Elk Grove Library Worker Honored for Going Above and Beyond for Her School

AFSCME Local 258 member Kate Ramos, a library technician at Samuel Jackman Middle School, was recently named AFSCME Employee of the Year by the Elk Grove Unified School District.

One of the main reasons Ramos received the award is because of her tireless efforts to get students engaged with their school library and the resources it can provide them inside and outside of the classroom. She is known for volunteering her time outside of work hours to help students pursue knowledge. She also has a great support system in her school, which always encourages her to think outside the box with her job, and her Local, which represents the classified workers in the district.

We recently caught up with Ramos as the school year was wrapping up to find out how she is able to make such an impact in her community.

Tell us a little bit more about yourself.

Before I was a library tech, I was actually a volunteer at my son’s school in Sacramento for many years. I had gone to grad school for public history when I had my son. Since my husband was working at an architecture firm at the time, I became a stay-at-home mom.

I kept volunteering at our son’s school, and as schools and libraries started losing their funding, I took over running the school library. Once I started, I knew this was what I wanted to do.

During the last four years of volunteering at my son’s school in Sacramento, I was putting in 800 volunteer hours a year. I’m just used to giving back. It’s normal for me.

So after being out of the workforce for a while, it was just my luck that one of the parents at my son’s school encouraged me to check out the Library and Information Technology Program at Sacramento City College. It’s because of that certificate program that I have the job I have now.

Having a library certificate allows me to be a tech, and it teaches me a lot of skills that are necessary to make a library work. At my school, I help with textbooks, I help with checking in and checking out books, I help students when they come into the library, I give advice on reading, and I’m always trying to stay up-to-date on what they’re reading.

I’m also very lucky that I have a librarian—Karen Meyer, the teacher-librarian for Samuel Jackman—who invests in me.

What do most people think you do at your job? What do you actually do?

As a library worker, everybody just expects me to do every part of running the library. Thanks to the support of my librarian, I’m fortunate that I can pretty much do a lot…well, except for fixing something like the electrical equipment or finding out where the data cords are.

But it’s important to keep in mind that librarians are truly underrated—mainly because most people think they can go to Google and get the answers for everything. They just don’t see the value and importance of libraries anymore.

That’s why I always try to show that libraries mean so much more than just books to the community. They are community centers. You can go there to get help with your tax returns. You can learn how to buy a home. It’s a meeting place for clubs or even just for get togethers.

A library should be a center of a school because it’s a place that everybody comes to at some point. More than just books, libraries are about computers, knowledge and socialization.

They told me the main reason I got this award was because of how I view relationships with the kids and the subject matter they’re learning. The way I see it, if I’m given an opportunity to help them, and it takes more time than the hours I spend working in the library, then I’ll do it.

I started my school’s anime and manga club. I don’t get paid to do it, and it takes a lot of work. But I’ve had 80 kids sign up every year for last two years. It’s all about knowledge and building those relationships.

Why is it so important to have a union?

Before this job, I used to see unions as just being there to offer workers basic protections.

But I see it differently now. With this Union, it’s really nice to know that when you have a job, you’re safe and you have someone who has your back, especially if a situation arises.

I’m even making plans to enroll in the AFSCME Free College program in the fall. That’s so cool. I’m hoping they have some night classes available in art history.