My Job at the Library: Engaging Spanish Speakers with the Collections

Benny Seda-Galarza joined the Library’s Communications Office a little more than a year ago as a public affairs specialist. Fluent in English and Spanish, he is helping to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community to raise awareness about the Library’s programs and services. In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, Seda-Galarza answers a few questions about his background and career.

Benny Seda-Galarza. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean also known as “La Isla del encanto” – the island of enchantment. Imagine summer all year long, a salty breeze and trips to the beach in December – it is paradise! When I went to college, however, “home” became more of a state of mind. My alma mater is the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. I also did an exchange program at New York University on scholarship and studied abroad at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain.

What drew you to New York?
I always wanted to become fluent in English and overcome the language barrier I thought I had. At one point, I became obsessed with “Mad Men” – the TV show based on the booming advertising industry of the 1950s in New York City – which fueled my desire to live in the city that never sleeps. Since New York University offered a scholarship to students from my university, it felt like a no-brainer – perfect my English and live in the city of my dreams. It was challenging at times, but it forced me to get out of my comfort zone. It is one of the best decisions I made in college. Being fully bilingual has opened many doors for me professionally, and it has also enabled me to support others in my community.

How did you make your way to Washington, D.C., and the Library?
After living in New York, I interned in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in D.C. and was later hired as a marketing specialist to lead efforts related to agricultural commodities. Beyond my daily duties, I supported outreach to the Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities. When the Library announced a position involving reaching out to Spanish speakers, I was delighted to apply.

Describe your job at the Library.
I like to tell friends that I share the treasures of the world’s largest library with the nation and beyond. That means leading internal and external communications and marketing for new acquisitions, digital initiatives and public programs – from 16th-century manuscripts to audio books and online educational apps – on behalf of multiple Library divisions. I also write for Library publications.

In addition, my role involves planning and executing outreach to diverse audiences, including the Spanish-speaking community – I develop communications materials in Spanish and will soon establish a formal plan to support the Library’s engagement of Spanish speakers.

What events have you most enjoyed working on so far?
In my experience, every program or event in the Library is unique, and I truly enjoy the dynamism of working on totally different projects. However, if I were forced to choose, I would say it was pretty neat to meet André Aciman, author of one of my favorite novels, “Call Me by Your Name,” as part of the National Pride Month events in the Library.

What is something not many people know about you?
I secretly read my horoscope with my morning coffee, so I guess you can say I am a fan of astrology. I am a Scorpio with a rising in Scorpio as well, which explains a lot about me, and a Gemini moon. If you know, you know.

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