Monday, August 4, 2014

Case Study No. 1484: Gilda Ramos

Patchogue Library's Gilda Ramos: A Voice for Her Community
Librarian assistant Gilda Ramos became a translator for the Lucero family who came to Patchogue from Gualaceo, Ecuador as the community gathered to honor Marcelo Lucero. Ramos also translated for Latino residents at community events and meetings that were held at the library, the Patchogue Theatre, vigils and rallies. Like libraries across the country, the Patchogue-Medford Library is a place where people come together and feel supported and safe.
Tags: Patchogue-Medford Library Gilda Ramos Not in Our Town Light in the Darkness immigration anti-immigrant violence Latinos Patchogue Suffolk County New York Marcelo Lucero
Added: 3 years ago
From: TheWorkingGroup
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[scene opens with the mayor of Patchogue (New York) addressing the crowd gathered for the vigil in honor of Marcelo Lucero, as female librarian Gilda Ramos translates into Spanish]
PAUL V. PONTIERI JR: No longer should we look at ourselves as Hispanics, Anglos, Italian, Irish ... We are one single community who live in Patchogue.
[the crowd applauds, then cut to Ramos ("Library Assistant, Patchogue-Medford Library") inside the library and speaking directly to the camera]
GILDA RAMOS: Besides being a translator and interpreter, it was like a moral duty for me.
[cut back to several shots of the crowd]
GILDA RAMOS: [in voice over] To be that voice to represent those who felt they were not represented. Who were, you know, under-counted.
[cut back to Ramos speaking directly to the camera]
GILDA RAMOS: Who were under-served.
[cut back to the crowd]
GILDA RAMOS: [in voice over] And I remember feeling the energy. Those that I was interpreting for, that energy gave me the strength, the courage to say what they had to say.
[cut to Maria Rosario Lucero ("Marcelo Lucero's Mother") speaking to the crowd as Ramos translates]
GILDA RAMOS: "I don't ... I don't feel any hate. No revenge."
[cut to more shots of the crowd]
GILDA RAMOS: [in voice over] It hurt me to know many of the details that happend in this case, but if someone had to reach out, then that person was me.
[cut to another shot of Ramos speaking to the crowd]
GILDA RAMOS: [in voice over] And I feel for others, I do. But y'know, every time I have to go to a community meeting, I try to concentrate on what I have to do.
[cut to Ramos walking down a city street]
GILDA RAMOS: [in voice over] I prepare myself the night before. I'm like, "This is what I'm gonna wear, this is how my hair's gonna look."
[cut to Ramos addressing a meeting at the library]
GILDA RAMOS: [in voice over] I didn't want them to think, "Oh you know, whoever's gonna translate." No, I wanted to look professional, and to give them a voice.
[cut back to Ramos speaking directly to the camera]
GILDA RAMOS: To empower them.
[cut to several shots of patrons in the library]
GILDA RAMOS: [in voice over] The library is like a place where everyone's welcome. They feel comfortable, they attend our programs, and it's a place that the community trusts.
[cut back to the meeting in the library, as the mayor addresses the audience while Ramos translates]
PAUL V. PONTIERI JR: And what's important is that we learn to work and live together ...
[cut to Joselo Lucero ("Marcelo Lucero's Brother") speaking from the audience]
JOSELO LUCERO: I'm really concerned about this friend of mine. His son at his school, y'know, they tease him so much. They humiliate him so much. He is afraid right now to ... what's gonna happen after, when they find out he talked.
[cut to a female police officer speaking to the audience while Ramos translates]
LOLA QUESADA: I can speak directly to the council, and I can speak to the principal. Let's see if it's something that we can work together, because they have mediation within the school too.
[cut back to Ramos speaking directly to the camera]
GILDA RAMOS: We are all humans. We all need each other, so I truly hope that this brings some understanding ... some more compassion to this community. If we don't speak up, and we don't put it out there, no one can read our minds.
[cut to more shots inside the library]
GILDA RAMOS: [in voice over] Every story was different, every person was different. Everyone brought something that the other one didn't have, and it taught me to be a better person.
[cut to the mayor addressing another gathering while Ramos translates]
PAUL V. PONTIERI JR: It is now time for us to act and move forward, as a society committed to end the hatred.
[cut back to Ramos speaking directly to the camera]
GILDA RAMOS: To be that person ... To listen, to have someone trust you. It is so gratifying, and it brings so much joy to me. Because at some moment, y'know, when you see somebody crying, you see somebody folding, you don't need the language. You just need to be there. And that's what has happened to me.



"Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness" is a one-hour documentary about a town coming together to take action after anti-immigrant violence devastates the community. In 2008, a series of attacks against Latino residents of Patchogue, New York culminate with the murder of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who had lived in the Long Island village for 13 years.

Over a two-year period, the story follows Mayor Paul Pontieri, the victim's brother, Joselo Lucero, and Patchogue residents as they openly address the underlying causes of the violence, work to heal divisions, and begin taking steps to ensure everyone in their village will be safe and respected.



Title: Not in our town. Light in the darkness
Publication Info.: [Oakland, Calif.] : Working Group : distributed by PBS, c2011.
Description: 1 videodisc (60 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.
System Details: DVD, widescreen, region 1, NTSC.
Credits: Director/Producer, Patrice O'Neill ; principal photography/field producer, Brian Dentz ; original score written and performed by David Molina.
Summary: This documentary follows a community in crisis after the fatal attack of a local immigrant resident in 2008. Stunned by the violence, diverse community stakeholders openly confront the crime and the divisive atmosphere, and commit to ongoing actions to prevent future hate crimes and intolerance.
Special Features: Patchogue Library's Gilda Ramos: A voice for her community -- Mayor Pontieri: We are all immigrants -- Gualaceo and Patchogue: Two towns united by tragedy -- Mosaic: No one walks alone.



"Patchogue Library's Gilda Ramos: A voice for her community"

Librarian assistant Gilda Ramos became a translator for the Lucero family who came to Patchogue from Gualaceo, Ecuador as the community gathered to honor Marcelo Lucero. Ramos also translated for Latino residents at community events and meetings that were held at the library, the Patchogue Theatre, vigils and rallies. Like libraries across the country, the Patchogue-Medford Library is a place where people come together and feel supported and safe.



They had to create the right job to bring Gilda Ramos on full time at the Patchogue-Medford Library (PML), NY. The first to be hired in a new civil service category called "Spanish Speaking Library Assistant," approved in late 2007, Ramos delivers and exemplifies phenomenal library service in that role since stepping into it in January 2008. She combines extraordinary daily contributions to the people of the community with her total belief in the importance of serving others. That has made her invaluable at PML, so much so that she is one of a half-dozen staff primarily responsible for PML winning a 2010 National Medal for Library Service, presented at the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama.

A growing population in New York's Suffolk County hail from nations like Ecuador, Mexico, and other places where Spanish is spoken. Once the new job description was approved, other libraries in the county began to hire paralibrarians fluent in Spanish.

In the village of Patchogue and hamlet of Medford, on Long Island, Hispanics are now about 30 percent of residents. At the library there, which serves a population of approximately 50,000, Ramos goes way beyond the job description to empower these people in their new country. She is so good at that work, and so dedicated to it, that it a pure pleasure for LJ's editors to name Gilda Ramos the 2011 LJ Paralibrarian of the Year, an award sponsored by DEMCO, Inc.

Loving languages
Born Gilda Araujo in Lima, Peru, she always loved learning languages. She studied translation and interpreting and became a professional at both. As a teenager, she volunteered to work with an American missionary couple. Their trips to poor, remote villages in Peru gave her the opportunity to practice her English, her interpreting skills, and to develop her incredible talents at working with people of all kinds.

