The 2017 opening of the San Antonio Public Library’s 10,000-piece Latino Collection was the direct outcome of high school students’ impassioned pleas for research and study resources that better reflected the community.
Watch the video interview or scroll down for the rest of the story
Marisa Bono, then a Jefferson High School student, was one of those who made the appeal in 1996 to the San Antonio Public Library Board of Directors.
“Many of us experienced our own hardships trying to find places to research for our courses in high school and also to research more about ourselves and our families and to find works from authors who represented us in the community,” Bono said in an interview with NOWCastSA during the grand opening.
At the invitation of Library Board member Ellen Riojas Clark, Bono made her case to the board and won them over.
“We made speeches to the board and explained why we felt this collection was important, not just for students but for the community,” recalled Bono, who went on to be Southwest Regional Council for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and is now Chief of Policy for Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
Clark, now a UTSA professor emeritus, said she asked her friend Rosie Castro to bring a cross section of students to address the board.
“We got students from all different schools and had them speak,” Clark recalled. “We got Marisa Bono and her group and they were the turning point.”
Clark went on to create the Latino Leadership for the Library, or L3, under the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, which worked for years to help raise funds for the collection and to support a new, very public space on the first floor of Central Library. Castro is mother of former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro and Congressman Joaquin Castro.
“There is no missing it now,” said Bono of the Latino Collection's grand new home. “It is what we envisioned when we first came to fight for it.” (click here to watch video of the Latino Collection's Grand Opening)
Speaking up 21 years ago made all the difference, said Clark.
“The message is you’ve got to participate, you have to be an activist, you can be a change agent,” she said. “Change agents are necessary for our community to achieve what we have to achieve.”