Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘REFORMA’

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Pura Belpré!

Pura Belpré storytelling at La Casita Maria community center in East Harlem

Pura Belpré storytelling at La Casita Maria community center in East Harlem

This week marks the birthday (as far as historians can tell) of Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Latina librarian after whom the esteemed award is named. The Pura Belpré award was established in 1996 and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. So you see, it’s time to kick off this year-long party!

Bright air balloonsTo honor this special day, I’ve invited guest blogger Dr. Marilisa Jimenez Garcia of Hunter College. She is a passionate advocate of Pura Belpré’s legacy and studies issues pertaining to Latino children’s lit. Here Dr. Jimenez Garcia examines the lasting impact of an author visit – and how it led to her own interest in this fascinating librarian.


9780440404859As a child, one of my favorite book series was Kids of the Polk Street School by Patricia Reilly Giff. I am almost certain I found the series by looking through my sister’s books. She was three years older, cooler, and always had the best books. She was beyond the little frogs and cats learning to dress themselves and brush their teeth in the books I read. Her books had full-blown characters that went to school, got into trouble, and made plans for the future—things I found much more intriguing. I know now that my love for these books was greatly due to Giff’s ability to engage me as a young reader.

One day my mother found out that Giff was going to be at a local library in Long Island. My mother usually took us to local libraries to rent videos and take out books. She knew that taking her girls to see one of their favorite authors would be a special treat.

Patricia Reilly Giff would go on to receive the Newbery Honor medal in 2003

Ms. Giff would go on to receive the Newbery Honor medal in 2003

I remember sitting in the library that day. The chairs were set up differently, and everyone was much more excited than usual. Giff spoke to us like a friend, and she read from one of her books. Afterward, she promised to stay after her talk and sign books. I saw it as a golden opportunity to ask a question.

This was a big step for me since I was a relatively shy child—waiting until I felt I could trust the environment. We had moved from Puerto Rico only the previous year, and I had only recently gotten used to English. Once I started speaking it, I couldn’t stop, but you had to be just the right person for me to open up. I had also gotten used to people thinking I couldn’t speak English and brushing me off. Sometimes I went along with it out of pure exhaustion with trying to explain where I was from. Honestly, it was quite a lot to have to negotiate as a six-year-old.

Marilisa and her book-loving mom on the doorstep of La Casa Azul

Marilisa and her book-loving mom on the doorstep of La Casa Azul

Mami helped me walk to the front of the room with my copy of Polk Street. Giff asked me my name and where I was from. I didn’t mind telling her. “My name is Marilisa, and I am from Puerto Rico.” Giff told me that my name was beautiful which confirmed my feelings about her awesomeness. She then began to dedicate my copy of Polk Street: “To Marilisa.” She spoke with Mami about going to the library. Mami told her that I loved her books.

I realized that we were about to leave, so I knew it was time for me to ask my question. “You know, maybe you should write a book about a little girl named Marilisa?” I said. Giff looked at me and smiled, saying, “Yes, that sounds like a great idea.” I was so serious about the whole thing that I began to tell her how the story should go. It would be a regular story like those I had read in Polk Street, except there would be a character named Marilisa, she would be fabulous, and she had to own a horse. That last part was imperative. Giff nodded her head, and I left believing that we had just concocted a plan.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 11.36.43 AMLooking back at this moment, I realize now what I, as a child, was trying to say to a renowned author. “Do you think you could write more books with people like me in them? You see, because I keep reading all these books at the library, and they are wonderful, but I just don’t seem to exist in any of them. I realize I must use my imagination, but I just know that there is room in your imagination for someone like me.”

Years later, I would be in another library looking for reflections of my culture. This time it was 2008 and I was in Gainesville, Florida at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature at the University of Florida. I was a Ph.D student looking for a research project that utilized the archives. I had just had an ugly incident at a local store where someone who heard me speaking to Mami on the phone in Spanish had told me to “go learn English.” I remember thinking, “Wow, here I am teaching a course in English literature. I did a program in British literature at Oxford. I am in a Ph.D program in English, and here I am again, being told that I need to speak English.”

