Before he started work at the Dr. Ricardo Romo branch of BiblioTech, Eddie Chavez was already a hometown success story. He graduated in 2005 from Brackenridge High School and went on to double major in visual arts and psychology at Northwestern University. Upon his return to San Antonio, Chavez began working with local nonprofits, trying to find the right fit. He eventually landed at BiblioTech, where his personal mission would solidify into a plan and make him an inspiration for the people he served every day.
Chavez has been accepted to St. Mary’s University School of Law, and he credits BiblioTech for making it possible.
Going to law school had been a dream for a while, but once he started working, it was difficult to find the time to track down the resources he needed to take the LSAT, apply for schools, request transcripts and recommendations. He needed to research scholarships opportunities. Test preparation materials cost money, as do applications. As a working adult, those time and money barriers kept his dream at bay.
Working at BiblioTech, Chavez spent his days helping people access the resources and information needed to achieve their goals.
Some were preparing for their GED, some were trying to find basic information in an increasingly digital world. Not everyone has a smartphone with a map app.
“A lot of people need help trying to find their doctor’s office,” Chavez said.
Whatever the specific situation, most BiblioTech users are there to broaden their prospects. It’s hard to overstate how much the internet and mobile technology have influenced every major pathway to success. Landing on the wrong side of the digital divide places stark limits on a person’s opportunities.
“We concentrated on trying to help people who haven’t been introduced to the world of technology,” said Judge Nelson Wolff, who spearheaded the BiblioTech project.
Most BiblioTech staff have a college degree or advanced training. They are already a positive example of education and opportunity for those they serve. By continuing to advance, Chavez adds to the model BiblioTech wants to promote.
“I think Eddie’s our brightest success,” Wolff said.
Chavez worked with head librarian Ashley Eklof to obtain all the study manuals he needed for the LSAT, and accessed them through his laptop or smartphone. He made the most of the resources of his work environment, coming in early or staying late.
Eklof and other employees have the benefit of fast acquisitions when a client needs an electronic resource. They can often instantly either add books and manuals, or increase the number of licenses they have for a resource in high demand.
Chavez was able to get everything he needed, and the path to law school is now completely filled out within the BiblioTech system. An aspiring law student can follow his trail of resources.
Chavez’s law ambitions tie back to the needs he’s seen on the job. Over time, BiblioTech employees earn the trust of their clients. Separating fact, opinion, advertising, and reference material, requires technical literacy. One of the dangers of the internet for those who don’t use it often is how bad information can masquerade as truth. At BiblioTech, the staff helps clients ensure that Google has led them to the right place.
They also help clients access public service portals and connect to reputable providers.
“The evolution of the library space has gotten to the point that we need to group those services,” said Chavez.
He has seen women come in, obviously beaten up, with watchful men lurking close by. He has met workers, immigrants, and parents who don’t know what their rights are, or their options for seeking legal representation. According to the San Antonio Bar Association, fewer than 20% of the low-income residents of South Texas can obtain access to legal help. Predators know this, of course, making an already vulnerable population even more so.
Chavez envisions specific reference desks for those who need legal help.
When he heard about the organization barefootlaw.org, based in Uganda, Chavez thought it sounded like the kind of service his clients could use through BiblioTech. It provides basic legal documents and resources for those who need to know their basic rights and fill out essential forms when enlisting the help of a lawyer. As an aspiring lawyer he doesn’t think legal apps or websites hurt lawyers at all, he sees it as a way for disenfranchised people to participate in their pursuit of justice.
Top Image: Judge Nelson Wolff congratulates Eddie Chavez on his acceptance at St. Mary’s School of Law. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.