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For those who don’t know me, my name is Pamela Mejia. I was born and lived all my life in the Dominican Republic until 2016, the year I got married to my husband from Colorado. We’ve been married 1 year and 7 months, the same amount of time I have lived in this state. Before I moved here, I traveled to the United States as a tourist though I never really got to know the culture.
Both my Bachelor and Master’s degrees are in Education with a major in Early Childhood Education. Throughout my career, I’ve worked in the education field, but always in my own country and within my own culture. When I moved to Colorado I decided to keep myself in this field because I am very passionate about it. A year ago I started working for the Colorado Department of Education, the State Library division.
To be honest, when I first started my job as a Regional Early Literacy Specialist, I didn’t understand what I was supposed to be doing. In my native country, the Dominican Republic—a place of eternal summer and beautiful beaches, located in the Caribbean—we don’t have the concept of libraries as community hubs like in the Unites States. Just recently the Dominican government established the first and only public library for children, youth, and their families. And not everybody knows about this service or has access to it because the library is not part of their community.
During my first months on this job, I had the pleasure of visiting over 20 libraries around Colorado. Even though it seemed amazing to me, this was less than 10% of all the libraries we have in Colorado. There are over 250 public library buildings across Colorado, and they were visited more than 31 million times in 2016 according to the Library Research Service.
If you live in Colorado, find your local public library by visiting https://find.coloradolibraries.org/map.
Thanks to my daily work with public libraries, every time I travel to another state or another country I try to find their public libraries and learn more about their offerings.
In most of the Latin-American countries, specifically in low-income communities, they don’t have the concept of the library as a community hub: a place where children, youth, adults, and seniors can freely visit the library and be part of the activities. Here the library is not just for checking out free books, CDs, and DVDs. At a public library you can participate in storytime, have access to the internet, get help with your questions on immigration and taxes, take English as a second language classes, get to know more about the community, socialize, and make new friends.
I encourage you to get to know your community library; you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain!
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Pamela Mejia de Rodriguez, M.ED