03_Perez and Martina- LP Front Cover_70dpi.previewAt the Baldwin, I wondered what would happen if I typed “Puerto Rico” into the catalogue. The collection was meant to reflect American culture. Immediately, the name Pura Belpré came up on my screen. “Oh great, something new,” I thought to myself. I found a catalogue entry of Perez and Martina published in 1932. “Wait…1932,” I said. “Why is this the first time I hear about this?” I discovered that librarian Pura Belpré had spent her life advocating for books for Latino/a children, and I had never seen them on the shelves. Actually, I had never read a Latino/a author in school or in college. And even though Pura Belpré is the namesake of an award, few know who she was or that she wrote books. My doctoral education was marked by this moment, and my life really took a turn that would lead to my writing on Belpré, and ultimately the history of Puerto Rican literature for youth in the United States.

Marilisa and Meg at NCTE 2015 in Minneapolis

Marilisa and Meg at NCTE 2015 in Minneapolis

As a child, and even as a young woman, I didn’t know that I was looking for books that reflected me. I didn’t know that I was looking for ways to articulate what I felt when I felt nonexistent in American culture. I think this is why my work in this area is more than just a research project. It is a question I have been asking for a long time. “Could you write a story about a girl named Marilisa?” This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Pura Belpré Medal. Along with other authors, librarians, and scholars, it is my sincere wish that we would take the time to learn more about Pura’s life and writing. Hopefully, all Latino/a children can know that there are people and stories that have worked to reflect their histories and cultures in books.


 

Marilisa_Jimenez-GarciaMarilisa Jimenez Garcia is a research associate at the Center for Puerto Rican studies at Hunter College, CUNY. Her dissertation, “Every Child is Born a Poet: The Puerto Rican Narrative within American Children’s Culture” (2012) won the 2012 Puerto Rican Studies Association Best Dissertation Award. She is an NCTE Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color Fellow. Look for her contribution (“The Pura Belpre Medal: The Latino/a Child in America, the Need for Diversity, and Name-branding Latinidad’) in Prizing Children’s Literature (Routeledge 2016) by Kenneth B. Kidd and Joseph Thomas (ed.) 

twitterFollow Marilisa on Twitter @MarilisaJimenez

Learn more about Marilisa’s research 


More Pura Belpré news:

Check out this video trailer!  Buy here from Centro (Center for Puerto Rican Studies)

alaac16Coming to ALA in June?  Join in the 20th anniversary party to honor Pura Belpré’s memory and the many books and authors who have been selected over the years! Sunday, June 26, 2016, 1 – 3:30 PM. Free with your conference fee!

Want to help preserve Pura Belpré’s legacy?  Join REFORMA as a community supporter!

Introduce young readers to Pura Belpré with The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucia Gonzalez and illustrated by Lulu Delacre

Add winners of the Pura Belpré medals to your school or personal collection.

On conga lines, a seaside library, and the surprise of a girl’s rehab center: REFORMA Nat’l Convention V

You haven’t lived until you’ve done a conga line to the strains of Miami Sound Machine with a bunch of happy librarians. That’s precisely what I did during the dance party/dessert reception at the fifth annual REFORMA national conference in San Diego last week.

757799_c6a406e46c834299bba5a0f4540a55de.png_srz_p_913_281_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzI’ve mentioned REFORMA here before. That’s the arm of ALA dedicated to library services to Latinos – and a partner in the Pura Belpré award, along with ALSC. This year about 300 librarians, authors, teachers, and community leaders – many sporting pins with slogans like Sí – hablo español – gathered to share ideas and best practices.

Photo via Sonia Bautista

Photo via Sonia Bautista

It had a lot of the usual conference fare: panels, keynotes (mine at the pool on a broiler of a day). But the event had the unmistakable feeling of friends coming together for support and fun, too. Maybe that’s what Ana Elba Pavon meant when she called it “time with my REFORMA family.”

