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Staff Spotlight: Marcos Vargas
When you walk through the doors of the Wagner Middle School (WMS) library, you will find much more than shelves of books. It is filled with a certain enchantment – colorful posters hanging, students creating and collaborating, and a sense of warmth that welcomes you at the door. This is the kind of environment that WMS Librarian Marcos Vargas has created for students and staff.
“On my first day, I remember walking into the library, looking around and thinking, ‘How can I fill this place with energy and present it as the best library it can possibly be?” Vargas said.
Vargas’s journey in education began well before his first day as WMS librarian. After earning his Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology with a focus on Exercise Science from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), Vargas’s original plan was to become a personal trainer. However, an opportunity in education presented itself, and Vargas jumped at it. He taught English for 4 years, middle school writing, and was a College Prep teacher for high school seniors in his hometown of Roma, Texas before finding his way to Georgetown as a Reading Intervention teacher in 2019.
“In my teaching role, I spent a lot of my time in the library,” Vargas said. “I watched how much of a force the former librarian was in the school and how many people she had impacted. I knew that I had it within me to reach a more general audience like that, so I started asking questions.”
Vargas looked to former WMS librarian Amy Heil, who now serves as a GISD Digital Learning Coach, as a mentor in his career. Heil had graduated from University of North Texas (UNT) with a Master of Science in Library and Information Science.
“I was talking to Amy about her journey, and I felt encouraged and inspired,” Vargas said. “She was a big help for me in this journey and even wrote me a reference letter to UNT.”
Vargas was accepted to UNT and began his pursuit of a Masters in Information Science and Library Science with a concentration in School Library, with a graduation date of May 2022. While throwing himself into the start of school, he received a call from Heil in July of 2020.
“[Heil] called and said she had big news. I said, ‘Please tell me you aren’t leaving!’,” Vargas said. “That’s when she told me she was moving into a new role, and there was an opening for a new WMS librarian. A rare opportunity presented itself, and I took it.”
Vargas interviewed for the position, and with his graduation date on the horizon – which qualified him to be a school librarian –, he got the job as WMS librarian.
Vargas’s first year in his new position – which just so happened to be at the start of COVID-19 – was anything but dull. He was a full-time librarian, an assistant technician for Georgetown High School (GHS) color guard, a graduate school student, a member of an independent world-class Winter Guard organization, and it was the year Georgetown ISD became a 1:1 district – meaning every student was issued their own technology device for school.
“Technology quickly became a huge part of the job. I was learning the operations and the business side of the library, while the priority was now getting technology into the hands of students,” Vargas said. “We were navigating the library world and the technology world.”
Despite the many challenges, Vargas took it as an opportunity to learn and grow until the pieces started to fall into place. He could now shift his focus to cultivating the environment he had dreamed of for the library.
“We are taught that the library is the heart of any school, and I wanted to reflect that,” Vargas said. “You can't have the heart of the school be four blank chambers. You have to fill it with life, oxygen, and blood.”
Life is certainly what Vargas has created in the WMS library. The walls are covered with trendy, yet educational, posters for students to engage with. There is an abundance of greenery from the plants Vargas has brought in that adds a cozy and safe ambiance. The open and airy layout gives students room to interact with one another and engage in small-group conferencing. Among the art on the walls is student work that Vargas proudly displays.
“My hope is that everyone feels empowered when they enter the library,” Vargas said. “Decorating is only the first layer. I put a lot of focus into making sure every group feels represented here.”
Vargas celebrates every single heritage month – Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Month, and Black History Month are just a few to name – by hanging posters outside of the library for students across campus to see. There are odes to historical women figures all around the walls.
“My focus from the start has been diversity and inclusion across campus,” Vargas said. “I am proud to work at a place with so many different groups of people and cultures.”
Vargas has opened the door to literacy beyond just the students, but to teachers and staff, too. In his closed office, you will find a “Teacher Library”, where teachers can come and check out their own books. He also posts a newsletter in staff bathrooms with national days of the month, books of the month, and QR codes to Ted Talks and jokes of the day.
“This job demands of us librarians to be chameleons and serve so many aspects and people of the school,” Vargas said. “It’s a foundation for recognizing that academics has many avenues. There are endless paths you can take, but the basis for everything is reading.”
Vargas is set to complete his Masters in May of 2022 as a first-generation college student. We are GISD proud of this major accomplishment.