TOMÉ —Libraries are changing but they aren’t going anywhere says Barbara Lovato, Ed.D., library director at the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus library. 

Recently recognized as the New Mexico Consortium of Academic Libraries’ 2023 Academic Librarian of the Year, Lovato can speak with authority on the future of libraries, especially those that serve academia.  

As a result of the recognition, during the New Mexico State Legislature’s Library Day this year on Friday, Jan. 26, Lovato will be a special guest on the rostrum of the New Mexico House of Representatives and introduced at the beginning of that day’s session. 

Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photo
In addition to being named the 2023 Academic Librarian of the Year, Barbara Lovato, Ed.D., the library director at the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus library, is a background actor and driver in television shows and movies filmed around New Mexico.

Lovato, who is a principal lecturer III at UNM-Valencia, has worked in libraries for nearly 30 years, the last 25 of which have been in the Land of Enchantment.  

She has worked in every area and position in an academic library. Her presentations, publications and research interests include user experience, library user satisfaction, internet research, copyright and fair use and emerging information technologies.  

Lovato has served as two-year institution representative to the executive board, vice president and president for NMCAL. She has also been a member of the consortium’s legislative committee for more than a decade.  

Lovato was a member of a three-person NMCAL Legislative Committee General Obligation Bond Distribution Formula Task Force that has provided guidance for distribution of these funds since the 2012 GO bond, and continues to be a major advocate for the statewide library bond initiatives. She has also served many roles with the New Mexico Library Association. 

From 1999 to 2009, Lovato worked at the library at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque — which was known as TVI until 2006 — before coming to work at the UNM-Valencia library, a move with some family ties. Her father, Jack Lovato, was a member of the UNM-Valencia Advisory Board when the learning resource center, which houses the library, was built.  

“It was kind of like it was meant to be, like a legacy to come and work here,” Lovato said, noting her father was no longer a board member when she applied for the position. “It was just kind of a bonus that my dad was part of this, that my parents were part of this community, too.” 

With close to 50,000 volumes in the library, Lovato and her staff are also responsible for the learning resource center at the UNM-Valencia Workforce Training Center in the village of Los Lunas. Between the two locations and the increase in services to patrons, Lovato said it’s her hope to add another librarian in the next five years. 

“I’m hoping to extend the library’s offerings and we want to get students back on campus,” she said. “A lot of students finished up high school online, then they kind of transitioned into, ‘Oh, I could take college on-line, right?’ Then they were kind of like, ‘I don’t ever need to go to campus.’” 

As in-person learning returned, Lovato and library staff have tried to “capture” students during new student orientations when them come to the library to get their IDs made. 

“I was happy to take that on. They are going to need their ID card, they’re coming to campus, they might as well come to the library and see how cool we are,” she said with a laugh.  

Part of the orientation is getting students acquainted with the library and its services, including its text-a-librarian and virtual reference desk which give students access to librarians around the clock to help with everything from research questions to setting up an account to access a video assigned by an instructor. 

While much of the world has gone digital, students can still benefit from some human guidance, Lovato said, especially when it comes to researching and locating quality sources of information. 

“A lot of sources are on-line, they’re current and up to date,” she said. “Then it’s all about the whole research process — creating a research question, doing the research, then critically analyzing it all. A lot of times they’ll come in and have their topic and think they know what they think about it but then after they’ve done some research, they might change their perspective. Now they’ve got information and it’s so powerful.” 

During the COVID shutdown, the library started checking out things it had never checked out before, such as pottery wheels and photography equipment.  

“Our pottery instructor decided she was going to teach on-line, so we checked out pottery wheels,” Lovato said. “Everybody needed computers. We had 345 laptops to lend out and needed a way to keep track of all these things — the laptops, docking stations, web cameras, monitors — so we were able to make that work so everybody was able to work from home. That’s a huge thing we still offer every student. 

“I don’t think we’re going anywhere. Libraries are going to stay. Are we changing? Absolutely.” 

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.