I Love My Librarian Award-winner David Lopez: Giving Till It Helps

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David Lopez engages with his community, building bridges to underserved youth in Santa Ana, California.  It is an area dear to the librarian at the Santa Ana Public Library, since he was born and raised in the community – the often used phrase “giving back to the community” is embodied by Lopez’s example.
Sarah Rafael Garcia, his nominator for the 2014 I Love My Librarian Award, said she has known Lopez since 2009, when he approached her to offer his skills and the resources of the Santa Ana Public Library to assist in the writing workshops Garcia provided for free over the summer to underserved youth through her non-profit Barrio Writers program.
It was the beginning of a connection continually renewed for subsequent special events or educational programs at the library.  “His dedication to build bridges from the library to local underserved residents is a valuable contribution to creating pipelines to higher education and positive community engagement,” she said.  In reaching out to his community, Lopez has changed perceptions about the role of the library.
Garcia said, “At what I once believed was solely a place to check out books, I now describe as a community resource that houses a teen space, access to higher education, countless events promoting literacy for all ages and a safe place that serves as an outlet for those who face difficult challenges due to socio-economic issues or language barriers.”
Lopez has been involved with Barrio Writers for more than four years, leading workshops on creative non-fiction, poetry and community writing, as well as participating as a host and reader with renowned poet Lorna Dee Cervantes. He has also served as a mentor for at-risk youth.
His writing has covered a broad range, including poetry that has been recognized with publication in Joto: An anthology of Queer Xicano & Chicano Poetry, while his screenplay “The 41” has been nominated for the “Best International Screenwriting” award at the 2014 Oaxaca FilmFest.
In his role as a technology librarian, he has used his knowledge to involve the community through computer labs, tutorials, social media and informational videos focusing on community events and promotions.

Garcia said Lopez, bilingual, a first generation Mexican-American, connects with the Spanish-speaking population of Santa Ana, examples including the library’s award-winning Día de los Niños events. She said, “Many times I have witnessed how his empathy with non-English speakers has driven him to give the best quality service he can provide. He understands the community because he too comes from immigrant parents and his understanding of the library as a place for discovering makes him an exceptional librarian in many ways.”
Lopez’s work has brought him to the attention of leaders in the profession, with whom he has been involved in REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking. As president of the Orange County Chapter, Lopez has concentrated on the recruitment of current and recent MLIS students.
Under his guidance, the Orange County Chapter of REFORMA has been present at Orange County’s largest Día de los Muertos celebration “Noche de Altares,” featuring altars in memory of Latino literary figures, musicians and librarians.
He is also part of the steering committee for the 5th REFORMA National Conference that will take place in San Diego, California in 2015.
David Lopez acceptance speech at 2014 I Love My Librarian Award CeremonyLopez’s rise in the profession has been nothing short of meteoric. In 2005 he started as a Clerk at the circulation desk working with the Spanish-speaking community at the Santa Ana Public Library, eventually he moved to being a tutor, helping families and at-risk youth with homework, projects and developing literacy skills. In 2009, he started creating curriculum through library programs and led youth computer workshops that graduated over a hundred students. In 2010 he established and led youth creative writing workshops that helped young library patrons to explore creativity through writing exercises and started volunteering with Barrio Writers as a lead Writing Advisor.
From 2010 through 2013, David was a school librarian with the Santa Ana Unified School District and served as a liaison for public library services. He ensured that more than 500 new public library cards were issued to students who had never visited the public library before.
He also helped raise school literacy levels by implementing three years of Accelerated Reader programming and worked with school Parent Teacher Organization to sponsor incentives for high achievers.  During this time he also became an assistant librarian at the Santa Ana Public Library and began focusing on bridging the digital divide within the Latino/Spanish-speaking community by creating bilingual video programming for the city’s cable channel (CTV3).
As assistant librarian, David mentored more than 60 at-risk youth in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) grant project in the Santa Ana Public Library’s Digital Media program and helped shepherd more than 50 youth-produced videos, among them two award-winning Teen Video Challenges.
In 2014, David became the first librarian in Santa Ana to run a community center when he was asked to help open and operate the Garfield Community Center (GCC). There, he has implemented library programming and has issued more than 200 new library cards. He also established a popular tutoring program, and acted as a liaison between the school district and the Library/Parks agency.
His efforts at the Garfield Community Center and his work at the Santa Ana Public Library bore fruit, garnering him the “Outstanding Service Award for the month of August 2014” from the City of Santa Ana.
Lopez is one case where the line between the library and the community disappears. His ability to give back is why his library loves this particular librarian.

Has a librarian made a difference in your life?  Nominations are open through September 28  for the 2015 I Love My Librarian Awards.

David Lopez, 2014 I Love My Librarian Award Winner

David Lopez receiving 2014 I Love My Librarian Award from ALA Past President Barbara Stripling.
David Lopez acceptance speech at 2014 I Love My Librarian Award Ceremony.