You’ve likely heard Tiffany Paisley’s infectious laugh if you’ve been to the Cheyenne Mountain Library in the last few years.
You’ll often see Paisley, the branch manager since 2017, laughing and talking with patrons and staff. Her sense of humor comes out when she refers to the pandemic “corona coaster we’ve been on” and the “ghostbuster sanitizing gun” library staff use to clean.
Fourteen years ago Paisley returned to school for her bachelor’s degree and started working part-time shelving books at the Old Colorado City Library. Before working for the Pikes Peak Library District, she worked in the food service and newspaper industries.
Paisley remembers the moment she knew this work was for her — witnessing how happy patrons were to see the staff and how the happy staff were to see patrons when the library reopened after being closed for renovations.
“I’ll never forget standing in the foyer there and watching people come in (and interact),” Paisley said. “It was one of those ‘this is what I’m meant to do’ moments.”
Over the next few years, Paisley became a clerk, led teen programs, and later became a children’s specialist at the Old Colorado City Library.
In April 2016, she moved to the Penrose Library to coordinate the Paws to Read program, where kids practice reading to dogs. She received a master’s in Library and Information Sciences degree in the fall of 2016 from San José State University, and in 2017, Paisley became the branch manager of the Cheyenne Mountain library.
Human connection and lifelong learning are at the heart of Paisley’s work.
“(Connection) goes both ways. I get just as much out of it. I love it when patrons share a great book they’ve read, a movie they’ve watched. That’s a gift for me to be able to hear that,” Paisley said. “The crux of what we do is about personal development. It’s about lifelong learning.”
She’s enjoyed seeing kids from her library programs grow up and feels happy knowing the library touched them and gave them a place to belong.
“I’ve had teens that now have babies and send me pictures, and they’re 30,” Paisley said. “The library made a difference for them, and they tell me that. It means a lot.”
Paisley is often seen moving quickly to tend to library patrons’ needs. But, during the pandemic, her staff taught her the value of slowing down.
“Because of my restaurant background, my muscle memory can take over. Sometimes, I can go way too fast,” Paisley said. “Staff have really taught me to slow down, pace myself and take each situation one step at a time.”
Her time in restaurants also gave her a perspective that she continues to hold today.
“Anybody who walks through our door — you don’t know what they’ve been through. They could have lost a job or they could have lost a family member,” Paisley said. “We try to be a place of grace.”
To help her staff focus on positive interactions with patrons, Paisley created a whiteboard tally called “Niceypoo’s.” Staff use it as a visual reminder of the good things patrons say to them.
Paisley sees the library as a “third place,” an idea Ray Oldenburg, Ph.D. writes about in his books “The Great Good Place” and “Celebrating the Third Place.”
“That’s always been the philosophy that I’ve operated under,” Paisley said. “We’re a third place. We’re a part of the community. We’re this brick-and-mortar place that people come to. We’re this community center. The pandemic took that away. Not being able to have that space and be that place just showed me how much more I appreciate that.”
During the pandemic, the library lost one of it’s longtime volunteers, Barbara Lewis, a retired school teacher and Cheyenne-area resident who died in August.
“It was really hard for us because we never got a chance to see Barbara when we shut down the library in March,” Paisley said. “(Volunteers) are the backbone of our library. We miss them a lot and the example that they show of kindness and selflessness.”
Paisley said she’s ready to do a “happy dance” when volunteers return to the branch, hopefully in mid-March.
Paisley said the library has something for everyone and knows how important it is to people of all ages and backgrounds for different reasons. She said it’s a place where all people can learn, connect, be seen, and belong, whether they’re a child, a new parent, a teen or a senior.
“You can’t take the public out of public library. That’s the whole deal,” Paisley said. “I used to tell my teens at OCC, the library is the only place you can come to and you have the same right and treatment as anybody who walks through that door. That’s true for everybody.”