When Marta Pardo set out to update the Elizabeth Middle School library for the 21st century, she placed a quote from Jorge Luis Borges front and center on the library’s new website:
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of …
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“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library,” wrote the 20th century Argentine author known for his short stories.
“This is my motto,” she said last week while giving a tour of the redesigned library. “Sharing and encouraging people to find knowledge — this is a paradise.”
At the end of 2015, Pardo finished a year on the job as Elizabeth Middle School’s librarian. But during that time, the computer systems leapt forward a decade.
Pardo’s first priority was updating the library catalog, which was kept offline inside library computers. The new online database freed up time on circulation duties, but Pardo sees benefits for students, who gained the ability to access the catalog from home and on their phones.
On the middle school’s website, Pardo has included a wide selection of links to other Internet resources, such as history and news sites, YouTube, Google, and online databases for Elbert and Douglas County libraries.
“How did I know they needed this? I would go to the classrooms and I would see students struggling with the database we had for them,” she said. “I said `No, they need to understand what they’re talking about.’ One student wanted to learn about Troy. He didn’t understand if he was talking about Rome. So I brought the student here and showed him Google, and I showed him all the maps, the pictures, the history.”
Pardo wants to meet the students where they want to learn.
“We have encyclopedias,” she said as a thin smile crossed her face, “nobody uses this.”
Pardo has no intention of shrinking the reference section because the library has the space.
“I run a collection analysis because we have a lot of books that are not being used. I asked myself, what can we do with those books? With the non-fiction, that’s fine because it’s a reference material,” she said.
But the data collection helps her determine which fiction books to keep.
“To make a decision like that, it’s good to have support,” she said.
Pardo emigrated from Colombia in 1999 with her daughters, who were 4 and 9 years old at the time.
“I’m a doctor, a medical doctor, M.D., in Colombia,” Pardo said. “I came here to work at the university of Colorado doing cancer research — prostate and lung cancer. I worked there for eight years. That is the way I got my working visa. I came with two daughters… But then my sponsor died, and I didn’t have any more work to do. The grant was cut. I had the girls and I had a house and I was doing a very specific thing, being a pathologist. So I didn’t have anywhere else to go.”
With her immigration paperwork still in-process, Pardo knew she needed employment in a hurry, so she decided to apply her love of learning in a new career.
In 2005, she started as a paraprofessional at Littleton High School while volunteering with Douglas County Libraries. Pardo was presented with an award as an outstanding volunteer of the year — a prize she credits for helping her get a scholarship to the University of Denver to pursue her master’s degree in library and information sciences. She graduated in 2010.
“I truly am convinced you can do whatever you want to do. Especially women,” Pardo said.
She shares this message with the girls browsing the books and magazines in the newly designated women’s corner of the library.
To these girls, Pardo proudly cites her two daughters, away at Yale on scholarships, as examples of the value of knowledge for young women, in general — immigrants in particular.
“I tell them `you have to learn the language; you have to learn the new culture.’ But look, I was a single mom, a paraprofessional and now my girls are going to the best schools,” Pardo said with a smile. “When I talk about that, who could possibly ask for more?”
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