Interview: Washington’s first Latino chief librarian

HC interviews Washington’s new Chief Librarian, Richard Reyes-Gavilan, the first Latino in such a position

Washington’s new Chief Librarian Richard Reyes-Gavilan often recounts how he discovered the public library as a ReyesGavilan3boy growing up in the New York City borough of Queens.

“Here was a space that made me important. It encouraged my curiosity. It made me a better student, a more civic-minded person,” Reyes said during his introduction ceremony at the downtown Martin Luther King, Jr. central library in January, when he became the first Latino to helm the D.C. Public Library System.

That kind of passionate personal connection has made him a powerful voice for public libraries and, according to his friends and supporters, makes him well suited to lead the Washington public library system.  “He was a very powerful messenger for the library,” says David Woloch, a former colleague who worked alongside Reyes in New York City, where the Cuban-American rose through the ranks to become the Chief Librarian of Brooklyn’s public libraries three years ago. “When he talks about those personal experiences growing up in Queens and when he became passionate about the library he does it so well and he’s so heartfelt.”

The D.C. Public Library Board of Trustees selected Reyes earlier this year to replace Ginnie Cooper as D.C. Public Libraries’ Chief Librarian after a national search. He “brings a wealth of experience and is a well-respected leader across the nation,” according to John Hill, President of the Public Library Board of Trustees, who was involved in the selection process.

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