News

Carmen Patlan: Waukegan library employee goes above and beyond to serve Hispanic population

Post date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 11:51am

Carmen Patlan emigrated from a rural town in Mexico to the United States at age 7.

For Patlan, the move to Waukegan with her family provided many firsts – running water, electricity, a library and access to education.

Upon arriving in Wauekgan, Patlan could not speak English, which is why she understands the hardships that non-native speakers face after settling in a new country.

Since growing up in Lake County, the Beach Park resident said she has always empathized with others’ hardships.

In November 2011, Patlan and other members of Waukegan’s Most Blessed Trinity Parish, opened The House of Peace Domestic Violence Shelter, a domestic abuse shelter for Hispanic women and children in North Chicago.

Artwork by the shelter’s clients hang in Patlan’s office at the Waukegan Public Library, where Patlan worked as community engagement and outreach manager – creating opportunities for the local Hispanic community to learn English – since 2011.

Patlan knows the value of hard work, being born into a life of scarcity and then surviving in a new country. After graduating high school, Patlan worked at Abbott Laboratories; but, after 20 years of corporate America, and a few years after that of running a boutique, she realized that she wanted to do more for those in her community.

A chance encounter in a courtroom inspired Patlan to become a Lake County courts interpreter.

“I saw a lady [in a courtroom] scared to death,” she said. “She asked me, ‘Could you help me? I don’t know how to speak English.’”

Patlan inquired about a court interpreter program the same day, and was hired on the spot.

“I began to see the struggle and my eyes were open to the reality this community is struggling with – the inability to speak English, the inability to drive without getting pulled over – they didn’t know the way the system operates and works,” she said.

Waukegan has a Hispanic population that is three times higher than the state average, with 55 percent of residents speaking a language other than English at home. Twenty percent do not speak English, and another 25 percent are not fluent.

But, as a courts interpreter Patlan could not educate clients about the law.

“I couldn’t take it anymore, seeing that I could not advocate for these individuals,” Patlan said.

In 2007, Patlan was offered the position of social concerns director with Most Blessed Trinity Parish. After accepting the job in May that year, she was soon fielding calls left and right from Hispanic immigrants asking about their rights.

Patlan soon was working 60-hour weeks, beyond what the position required.

Soon, Patlan also began seeing victims of domestic violence, many with nowhere else to turn.

“I began to advocate [for these women] and found it very difficult to find shelter for them, because of their status and because they did not speak English,” she said.

Seeing a need, Patlan along with other parish members, began researching what it would take to open a domestic abuse shelter. The House of Peace, the culmination of their hard work, opened in 2011.

Dennis Mudd, a past deacon at Most Blessed Trinity, said Patlan “walked with [the women and children] and accompanied them every step of the way. She listened to them, and had the courage to call on others to do the same.”

To provide new ways for the women to express themselves, Patlan started an art therapy program.

“The women always see the sunrise as a new day for them, and they are beautiful inside,” Patlan said about the tranquil images.

In order to sustain the shelter’s budget, Patlan resigned so that the parish could hire a licensed therapist.

She didn’t know what she would do next, until she was offered a job at Waukegan Public Library that included a specific mission – get more Hispanics engaged in library programming.

Patlan launched the Promotoras Ambassador Program, a key initiative of the library’s Path to Literacy and Learning program, which engages Hispanic community members.

Through the Promotoras Ambassador Program, Patlan helped created conversational ESL classes at the library. Since the classes launched two years ago, 455 students have participated.

“When they hear library, they think ‘liberia,’ which is book store,” she said. “We’re saying, ‘This is your biblioteca.’ They’re not used to services that are free.”

Executive Director of Waukegan Public Library Richard Lee said Patlan has been instrumental in helping the library meet all of its community members’ needs.

“Since hiring Carmen, attendance at the library’s bilingual classes and programs have increased by almost 50 percent,” Lee said. “She is a constant inspiration as we continue to break down the barriers that hold the community back and ensure that everyone, no matter where they came from or what language they speak, has every chance at being successful.”

Gold Medal Gala introduces Library’s Literacy Initiatives

Post date: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 9:39am

Waukegan Public Library celebrates its 2013 Institute of Museum and Library Services

National Medal with a silent auction and dinner

It has been almost one year since it was announced that the Waukegan Public Library was a prestigious Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Medal winner. To celebrate, the Library will host a Gold Medal Gala on Saturday, April 26 at 5:30 p.m. at Glen Flora Country Club in Waukegan, Illinois. The Gala will include a silent auction to benefit new and existing literacy initiatives at the library.

