Patty Lara-Martinez has been the outreach specialist for the Hood River County Library District since December 2011. And while you may recognize her from the Parkdale and Hood River libraries, her range also extends into Odell — where no branch exists.
That’s just the nature of the position.
“It’s outreach to the Latino community, so what I’m doing right now is promoting and providing services to the Odell community. I do a few things there,” she said.
“A few things” includes bringing her “bookmobile,” as she calls her crates of materials, to the free Zumba classes, taught by Sarah Christensen and Veronica Espe, Mondays and Thursdays at St. Francis House at 6:30 p.m.
She’s been bringing books, DVDs and magazines — mostly in Spanish, but some are English or bilingual — for participants to check out before and after class for a little over a year.
“I am lucky enough to have a great job,” she said. “I go in there with my big crate of books and basically offer all library services … everything we can do at the library, we can do there.”
The service is popular; she has patrons who check out or return books during each class. She focuses on Spanish-language materials “to give the Spanish community the opportunity,” Lara said.
Last December, she had traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico, to the International Book Fair, where she was able to purchase Mexican-Spanish materials to add to the district’s collection.
“It was awesome!” she said. “It was such a great experience. Buzzy (Nielson, library director) said he’s hoping to send me back in the next couple of years, so I’m excited about that.”
But Spanish is Spanish, right?
“There’s a lot of not very well translated (Spanish) books,” she explained. “Getting those books from Mexico and getting Mexican-Spanish is nice … Most people here in Hood River are from Mexico. When you get a children’s book and it’s translated from someone in Spain, it’s like, ‘What?’ It’s different.”
Spanish in Spain is more formal, she said, and Spanish spoken in South America doesn’t have the same nuances.
“Getting books in Mexican-Spanish rather than (from) translators in Argentina, or where they speak Spanish” is an important part of serving Hood River’s Latino community, she said.
With all those books, it’s not surprising that Lara is big on reading. She’s started a Mid Valley story time with the kindergarten class, and has a few preschools on her list, too. And during Mid Valley’s migrant summer school program, she’s also there — daily — reading to kids in grades 1-3. Someday, she’s like to start a story time program at the Parkdale Oregon Child Development Coalition (OCDC), which is housed in the community center, next to the library.
Speaking of the Parkdale branch, that’s where she got her start. She served as a librarian her first two years, but “that kind of didn’t work for my position, so we got a grant.”
She’s now there one day a week. The library is a small version of its Hood River counterpart, with children’s and adult books, DVDs and magazines — and, if a patron wants something not in stock, it can be requested from the Sage Library System, of which Hood River County Library District is a part. There are also computers, a printer, and Wi-Fi.
As if she wasn’t already busy enough, Lara has a show on Radio Tierra (95.1 in Hood River) every Wednesday morning from 10:30-11:30 a.m. featuring music, Spanish nursery rhymes, library announcements and, of course, children’s stories. In January, the show will celebrate its first anniversary.
“I had contacted Gale Arnold (board president), I mentioned it to her, that it was something I was interested in,” Lara said. “One day, she said, ‘You set? You ready to go?’ She really pushed me to start way sooner than I would have,” she laughed. “It’s a little nerve-wracking being on the radio.”
Lara is also busy planning the annual Dia de los Muertos event (Day of the Dead), to be held Nov. 5 at Wy’east Middle School.
“That’s thanks to Vice Principal Patricia Cooper,” she said.
The evening will include a taco dinner by Michoacan and a viewing of “Book of Life.”
“We’ll talk about the Day of the Dead, why it’s celebrated, and after dinner … we’ll move onto the movie,” she said. The evening is free and open to the public.
“Last year, I had about 200 people at St. Francis House,” she said. “It’s getting bigger every year.”
While the evening is planned, she is still looking for sponsors — Michoacan is her only sponsor so far, providing food at a discount. Those interested can call Lara at the library at 541-387-7068 for more information.
Lara, a 2005 graduate of Hood River Valley High School, earned an Associate’s degree in criminal justice from Portland Community College in 2010.
“I kind of fell into it,” she said of her outreach position. “I was looking for a job and I saw ‘outreach’ and ‘focusing on Hispanics.’ I’ve been in Hood River all my life, and my husband (Jose Lara) is from Parkdale. I know the area — I have family in Odell — and I applied and ended up getting the job.
“It’s been a learning experience, but I’d worked at a library when I was going to PCC, so I had experience. And I had been a family advocate and worked with the public already.
“It’s been really good so far,” Lara said.