Between the Lines: October Member Spotlight
International Services Engagement and Outreach Coordinator
Houston Public Library
What inspired you to become a librarian?
Libraries have always been a source of fascination for me. I am an avid reader: Reading has been an essential part of my personal growth and has accompanied me through different stages of my life. I believe in the power of reading and education to open people’s minds to new and exciting ideas. I found in libraries the resources that empowered and inspired me to work toward the same access and opportunity for everyone.
Like many “accidental librarians,” I joined the library without knowing how broad the scope of library services could be, and found out pretty quickly that American libraries are opportunity centers. And we, librarians and library professionals, are in the center of it, making a real and lasting difference in our community. I know we make a positive impact on someone’s life every day. This is a powerful inspiration, and a major driving force of my work.
What is an innovative practice at your library that you’d like to share with others?
We have leveraged community partnerships in innovative ways to provide community access to resources regardless of digital access. One example is our partnership with local news station KHOU and municipal channel HTV to create original programming that provides content, activities and ideas to support students who have been learning at home.
Another exciting partnership is our TECHLink Library powered by Aramco. TECHLink provides access to multiple state-of-the-art technologies for the public to create music, videos, and art, including 3D scanning and printing, music and video production studios, embroidery, and laser cutting. This space is crafted as a learning environment with a focus on creativity, self-expression, and collaboration.
If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and why?
It’s hard to choose only three of them! I’d start with Mark Twain because I strongly believe humor plays an important role in our lives, and laughter has a very positive effect on our health.
Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine short-story writer, poet and essayist who is considered one of Latin America’s greatest writers. I would be delighted to listen to what he has to say about death, time, and labyrinths.
Wislawa Szymborska, poet and essayist, awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1996. She was described by the Nobel committee as the “Mozart of poetry” but with “something of the fury of Beethoven.” I would talk about the deepest problems of human existence, and perhaps ask her why she was so reluctant to answer questions about her poetry. But maybe she wouldn’t answer even that now, would she?
What are you reading right now?
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.) To quote the author’s words, this book is an invitation to see ourselves differently than we have before, and the idea that we can have new language to help us see ourselves differently.
What is your most memorable Texas Library Association Experience?
It has been a great experience to be the Latino Caucus Round Table Chair this year. I’ve enjoyed working with my fellow board officers, a team of very committed TLA members, who advocate for Latino and Spanish-speaking patrons at all types of libraries. It has also been a very rewarding experience to work closely with TLA staff and other unit officers planning the programs for the TLA 2021 Annual Conference.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how have you had to adjust the way you provide library services? How is your library operating for this fall?
Like libraries across the state and nation, the Houston Public Library (HPL) has closed physical library locations because of the COVID-19 environment but has pivoted quickly to provide robust virtual services and curbside pick-up services. We have expanded our e-book and audiobook collections as well as our streaming and online tutoring services. We have also implemented numerous innovative virtual programs that are designed to evolve with the growing needs of the community.
We are cognizant that a large portion of our customer base, who are no longer able to access the individual locations, may not have access to technology in their homes. We strive to help address the digital divide by providing community residents the opportunity to borrow tablets, laptops and hot spots to help with school assignments, job hunting or keeping in touch with friends and family. Looking ahead, HPL intends to greatly increase the Wi-Fi signals on many of our locations, offer appointment-based access to computers, quiet rooms for Zoom meetings and expand curbside locations.
The safety of staff and customers are always our number one priority. We operate within the Center for Disease Control safety guidelines and within the parameters of City of Houston health guidelines. As always, HPL remains poised to serve as the trusted resource that the community needs.
Please finish this sentence. “I am a TLA member because…”
It gives me a voice in my profession, as a member and a leader. My membership has allowed me to be an active participant in the association and get continuing education opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I very much value the connection TLA provides to an incredible network of colleagues.