Dee Vazquez, community relations manager, Pikes Peak Library District

Dee Vazquez was destined to work at a library.

Her grandmother had worked for libraries since the 1930s. Then her mother did, too. Vazquez picked up the torch in 2001 when she joined the Pikes Peak Library District as the marketing coordinator.

“My family has been invested in libraries for a long time, but I’m not a real librarian. I’m not to be confused with them and the good work they do,” she joked.

As the district’s community engagement and outreach manager, Vazquez supervises 10 employees and stretches her department’s $900,000 budget to manage public relations, operate the PPLD TV on Comcast 17, continuously update the website and run the print and publication services.

“I have a background in graphic design and mass communication … so this pulls together everything I’ve done in life,” she said. “It’s basically all the fun stuff brought together in one department.”

But the basic mission of the library doesn’t get lost in all the technology, marketing material and community outreach. Vazquez said she keeps her focus on what’s important.

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“The key is using issues or opportunities to connect people with information they might not otherwise have gotten — to change people’s opinion.”

Vazquez said she uses a blend of humor and strong commitment to civic engagement to help her better manage her work.

“People who know me know I have a sense of humor, even in the extreme at times. When I look back on life and the challenges I’ve faced, difficult situations, humor has added depth and clarity to those situations,” said Vazquez, a single mother of two boys — one of whom has developmental disabilities.

“We always need to keep ourselves in perspective, and keep all we do in perspective,” she said.

The number of boards and civic groups Vazquez helps are numerous.

Some are work-related, like serving as co-chairwoman of the All Pikes Peak Reads. But her service goes well beyond that to include the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum, the Board of Education’s Special Education Advisory Committee and the Greenberg Center for Learning and Tolerance.

“For one thing, it’s a way to connect with people,” she said. “There’s a lot of isolation in our lives. We come home and close the garage door and the world becomes small. This is a way to meet people. To share ideas. It’s a way to find people with common thoughts and also broaden your perspective and engage your mind. We all have to take some responsibility and ownership of where the community is and where it’s going.”

Her alma mater, Regis University, recognized her efforts with the Karen A. Patterson Award for Community and Organizational Change.

As might be expected, Vazquez loves to read when she’s not at work. She’s also paints and said she’s always maintained a fine-art studio.

“Reading and painting are the same as sleeping for me in my off-time,” she said. “Painting is in opportunity to take some personal expressions through art and share them with the community.”

Vazquez said it’s an exciting time to be a part of a library, but also challenging as the district strives to serve an ever-expanding population base with a very limited budget.

“It’s all changing — how the community interacts with the library and how the library presents itself to the community … but the role of libraries doesn’t change, no matter the delivery methodology,” she said. “I’m privileged to be in library service at this time.”

By Dennis Huspeni