November 20, 2017

Salvador Avila | Movers & Shakers 2006

Ambassador for Libraries

2006_Salvador_Avila

Salvador Avila understands that ‘libraries are not only in the library business, they are also in the community business.’ And in a place like Las Vegas, where Latinos are now 20 percent of the population, libraries need ‘an ambassador for libraries,’ as Las Vegas – Clark County Library director Daniel Waters calls him, ‘a tireless advocate for translating community needs into library services that affect people’s lives.’

When those people have no tradition of library use, that translation has to start with building a foundation of trust. That’s why Avila spends more time in the community than in the library. He works with community leaders in the Asian, Latino, and urban chambers of commerce and with the Clark County Metro Sheriff’s Multicultural Advisory Council. He founded a Spanish-language book discussion group and created résumé-writing workshops. He organized Dia de los Niños and put together a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration with 31 events commemorating traditions of Mexico and Central and South America.

Along with the staff of the small branch library in a community center, Avila is weeding unused books and replacing them with more than $260,000 worth of Spanish-language materials. They are setting up library booths at park events to let people know they can check out not only books but magazines, music, and videos at no charge.

It’s rewarding work for Avila, whose own parents came from Mexico. ‘You see people’s eyes get bright when they find out what’s here for them. Once they find us, they become our loyal customers.’ Statistics bear this out: the branch’s circulation has grown by 32 percent.

Avila’s project for the Urban Libraries Council Executive Leadership Institute is getting a new library built in the heart of the city’s Spanish-speaking community. He’s developing a partnership with the local school district, because, ‘When I speak to the community, library services are not one of their priorities, but education is, so I have to connect libraries to education.’

It’s not enough for Avila to serve his own Latino clients well; he wants all public libraries to have the commitment and the necessary cultural understanding to serve them well. That’s why he devotes much of his time to leadership in local, state, and national library organizations and to speaking at numerous professional conferences on effective outreach to Latinos. He wants to help libraries change. ‘People and organizations do not achieve their personal or organizational goals by remaining the same,’ he says. Avila’s ultimate goal goes beyond making libraries relevant to a changing population. He says, ‘The more people you reach, the more likely that they will use libraries, and the more they use them, the greater chance of having a thriving society.’

Vitals

 

Current Position Community Outreach/Adult Services Coordinator, Las Vegas – Clark County Library District (LVCCLD), NV
Degrees MLIS, University of Arizona, 1994
Honors Críticas Librarian of the Year, 1993; Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce Award of Distinction in Culture; Southwest Hispanic Media’s Community Service award; Urban Library Council Executive Leadership Institute; ALA Council; cofounder, REFORMA’s Nevada chapter

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