Elleona, who identifies as non-binary, has been learning various parts of library work — everything from helping regular patrons at the St. Johns Library find titles, to leading outreach work in the Black community — for the past three years.
Elleona joined the library as an access services assistant after graduating from Lincoln High School in downtown Portland. As a student, they gravitated toward history and language courses, including learning Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Arabic. Elleona’s rigorous academic curriculum continues, as they pursue a degree at Portland State University in International Relations and Conflict Resolution, with a minor in Chinese.
“When I first started my job at the library, I hadn’t been back in eight years! I had so many fines from my youth and had been worried I wouldn’t be able to use anything so I avoided it. I happily learned that the library had waived all youth fines and started a new policy so that no youth would accrue fines going forward.”
Today, Elleona, who says they originally loved the idea of working at a library because of a love for books and working with people, now appreciates it because they have an opportunity to help people feel welcome and to connect patrons with library services and resources
“One experience that was very meaningful for me was connecting with a patron who had recently been incarcerated,” said Elleona. “The library was one of her first stops. She wanted help finding career resources, and I was able to listen and talk with her, but also recommend materials in addition to other services the library offers. She told me the experience was so positive and had helped her feel welcome to come back.”
Now, as a Black Cultural Library Advocate, Elleona is joining other staff from around the library to identify ways to improve collections and services for the Black community. Sometimes, that means creating library displays featuring poetry by queer and trans people of color. Other times, it means organizing large-scale events to provide opportunities for discussion about topics such as the African diaspora.
“I want to help start conversations. I want everyone to walk into a library and think ‘this is a place for me.’” says Elleona.
Elleona’s recommended reading:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Clean Room by Gail Simone
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite