Evanston, Illinois, has a growing Latino population—over 10% according to 2015 figures. Building connections with the Latino community served by the Evanston Public Library is what Miguel Ruiz likes best about his job.
Where do you work and what is your role?
As the Latino engagement librarian, I connect with our Latino community in order to develop relevant resources and services. It’s truly an amazing role that fits my skill sets and interests exceedingly well. Previously, I was the e-learning librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I managed the library system’s online instructional design and information literacy portfolio.
What do you like best about your job?
I truly enjoy connecting directly with our residents throughout the community. I spend a lot of time outside of the library learning about their lives, interests, values, and families, which makes me feel connected to our community both personally and professionally. My position provides the flexibility to dive in and learn about the authentic needs of our community in order to set the library as a community leader and expert.
Why did you decide to pursue a degree in LIS?
I am privileged and fortunate to have had incredible mentors throughout my life. I started as a shelver at my hometown library, the DeKalb Public Library, at the age of 16. The director at the time was incredibly insightful and helped me understand librarianship as a profession. I had similarly encouraging and supportive mentors at the University of Illinois as an undergraduate student, where I worked at the Undergraduate Library. These experiences, along with internships and informational interviews throughout my undergraduate career, solidified my interest in the profession.
How did the iSchool help you get to where you are today?
The School and University provided access to numerous opportunities in the form of internships, professional development opportunities, graduate assistantships, an extensive alumni network, and great professors. I received theoretical and practical experiences through my coursework (a special shoutout to Dr. Nicole Cooke and Dr. Robert Burger) that I transferred directly to work experience in the form of a graduate assistantship at The Career Center Library. The iSchool's career advisors, in tandem with its alumni network, connected me to meaningful opportunities, which helped me land my first professional job after graduation.
What advice would you like to share with iSchool students?
I strongly urge all students to seek volunteer opportunities, practicums, graduate assistantships, and/or other work experiences related to information science that complement their coursework. On that note, students should find ways to connect their coursework (projects, assignments, or the literature) to their work outside of the classroom. These are the type of experiences that not only engage students deeper in their understanding of the coursework and their development as a future information professional but are also key additions to their portfolio that they will be able to build on for years to come, especially as they pursue job opportunities and promotions.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy running and biking along the Chicago Lakeshore. As a designer in a previous life, I also enjoy spending time developing my amateur photography and graphic design skills. During the week you'll find me listening to podcasts on my commute to work, or hitting the arcade for my skee ball league. During the weekends, you’ll likely catch me enjoying a cold craft beer in a beer garden or catching a local festival. Chicago winters mean lots of Netflix and catching up on my favorite books—narrative non-fiction and post-apocalyptic novels.