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Luévano Earns 2009 Trejo Librarian of the Year Award

Published: October 15, 2009

CSULB Librarian Susan Luévano has long been committed to helping minority populations, especially those who are Latino and Spanish-speaking, in developing information literacy skills through their local libraries.

Those efforts, along with years of service to REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish speaking, earned Luévano the 2009 Trejo Librarian of the Year Award from REFORMA.

Born in Santa Ana, Luévano attended Santa Ana College and CSU Stanislaus before earning her master of library science degree from University of Oregon, with the goal of becoming a community college librarian. She began at El Paso Community College in Texas and then returned to Santa Ana College, where she remained for 14 years before coming to CSULB in 1995.

REFORMA, an affiliate of the American Library Association, started in 1971 and Luévano became its first woman president in 1985. “It’s interesting to note that in a female-dominated profession, it took 14 years for a woman to be in a leadership position. Part of this was a cultural issue, so it was a major breakthrough.” She went on to mentor a number of other women into REFORMA leadership roles and helped found its chapters in El Paso and Orange County.

“The other area that I’m known for is the research that I’ve done on library use among immigrants, primarily Mexican communities, and in particular, attitudes among undocumented Mexican communities about the public library,” she explained. “I edited a book called Immigrant Politics and the Public Library. That book is used in library schools and I’m one of the few people—and for a number of years I was the only person—who was writing about this issue. I speak at national conferences on this issue of undocumented students and undocumented communities and library services to those underserved populations.”

As tenured faculty members, CSU campus librarians are responsible for developing information literacy as well as acquiring library materials for the disciplines to which they’re assigned. For Luévano, that includes Africana Studies, Chicano and Latino Studies, Anthropology, Women’s Studies and American Indian Studies.

“That’s where we work with students and faculty to integrate research skills, critical thinking skills and ethical use of information so that when students graduate, they have marketable research and writing skills and they know how to document in a professional manner the material that they’re writing about for a job or in a community organization,” she said. Over the years, she and faculty in CSULB’s Africana Studies and Chicano and Latino Studies have collaborated on several information literacy projects and have spoken nationally about these efforts.

“One of the primary focuses of REFORMA is to recruit more folks, whether they’re Latino or not, into the field of librarianship and in particular, to serve Latino populations,” Luévano said. “I have to say that I’m going into my 35th year as a librarian and I have loved every day of my job. It is fascinating. I meet interesting people. I work with smart people. I work in a wonderful educational environment. I’m one of those people who went to college and never left,” she said.

Photo by David J. Nelson
Susan Luévano

Luévano believes that librarians are more important than ever in the digital age. “I think it’s a very hip career. There’s a lot of technology that’s involved. It’s dealing with information, and at the level that I’m working, it’s about instruction. Librarians have faculty status in the CSU, so it’s a very attractive profession to be in. I think I like it because it’s always different. I’m always learning and the technology part is really appealing. The whole profession has completely changed. I was trained in the card catalog and now it’s online catalogs and blogs and Twitter. Librarians are involved in all of those avenues of information delivery. It can be anything you want it to be, and librarians try to stay on the cutting edge of the technology because we want to be where students are in terms of finding information.”

Helping students comb through the University Library’s vast holdings and nearly 200 research databases is a major part of her job. “Students often know what they’re looking for and they’ve articulated a thesis, but they don’t know how to translate that thesis into a research strategy and they don’t know where to go to find appropriate sources or what databases to use to find supporting evidence. I feel like my job, in terms of my instructional role in information literacy, will continue to be very relevant. We have an information glut and you need specific research skills to find what you’re looking for. There’s so much out there and sometimes it’s harder. On the other hand, it’s easily accessible but it may not be what you really need. We have all these full-text articles and students will just sometimes use those because it’s easier, but it may not really be the appropriate information to make their argument.

“I don’t have any concerns about being outdated. I think librarians are going to be relevant because we teach critical thinking and research skills and the whole research methodology. People may know how to use Google, but when you’re doing more sophisticated research at the university level, it takes a little more skill and going through a process that’s not always apparent to the untrained eye. You need training to do scholarly research.”