The evening will begin with a cocktail reception where guests will have a chance to mingle and bid on silent auction items. The cocktail reception will be followed by a plated dinner and a program that briefly introduces “Literacy 2020”, the Library’s plan to increase literacy levels by 25 percent by the year 2020.

The event also features special guest speaker Robert B. Barnett, leading attorney for premier authors, government officials, and major corporations. Barnett graduated from Waukegan Township High School in 1964 and is now ranked Number One on Washingtonian magazine’s list of “Washington’s Best Lawyers” and as one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” by The National Law Journal. He was also named one of the one hundred most powerful people in the entertainment industry by Entertainment Weekly Magazine.

For me, the Waukegan Public Library meant Story Hour on Saturday mornings at the Carnegie Building on Sheridan, getting a library card and having access to books, the Bookmobile at the shopping plaza on Lewis Avenue in summer, and, most of all, the wonder, adventure, delight, and inspiration found in books,” said Barnett. “I am thrilled to be returning to the place where I discovered my love of reading.”

The Gala is being planned by the Waukegan Public Library Foundation Board, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which encourages voluntary financial support for the Waukegan Public Library. The purposes of the Foundation include focusing public attention on library services, facilities and needs in the Waukegan area.

The gala is a culminating celebration of Waukegan Public Library’s historic accomplishments, however, it’s also a collaborative initiative for the Foundation Board to continually support and prepare the citizens of Waukegan for 21st Century learning by promoting early learning, the campaign for grade level reading, college and career readiness, the creation of a dynamic workforce, and life-long learners. Our investment in this community is clearly targeted and worthy of a celebration,” said Verna Wilson, Foundation Board and Gala committee member and District Literacy Coordinator for Waukegan Public Schools.

“The ability to read affects everything from graduation rates to employment as well as crime, health care, and our overall standard of living. At the library, we are committed to creating a community of readers with our ‘Path to Learning and Literacy’. When our residents are successful, our city will be successful,” said Richard Lee, Executive Director of Waukegan Public Library.

Ticket prices are $100 for individuals and $800 for a table of eight with available program advertisement opportunities. The library is also looking for donations of silent auction items. For information on how to purchase tickets or become a sponsor through donations or advertisements, please contact Kim Vander Yacht at (847) 623-2041, ext. 244 or kvyacht [at] waukeganpl [dot] info or you can go to the event webpage.

Free Women's Health Screenings at Waukegan Public Library

Post date: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 11:28am

On Sunday, March 23, the Waukegan Public Library will present a Women’s Health Fair featuring informational booths and free health screenings on a variety of health topics. The Fair is sponsored by Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS), the Franklin Fellowship Program, and the Library and offers RFUMS medical students hands-on experience in patient-centered care. The Fair will take place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Information on topics from physical fitness to breast cancer will be available from RFUMS student groups, Lake County community organizations, and the library’s own Affordable Care Act navigators and literacy staff. Medical students will offer free blood pressure checks, cholesterol and blood sugar analysis, osteoporosis screenings, breast cancer exams, vision checks and more. Health information will be available on depression and anxiety, heart attacks, nutrition, domestic abuse, and other pertinent women’s issues. ACA information will be available for those who still need to sign up for insurance by the March 31 deadline.

This Franklin Fellowship project was created because I saw two needs,” said Natalie Dale, RFUMS medical student and creator of the Women’s Health Fair. “First, the need in the community for increased understanding and awareness of women’s health issues and local resources. Second, the need of RFUMS students to connect in an interprofessional way, both within the school and with the community at large. The Women’s Health Fair provides an avenue for students to learn about women’s health in this interdisciplinary setting, while simultaneously increasing access to health care for women in need in Waukegan. For me, this fair is the ultimate win-win situation.”

Dale decided to create the fair after realizing that women’s health was an area that merited greater attention. With that in mind, she founded the Women’s Health Interest Group (WHIG), along with three other medical students.  The goal of WHIG is to promote an understanding of women’s health, through service as well as awareness events, so that every health care professional knows how to promote women’s health in their own profession or specialty. “This is a cause which I hold very dear, and will continue to work on throughout my career,” said Dale.

This will be the first women’s health fair at the Waukegan Public Library. The fair is free and open to the public and information is available in both English and Spanish. For more information, call Rena Morrow at (847) 623-2041, ext. 231.