Community organizer steps in as EPL’s new Latino Outreach Coordinator

Evanston Public Library hired Jose Cruz, a long-time librarian and community organizer, as its new Latino Outreach Coordinator. Cruz’s main responsibility will be working with Spanish-speaking library visitors.

Source: Evanston

Evanston Public Library hired Jose Cruz, a long-time librarian and community organizer, as its new Latino Outreach Coordinator. Cruz’s main responsibility will be working with Spanish-speaking library visitors.

Billy Kobin, Reporter

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Jose Cruz became Evanston Public Library’s new Latino Outreach Coordinator last month after years as a librarian and community organizer in Chicago.

Cruz’s job includes acting as a librarian with an emphasis on serving Spanish-speaking residents. He is tasked with helping Latino visitors who are new to EPL feel more comfortable utilizing the library’s services. Cruz, 35, said his short-term goals include learning more about Evanston and the needs of its Latino families. He is meeting with different community groups to learn and receive more input, he said.

“They are my guide to everything that is going on here,” Cruz said. “It’s going to take a while to figure out what is really needed and to gain the trust of community members.”

EPL created the Latino Outreach Coordinator position in 2010, said Jill Schacter, EPL’s marketing and communications coordinator. Cruz replaced Daylily Alvarez, who is now Chicago Public Library’s children and young adult services outreach librarian.

Cruz said in his job he meets and communicates with Latino families through the library.

“The challenge I’ve set for myself is I want to see more Latino families utilizing the space, utilizing the resources that we have,” Cruz said. “Some families don’t know how to use a library because they have never really been in one.”

Cruz, who worked in the children’s services section at Oak Park Public Library before starting his current job, has a background in community organizing. He has organized social justice campaigns in southwest Chicago and has served as an adult educator with the Association House of Chicago in Humboldt Park, one of Chicago’s oldest settlement houses. He has also worked at Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, one of the oldest cultural institutions in Chicago, located on the city’s northwest side.

As a community organizer, Cruz said he worked mostly with children and families. He also built connections between libraries and schools, a task he has continued to pursue at EPL.

“I’m working with the District 65 schools and different parent groups,” Cruz said. “I think that’s going to be fruitful.”

He said his experience in community organizing helps him work with different groups at EPL, but there is more flexibility doing outreach work at a library than in other institutions.

“Jose’s experience, his commitment to libraries and his enthusiasm for serving our residents will help welcome our Latino families to all of our libraries and the many engaging services and programs we produce in both English and Spanish,” EPL director Karen Danczak Lyons said in a news release.

Cruz said he developed his passion for helping others while growing up in Chicago.

“I grew up in a poor Latino community, and I saw a lot of services that weren’t there,” Cruz said. “I grew up with the mentality that I would like to help my community somehow and go to school and get an education to do that.”

Rory Parilac, the assistant manager of children’s services at Oak Park Public Library, said co-workers and children there miss “Mr. Jose” and his “extraordinary presence.” Cruz understands the importance of libraries in communities, Parilac said.

“He knows why people come to the library,” Parilac said. “He knows they come for that sense of community, not just resources. He’s just a great ambassador. Evanston is lucky to have him out in the community.”

Cruz said he is currently focused on Evanston’s growing Latino population.

“I commend the library for trying to connect with this population,” he said.

Email: williamkobin2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @Billy_Kobin

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