Scholar Spotlight: Luisa Leija (2020) in Conversation with the Spectrum Advisory Committee

Luisa Leija Headshot

The Spectrum Scholarship Program actively recruits and provides scholarships to American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern and North African, and/or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students to assist them with obtaining a graduate degree and leadership positions within the profession and ALA. Spectrum Scholarship Alumni are part of what makes this program successful -- we are thrilled to highlight Luisa Leija (2020 Scholar), Senior Librarian at the Long Beach Public Library, to talk about the Scholarship, as well as current work. This interview was conducted via email with Spectrum Advisory Co-Chairs, Kay P Maye, and Ramon Garcia in January, 2024.

What area(s) of librarianship have you worked in thus far?

As a Spanish-speaker and first-generation Xicana, I have brought my cultural skillset to the forefront to serve our large Latinx population in Long Beach, CA. I have worked in Youth Services, Adult Services, Community Services, Multilingual Collection Development, led internal transformation work around DEI, and Culturally Responsive Programming.

What are some current projects that you're really excited about right now?

I am currently working on establishing a Tagalog collection in our library system in collaboration with Filipinx colleagues and community stakeholders. We want to build a collection for the Filipinx-American Resource Center that will be housed at the Harte Neighborhood Library on the west side of Long Beach, later this year.

Apart from being the Multilingual Collections subject matter expert, I am also the first Senior Librarian of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at LBPL. I am very excited to continue establishing the framework for this work in a public library setting.

What has the Spectrum community provided you with in the years since you've graduated library school?

It hasn’t been too long since I’ve graduated but thus far, the Spectrum community continues to open doors and provide access to a wealth of resources, opportunities, and a large network of colleagues invested in seeing BIPOC library workers flourish. Our gifts, talents, and perspectives are vital to shaping the future of the field. When I find another Spectrum Scholar at a conference or even here at work, immediately there is a kinship and an unspoken understanding that we will support one another, if only in that moment and at best, for the longevity of our careers.

How do you carry that sense of camaraderie and connection forward to others in the LIS profession?

I carry that sense of camaraderie and connection forward to others in LIS by demonstrating a genuine desire to see others succeed and fostering an atmosphere of inclusion. One of the ways I do that is through bringing people into conversations, listening, and meeting people where they are at.  If I can provide them resources to support them in their professional journeys, I do. If I can introduce them to new concepts around social justice in LIS, I do that as well.

Working in libraries can sometimes take us far from home. What are some favorite regional foods that you look forward to getting if you ever return for visits? Alternatively, what are some favorite dishes that you discovered along the way?

I’m from the Bay Area and one of the things I miss most about living in Oakland is eating delicious Ethiopian food! Whenever I find it outside of Oakland, it’s a must try!