job searches or simply surf the Internet.
Want to read a magazine or newspaper from around the United States? Pick one up and then go read in the “Open Book” café with a fresh cup of espresso and a pastry or designer sandwich. Be sure to never miss the community calendar that lists everything from children story time to quilting classes and doodling programs for senior citizens. The library is home to various public and civic board meetings as well as an exhibit hall for local artists. Free movie nights are a popular outing for families.
“The staff here is unbelievable,” declared Mattson who in his off-duty hours brings books and other library services to three homebound seniors. “I’m always amazed at what the stuff they come up with to offer.”
One of the latest projects was a “Little Free Library” project set up at the Viewpoint satellite fire station. These stand-alone libraries allow people to pick up and donate books for readers near where they live.
“I’m not a micromanager. I let the staff do their thing,” Mattson said.
Of course, Mattson is clear the bread and butter of the $2.4 million operation is the ability to stay current on information, materials and technology easily accessible to all visiting patrons.
In September, patrons checked out 35,178 books from the library’s inventory of some 130,000 books and periodicals. Some 25,000 people visited the library, and the library booked in 248 new patrons.
One misnomer of the library business is that librarians get to spend their days reading books. Mattson chuckles that the only time he has to read is at bedtime — and he prefers the lighter tomes.
He regularly recommends books to staff and friends. His latest recommendation is author Fannie Flagg’s newest title, “The Whole Town’s Talking.”
How did Mattson come to be a librarian?
He volunteered at a library in high school, and without any other clear career direction, earned a bachelor’s degree in library science from Illinois State University. He then earned a master’s degree from the University of Arizona.
“I’m fortunate it was a very successful decision,” said Mattson who lives in Prescott Valley with his partner of 35 years Gene Fougner and their 15-year-old son.
Prescott Valley City Manager Larry Tarkowski described Mattson as an “incredible asset to the community.”
Mattson has grown with the community, and in the job, playing an instrumental role in expanding the library from when it was in a “shoe box of a place on Bob Drive.”
“He has done an outstanding job of promoting library sciences and bringing the best of the best library technology to the residents or Prescott Valley,” Tarkowski said.
Now that the time has come to “let someone else take over the reins,” Mattson said he just might have time to join one of the library’s book clubs.
So what is Mattson’s all-time favorite book?
“My Secret Horse.”