November 21, 2017

Miriam Rodriguez | Movers & Shakers 2005

Transition Maker

2005_Miriam_Rodriguez

At 16, in Cuba, headstrong Miriam Rodriguez wanted to work, not go to school. Thanks to her librarian brother she found her first job at an academic library. She hoped to be an architect, but “I fell in love with trying to find what people needed,” she recalls. So she got a library degree.

Disillusioned by the Cuban revolution and to provide their young daughters with a better future, Rodriguez and her engineer husband arrived in Texas in 1983. Rodriguez worked as a baker and practiced her English. “The first place my mother-in-law took me was the Dallas Public Library,” she says. “I was amazed you could take so many things home.”

Six years later, while working for the Small Business Development Center, she met Garland, TX, librarian Peggy Goodwin (LJ‘s first Librarian of the Year). Rodriguez got her first U.S. library job as a library assistant in Garland, working mainly with Spanish-speaking patrons. That job eventually led to enrollment at the University of North Texas.

When she graduated in 1997, she had a librarian job lined up with the Dallas Public Library. She rose quickly in the next few years and in 2001 was hired by the nearby Irving Public Library as multicultural services supervisor, returning to Dallas in 2004 as that library’s first multicultural coordinator.

For Rodriguez, librarianship addresses the many challenges new Americans face – what better place than a library to learn about education or job fairs or credit repair? “There are so many things to learn when you are in a new country. I want to make the transition easier for people,” she says. She adds that many immigrants come from countries with little tradition of public library service and that a downtown main library can be intimidating. “Taking the library to a neighborhood is a priority,” she observes.

She also works with an array of local agencies, city departments, and civic groups “to try to bring [Dallas] in as one community.” Rodriguez sees services and programs as a way to get people in the library, but she also recognizes the increasing importance of multilingual collections. Chair of the Texas-Mexico relations committee of the Texas Library Association and a member of REFORMA, she presents to peers on both collections and reference work and buys at the annual book fair at Guadalajara.

One of the best tributes to Rodriguez came from Robert Salinas, a library assistant at the Irving Public Library, whom she encouraged to pursue an MLS. A patron Rodriguez had helped to learn English and operate a PC had come back to help with bilingual computer classes. The patron addressed Rodriguez as maestra (teacher). To Salinas, it was proof that libraries – and his mentor – make a difference.

Vitals

 

Current Position Multicultural Services Coordinator, Dallas Public Library

Degree M.S., Library and Information Sciences, University of North Texas, 1997; Licenciatura en Información Científica, Universidad de la Habana, 1978

Board Member DFW International, a network of international organizations

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