Giving Help and Hope
by Sarah Binns
At Multnomah County Library, one easily meets people with diverse experiences and passions. Ronald Fabricante, Central Library's longtime computer lab assistant, is the embodiment of this. When I set up a meeting with Ronald he says he'll be easy to spot because he wears steampunk glasses with blue lenses, a great introduction to a man who is an experience connoisseur.
A lifelong learner, Ronald grew up reading, especially encyclopedias, in Manila in the Philippines, and moved to Oregon after graduating high school. Approximately 80 members of Ronald's extended family have moved here from the Philippines. His childhood in Manila inspired him to give back to the community in Portland. “I came from a poor family and a poor society,” he says. “I know what it's like to have nothing, so I want to help.”
Ronald started volunteering in the periodicals department, but moved to Central Library's computer lab over five years ago. Though working full time and studying for a computer science degree, he still helps patrons with technical questions and resume writing. “I love working there,” he says. “I've seen a lot of people who are discouraged, frustrated, for whom it's difficult to find work. I identify every resource I can for them. I'm happy to give them help and a glimmer of hope.”
By now, Ronald's lab visitors know more about him beyond his work as a volunteer. Many of his regulars have become friends with whom he discusses art, books, and poetry. He prides himself in diverse activities that include film dates, watercolor painting, and weekly trips to write poetry at the Chinese Gardens, “a nexus of tranquility” as he says. He also speaks six languages, including Russian and Spanish.
With all of his interests in technology and art, Ronald describes himself as both traditionalist and modernist. His interest in steampunk, a sci-fi/fantasy genre which combines 19th century technology with futurism, represents him: “I am connected to the past to learn and appreciate its continual relevance, but also look forward to a bright future.” When I ask if his steampunk glasses work, he replies with a laugh that they are functional. It's a fitting response for this technical engineer with the eye of an artist.