Q&A with Shattuck Award-Winner Agneris Lopez

The City of Boston recently announced the 2020 recipients of the Shattuck Award. The award is given annually to city employees for their service to the City of Boston and the Boston community. The winners have been profiled in the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe, among other publications. This year, one of the recipients is the Boston Public Library’s own Agneris Y. Lopez. She is a Special Library Assistant who has been working for the City of Boston for 17 years. We asked Agneris a few questions about her career in public service and contributions to the local community.

Congratulations to Agneris and the other winners of the 2020 Shattuck Award!

What inspired you to pursue a career in libraries?

As long as I can remember, my mom has worked at the Codman Square Branch of the Boston Public Library and has always been devoted and hardworking at everything she does. She has always been my inspiration. Also, having spent lots of time in the library as a child, teen, and adult, it was not a surprise that I would start to work at the library.  

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I have worked in different departments throughout the BPL, and in every department my main goal has always been teamwork. I believe when you work together you really get the work done. I have been blessed with many great coworkers who have always seen my hard work and have pushed me to give my all. When you are all in, you realize that the Library has lots to offer our patrons, and they really appreciate even the little help you give them. When I see how grateful they are for the help I have given them, that is what's rewarding for me—the look and smile of a person after being helped. It may take a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days, but at the end they are leaving with appreciation. I love listening to their success stories. I always tell my students that we are in this together. They come for help feeling scared of failing at learning. But I assure them we are in this together.

Can you share a story of a particular moment in which you saw your impact on a patron?

I met this lady who spoke little English, and she wanted to learn how to be independent on the computer. She booked a few open tech appointments with me because she had a mission. After a few classes of showing her different resources, then sending her home with homework to practice, on the last class she came back to show me she had purchased a laptop and what she could do with it. She was so happy she cried and asked if she could give me a hug. She said I saved her life because for work, everything was changing, and if she didn't learn she could have lost her job. Those happy tears and her gratitude were everything for me.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in public service?

Public service takes love, patience, kindness, and dedication. We all have bad days, but when we are public servants, we do our best to make sure our community and patrons are satisfied. You will be surprised how appreciative they are of your kindness and time. The way we speak changes everything in a difficult situation, so let's choose wisely. Sometimes we are all they have. Someone's success story can begin with your help.