Meet Elaine: Na’atik Language Librarian

We are excited to announce that Na’atik Language and Culture Institute has welcomed their first librarian, Elaine! Since she is there helping run the library and assist with the English Language education for the students, your help is needed now more than ever. Check out our Facebook Fundraiser that will allow for this position to be everything the children of Felipe Carrillo Puerto need!

Read on to learn more about Elaine and the work she is so excited to start!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m from Worcester, Massachusetts. I did my undergraduate degree in history at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, and attended Simmons College for my graduate degrees. I did a masters in history and a masters in library science with an archives concentration. I’ve worked at a variety of archival institutions and a public library in Massachusetts. Before coming to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chongqing, China.

What drew you to this position and the community of Felipe Carrillo Puerto?

I’ve been very interested in using my degree in connection with community development. I wanted to serve in a non-traditional capacity and gain as many skills as I could. I’m a solo librarian here, so everything from community outreach, programming, cataloging, or just organizing books, is up to me. This kind of work environment appealed to me. I had also been living on top of a mountain in China, so Felipe Carrillo Puerto being a small town was another draw. This job seemed to be a good mix, career-wise and everyday life-wise, and I wanted a job that gave me the ability to have an impact in the area that I love the most.

Why do you think the librarian position is important in Felipe Carrillo Puerto?

This is a small town without a real library culture. I think many of us can remember being taken to the library by our parents or even the bookmobile coming to our school- such excitement! Not everyone here has access to books or time for pleasure reading.

I want the students who come to Na’atik to have positive experiences in this library and to carry it with them. If they enjoy the library, books, or reading, then they’ll pass this love onto their children or others they know.

I see that parents get excited about the library when they see their children are excited, and a nervous child becomes interested when their parents are clearly thrilled about the library. But the library is the space—a room with books. The librarian is the one who creates the vibe of a place. Is it a quiet library? Serious? Fun?

I want to show Felipe Carrillo Puerto that the library is more than just a room with books. I want them to see that it can be a place for learning coding, playing games with friends, creating, or yes, reading books!

The librarian is the one who sets the tone for the library and this is why this role is important here. The impression that the students get of the library and the librarian will influence others they come into contact with.

How have the students reacted to your presence and new access to the library?

So far the students are curious. They’ve popped in to see the library space or ask questions about what they’re allowed to do here. They’re not used to the idea of being able to take books home or being able to play games in the library. The smaller children especially run immediately to the shelves and begin taking books and putting books back and taking more books.

They’re excited and overwhelmed by the options. They especially love being able to look at the paintings on our walls and pick out characters they know. As for me, I’m not a teacher and I’m new to them, so there is understandably some shyness. The students would likely come to me at their own pace if I just stayed in the library, so I make sure that I come out to see them and learn their names in between classes and this seems to make me a more familiar presence to them.

What are your hopes for your position at the Na’atik Language and Culture Institute’s English Language Library?

I hope that in my position I can be a resource to the teachers to help support their lessons and a resource to the students to help further their language learning. I’m also hoping to set a firm foundation for the next person who takes over this position by implementing library best practices and creating a well-managed space.

I would like the library to be an integral part of the school, a draw to students and parents, and a place that is about more than just English language. Libraries more and more are becoming “maker spaces”—places for activities and communal gathering. Most of all I hope that these students can learn to love books and reading as much as I do, and  I hope the knowledge that they can come to this library gives them joy and that they know this is a place for them to explore and belong.

Want to support Na’atik’s Language Library? Donate today to help Elaine connect #NinosConLibros today!