Nereyda of Weslaco, Texas

1. How long have you known the nominee and how did you come to know him or her?
I have known Librarian Lucy Hansen for eight years now.  Lucy was my high school librarian, always keen on volunteerism I spent hours after school volunteering at the library.  I developed a close friendship with her through my hours as a volunteer library aide.  She was always interested in listening to my stories, my goals and my aspirations. In turn she shared with me  her life experiences and we quickly found out we shared the same passion about academics, school culture and an undying love for libraries.  Lucy recruited  me to be a part of a peer tutor project sponsored by the National Library of Medicine in collaboration with BLA and from then on she became my friend and mentor.   Lucy has been present for me through thick and thin and continues to be a pillar of strength in my life. She has continually shown an interest in my development and growth as a strong young woman.  She is sincere and truly and completely cares about you, I cannot explain how much I appreciate her friendship.   In 2005 I graduated from high school and continued my studies at Smith College.  I stayed in touch with Lucy throughout my college experience, when I was happy she knew, when I wasn’t she helped, when I was stumped – I called or emailed her.  This spring when I found out I had been accepted to study at Oxford University the first person I called was Lucy.

2. How has the nominee helped you and/or students at school?  For example, did the nominee help you with a project, recommend resources or collaborate with you to enhance student learning?
Lucy Hansen is a visionary, she thinks about the long-term benefits of public education, libraries, school culture and librarianship.  Like myself, Lucy was raised in modest circumstances and has overcome barriers in her path to graduate top of her class, become a Fulbright Scholar, teach in Germany, receive two masters degrees and become the Lead Librarian for our school district. We both share a passion for everything that is academic, we believe that education is the key to achieve real change. Lucy’s interest in research and scholarship rubbed off on me from a very early age.  Over coffee we would share our views on politics and the conversation would quickly turn to what has been written or published on the topic.  The excitement in her voice is noticeable when the conversation features education and policy, and to this day Lucy is the only person I know who can name all the resources in the BLA library relevant to your topic.  As lead librarian Lucy truly believes that every student deserves the right to have the best resources available to them at their fingertips – knowledge just waiting to be tapped. In high school, under the VIVA project Lucy gave me my first introduction to service learning, grants and research funding.  At the end of my senior year I worked closely with her on my capstone course for research design and development.  I decided to do my project on the VIVA study and every step of the way Lucy helped me answer my research question.  By the time I got to Smith, I had achieved a level of research that few of my fellow classmates had completed.  At Smith I had the opportunity to continue my research interests, I traveled, I did internships and took job placements that benefited my field.  Lucy was there to help advice me when I called, and she has been ever supportive in my every effort, as my oldest personal and professional reference she has never complained about writing a recommendation or answering a reference call.

3. How has the library, and the nominee in particular, had an impact on students and the learning process?
She is positive and encouraging, she always makes me feel like I’m doing something right. My life has been so enriched by her presence.  Lucy Hansen has not only been a strong woman mentor in my life, but also a voice of comfort, compassion and strength in my hardest times.  When I had problems at school or home she was the first to hear about them and the first to remind me that nothing could stop me from achieving my dreams.  She has taught me perseverance and persistence, always patient in understanding that I am still growing up.   With my best interest in mind Lucy offers me constructive criticism, but she has a unique way of approaching the situation and making you understand how to make you stronger.  She encouraged me to travel and see the world, knowing this would give me a new globalized perspective. For example, when I told her that I was unsure of studying at Smith College because my family objected to the idea of being so far away, Lucy reminded me that there were many experiences left for me to know and that there was a wealth of knowledge and information that I could get at a women’s college.  But most importantly, she did something my parents had not; she shared my excitement about my admission, she felt very proud.  A true believer in education, Lucy never allowed me to put a barrier between myself and my goals, no matter how far away they seem.

4. How does the nominee make the school a better place? Please be specific.
Lucy is a visionary.  She wants Biblioteca Las Americas to be a place that is academically stimulating for every student, but also a place to come together, relax, enjoy a good book, a place to gather socially.  BLA is unlike any high school library because it is just that – a place where young students can come together to discuss new ideas.  Under her management our library a 33,000sq ft facility was built with her vision.  I was very lucky to have had such a library for my high school career and few students ever get this privilege. Lucy works hard to ensure that every student has a reason to know and appreciate the space they work in.  She is constantly looking for new ideas to make the library a place to learn, research, and grow.  She encourages lectures, concerts, group meetings, teaches German classes afterschool, orders high quality materials for the library (she recently petitioned to get Rosetta Stone for the collection).  She trusted me enough to give me the responsibility of opening and running a video editing lab for student and staff use.  Lucy also ensures that her library support staff is a dynamic, friendly and very well trained staff. 

5. How has the individual demonstrated leadership in the school community or the profession?
When many would shy away from the responsibility of running the district’s libraries and being the principal investigator for a grant, Lucy took it head on.   With her vision, Biblioteca Las Americas in collaboration with the National Library of Medicine, run the ¡VIVA! (Vital Information for a Virtual Age) Peer Tutor Project.  The program trains high school students on online resources for community health outreach.  Students teach communities how to use to access free and reliable health information online.  Health literacy in the lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas is one of the lowest in the nation, and the project’s long term goals are to raise health literacy levels amongst our predominately Hispanic population. As a former peer tutor I can attest to the impact of this program in our community. Through outreach I have met people that are so impressed with the quality of the website that they thank the peer tutors profusely for the work that they do.  Peer tutors do community outreach at their school, in local clinics, hospitals, health fairs and other community venues. In 2006 Biblioteca Las Americas was awarded the National School Library Media Program of the Year.