By Traci Chapman
A whirlwind of energy, enthusiasm and joy for everything Mustang Public Library has to offer the community, Nichole Valencia typically responded to the realization she was being honored for her contributions to that facility and all who use it – she didn’t believe it.
That’s because the Mustang youth services librarian is constantly on the go to make the Mustang library bigger and better, reaching a world far beyond its Town Center space, library director Julie Slupe – and, in the process, bringing more and more young people to appreciate all the facility has to offer.
“Nichole doesn’t truly realize, I don’t think, just how much she does for the library and for this community,” Slupe said. “She is an incredible asset not just to Mustang Public Library but to the city as a whole, and we are very proud of her.”
That pride was twofold last week, as Mustang American Legion Post 353 honored Valencia with the 2019 city of Mustang Non-Uniformed Employee of the Year award, acknowledging her contribution to the community as a whole.
“We are honored to be able to join with the city of Mustang in recognizing you with this award, and we are very impressed with all we have learned about your service to our great community,” Post 353 Commander John Bishop said. “You truly have made a difference.”
Valencia started in Mustang in October 2017, following stints at Yukon’s Mabel C. Fry Public Library and Metropolitan Library System. She worked as a library technician in University of Central Oklahoma’s Max Chamber Library, graduating from that school in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in general studies.
While Valencia knows a lot about library operations it’s her outlook and ingenuity when it comes to formulating new and different programs for those who walk through the Mustang facility’s doors, Slupe said.
“There is no one more perfect for youth services than Nichole – she always surprises me with the innovative ways she comes up with to keep our younger patrons involved and energized,” the director said.
Those programs run from the obviously educational – like STEMulate and other activities that focus on science, technology, engineering and math – to things like sensory story time, a chance for special needs children to have a safe and quiet space for reading and other activities. Reading to Dogs brings therapy dogs into the library, giving young readers a chance to practice their skills on the patient and beloved animals, while a plethora of recently devised activities make learning and expanding their worlds fun for children, youth and their families alike.
“This is a daunting task, as the target age group ranges from babies, toddlers, prekindergarten through the community’s teenagers,” Slupe said. “Nichole’s programs are extremely popular with the children of the city of Mustang and have been recognized beyond the local community.”
American Legion Post 353 Commander John Bishop presents the 2019 Mustang Non-Uniformed City Employee of the Year Award to Mustang Public Library youth services librarian Nichole Valencia during an April 11 ceremony held at Town Center. Library director Julie Slupe, left, was on hand to celebrate Valencia’s achievement.