Look, you can’t blame me for being a little giddy about going to San Diego, land of the eternal sunny-and-low-70s weather, especially after this winter. But I got a lot more than a few days in the sunshine.

I was surprised to run into Teresa Mlawer, who has been duking it out with the translation for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which she says is the hardest book she’s ever had to translate. (She’s done quite a few, like classics, Where the Wild Things Are and Caps for Sale.) She’s trying her best to keep the voice and idioms, all while making the book sound not like a translation, but as though it was originally written in Spanish. She promised to come on this blog – or sit on a panel with me some time – to talk about this tricky process. All translations are not equal. All Spanish is not the same. It’s a minefield, I tell you.

Selfie with librarian Jennifer Lawson.  Hey, same glasses!

Selfie with librarian Jennifer Lawson. Hey, same glasses!

Another fantastic surprise was the morning I spent at the Girls Rehabilitation Facility through a program called the Juvenile Court Book Club. Thanks to librarian and board member Jennifer Lawson of the San Diego County Public Library, I spent the morning with girls, all under 18, who are  incarcerated, but who have earned privileges for good behavior. I didn’t know what to expect. Would I be walking into an entire room full of Yaqui Delgado’s?  What I found was an incredibly engaged teacher named Yolanda (originally from Philly) and a smart group of girls with good questions. So little separated them from the middle and high school girls I meet everywhere else.

If you’ve read Yaqui, you know that it takes a look at living through violence, making mistakes, and finding the strength to regroup. The girls at the center have probably felt lost in the face of all they’ve seen. Their mistakes or lousy circumstances have cost them dearly. But here they are, strong girls trying to find a new way to see themselves. It felt like a gift to spend time with them, and I am very grateful to Candlewick, my publisher, for donating copies of the book that they could keep.

Encinitas branch of San Diego Public library

Encinitas branch of San Diego Public library

Nice entrance to the library

Nice entrance to the library

Take a look at the Encinitas branch of the library where I did a small panel with Mary Pearson (The Adoration of Jenna Fox, among other titles) and Stephanie Diaz, who, at age 21, is about to publish her third book in a sci-fi trilogy with St. Martin’s Press. Amazingly, Stephanie wrote her first novel and query letter at age thirteen. Check out her website and share it with every kid who tells you they’ve got their novel ready. All things are possible.

With Mary Pearson and Stephanie Diaz

With Mary Pearson and Stephanie Diaz

Then it was off to REFORMA. I took in a few sessions, including one about DIA celebrations. I’ve done DIA events in the past (Paint Me a Story, remember?), and I’ve tried to be part of the diversity celebration every year since then. ALA has recently referred to Dia as Diversity in Action, to include all cultural groups. But in California, where they’ve been celebrating April (especially April 30) for ten years or more, they largely still call it Dia de los niños/dia de los libros as it was originally conceived by the legendary Pat Mora.

I think a missing piece is still DIA programming for teens. As luck would have it, the Dia day that I’m part of at the Library of Congress YRC at the end of the month is geared to parents, librarians and teachers of middle grade and high school youth. Here’s the invite: DIA UPDATED INVITE

The authors on the panel are all middle grade and YA authors representing a range of cultures. It’s a good start, but now my wheels are turning (uh-oh) on how to tap into diverse authors, especially YA Latino authors, to do a month-long Teen Dia something-or-other. (I can already imagine my writing friends reading this and trying to figure out how to put email blockers on me.)

Dancing based on Aztec storytelling at Noche de Cuentos.

Dancing based on Aztec storytelling at Noche de Cuentos.

The conference also had evening events at the San Diego Downtown library, which is a spectacle of a building with enormous glass book sculptures, and architectural wonders that make a book geek’s head explode. It even includes a school inside. Go visit.

Folkloric music from Mexico at the dessert reception.

