2019 Great Immigrants Recipient

Vilma Daza
Community Library Manager, Corona Branch, Queens Public Library
Born in:

The borough of Queens is home to more than one-third of New York City’s three million immigrants. For many new immigrants, librarians like Vilma Daza are essential guides to navigating life in the United States. As Daza, who is community library manager of the Corona branch of the Queens Public Library, wrote in the New York Daily News, “Libraries are often the first stop for new Americans.… We want to help our neighbors adjust to a new country, language, and culture, while also equipping them with the skills they need to succeed.” Daza knows from personal experience about the difference libraries can make in the lives of immigrants. When she arrived from Peru speaking little English, she attended free English classes offered by the Queens Public Library, which has been providing English-language instruction, citizenship preparation, and other services through its New Americans Program since 1977. At one of the busiest library branches in the borough, Daza now runs a host of free programs — from English and computer classes for adults to afterschool homework assistance and arts activities for children — that would be out of the financial reach of many immigrants. Long lines form to register for the popular classes, and Daza and her staff volunteer their time to keep the library open outside regular hours to better serve the community, a commitment that earned Daza the Sloan Public Service Award in 2017. Reflecting on what motivates her to go above and beyond her official duties, Daza explained, “Queens Public Library gives me the opportunity to make a difference, to serve the community. I have passion for what I am doing, and this passion, I convert into action.”