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photo of Dineia Maria Sylvia

 Amelia and Carlos Amaral

Dedicated library assistant Dineia Maria (Amaral) Sylvia (1948-2003) was the welcoming face of New Bedford’s Casa da Saudade branch library from its 1971 opening. For over three decades, Dineia was known for her uplifting children and teen programs. A promoter of library use and reading, particularly for the young, Casa’s children’s room was named in her honor in 2004.

Dedicated library assistant Dineia Maria (Amaral) Sylvia (1948-2003) became the face of New Bedford’s Casa da Saudade branch library. For 32 years until her retirement, Dineia was known for her uplifting children and teen programs there. The Casa da Saudade library houses English and Portuguese collections on Portuguese history, literature and culture and on the cultures of the Portuguese speaking countries (Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, & São Tomé and Príncipe).

Born on March 8, 1948, in São Miguel, Azores, Dineia came to New Bedford at the age of two with her parents Amelia (Furtado) Amaral and Carlos Amaral. She graduated from New Bedford High School, where she met her husband of 37 years, Kenneth P. Sylvia. 

Dineia began her work at the New Bedford Free Public Library’s Casa da Saudade branch in 1971 with its grand opening. Maria Jose Carvalho, Branch Manager of Casa da Saudade from 1993 to 2002, explained, “Since Casa da Saudade Library’s opening, on the 25th of April 1971, Dineia became its pulsing heart, lighting the way for at least four generations of library users, Portuguese immigrants and American patrons, alike. Dineia believed that the library was meant to welcome people, not just house books. I learned most of my humanistic public service skills from Dineia.” Although her title was library assistant, Dineia did much more than that. She was a member and secretary of the Friends of Casa da Saudade as well as a member of the board of directors for the Immigrants’ Assistance Center (IAC), which shares the same building as Casa. Upon Dineia’s passing in 2003, IAC director Helena DaSilva Hughes commented, “As soon as I walked in, that’s the first face I would see in the morning. She is going to be greatly missed by the community. It’s going to be a great loss, especially for the children.” 

Touching generations of young people, Dineia was known to promote books and reading. Olivia Melo, Director of New Bedford Free Public Library, stated, “She touched so many teens’ lives, including mine! I wouldn’t have known the joy of the public library had it not been for her encouraging me to take as many books as I wanted to read, especially light romance novels, as I transitioned from reading in Portuguese to reading in English.” Former Director of New Bedford Free Public Library Rosemary Saber added, “She became one of the most acknowledged promoters of library use and reading, particularly for the young … She became an institution at Casa and, in fact, the city. During the administration of Mayor John K. Bullard, Dineia was honored by the City of New Bedford as a recipient of the YWCA Women in Business and Industry Award for her outstanding career accomplishments in the community.” 

Dineia never had children of her own, but she considered the youth of the community as such. Former bilingual library worker Elizabeth Figueiredo Kastin remembers, “She never stopped encouraging me and inspiring me as she did so many others, all ages, all genders, all nationalities who walked into our branch home.” Monica Da Costa explains, “Dineia was like a second mother to all of us when we were kids. … Whenever I needed advice about anything she was always there to listen and be there for me. I loved volunteering at the library for years just because I got to be with my second family.” Newly arrived in this country in 1995, Sandra Matias Dubreuil experienced Dineia’s support and unconditional love, as did countless other teens. Dineia especially took to young people who were struggling and was a catalyst in making them feel like they were worthy, that they belonged and that they had power to avoid drugs or a life of crime. She was the driving force behind the group “Teens Working Together,” helping numerous troubled teens by getting them interested in art and civic activities.

For over three decades at Casa da Saudade, Dineia made a huge impact on the people around her. One of Casa’s teens returned to the branch library years later with her own child, named after Dineia. In 2004, in her memory, the Casa da Saudade library named its children’s room the Dineia Maria Amaral Sylvia Children’s Room. 

Christie do Rosario, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Class of 2022 (Elisabeth Arruda, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Faculty Sponsor) with Ann O’Leary, Emily Bourne Research Fellow


Information from

  • Carvalho, Maria Jose. “Request for Information/Quotes for LtW Profile on Dineia Sylvia.” Received by Ann O’Leary, 1 Feb. 2022.
  • Da Costa, Monica. “Memories of Dineia.” Received by Ann O’Leary, 13 Feb. 2022.
  • “Dineia M. Sylvia.” The Standard-Times, 3 July 2003, p. A12.
  • Dubreuil, Sandra M. “A Friend of Dineia.” Received by Ann O’Leary, 20 Feb. 2022.
  • Ferreira, Joao. “Librarian: Casa da Saudade Loses Its Most Familiar Face.” The Standard-Times, 3 July 2003.
  • Kastin, Elisabeth F. “Request for Information/Quotes for LtW Profile on Dineia Sylvia.” Received by Ann O’Leary, 8 Feb. 2022.
  • Melo, Olivia. “Request for Information/Quotes for LtW Profile on Dineia Sylvia.” Received by Ann O’Leary, 28 Jan. 2022.
  • Saber, Rosemary. “Request for Info/Quote for Dineia Sylvia Profile.” Received by Ann O’Leary, 13 Feb. 2022.
  • Seaman, Hank. “Dineia Sylvia Will Continue to Touch Lives.” The Standard-Times, South Coast Living, section B, 16 July 2003.
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