Folkloric music from Mexico at the dessert reception.

And, finally, yes, there was the dancing. What can I say? We watched folkloric dance for about thirty minutes, and then the DJ showed up. It took all of four notes for the REFORMA past president and the San Diego County Library director to take the dance floor. After that, everyone was up and moving. Before I knew it, Keith Michael Fiels, ALA’s CEO, and I were boogying and following the conga line around the room. Pictures will surface, possibly with blackmail notes. I’ll keep you posted.

Okay – AWP in Minnesota is up next. And guess what, they’re predicting snow showers. Okay, it’s not 70-degrees-and-sunny. But who knows? I might find some great surprises there, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banned On the Run…

It’s a double whammy! Banned Books week and Hispanic Heritage month, so I’ve been on the road with no sign of rest in the near future.

Fellow REFORMISTA Loida Garcia Febo just shared this link to Latino books that have been challenged and banned, including the book that turned me to writing in the first place: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  Que cosa mas grande...

imagesGracias, Loida. Lists like this inspire me to write more books that might cause alarm and discomfort – and hey, even thought. And they make me feel especially fired up about my first teaching gig at Las Comadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn this weekend. Las Comadres is more than a conference. It’s a movement based on the core principle of mentorship and culture. On Saturday, established Latina authors and publishing pros will come together at Medgar Evers College to help yet-to-be published authors learn the ropes. What’s in it for me?  Mostly getting more Latino voices at the literary table, especially those writing for kids since this year, for the first time,  our public schools will be a majority minority. Besides, I’ll be helping to create more amazing books that will end up on banned book lists.

So, hermanas, if you have a story, if you’ve been too shy to admit that you want to be a writer, if you just don’t know where to begin, register for Las Comadres.

Finally, here are a few pictures from my recent travels to the DC area.  I’m exhausted, but so grateful to Candlewick Press for helping to make some of these visits possible. And as always, I am so grateful for the lovely people I meet everywhere along the way. (I’m waving at you, Osbourn Park High School…even if you DID schedule a fire drill.)

Meg’s next appearances:  

Las Comadres Writers Conference, Medger Evers College, Brooklyn, New York, September 27, 2014

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Richmond, VA, September 30, 2014 (by invitation only)

Las Américas Awards Teaching Workshops, Exploring Immigration and Identity in the K-12 Classroom, with Duncan Tonatiuth at Busboys and Poets, Washington, DC. October 3, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBoosk founder Ellen Oh surrounded by adoring fans from Iguana Books at North Atlantic Booksellers Association

#WeNeedDiverseBoosk founder Ellen Oh surrounded by adoring fans from Iguana Books

The beautiful Library of Congress. Stay tuned for details about an exciting YA event on April 30, 2015

The beautiful Library of Congress. Stay tuned for details about an exciting YA event on April 30, 2015

Thank you letter from my appearance at the Library of Congress with bilingual students last year.

Thank you letter from my appearance at the Library of Congress with bilingual students last year.

Or maybe I was having a bad hair day?

Or maybe I was having a bad hair day?

Some of the great students I met at Osbourn Park HS

Some of the beautiful students I met at Osbourn Park HS

 

 

 

 

 

Underwater Dreams airing on MSNBC

I’m passing this on because I love an underdog story – especially one that shows off Latino kids with super-sized brains and grit.

The documentary Underwater Dreams will be airing on MSNBC and Telemundo this Sunday, July 20, 2014 1 PM, EST.

Here’s the blurb:  “Underwater Dreams, written and directed by Mary Mazzio, and narrated by Michael Peña, is an epic story of how the sons of undocumented Mexican immigrants learned how to build an underwater robot from Home Depot parts. And defeat engineering powerhouse MIT in the process.” Get the rest of the scoop here: 

 

header_logoI might not have heard about this if I hadn’t joined REFORMA as a community supporter this year. It’s a librarian association dedicated to providing services for Latino families, but you can join as a supporter or a corporate sponsor. You can flat-out just donate, too.

