Connecting at Holgate Library with Mara Bazua

Mara Bazua, librarian at Holgate Library

When Mara Bazua came to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico, she did not have a computer. It was the early 2000s, so cell phones were newer, social media was in its infancy, and job applications had just switched from paper forms to online.

Mara would visit the library and use the public computers to check her social media as a way to stay connected to family and friends. 

“For a long time I didn't ask for a library card because I didn't know it was free. I just used a library pass for computers,” says Mara. 

“I would sit in between shelves and look at the books and put the books in their place. I knew exactly where each book went.”

During one visit, a librarian told Mara that she could take the books home. Mara was shocked that the library here was free.

“In Mexico there is that concept but you can only take certain books depending on your membership. I was counting all my pennies. I thought it was like paying rent. You're renting a book but you have to pay for it. It was incredible that I could borrow books and didn't have to pay,” says Mara. 

She knew the ins and outs of the shelves - and would sometimes even help patrons at the library while being one herself. 

The librarians noticed Mara’s love for the library, and one day asked, “Why don't you work at the library?”

Mara began working in libraries in 2009, and in 2011 visited Holgate Library as a patron for the first time. She started working for Multnomah County Library at North Portland Library, beginning of 2017. After seven months, Mara began a full-time role at Gresham Library.

“I always loved reading and knew a lot about books, so it was like I was a fish in water — working in a job that I like, that I am welcome and where my education is being valued,” says Mara. 

Then, in 2020, Mara became the Youth Services Outreach and Operations Supervisor. 

“It’s all moved really fast but it’s magic, it's incredible and I think everything started just by coming to the library, just like people in our community, come to the library looking for photocopies, where to print, or use a computer — I didn't really know the services that the library offered. I would give them my ID for a computer pass, and then staff would start talking to me. Little by little the staff made me feel welcome. I thought why are they so nice to me … but then I learned that libraries are like that with all people. They want people to feel welcome and safe,” says Mara.

More recently in 2021, Mara became the Holgate Library Administrator, where she supervises the daily operations of the library branch and its staff. 

“Every day is a new adventure and a learning experience. I learn so much about this diverse community and different cultures,” says Mara. 

Mara did not come to the United States having friends or a large family, but the library has been a place for her to connect with other readers, Spanish speakers and build a community. 

“As an immigrant these connections help you not feel so homesick. It makes you happy to speak your language, make connections and give others resources to help them.”

Learn more about the history of Holgate Library, and stay up to date on the Library Capitol Bond project updates. You can now also view the new interior of what Holgate Library will look like after renovations.