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My Swat Story: Research Librarian Roberto Vargas

Roberto Vargas

Roberto Vargas
Research Librarian for Humanities & Interdisciplinary Studies

He Didn’t Start as a Librarian

“Just like many librarians, it was sort of a second career. I’m originally from the city of Juárez in Mexico. For a while, there was a lot of violence going on, still is, and part of it was being expressed not only physically, but through a lot of the information and who controlled information and what people thought about it.

“And so I moved here to the States and moved to Philly to do AmeriCorps work. I was doing community organizing, and that happened to be particularly difficult in my neighborhood. I realized what I enjoyed a lot about it was the information aspect and dealing with information and the way people deal with all those aspects.”

Community Organizing Was a Humbling Experience

“I assumed that coming into a neighborhood that was also primarily Latino and African-American, but a lot of Latino, I was like ‘Cool, I’m from Mexico. It’ll be OK.’ And I was naïve in that sense. I realized that cultures from city to city, street to street in Latin America and United States change. I was trying to assume the same things that I’ve done in Mexico would work in Philly, and it didn’t.

“I think I also assumed that you can organize a community that you’ve never lived in. That was a mistake. Back then, I had only been in that community for two weeks when I started. Now it’s been 13 years, so it’s a little bit better.”

He’s in Passionate Pursuit of Chess

“It was pretty boring at the beginning. It was kind of difficult because it’s one of those schemes that luck has nothing to do with it. Then, I’d read one book on the history of chess and that, to me, was what I wanted. All of a sudden, I started watching videos and reading and realizing the excitement that can come from this combination was really appealing. The excitement of combinations and the way people think about chess came before even I kind of understood more of how to play.

“The more I started to play, I came to a point where I didn’t care about my rating, I just decided to play online. And play and play and play. That was when it became very enjoyable.”