Library Beginnings from ISAAC’s Adelante Fellowship 

three young women smiling in three different pictures all with colorful backgrounds

Remember the feeling of walking into your first job? The nerves creeping into the front of your mind, the excitement and anticipation of the day ahead, and the curiosity about the type of people you would meet?  Maybe you flipped burgers, babysat, or shelved books at a library.  

Whatever you did, there’s nothing quite like the introduction to the workforce, being a part of something larger than yourself, and of course, getting paid.   

This summer, Poudre Libraries had the privilege of partaking in The Interfaith Solidarity & Accompaniment Coalition’s (ISAAC) program, the Adelante Fellowship. Three young fellows from this program will now forever remember Poudre Libraries as the place where their working lives began.  

ISAAC and Poudre Libraries have collaborated for years on Outreach services and programming. The organization centers on immigrant justice and champions human dignity by creating a welcoming, healing, and empowering place for all members of the community to be.  

The Adelante Summer Fellowship supports and empowers young people and young adults to transition into their careers with hands-on experiences, peer groups, educational seminars, and psychological support. A dive into our own fellow’s experiences revealed what a rewarding, busy, and complex world Libraries are. 

From Storytimes to the Start of a Career 

When she wasn’t at the Library this summer, Gabriela spent time enjoying the great outdoors and art as well as preparing for her junior year of high school. She grew up attending storytimes led by our very own Outreach Librarian Ludy Rueda, and recalls decorating sugar skulls for Day of the Dead/ Día de Muertos at our community celebrations when she was little.   

young woman sitting in a children's section of a library

Working with us this summer, she most enjoyed getting to know her co-workers. “Everyone is just so nice, and it makes the job so much more fun. I find it peaceful and calming – you know, you can go do the same thing repeatedly and learn and figure out how the systems work.” Gabriela learned how to make Library cards, shadowed employees on our public-facing desks, and watched storytelling masters like Outreach Librarian Ludy Rueda and Children’s Librarian Amy Holzworth at work.  

Gabriela also loves to read – at the time we spoke, she had seven books checked out. It wasn’t our book collection that surprised her the most but other amazing catalog items. “I was so surprised by everything the Library has to offer. Before, I thought it was like checking out books…learning everything it offers like the different gadgets and everything it does for the community has been so great. I’m taking away more leadership skills, abilities to communicate with the public for future jobs, and continuing to do my best every day.” 

Gabriela has spent her life in Fort Collins but has a particular affinity for the ocean, “I love the ocean and animals. I’d like to help with the environment more. I’d say the way our trash and actions make animals suffer is little bit frightening but I’m trying to look towards more positive ways that we can work on it.” Naturally, she would like to pursue a marine biology degree.  

Gabriela plans to stay in Fort Collins for at least a year after she graduates to attend college, “I don’t want to ditch my family after I graduate!” she said, smiling during our interview at Council Tree Library. Still, she admits that the ocean and traveling the world are calling her name. She eventually wants to visit the Great Barrier Reef and the islands of Hawaii to continue to work on her scuba diving. 

One of her favorite reads recently was Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid.   

young woman smiling in front of colorful shapes

Behind the Scenes at Council Tree 

Gabriela was not the only Adelante fellow to witness to the inner workings of Council Tree Library this summer. Giselle is also a high-school junior who spent her summer shadowing at the desk, studying the systems of library circulation, and getting to know our workplace. 

young woman smiling inside a library

She loves spending quality time with her family and playing with her younger sister. Next year, she plans on taking courses at Front Range Community College while attending high school. She wants to fulfill her aspiration of becoming a dental hygienist sooner rather than later. When it comes to music, she is easy to please – unless you break out the country.  

Talking about her time at Council Tree Library she revealed the surprises, benefits, and joys of library work.  “I never really knew what happens behind the scenes at the library. It’s pretty simple itself but there’s so much that goes on in the background that you really don’t know about. I learned how they shelve the books and how the system works. The Gadgets and Things collection was particularly surprising to me.” 

 As a library, our goal is to have laid-back spaces for the public to enjoy – this often results in a common misconception that Libraries are a laid-back place to work. Library employees often hear, “So you just read all day?” While reading all day would be amazing, keeping the library up and running with our various services, resources, offerings, and events takes a village. 

