Pura Belpré: New York City’s First Puerto Rican Librarian

Fri. Feb 16, 2024 2:00pm - 3:00pm EST
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Celebrate the legacy of a legendary librarian, a hero of The New York Public Library.

Pura Belpré transformed access for Spanish speakers at libraries in New York City. In the early 20th century, working at the 115th Street branch, Belpré noticed the influx of Spanish-speaking families in her community who needed better service. After instituting bilingual storytimes, she then addressed the lack of Spanish-language books in the children’s collections by writing some herself. Her 1932 book, Perez and Martina, an adaptation of a traditional story, is still beloved today, and every year the American Library Association presents the Pura Belpré medal “to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.”

The Library’s Rare Book Division holds seven papier-mâché animal hand puppets that Belpré produced for use in her beloved storytimes. Join curator Barrye Brown and librarians Aníbal Arocho and Valerie Garcia to highlight Belpré’s enduring legacy.

To join | Please register for an In-Person Ticket. Doors will open around 1:30 PM. For free events, we generally overbook to ensure a full house. Priority will be given to those who have registered in advance, but registration does not guarantee admission. All registered seats are released shortly before start time, and seats may become available at that time. A standby line will form 30 minutes before the program.


Aníbal Arocho headshotAníbal Arocho is the Library Manager at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies Library & Archive, Hunter College, City University of New York where he manages library reference services, and a growing collection of over 20,000 items. He holds a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute.

Barrye Brown headshotBarrye Brown is the Curator of the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She received her B.A. in History from Dillard University, M.A. in History with a focus on Atlantic World/African Diaspora from Rice University, and her MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where, as a Carolina Academic Library Associate, she held dual appointments in the Southern Historical Collection and the Sonja Haynes Stone Center Library for Black History and Culture. Prior to her arrival at the Schomburg Center, she served as the Reference and Outreach Archivist at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston. She is a 2022-2024 Rare Book School-Mellon Cultural Heritage Fellow.

Valerie Garcia headshotValerie Garcia is the Children’s Librarian at the Aguilar Branch of The New York Public Library in East Harlem and has worked for NYPL since 1991. Her mother was also a career librarian working for the library for 47 years. Valerie focuses on programs for grades K-6, and is thrilled to work with schools. She also leads story time, offers arts and crafts, and presents special programs such as magic shows and movies. She hopes to make the library a regular part of the lives of young people and encourage a love of reading in East Harlem. Valerie received her Bachelor of Arts degree from City College and her Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute.

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In-Person | You can request a free ASL (American Sign Language) interpretation or CART (Communication Access Real-Time Translation) captioning service by emailing your request at least two weeks in advance of the event: email accessibility@nypl.org or use this Gmail template. This venue is fully accessible to wheelchairs.


For questions and inquiries, please email publicprograms@nypl.org or use this Gmail template.

Please submit all press inquiries to Sara Beth Joren at least 48 hours before the event: email sarabethjoren@nypl.org or use this Gmail template.

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Courtesy Aníbal Arocho
Courtesy Barrye Brown
Courtesy Valerie Garcia

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Lenox and Astor Room, Room 216 The New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 42nd Street & 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10018
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