Student Lizeth Legaspi Reaches Out to Recent Immigrants

Community Profile

At age 19, Lizeth Legaspi had recently moved to the US from Mexico and was taking ESL classes at a local community college while working part-time at the public library in Calexico, a small California town along the U.S.-Mexico border. Today, she’s the second in command at the Camarena Memorial Library in Calexico and earning her MLIS degree at San José State University School of Information, thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Legaspi loved working in a library from the start, and at every step up the ladder her supervisor encouraged her to pursue an MLIS degree. Legaspi transferred from community college to San Diego State University and graduated in 2005 with a degree in International Business. She was interested in earning her MLIS degree, but needed help paying for it.

Legaspi was able to receive a scholarship and other support in order to attend graduate school, thanks to an IMLS grant awarded last year to the Serra Cooperative Library System, which serves San Diego and Imperial Counties, the two California counties that border Mexico. San José State University School of Information partnered with Serra on the grant. IMLS funding makes it possible for Serra to provide scholarships to Legaspi and other staff members at Serra’s 14 public library systems. The scholarships are aimed at helping the next generation of librarians earn their MLIS degree and prepare to serve the area’s multicultural and multilingual communities.

“This grant is not only helping me with my tuition costs, but it also covered my expenses to purchase a laptop computer,” Legaspi said. As a result of the grant, she also receives ongoing mentoring from a local librarian and has benefitted from other professional networking opportunities.

The city of Calexico has a population of about 37,000 residents. Approximately 97% of them are Hispanic, and many are recent immigrants. The city’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation, and according to Legaspi, the literacy rate is very low due to the constant migration. “We are constantly reaching out to the community, as many new immigrants and other residents are not aware of the services offered by their local public library,” said Legaspi.

Legaspi has worked at the Calexico library for 10 years, handling functions ranging from cataloguing to collection development, but she’s found there are still “lots and lots of things to learn” at the iSchool. “In each class I’ve taken, I’ve learned something to help me do a better job,” said Legaspi, who has completed six classes so far. “For example, the MLIS program has opened up my eyes to the different technology that is available to help my library better serve our patrons. I wouldn’t have known about it without my course work.”

Legaspi is working full-time while going to school and raising her three-year-old daughter. Her husband is a police officer and works full-time as well. Legaspi says she couldn’t balance school and work without the help of her mother.