Pathfinder Benjamin Martinez: Working Directly with Diverse San Jose Communities

Pathfinder is a series of blogs about intrepid library staff who are leading interesting programs that you may not yet know about.

Librarian Assistant Benjamin Martinez enjoys sharing his artistic side through programs.

Benjamin is proud of his heritage as a native San Joséan.  Growing up in the Washington-Guadalupe and East San José neighborhoods, Benjamin has a far-reaching connection to the neighborhoods that he proudly serves.

Benjamin has been a lifelong community builder.  As a youth, he assisted in the creation of the Plata Arroyo Skatepark.  In addition, he worked for non-profit community magazine, Silicon Valley De-Bug.

Benjamin feels that his work at the magazine was important in his development as a community builder.  The magazine "developed an appreciation for literature, civic engagement, and hearing the stories of the contemporary voices."

Benjamin excels in his work because of the personal connections he makes.

Benjamin Assists a Customer Who Was Job Searching After Being Incarcerated

Benjamin shared how he is motivated each day because of an interaction with a formerly incarcerated customer.

The customer was having a lot of trouble trying to find a job because of two things:  he needed to learn how to use a computer, including how to make a resume, and he came off as too intimidating to most people because of his appearance.  He was frustrated because he was trying to make a change, but needed the skills and the opportunity to make that change.  Then the customer found Benjamin's computer assistance and career help program.

Benjamin is one of the easiest people to talk to; he focuses on helping others without judgment.  As such, the customer felt no hesitation in sharing his troubles and asking for help.

Benjamin tells me,

"I felt no judgment over his history he shared and simply focused on completing the challenge of helping him understand new technology so he wouldn’t be so intimidated by his obstacles and could apply himself without assistance from anyone."

After a while, the customer stopped coming to Benjamin's classes.  Benjamin hoped that the customer had found a job.  Sure enough, the customer returned several months later to share that he had found a job and that he was grateful for Benjamin's patience and help.

The pride and confidence in the man surely made a difference in how he appeared to potential employers!

Benjamin recalls,

"Hearing how sincere he was made me feel a gratifying feeling that I affected someone’s quality of life for the better and I understood the value free resources could provide someone in need."

This is a success story that all library workers are happy to hear about!  We often help people but never see them afterwards.  Benjamin truly made a difference in the quality of someone's life!

A Young Child Finds Her Passion for Art Through Ben's Art Classes

Benjamin serves not only adults in the community, however.  He has a passion for art that he has shared with children in his community and in others.  He has made a difference in one child's life due to his art class program.

Benjamin recalls,

"I met a mother and her very young daughter who would attend all my art workshops I offered throughout the library branches. I facilitated a series of classes at several different branches for a short period and the mother and her daughter would regularly attend them all. They would always inquire of when the next workshop would take place and at what location. Regardless of where I held the workshop, the family would be there in attendance. The girl had not yet reached a school age, however she seemed so ambitious and keen on the direction provided on her assignments."

As the child graduated out of Benjamin's young child art classes, he no longer saw the girl or her mother.  As often happens, he wondered what happened to the very avid artist that he managed to nurture.

The family, as it turned out, did not forget their wonderful art teacher, Benjamin, either!  The family bumped into Benjamin and found him at a new library.  The mother eagerly shared a touching story with Benjamin.

Here is what Benjamin tells me,

"After some time had passed, the family found me at my new branch assignment and the daughter had grown by several years. Her mother shared with me a sketch book I encouraged them to maintain. Her daughter shocked me on how much she developed her skills and remained dedicated to continue drawing. Even for such a young age the young girl had such an impressive understanding of depth and contour."

This story of a developing artist inspires Benjamin so much, as a fellow artist.  He enjoys creating art and sharing his art knowledge.  The story of the young girl continues to inspire him to share his skills with the community he serves.

Benjamin Serves His Library Community as a Union Steward

Benjamin serves as the Municipal Employees' Federation Union Steward for the Library.

Benjamin finds solutions to worker issues because of his respectful approach, like the one he uses with customers, much like the customer seeking employment or the girl who became an artist.

Benjamin helps his fellow workers by:

"following up with city council members, rallying staff and collecting concerns that I would communicate and collaborate with both our department management and city managers office to address varying topics."

Benjamin uses the skills that he developed as a community builder in addressing the civic issues that he encounters as a Union Steward.  Benjamin has been nominated as a Pathfinder by many people, who feel his natural skills at respectful communication and civic works deserve commendation!

Please let me know if you have any questions!