Spanish Bilingual Librarian Eddie Arizaga works across the library system, helping get patrons the materials they need: he provides informational services at Central Library; curates Central Library’s collection of Spanish language and other world language materials; conducts outreach at several local organizations; and supports multiple community focused projects. Through all of this, Eddie enjoys surprising people about what the library can offer.
“I want to break that myth of the ‘shushing librarian’ behind the desk,” said Eddie. “Librarians aren’t magicians. We aren’t trying to hide things. We want to not only give you the information you’re looking for but also show you how to find it.”
Before joining Multnomah County Library in 2016, Eddie began his library career working for public libraries in San Diego, near where he grew up. Though he eventually became a power user of the library as a teen, seeking out stories and information that would help him navigate the world during a formative time, as a child, he was often left disappointed by the lack of materials in his native language.
“Spanish is my first language, and the library wasn’t always about serving me. Now, we are working towards making the library more reflective of the community and encompassing more of the people who live there. It’s a center of the community.”
Now, Eddie helps build the library’s Spanish and other world languages collections so the community has access to a rich collection of diverse materials. In addition, he’s also focusing his attention outward, visiting locations outside the library and introducing community members to the library’s many services.
One location Eddie visits, along with other library staff, is the Mexican consulate in Portland. There, he joins other organizations for a monthly health fair that introduces community members to local health and information resources. At another site off Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Eddie speaks with day laborers, sharing information about the library’s free classes on job searching and digital technology help; touting the benefits of a free library card; and inviting the workers to come visit one of the library’s 19 locations.
“Today’s library is about meeting people where they are,” said Eddie. “The library can be an invaluable resource for so many and sometimes it takes communicating with people directly and inviting them in.”
Eddie is excited by the ever changing nature of his work, particularly the broader effort by the library to ask, “how can we do this better? What else can we be doing for our community?”
“It’s never stagnant,” said Eddie. “We’re barely scratching the surface of what libraries can do.”