Anyway, I’m so glad this crossed my screen. Thanks, Reformistas for being such a great clearinghouse of information!

 

Women’s Media Center Live

womens-media-center-wmc-live-with-robin-morgan-300webMy third grade art teacher was the first woman I ever knew to put “Ms.” before her name. I remember almost nothing about her except that astounding decision – and the fact that she let us dance to Helen Reddy’s  I Am Woman for our after school club performance. She was probably the first feminist I ever met, and thankfully she left an imprint on her little charges. A few years later, I was already reading my sister’s Ms. Magazines, and eventually I went on to a life that’s been about writing stories that in one way or another advocate for girls. Law

So this weekend, when I was featured on the Women’s Media Center Live podcast, I was thrilled. WMCL is a weekly broadcast out of DC. It’s a project of a larger initiative called the Women’s Media Center which was founded in 2005 by feminist icons Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan. What I like about the podcast is that the guests are widely varied, (Anita Hill, Jimmy Carter, just two quick examples). I also like that Robin Morgan tackles any thorny topic with grace and brains.

You can catch it every Saturday morning, but you can download episodes via i-tunes if you miss the 11 am EST stream. This week, Robin and I talked about lots of things: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, how librarians are truly the butt-kicking heroes,  Girls of Summer, REFORMA, and my favorite lists for finding pro-girl multicultural books. Check out Women’s Center Live on Facebook or twitter (@wmclive). Subscribe and enjoy!

Here’s the link to their archives.

Yaqui, Pura Belpré and Me

Here is what it looks like when a dream comes true. photo

This blurry “selfie” was taken on a Richmond-bound Amtrak train, two minutes after getting the news that I had won the 2014 Pura Belpré Award. I was on my way home from the ALA Midwinter Conference on Sunday night when my cellphone rang and Ruth Tobar, chair of the selection committee, gave me the good news. I was  promptly sworn to secrecy until the next day. Obviously, Gigi guessed what all my Spanish and crying was about; thank goodness she’s a steel trap.

Yaqui with medalThank you so much, everyone, for the tsunami of good wishes. (And thank you, Ms. Espinal, President of REFORMA (the ALA’s affiliate group that focuses on library services for Latino youth and families) for saying “ass” with such courage and gusto from the podium!) It’s an honor beyond belief to receive this award alongside some of the most talented people working in children’s publishing today. (Full list of ALA Youth Media winners here.) Un abrazo fuerte for: Yuyi Morales, Margarita Engle, Matt De la Peña, Duncan Tonatiuh, Angela Dominguez, and Rafael Lopez.

Pura Belpré winner for illustration

Pura Belpré winner for illustration

Margarita Engle Matt de la Peña

pancho rabbit Tito Puente by Monica Brown MariaLlama

Other pieces of good news continue to come in for YAQUI,  but for now I’m off to a Banned Books and Brews event at Longwood University this weekend to help raise funds for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival which will bring some pretty big names to Virginia in the fall. A drink doesn’t sound like such a bad idea right about now.

¡Salud!

(Check out the awards. FYI, the Pura Belpré starts just after 38)

Meet Cristina Dominguez Ramirez: RPL’s newest non-shushing Latino librarian

“I don’t do much shushing. In fact, patrons ask me to turn down the volume; I have a strong voice.”

So says Cristina Dominguez Ramirez, an exciting new face at Richmond Public Libraries. She’ll be managing the renovated Broad Rock branch, which reopens next Tuesday.

Ramirez, recently of VCU Library systems, also has a strong vision. The daughter of two retired academics, she brings to her new job hopeless curiosity and a rich cultural background that includes Jewish, Moorish, Basque, and Visigoth blood on one side, and Spanish and American Indian ancestors on the other. More important, she also brings her dream to make our whole community a living library.

I chatted with Cristina via email about books, Richmond, and the role of libraries in the lives of Latino families.

