|Clockwise from top: 2011 Paralibrarian of the Year Gilda Ramos with LJ Editor in Chief Francine Fialkoff; Ramos with previous paralibrarians of the year Valeria Fike and Trish Palluck and Marsha Arrighi from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge; observers look on during Ramos’ acceptance remarks; Demco’s Janet Nelson, VP Kyle Anderson, and President Mike Grasee giving Ramos her $1500 check.. Photos Copyright 2011 Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Gilda Ramos—radiant in both speech and dress—accepted the award for Paralibrarian of the Year at a lively event held at the historic Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans. The $1500 award was sponsored by DEMCO, Inc.
In her remarks, Ramos said that the award reflected more than just her accomplishments (successful citizenship classes, computer classes in Spanish, and immigrant counseling, among others), but also the importance of connection a position like hers can facilitate.
Ramos is a multilingual library assistant at the Patchogue-Medford Library in Patchogue, NY, a community where more than 30 percent of the population speaks Spanish as a primary language. There, with irrepressible charm and grace, she aims not just to “teach language, but overall the beauty of the American culture.”
Though Ramos has a distinguished record (see LJ‘s original feature on Ramos for more background on her accomplishments), her role helping in the aftermath of a tragic incident demonstrated the full extent of her dedication.
From LJ‘s original story:
It was the horrible 2008 murder of Marcelo Lucero, an immigrant from Ecuador, by a gang of local teens that moved the community to greater understanding of its diversity.
Ramos had noticed that people were afraid to attend an evening ESL class. They told her that gangs robbed Latinos, sometimes even riding on bicycles around the library parking lot seeking targets. They said the gangs picked on Latinos because they believed they were all undocumented aliens and would be afraid to call the police. Ramos reported the accounts to her superiors and the police. Just a week later, Lucero was murdered at the train station. Among the community responses, the mayor came to the ESL class, apologized, and promised to take action to make the community safer for all. Finally, the murderers were caught and are now in prison.
When Lucero’s family came from Ecuador to grieve the victim and find out what had happened, Ramos interpreted for them. “It was heartbreaking. He was killed in November, and he had planned to go home in December,” Ramos remembers.
She was also the interpreter at a community meeting at the library called to address the problem. With more security measures in place and Ramos there as a trusted ally, more Latino patrons came to PML. “I was here at the right time,” says Ramos.
A film about the community reaction to the murder—featuring Ramos’s role—will appear on PBS September 21, titled Light in the Darkness. The film was developed by anti-hate group Not in Our Town, which has also created a advocacy toolkit libraries can use “to strengthen the capacity of local communities in addressing anti-immigrant violence and intolerance against all;” see http://niot.org/LightInTheDarkness for more info.
First of the paralibrarians
The award—instituted in 2000—was previously named the Paraprofessional of the Year (though given according to the same criteria). However, past winner Alison Sloan (2010) lobbied nationally to convince LJ that it was time for a name change.