Civic Center Library heritage exhibit will define Scottsdale history

A graphic rendering of a potential glass wall at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library that will welcome patrons to the Scottsdale Heritage Connection. (Photo credit: Ben Arnold)

If you don’t know where you have been, you can’t figure out where you are going.

The Scottsdale Heritage Connection will emerge in future months at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library in an effort to showcase the rich and vibrant community history of “The West’s Most Western Town.”

“The Scottsdale Public Library is in the fortunate situation of having a committed group of community members and Friends of the Scottsdale Public Library who are raising funds to help create a special space for the Scottsdale Heritage Connection at the Civic Center Library,” said Scottsdale Library Director Barbara Roberts.

“This dedicated space will allow easy access to the Scottsdale Heritage Connection materials and provide a research and community gathering place focused on Scottsdale’s history.”

Ms. Roberts points out the artifacts that make Scottsdale a special place then — and today — will be on display free to the public at Scottsdale Civic Center Library, 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

“The Scottsdale Heritage Connection includes physical materials such as books, newspaper clippings, high school yearbooks as well as digital materials including oral histories, documents and over 10,000 photographs,” Ms. Roberts explains.

The Scottsdale Charros believe in preserving the history of a community defined by its unique charm and colorful citizenry.

“The Charro Foundation believes that retaining and making the history of Scottsdale available to our citizens is an important community goal,” said Scottsdale Charros Executive Director Dennis Robbins.

“The Scottsdale Public Library has an historical collection of 10,000 photographs, 300 audio and video interviews, over 400 phone directories, yearbooks and local media from the city and local newspapers from the early 1950s. Most of these materials are in storage and they are difficult for residents to view. We would like a space in the library where these materials are easy for our citizens to see.”

The Charro Foundation is providing the Friends of the Public Library, which is both and advocacy and fundraising group behind Scottsdale public libraries, a grant in the amount of $2,500 in support of the local heritage program.

“Along with 40 other generous community members and organizations, the Charro Foundation has been one of the earliest supporters of the Scottsdale Heritage Connection capital campaign,” Ms. Roberts said of the Charro commitment. “The funds The Charro Foundation have provided will be used toward creating and equipping our new space, which will provide our community a dedicated place to learn, discover and explore Scottsdale history.”

Dennis Robbins

As the city continues to grow in both population and regional stature, Mr. Robbins says the more who know the story of Scottsdale — the better.

“Scottsdale has a rich and unique history that residents hold dear,” Mr. Robbins said.

“As we grow and mature as a city it is important to remember our past and those who have paved the way for us today. It makes you realize that there were many challenges in the early days of our city where committed people made good, solid decisions that laid the groundwork for who we are as a city today.”

Mr. Robbins contends honoring those who came before us is a keystone to community advocacy.

“The formative years of Scottsdale created strong neighborhoods, good schools, limited government and a solid, diverse economy,” he said. “We should always honor and recognize those efforts.”

Scottsdale Public Library operates five libraries. (File photo)

The 21st Century library

As the world tip-toes into the birth of the Digital Age, local library officials and community members are beginning to ponder where the traditional brick-and-mortar library fits into the 21st Century landscape.

“Libraries have been debating this question for at least 10 years,” Ms. Roberts said of the new question posed.

“My personal opinion has evolved to the point where I believe libraries don’t need to be reinvented, but they do need to emphasize services over buildings and books,” she said of a new approach.

“The future of libraries will be in reaching out to the parts of the community that need specialized services. Yes, libraries will always have collections of materials, but because of the skills and education of librarians the service of knowledge dispersion in many forms will, hopefully, become the new stereotype of libraries. As it should.”

Ms. Roberts contends libraries need to move from a passive approach to an active one.

“The future is taking the knowledge of librarians outside of the brick-and-mortar buildings and directly to the community through library websites and librarian outreach classes and programs in schools, community centers, senior centers and daycares,” she said.

“The Digital Age is exciting and full of possibility. However, relying on the web for everything can actually be limiting. Because of the complexity of searching the internet and interpreting results for accuracy, the knowledge of librarians is needed now more than ever. Librarians can help people learn the best ways to use digital resources to receive the best possible results in both quantity and quality.”

Mr. Robbins says he sees libraries evolving into essential meeting places for community members to collaborate, learn and move forward together for a common goal — much of what the Scottsdale Heritage Connection hopes to illustrate, he says.

“Local libraries are an important gathering place for residents to pursue all kinds of learning, community building and fellowship within the larger city. Libraries act as a focal point for many community activities that are difficult to find in other parts of the city. Libraries are unique in that they are open to everyone in the city.”

When asked if libraries are needed in the 21st Century, Ms. Roberts replied, “yes, because they are, and always have been, the last free, universally accessible democratic institutions, and create an environment for collaboration and discussion as a community hub.”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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