 What appealed to you about the position at Richmond Public Library? 

It was a perfect match for me. I will manage one of the busiest branches in the Richmond Public Library, and I will get to work directly with community partners and leaders to create programming and events for a large number of underrepresented groups in Richmond. My passion ever since entering the profession has been to reach out to and encourage Latino and African American youth to stay in school and pursue their dreams. I feel very fortunate that I had parents that encouraged my learning so I want to pay it forward for other children and youth. Finally, I love the mission of Richmond Public Library-Inform, Enrich, Empower. This position allows me to work with the other branch managers, library administrators, and community partners to carry out the mission.

The heroine of Latina librarians: Pura Bulpré

It could be said that you’re a minority. As a Latina (although, as we all know, census predictions tell us it’s not going to be long before minorities are actually the majority.) But you’re part of only about 3% of librarians that identify as Latina. First, why aren’t there more Latina librarians? And second, why does it matter in your view?

I think that there are very few here regionally, but this is more a function of history and demographics. If you were to visit public libraries in California, Texas, New York or other states with a long history of Latino residents you would find many more Latino librarians. Virginia has a very young and emergent Latino population. I hope we will see more in the coming years but it is a pipeline issue. You have to convince them to go to library school to get their MLS degree to become professional librarians. Currently, Virginia does not have a library school so many have to go out of state or enroll in an online program.

I also think that it is not a profession that immediately comes to mind to many Latino youth. When they think about possible jobs, careers or professions, librarian does not seem to be on the top of the list. I hope that as the nature of libraries changes and the profession evolves, library schools and professionals can reshape how they conduct outreach. Planting the seed early that this is a noble and worthwhile profession can help encourage more Latinos to enter the profession.

[Having Latina librarians] does matter! When you have faces and names that you identity with when you come to a reference or circulation desk you feel more comfortable asking for services. And when you see a Latino surname and hear Spanish, you feel an immediate connection with the library and the staff.

You have such a varied background, which is really exciting to find in a librarian. Before joining the Broad Rock Branch of the Richmond Public Library as the manager, you were formerly at VCU, where you were the Collection Librarian for Social & Behavioral Sciences. You also have degrees in Philosophy and Religious studies, Middle Eastern Studies and Public Administration. Have you always been hopelessly curious? 

I collect books and I collect degrees as well. Once I get interested in a subject I have to keep learning and exploring it, it ends up in a degree. I wanted to learn about different world religions and philosophies so I did a degree in it while I pursued my B.S. in Psychology. Then, fascinated by Hebrew and Israel, I took a number of years of Biblical and Modern Hebrew and studies Israeli politics and culture. I even went to live in Jerusalem for a few months while enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin. I am currently earning a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Research & Evaluation. My latest interests are statistics, program evaluation, and research design. I have been buying textbooks on designing quantitative and qualitative studies. I know, light reading. I am hopelessly curious; I am a big believer in lifelong learning.

The beautiful work of illustrator, Joe Cepeda
View his work at http://www.joecedepda.com

What’s exciting to you about the Latino children’s literature scene today? 

What I find most exciting is the celebration of the stories and storytellers as well as the artists. Latino children’s literature tells the rich and varied stories that Latino children want to hear and need to hear. We all want to be connected to our culture, language, and history. Latino children’s literature makes these stories come alive with the beautiful artwork that accompanies these tales. I am always amazed at the fact that Latino children’s literature has both amazing storytellers and artists. Children are learning history and culture along with an appreciation for fine art.

You’re active with Reforma and other agencies with a mission to engage Latinos in innovative ways. What do you think are some of the mistakes libraries typically make as they try to connect with Latinos in their community?

Some libraries know that there is a Latino population but do not have the staff or resources to effectively reach out to them. At conferences I have met many librarians and library staff that are aware of their communities but are hesitant to engage due to a lack of cultural competence, linguistic ability, or not knowing how to relate to the community.

