Love Where You Live: Lisa Guedea Carreño turned ‘Why not?’ into a new life, bigger family

By Marshall V. King

Lisa Guedea Carreño was working as a corporate librarian in Madison, Wisconsin. She’d been on the cover of “Inc.” magazine. She and her husband Sonny were happy. But her phone kept ringing.

In 1999 and 2000, Goshen College kept asking her to apply to be library director.

After the job offer came, they said, “Why not?” and committed to three to five years. In the summer of 2000, they moved and she found a new life to love.

They started a family and her family helped care for her daughter. They made friends who became “the family you find,” she said.

She found pieces of urban culture. “Had the Electric Brew not been in Goshen the first two or three years after I moved, I’m not sure I would have survived,” she said. Eventually the MapleHeart Trail gave her access to Goshen and Elkhart by foot or bike from her home.

Sonny started directing Lavender Jazz and has become not just a drummer, but a music mentor in a number of bands, including Lalo Cura. She got to lead three Study Service Terms in Nicaragua. Three days before she left for one of them in spring 2014, she hesitantly interviewed to be director of the Elkhart Public Library. The offer came that summer in Central America and she said yes.

“What I like about Elkhart is there is this sort of groundswell for making Elkhart appealing as a place to come and live and stay …” says Lisa Guedea Carreno.

She’s learned to know and love Elkhart the way she has Goshen. She loves being able to go to an organic restaurant one day for lunch and to a Mexican market the next day.

“What I like about Elkhart is there is this sort of groundswell for making Elkhart appealing as a place to come and live and stay, especially as young people,” she said, noting that Vibrant Communities (Lisa serves on the steering committee) and Regional Cities are helping the effort.

While people often think of a library as a place, Lisa and her staff are working to offer educational opportunities, family-friendly events, and ways to both build and engage the community.

That involves offering electronic services that allow access throughout the community and going out into the community. “We have live story times in the parks and at Wellfield Botanic Gardens during the summer. During the school year, our children’s librarians visit schools and lead classes in special activities that build literacy skills. Last summer we hosted an eclipse viewing party at Civic Plaza, working with local businesses to make it fun and memorable for the 600 or so people who came,” she said, adding that they’re working on quality of life and quality of place.

As a Latina community leader, Lisa is helping shape the story of this community.

Marshall V. King is a Goshen-based freelance journalist. He wrote this on behalf of Vibrant Communities.

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