Fostering unity, learning at the library
The library has always been a part of Maria Aguilar’s life.
After Aguilar’s family moved to Cornelius in 1996, her neighbor started taking her to the library and signing her up for summer reading programs. In 2004, she began work as a part-time employee at the Cornelius Public Library, and she secured a full-time position there in 2008 after graduating from Portland State University a year earlier.
Now, Aguilar is the youth services librarian for the Cornelius library. In her position, she oversees all of the youth and family programming provided by the library, and she also takes on the collection development for kids and teens — which includes readings in both Spanish and English.
For Aguilar, the library is a place to learn and create connections and memories. She said she sees many kids start reading at young ages, and she can watch them grow older and continue their education at the library.
“I’ve been here long enough now that I see a lot of those kids that started very young turn into teenagers or parents themselves,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar talked about an intern that the library recently hired and how she remembered Aguilar giving her a tour when she was in elementary school.
Those are the types of experiences that community members should have when going to the library, Aguilar said.
“She remembered having a positive experience with that, and so when she saw the opportunity to apply for this teen internship, she was happy to do so,” Aguilar said.
Empathy plays a huge role in Aguilar’s position at the library, and she said that caring about other people has made it easier to find ways to connect with her community.
From reading to kids to working with parents, Aguilar has formed bonds with community members who allow her to extend her impact. Aguilar tries to make people feel heard and included — even in a simple conversation.
“I love that they feel like this is their space — they feel that ownership,” Aguilar said.
To foster an environment that meets all of the community’s needs, Aguilar said she makes sure the library has bilingual material, whether that includes books, movies or programs for residents.
“There are a lot of Spanish-speaking patrons, and therefore their children are becoming bilingual. And having that bilingual component to it is very important in this area,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar also emphasized how there are other languages that the library is looking to accommodate for, as she wants to make sure that everyone can “feel a part of the library.”
Aguilar said the library’s core is the community, and she strives to keep it accessible and useful. Aguilar said the library has made adjustments to offer laptops and other technology that meets community needs in recent years.
She said she wants residents always to feel like they can rely on community resources.
As she continues her work, Aguilar is focused on ensuring people know they can come to the library and use it for free.
“I think the biggest takeaway is libraries are for everyone,” Aguilar said. “We do our best to serve all ages, all backgrounds and all interests as best we can.”