 Each fellow expressed their surprise at the pace of our work. Giselle said, “I thought it was going to be more laid back. I thought there weren’t things like Prospector and all that. I appreciate the library more now and working with all the people was great too, they’re really nice.” 

young woman smiling and sitting by a window in a library

Her favorite part of working this summer was printing out the slips for our holds. These personalized receipts help patrons navigate to their reserved book selections on our shelves. Giselle’s favorite book of all time is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  

On the Road with Evie 

Our other Adelante fellow had a very different Library experience working on the road with our new all-electric mobile Library van, Evie. This summer, Evie was dedicated to bringing the Library to underserved populations across Fort Collins with a particular focus on our Summer Reading Challenge. Vivi was our fellow on the road.  

young woman smiling in a car with a laptop in front of her

She recently graduated high school, loves to read, and has a passion for traveling. She’s visited Peru, Belize, Mexico, and California though she has spent most of her life in Fort Collins. Post graduation, Vivi plans to stick around, enjoy spending time with her family, and attend Front Range Community College before transferring to Colorado State University. She would like to spend her career helping others. 

Working with Evie also means working with our dedicated Community Outreach department. A profound takeaway she had was just how much effort members of our Outreach team put into their everyday work.

“I guess I didn’t expect them to put just as much effort into a stop where one kid comes versus a stop where 300 kids come, and they worked just as hard for both. They’re really passionate and it made me understand that I have to work just as hard for one kid as I do for 300.”

young woman handing a library card to a person inside a van

Vivi setup Evie stations across the area, checked out items from the catalog, made “flex” library cards (our online library card available without coming into the building,) and made standard library cards for members of the community. “I definitely have more of a love for the library now and understand how it works behind the scenes. If you’re looking on the outside you don’t know how much work, care, and thought is being put into things.”

Her favorite day working with us this summer was a visit to a summer camp catering specifically to children with disabilities. “They were just very friendly. One of them sat on my lap the whole time and it was so great to see their reactions to our set-up. Ludy got them bags they could decorate to put water bottles in. The best part was just talking to them, interacting with them, and helping them pick out their books.”  

If Vivi was picking out a book for herself, a personal favorite is Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Her parents also partake in community organizing with ISACC, Fuerza Latina, and other local organizations.  

A Fellowship to Remember 

Last week, ISAAC hosted a special graduation for all of the participants in the Adelante Fellowship.  Other teenagers and young adults from across Fort Collins in the Fellowship worked for the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, the Larimer County Farmer’s Market, the First Generation Near Peer Mentoring Project, Christ Clinic Fort Collins, and within ISAAC itself. Below are fellows and ISAAC personal who were involved into 2023’s program.

group of people smiling on a lawn in front of a building

Here’s what all three of our lovely fellows said about their experiences at their graduation this summer: 

“Being involved with Adelante this summer has given me the opportunity to learn more leadership and communication skills, while also allowing me to grow closer to the people I work with. Working at the Library has shown me what I’m capable of and to appreciate our community even more.” – Gabriela

“Adelante has been an incredible opportunity for me to gain hands-on experience in a professional setting and learn the ins and outs of how a workplace operates. Through Adelante, I’ve gained valuable knowledge about how to behave professionally and make a positive impact in any work environment.” -Gisselle

“Working with the people at Webster House was a privilege. I was placed with the brightest, kindest, and most hard-working team who consistently pushed for growth and excellence. I was provided with many opportunities, connections, and an atmosphere that made me excited to go to work. My time shadowing at Webster House and Evie is a very special and important experience that will always inspire me to do more.” -Vivi

The Adelante Fellowship’s program director, Jesús Castro, is a long-time friend of Poudre Libraries and a champion for many in our community. Learn more about Jesús’s work with another local partner organization, Fuerza Latina, in the article Going Further Together / Yendo Más Allá Juntos. 

The Adelante Fellowship was funded by an innovation grant from Larimer County Economic and Workforce Development, the City of Fort Collins Office of Equity and Inclusion, and the Bohemian Foundation.