New Cleveland Public Library Fulton Branch Manager
is the first Hispanic to lead a Cleveland library branch

by Niki Nohejl

(Plain Press, October 2004) The first Hispanic to be named a Cleveland Public Library (CPL) Branch Manager, Frank Varela wants to make the Fulton Branch the best in Cleveland .

Originally a poet from Chicago, Varela has been a part of the world of books since 1977 when he worked at a Chicago Public Library branch.

Varela earned degrees from Central Michigan University , the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. He published two books, Serpent under Foot in 1997 and Bitter Coffee in 2002. In 1997, the Illinois Secretary of State named Varela the Hispanic Librarian of the Year. He also worked for AT&T and other businesses until he grew tired and wanted a new life

This new life began on February 2004 when he and his wife moved to Bay Village , Ohio , so he could work at a library once again, and his wife could retire early.

“We were a little concerned because we had no family in Cleveland, but once my wife and I saw how pretty the city and suburbs were, we thought ‘let’s try it’,” he said.

Varela said moving here to manage the Fulton Branch has been enjoyable for him so far. “I have very good patrons. I feel like I’ve lived her for a long time, and I like my new friends and colleagues,” he said.

At Fulton he succeeds Kristin Gill, who Varela praised for making an impact on the neighborhood and being open to serving the community.

Varela’s goal for the branch is to make it one of the best in Cleveland by offering a program that caters to people from all countries that have just come to the United States . He thinks this program will reach out to the neighborhood and show them the library is a good place to be. “I hope other groups come in, too”, he said. “It’s important to serve everyone well.”

Varela said he wasn’t aware he was the first Hispanic to become a branch manager in Cleveland but when he heard it, he was flattered. “I just came to do my job, it’s an honor to be the first,” he said.

Leo Serrano, Executive Director of the Spanish American Committee, which provides social services, employment assistance, and other programs, noted that the CPL’s Fulton Branch is located in the heart of the Hispanic community. “He could make the community more aware of such a great asset,” Serrano said, encouraging increased involvement in the library.

Serrano also feels that Varela, as a published author, could be seen as a role model in the community. “It’s important to have role models accessible in a neighborhood,” Serrano said, comparing those only visible through television.

As the branch manager, Varela is responsible for all functions of the library. “I try to make sure there is a family environment for every body,” he said.


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