The American Library Association (ALA) recently named Forest Park librarian Amilcar Perez winner of the Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS) Public Librarian Support Award.
Perez, who serves as adult services and outreach librarian and has been at the Forest Park library since February 2016, received the award for his work bringing the business community to the library. He will receive $1,250 for assistance with travel expenses to the ALA Annual Conference in June, where he will help lead a session by the Business Reference in Public Libraries Committee, of which he is a co-chair. Perez said he believes he is the first Forest Park librarian to ever receive the award.
“Amilcar has been a firebrand of community and professional development,” according to an ALA release, which noted: “Amilcar has demonstrated an exceptional, never tiring sensitivity and skill in his advocacy at and throughout our library for businesses, current and future business owners, and budding and established entrepreneurs in Forest Park.”
The award calls out Perez’s work developing “Explore Forest Park,” a library program that offers tours of local businesses like, yes, the Forest Park Review. It also mentions that he developed a methodology, from the Public Library Association, which measures public awareness and application of library resources.
Perez has also launched several workshops that provide support to entrepreneurs, like how to start a business in Illinois or developing a WordPress website. Perez also partnered the library with organizations like the Small Business Development Center in Forest Park, the Women’s Business Development Center in Chicago and the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce to provide small business owners additional resources. Come fall, he hopes to add programs teaching people how to successfully sell on Amazon.com and how to use social media for marketing.
He said he develops program ideas by asking participants what they’re looking for, and uses socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census Bureau to guide what programs might appeal to Forest Parkers.
“Libraries are not only repositories of information, libraries are a platform, libraries are enablers,” he said. “What I do, especially in the context of this award, is promote the concept that the library is an enabler. One of the values of the library is the access to information; we want to make sure in the scope of economic development that we can enable entrepreneurs and career seekers access to digital literacy and drive equity in the community.”
Originally from Mexico, Perez speaks fluent Spanish, English and French. He worked briefly as a journalist in Mexico City before jetting off to study at McGill University in Montreal. After graduating with a master’s in library and information studies, he found a job as an adjunct librarian at the City Colleges of Chicago and later worked as a reference librarian at Triton College. In his free time, he volunteered at the Forest Park Public Library and taught workshops on how to download eBooks, as well as how to stay safe and private on the internet.
This work led to being hired by the Forest Park library to focus on economic development, a role the library hadn’t filled before. He said he finds inspiration when his programs lead to success, whether it’s an attendee finding a job, a small business adding a service, or developing a program that fills a community need.
“I love this idea of sharing knowledge or sharing access,” he said, adding: “Not everybody has the same opportunities. Somebody who’s looking for a job might not have a degree or certification, but they have access to the library and that is what makes the library an enabler.”
This story has been updated to reflect that Perez adopted a methodology from the Public Library Association.