Reforma LA Member Spotlight: Mara Cabrera

Mara Cabrera
Librarian I – Teen Services
Santa Monica Public Library

Primary service roles
I work as the teen librarian for the Pico and the Fairview Branches. My primary role includes the development and implementation of programming for teens at both branches. I am also in charge of maintaining the teen collection for the branches, making sure that it stays relevant to the needs of the community. Moreover, because the Pico Branch is part of the Virginia Avenue Park (VAP) Campus, I collaborate closely with the VAP Teen Center in developing programming and conducting outreach within the community.

How work aligns with service to Latinos and Spanish-speaking communities
The Pico Neighborhood is the most diverse area within the City of Santa Monica and a large amount of residents are Spanish-speakers. At the Pico Branch in particular, we work towards providing library and information services - including programming - in Spanish. We provide Spanish services on a daily basis. The community has access to a Spanish collection for all ages. For teens in particular, we are currently providing college-planning workshops, in collaboration with the VAP. We make sure that most of these workshops are provided in English and Spanish and we also address issues and concerns that are specific to the Latino community (and to other communities of color), as well as the immigrant and undocumented communities when applying to college.  

Gratifying aspects of your work
I love my job and I think every single aspect is extremely gratifying. However, helping patrons find the information they need and seeing the community get together and enjoying our programs are the two most gratifying aspects. In particular to teens – I enjoy seeing when they get interested in new things and topics thanks to a library program or thanks to book recommendations we give them.

Words of advice for other librarians and/or present and future MLIS students
Be open minded to new ideas. This is one of the most important things right now (in my opinion). I know everyone keep saying “libraries are changing”… but it’s true! Librarians need to adapt to the new roles libraries are playing in society. In my view, libraries are still the “place where you get books” like some of my teens like to say. However… libraries are way more than that. Libraries can serve as places of discovery where patrons are exposed to new topics, subjects and technologies. Libraries can serve as places of cultural exchange, where diverse communities come together to celebrate and embrace their differences.

Some personal interest that informs your service
One of my personal interests that currently inform my service is technology and promoting STEM within my teen patrons. STEM fields are lacking diversity and I think libraries can help close the gap by providing exposure to new technologies to folks that wouldn’t be exposed otherwise.