"Spanish is a wonderful language. It is romantic and very intense. When I translate, and especially when I interpret, I always try to be faithful to the original writer or speaker. Spanish carries a lot of emotion. I always try to get at that spice in translation so the reader or listener will get the whole meaning the speaker or writer was trying to convey," Ramos says with the passion she describes.

She even studied German in Germany for two years, then, 13 years ago, she came to the United States. By then a single mother with a 12-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son, Ramos ended up working for the Patchogue school district. The staff there noticed her people and language skills and urged her to teach citizenship classes in a 2004 pilot program held at PML. The librarians noticed her, too. She began working for the library part-time as a clerk in 2005, and ultimately PML took over the citizenship program.

More than 50 of Ramos's students have passed their exams and become U.S. citizens. On the day LJ talked with her, Ramos and Jean Kaleda, her supervisor, had attended the swearing in of another of those new citizens. Ramos, now a U.S. citizen, was deeply moved by the ceremony. There were people from Egypt, India, China, France, Peru, Colombia, Korea, some 41 countries, she reports.

Ramos loves teaching. She holds computer classes in Spanish and teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) and Spanish conversation, and she offers immigrant counseling. She will continue to offer citizenship instruction once renovations at PML are completed.

She works five days a week, with an evening shift on Wednesdays and an occasional Saturday or Sunday. She obviously enjoys those Wednesday evenings. "People come in after work. They are taking English classes and have questions," she says. "They know I am on duty that night."

Ramos has just started a new program called "Madres ­Latina" for the Hispanic mothers who come to her in the library. They want to know how to approach teachers, how to help their children cope with their new culture, and how to keep up with all that change themselves. "I had to do that myself," Ramos remembers.

A connector
"She lives library. She promotes it away from work, even when she is shopping or in a grocery store. She works all the time," says Lauren Nichols, PML assistant director, adding, "It is clear that Gilda Ramos deserves this award."

"Working with our growing Hispanic population, she fields inquiries that make the rest of the staff struggle ... She is Johnny-on-the-spot, an amazing woman!" agrees PML director Dina McNeece Chrils.

"Gilda's strength is her ability to connect with people in a warm and natural way. Her background and deep education in interpretation and translation are crucial, but you need that other quality, that ability to empathize with people, to listen very well, and to communicate. That sets her apart ... I wish we had ten more like Gilda," says Kaleda, PML's coordinator of Spanish-language outreach services. It was Kaleda who pushed to get the new job description through the difficult Suffolk County HR apparatus.

Ramos believes deeply in connecting to others. She provides literacy tools and facilitates English and Spanish conversational groups. She helps all users access a variety of library resources and conducts database training, creates website content, and works the circulation and welcome desks.

Ramos translates library newsletters and other literature for the public, along with school district information.

She often interprets at library meetings and workshops. On her own time, she interprets at community events for elected officials, law enforcement personnel, and community groups. Through those activities, Ramos has helped build incredible relationships between the library and the community.

On a county level, Ramos translated the countywide library catalog, programs, and services into Spanish. This included working with a team of librarians, system administrators, and programmers to provide bilingual access to over eight million people.

"Translating the catalog was long, tedious work, but I thought of it as a way to leave my mark there forever," says Ramos. "A long time from now people will see and use my work. Many more people can get access to the libraries now. My gift will help generations."

Mobilized by murder
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.

According to her colleagues, Ramos does things not for personal gain but because she believes libraries must show the way for people of all backgrounds to live and work together, as a first step to a lasting, sustainable community.

"It is difficult to live in a country where you don't speak the language. You can't communicate with anyone," she says. "You are left out when you are from another country."

"I'm able to give people a voice. You empower people when you give them the language," Ramos says. "To truly enjoy this country and all that it has to offer, you need the language and the help of a middleperson. I am that person in the library. It is very gratifying."

The impact of that work resonates in the community and the profession. "Gilda's exceptional communication skills, perceptive insight, and desire to inform, educate, and empower those around her make her a truly spectacular paralibrarian," says Chrils. "All members of the library profession should strive for her standards."

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