Pathfinder Ofelia Medina: Expert Community Liaison!

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

Literacy Program Specialist Ofelia Medina quoted me a favorite proverb from Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street,

“When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are.”

Ofelia says that this quote especially "resonates with her" because she is now "completing the circle" by being Hillview Library's Family Learning Center's Coordinator. Hillview Library, her childhood library, is in a community she knows well and loves.

Coming Full Circle

A former social worker who wanted to "adjust her sails," Ofelia continues to protect and support families in her role as a Family Learning Center Coordinator.  San Jose Public Library's Family Learning Centers are “great places to learn new skills, build on your knowledge, connect with others in your community and improve your quality of life."  Located at seven libraries, each Family Learning Center Coordinator is there to help you learn new skills and to help you find a place in your community.

As an experienced social worker, Ofelia has the skills to develop community connections.  Ofelia tells me she that when she first started at the library, she made a great effort to learn about the Library and to meet with many community members.

Ofelia says she did the following:

  • "I often scheduled time to walk around the library, introduce myself, build trust, connections and provide an explanation of my goals, duties and aspirations at the library with patrons.
  • I communicated to the community members, that the library is here to serve them and provide services and programs to help them improve their quality of life.
  • I assessed community needs and made a long list of patron program requests and ideas."

As Ofelia met with community members, some common requests or needs stood out to her.

Requests from the Community

Ofelia's long list of patron program requests and ideas seemed to fall into these categories:

  • I am "new to the country and I have no one in the community for support."
  • Little knowledge of the library's "wonderful and FREE services, programs, resources and opportunities," Ofelia noted.
  • Concerns about being able to attend programs due to childcare issues.
  • Bringing together the most vulnerable members of the community.

After meeting with her community, Ofelia quickly realized that one of her initial programs needed to be a program that would fulfill all of these important requests.  Thus, Tiempo Para Mi (Time for Me) was born!

Tiempo Para Mi

Ofelia identified her community's need for a place where the most vulnerable members of the community could meet.  She created the program, Tiempo Para Mi, a support group for women.  Ofelia facilitates the program entirely in Spanish.

Here are some of the things that happen:

  • "Fun and informational conversations
  • presentations about the library
  • how to navigate the library website and how to search for resources
  • information about our library programs, which are also evaluated by attendees
  • special presentations with important community partners
  • resources to provide information requested by the group"

When Tiempo Para Mi was in-person, participants also enjoyed the following:

  • coffee, tea, and cookies
  • toys and books to entertain the children

Ofelia tells me that "It’s amazing to make an impact in my community and beyond and bringing women together to provide each other a sense of support.  I think this program is wonderful because it is conducted completely in Spanish and when the program occurs in person, the participants are able to bring their children along to decrease any barriers for them to attend.  This program connects people to each other, to community resources and to all of the Free services and programs we offer at SJPL"

The program has been "well received" and has included people from other cities in the new virtual world (Zoom.)

Tiempo Para Mi occurs every Thursday (except on holidays) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!

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