November 20, 2017

Mariana Ramirez Godinez, High School Student Trustee

Mariana Ramirez Godinez

Mariana Ramirez Godinez

While serving as a library trustee is no longer the exclusive domain of retirees, or even those in late or midcareer, only the board of the Cornelius Public Library, OR, can boast a chair who is still thinking about her SAT scores. Sixteen-year-old Mariana Ramirez Godinez (pictured), a junior and honor student at Glencoe High School, where she plays violin and sings in Una Voz, the Hillsboro School District’s 35-member mariachi band, was unanimously elected chair of the 11-member Cornelius Library Advisory Board in December; she has been a board member since spring 2015, a volunteer for the past three years, and a fan of the library since she moved to Cornelius from Mexico ten years ago.

LJ: How did you become chair of the library board?

Mariana Ramirez Godinez: My cousin, who works at the [Cornelius Public Library], asked me if I wanted to volunteer over the summer, so I agreed. I was curious about the library: How are books coordinated? Is there a system? I had to be quizzed on the Dewey Decimal system. Then the director of our library, Karen Hill, [asked] if I wanted to be on the board…. I was curious about what the library was doing, especially in the background, behind the scenes.

I went to the first meeting with another student [Glencoe High School senior Ovetsy Sayago]. We were representing the youth of the community, so whenever the others had an idea that they wanted to run by us about how youth would be affected, we’d give them our opinions and our views. It was really interesting. I was surprised by how much stuff was discussed. And I was hooked.

Then the chair had to leave. We had to nominate the next chair, and  I was just waiting to see if anybody else wanted to do it. The adults looked at…me and [Ovetsy], and I raised my hand and said, “I’ll do it.” Everyone was ecstatic.

I was really excited and also nervous. There were all these rules about how a meeting goes. I was interested by that—I’d never actually [known] how a meeting was run, the minutes and someone seconding their motions, and “all those in favor.”

What are meetings like? What have you learned about the library from being on the board?

We meet on the first Thursday of each month. Karen sends us email before the meeting, so I get to read the minutes and see what might happen during the meeting. When everyone gets there I start the meeting. Karen talks about the Friends of the Library and all her news.

In the most recent meeting, we were talking to one of the people we are [working with on] plans for building a new library, [nonprofit housing developer] Bienestar, and we got to hear the director talk about Bienestar and the other things that they are doing. I kept hearing about them, and I never knew who they were, so I finally got to know them.

Then there are discussion items. We have a capital campaign manager now, and she talks about messaging, events, and donors for the library and how to help support the library. We’re very close to our goal of completing what we need to pay for the [new] library building—I think I can see to the horizon! It’s very exciting.

Have other board members been helpful getting you up to speed?

My second chair, Janel Dalin [wife of Cornelius mayor Jef Dalin], is my mentor: this is what you say in the meeting, how you start the meeting, and how you end the meeting. And if there’s anything else that happens that I don’t know what to do, she’ll help me.

Does standing up in front of the board to speak make you nervous?

No, it doesn’t. I’m in the mariachi band [at school], and I get to sing in front of giant crowds. At first I was shy, and then I got really confident. I think that’s what got me comfortable about speaking in front of others. I [recently] had to do a speech for a big meeting of a lot of the boards in Cornelius, and I was confident, and it went very well.

How long will you serve as chair?

I’m not sure. As long as I can.

What do you want to do after high school? Do you have any interest in being a librarian?

I’m really interested in libraries and helping the community, but my focus is the medical field. I want to go to Oregon State University (OSU) because I heard good things about it and because they’re the ticket to go into OHSU (Oregon Health and Sciences University). I can’t wait to check [the library there] out.

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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