This article by Librarian Paulina Aguirre-Clinch was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on May 9, 2015.
One of my earliest recollections of moving to the United States from Mexico is when I was a little girl in the first grade. I vividly remember looking at my new friend Nicole and having no clue whatsoever as to what she was saying because I didn’t speak English. Cue the penguins from the Madagascar movie: “Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.”
Today, one thing dearest to my heart is the note my mother gave me a couple of years later congratulating me for learning English so quickly and encouraging me to keep on with my education:
Una notita para decirte lo orgullosa que estoy de ti por haber aprendido el inglés en tan poco tiempo. Sigue así de bien en tus estudios...
I'll tell you what—reading that note twenty years later as an adult and thinking about all the hard times and sacrifices my parents made to ensure that my brother and I succeeded in this country, makes it that much more significant to me.
My family and I know first-hand the struggles people face coming to a new country. As a librarian now, I know about the opportunities that are out there to help individuals and families create a better life. And trust me when I tell you that I love sharing this information with anyone, anywhere, anytime. The library is a one-stop shop!
When my friend, who had just emigrated here from Mexico, asked me where she could learn English, I immediately referred her to the English language classes at the Mission Library literally two minutes from her home. Naturally, keeping true to my librarian nature, I had to tell her that we also have online language learning resources. I also let her know that when the time came and she felt confident, the library could help her prepare for her citizenship exam.
Helping a patron apply online for a job and place a hold on the latest Chiquis Rivera autobiography, "Perdón," is all in a day’s work for me. By the way, if you're looking for help on your résumé or need to create an email account we have drop-in Computer and Job Help with program instructors que se caen de buenos. Yep, they’re brimming with so much goodness they could fall over.
Bring your kids to the library during Hora de Cuentos to listen to a story about El Buen Lobito or Kika, the interrupting chicken. If your math skills are a little rusty, we have excellent Homework Help tutors at the library, as well as live, online homework help through our website. There are so many options, your kids can’t help but succeed!
Spanish-speaking caregivers can earn continuing education credits by attending a Listos para Leer workshop where you learn all about those essential pre-reading activities and get great ideas to get your little ones to love reading. We host workshops in English, too.
I'm proud that our library has all of these programs and services. I'm also proud to be part of the library’s Spanish Services and Nuestras Raíces committees to create programs for our Latino and Spanish-speaking communities. In fact, the Nuestras Raíces team that brings awesome Latino and Spanish-speaking authors to the Tucson Festival of Books every spring is bringing our third annual Summer Reading Kick-Off Fiesta to the Tanque Verde Swap Meet this Saturday.
I have so many memories of hanging out at the swap meet as a kid. That’s where I would get all my Selena and New Kids on the Block music and gear. Can you sing "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom"?
The swap meet gave me my regular and insatiable fix of saladitos con limón or oranges with saladitos, depending on the mood. I haven’t outgrown these cravings though my dentist has asked me to lay off the lemon. But how can I? It’s in my blood. When we first moved to Tucson the swap meet was where I spent all of my weekends. My dad sold tools, while my mom sold just about everything—Mexican candy, Avon, Mary Kay, clothes, chácharas—and she could have sold air if she’d tried.
Now, things have come full circle. On Saturday, I’ll be back at the swap meet holding down the fort just like I used to when I helped my mom. This time I’m talking to families about getting a head start on their summer reading. Children and teens can sign up for the library’s Summer Reading Program and get a free book to get started right away.
But it doesn’t stop there.
One of our awesome partners, Make Way for Books, will entertain the crowds with live action stories. Families can check out the library’s Bookmobile, and Curious George will drop by to say hi! In the spirit of this year’s theme, “Every Hero Has a Story,” kids can color and decorate a luchador mask. We’ll even have glitter!
All the while I’ll be reminiscing about my childhood swap meet days, and marveling at how I now have the opportunity, through my work, to help children and families succeed, too.
Paulina Aguirre-Clinch, the branch supervisor at the Southwest Library, serves as a co-chair for the Nuestras Raíces author committee for the Tucson Festival of Books. In addition to saladitos con limón, she enjoys a delicious, spicy mangoyada on a hot summer day.
If you go
Saturday, May 16, 6-9pm
Summer Reading Family Fiesta
Tanque Verde Swap Meet, 4100 S. Palo Verde Rd.
Did you know?
What is Nuestras Raices?
Nuestras Raices is a library program that builds community by celebrating Mexican-American authors, arts, and culture.