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An Interview with Roberto Salazar, Senior Program Specialist for the Office of Opportunity, Inclusiveness & Compliance at the Library of Congress

In our day-to-day operations, as part of the greater Library of Congress (LC), the personnel of the Law Library have the opportunity and necessity to exchange and gain guidance, expertise, and insight from other personnel of the LC.  The Office of Opportunity, Inclusiveness and Compliance (OIC), formerly the Office of Workforce Diversity (OWD), is one of the divisions where personnel who impart compliance-based knowledge are housed.  OIC “is responsible for administering key workforce diversity programs to engender an environment in which all employees can accomplish the Library’s mission and reach their full potential without systemic barriers and discrimination.”

Today’s interview is with Roberto Salazar, Senior Program Specialist for OIC which is a support-service office within the Office of Support Operations (OSO) of the LC.  We are happy to give the public a brief glimpse into his life and his path toward coming to serve the Library in this very important capacity.

Photo by author

Describe your background.

Although I am a fifth-generation American with some Mexican and American Indian roots, my mother’s family traces back to the Gallegos of Galicia, Spain; and my father’s family traces back to Portugal.  I grew up in rural northern New Mexico in a small town—Las Vegas, New Mexico—that grew out of the Old West and the railroad days.  I come from a place and time where life evolves around family and land is sacred.  I have been an off-and-on resident of  Washington D.C. since 1981, when at the age of fifteen I was first introduced to Capitol Hill as a U.S. Senate Page.

 

What is your academic / professional history?

I often joke about my résumé reading like that of someone who cannot seem to hold down a job.  My professional career has focused on management of government agencies and programs at the state and federal level.  My federal career includes having served as the National Administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) for nearly seven years, where I successfully expanded the reach of USDA’s hallmark programs—Food Stamps, now known as the FNS Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), National School Lunch and School Breakfast, and the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)—growing an annual budget from $34 billion to $60 billion while preserving its integrity. 

My years of service at the state level included positions as New Mexico’s Director of the USDA Rural Development State Office, Executive Director of Science and Technology for the State of New Mexico, Director of the New Mexico Human Services Department, and Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor of New Mexico.  My professional experience is complemented by undergraduate studies in business management and finance and graduate studies in psychology.  In my spare time, I volunteer as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF), “a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works to promote responsible citizenship, educational attainment, and active engagement in the improvement of the health, environment, and financial well-being of Hispanic families throughout the United States.”

How would you describe your job to other people?

First I explain that I recently completed the development and launch of the Library’s Multi-Year Affirmative Employment Program Plan (MYAEPP); then I explain that I am responsible for leading its effective implementation and providing expert advice on best practices in diversity management.  To that end, I help the Library assess the diversity of its workforce, or as I like to say:  “I don’t make the diversity picture—I take the picture!”  As in any workplace, organizational dynamics can produce misunderstanding and miscommunication between and among employees; so, I facilitate a learning session here at the Library on “Understanding and Eliminating Micro-Inequities.”  Micro-inequities are the small messages of prejudice that are sent from one person to another, often without knowing it.  I partner with Library employees to create a work environment where everybody can feel valued and respected—a place where you can be productive and find satisfaction in the job you do and in your interactions with others.

Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?

Actually, I did not realize I wanted to work here until after I started working here.  Initially, I joined the team in July 2010, as a temporary not-to-exceed employee hired to complete a specific project, the MYAEPP.  Soon after I started, I discovered a fascinating institution with an incredible and resilient workforce.  I also observed the challenges and opportunities faced by the Library, as with many organizations, to continually improve and capitalize upon the diversity of its workforce.  The vast array of cultures and backgrounds represented among the employees of the Library inspires me.

What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Library of Congress?

Unlike employees in the Executive Branch, the Library—like most other Legislative Branch agencies—is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Rather, by statute the Librarian exercises the authority granted to the EEOC and as a result, the Library has implemented its own EEO complaints process to address charges of discrimination and retaliation related to Library employment.   Even though the Library’s EEO complaints process is somewhat different than that in the Executive Branch (and the EEOC), the Library—like all federal agencies, is required to adhere to federal EEO laws. Being so new to the Library, I am certain that I have yet to discover the most interesting facts.  However, I am continually impressed to learn of the magnitude of the Library’s collections and their historical significance. 

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

Although “the book is always better” (as many often claim), as a member of the television generation I still prefer to watch the movie. 

I attended high school on the upper floor of the Jefferson Building at Capitol Page School.

One Comment

  1. Adela Mondragon Phelps
    December 8, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Dear Roberto,
    What a surprise when Dave told me about finding you at the Library of Congress! I can only imagine how ineresting and exciting it must be to work there, you have definately come a long way from the rat lab.
    I can’t tell you how often Dave and I have wondered about you and your family, I think we figured you might still be in Washington. How wonderfuf for you and the family. How is your wife? I bet the kids are almost grown up by now.
    Please send us your E-mail or phone # so we can catch up!!
    Adela & Dave

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