The issue probably lies more in the library school graduate programs that should include coursework and field experiences in working with diverse and underserved populations. Creating these experiences for librarians in training is very important. The creation of library Spanish course (like the medical Spanish courses you see in hospitals) would be useful to those who need to learn common expressions and terms to better relate to their patrons.

I also think that having programs and events that showcase elements of Latino culture and history are very important when connecting with a community. When your culture and history is recognized you feel that you have a stake in that library. Bringing in speakers that can connect with the parents and children will also form strong bonds with the community.

What are some of your favorite ways to make the library a cool place to be as well as an inviting place for Latinos?

To be a cool place you need to offer a clean, inviting environment with the resources that benefit the community the most. Today that is a mix of current technology and applications as well as popular fiction, nonfiction, and pleasure reading for youth. We need to offer current titles that cover a range of topics and genres. Series, for example, are very popular among teens. Given the economic climate, we also need to offer a number of resources to help people find and apply for jobs, create resumes and cover letters and to better their technology skills.

Having a library that has a welcoming and caring staff is one of the most important aspects of creating a cool place. Richmond Public Library has a very caring and dedicated staff. They will go out of their way to help patrons.

Finally, creating displays of titles and collections that will appeal to Latinos is crucial in making the library space itself feel welcoming to families. A display during Hispanic Heritage Month, bilingual posters and flyers to promote a cultural or programming event, and adding items or objects from the Latino culture during the holidays help to engage Latino families.

I know you’ve done presentations about the role of libraries in communities, specifically “libraries without walls.” What does that mean, exactly, and how will you make that idea grow legs in Richmond, VA? 

Libraries are not just the physical buildings that house the collections and resources; they are also the staff and community. We all are ‘libraries’ of information, experiences, history, and culture. Having librarians take the library outside of the walls into the community is to network and engage with the community. By tapping into the collective knowledge of the community, we strengthen the library as an institution and make it stronger for others.

For me that means identifying key community members that I consider ‘gatekeepers’ of knowledge.’ They may have key contacts, serve in important positions and understand the community at the ground level. By taking the library outside the walls you tap into all of these mini libraries in the community. They can help you develop a deep knowledge of the needs and wants of emergent communities.

I hope to make this idea grow legs here in Richmond by reaching out to many key community players, agencies, nonprofits, organizations, boards, and religious groups. They all form part of the fabric of the community and hold pieces to the puzzle. I want to create programming in Spanish that taps into the expertise of our business community for money management among Latinos. I want to develop basic computing courses in Spanish and bring in speakers and authors that will inspire and educate our Latino youth.

Your branch is just about to reopen on July 24th after a six-month renovation project. Your days must be packed with getting ready. Any secrets you care to let slip about the grand opening events?

The library under construction last March.

I am so excited about the renovation. We have both a children’s and teen area. The teen area has a nice reading space and is surrounded by graphic novels, comics, teen series and novels. The computing area has increased and we have many more workstations. There are also tables with power for laptops. The lighting and furniture is very colorful and the carpet is bright. The meeting room has and audio-visual and sound system. When you come in, the space is open and inviting. It is so comfortable that you won’t want to leave.

 

Any plans for maximizing on the fact that the new Latin Farmers market, La Plaza, is right next door?   

Absolutely. I want to get a table at the Latin Farmers market and promote Richmond Public Library and Broad Rock branch in particular. I also envision creating a number of tie-in events that will bring the customers of the market into the library for literary events. By creating programs and events with an emphasis on healthy foods and ethnic cuisine, cooking, and arts and crafts, I think that the Broad Rock branch is an ideal location for community engagement. I hope to reach more children and community members that have not previously used the library or resources.

 

Finish this sentence for me. Really great bibliotecas

son como un paraíso para la mente y para la gente.

(translation: “are like a paradise for the mind and for the people”)

Thanks, Cristina!

Looking for a good read? Some recommendations from Cristina:

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
  • Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear.
  • Pattern Recognition by William Gibson.