For Spanish Outreach Coordinator Ana Ruiz Morillo, growing up in the Dominican Republic amidst pronounced wealth disparity led her to pursue a career in education and community outreach — she wanted to help others find opportunity and paths to success.
Growing up between her parents’ two different Dominican neighborhoods, Ana experienced both the lessons of responsibility and hard work, and the privilege of having opportunity and established social circles.
"These contrasting experiences made me think about equity before I even knew how to describe it. All communities deserve access to quality healthcare, a good education, and opportunities to succeed. I knew I wanted to do something about it," said Ana.
Ana started in her own community in Santo Domingo, meeting with leaders, organizing events and coaching youth on important leadership skills like public speaking.
Eventually, Ana earned her degree and became a teacher in the Dominican Republic before moving to the United States in 1995. In Oregon, she found a job with the Multnomah County Health Department — a place where she felt fulfilled using her bilingual skills while working with community members at neighborhood health clinics. She had planned to work while earning her Master’s Degree in Education so she could return to teaching. But then a job opened up with the library that seemed a perfect match.
"When I came to work at the library, my supervisor told me, ‘you will always make a difference to students in the classroom, but through the library, you will broaden your impact. It’s a door to the whole community.'"
"That was 12 years ago, and I haven’t looked back," says Ana.
Now, Ana coordinates Spanish outreach services for the library. Working with bilingual library staff from across the county, volunteers and interns, Ana helps foster connections and build programs, services and networks between the library and Multnomah County’s Latinx communities.
One of the most successful library programs Ana leads is El Día de los Niños y El Día de los Libros (Day of the children and Day of the books). The annual celebration of childhood and bilingual literacy is one of the library’s largest programs. Every April, several library locations offer fun and free literacy programming for kids, along with information for parents about how to support their children’s educational development. In 2018, Día events and programs drew nearly 10,000 attendees.
Ana now utilizes her networking and leadership skills to mentor other library staff, volunteers and interns on conducting bilingual outreach in the community.
"I continue to fall in love with my job. The library isn’t just flyers and books; the library is meeting people where they are. We are facilitating connections, broadening cultural understanding, and helping other people find their purpose and make an investment in their communities."