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CLA Elections 2017 - Erica Cuyugan
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Erica Cuyugan, Santa Monica Public Library


Erica received her MLIS from UCLA in 2005 and began her work as the Teen Services Librarian for the Benicia Public Library shortly after. In 2006, she accepted a position as the Teen Librarian for the Santa Monica Public Library, where she worked with teens and Library staff to engage teens in the community through outreach, programming, and collections. After 8 years, Erica became a branch manager for the Fairview Branch at SMPL, then in 2016, moved to library administration and became  Assistant City Librarian. Erica considers SMPL her family and feels fortunate to be part of such a dynamic team. Erica was a Eureka! Institute Fellow in 2011 and continues to keep in touch with her cohort. She has served on several committees in the past, including ALA/YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, YALSA Programming and Local Arrangement committees, CLA Member of the Year and Program Planning committees, and SCLC YA Workshop committee. 


Candidate Statement

When I moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles after college, I wasn’t thinking about a career in libraries. Out of curiosity and because I loved books and reading, I started volunteering at a library. There, I met a wonderful Teen Librarian who inspired me to pursue my library degree. I thoroughly enjoyed being a Teen Services Librarian for eight years, working with teens first in Benicia, CA, and then in Santa Monica. I love connecting with young people, making an impact on their growth and development, and encouraging them to be active participants in their community. After moving on to branch management for two years, an unexpected opportunity led me to accept a position as Assistant City Librarian at Santa Monica Public Library. I have learned many valuable lessons working in library administration, including (briefly) working as the Interim Director. What I have grown to truly appreciate here in California is the supportive network of professional librarians and peer mentors, both regionally and across the state. I am running for CLA Board because I want to further contribute and give back to a community that has supported me through many of my professional transitions. I want to help build more networks and find out how I can participate and help cultivate the development of the next generation of leaders. Most importantly, I am committed to being  part of an organization that continually strives for a connected, informed, diverse, and resilient library workforce. It is my hope that, as libraries continue to evolve and adapt to current and future administrations, “quiet leaders” like me can feel empowered to use the tools, training, and networks that CLA provides to advocate for our communities and their needs.



  1. How do you define leadership?
    Leadership is the ability to motivate, empower, and inspire people to move in a certain direction together. They have vision and passion for the work that they are doing.

  2. Why are you interested in this position?
    As a former Eureka Leadership Institute Fellow and current CLA Program Planning committee member, I want to take the next step in being more involved and exploring more leadership opportunities within CLA. I have presented at conferences, attended many wonderful sessions, and even (once) got up on stage to sing backup for the CLA band (featuring Robert Karatsu on guitar and Joanna Fabicon on vocals) during Battle decks! I truly believe that, as new leaders continue to emerge and work alongside our more seasoned leaders this is an exciting time to be part of the fusion of past experiences and new endeavors in our profession. I am equally enticed by the opportunity to work with so many inspiring leaders on the existing CLA Board.

  3. How would you describe your personal leadership/communication style?
    I feel I am a “quiet” leader, in that I enjoy helping others develop and often focus on being as supportive as possible. Sometimes I like to plant ideas with staff like seeds, and I delight in watching them grow into something I could never have imagined on my own. Like most in the profession, my passion is learning, and specifically learning from all of the different people I have met along my journey. I enjoy communicating with people in a variety of ways, but my preference is talking one-on-one or in a group setting. When working through issues and trouble-shooting, I like to understand different perspectives and processes before making an informed decision (which sometimes slows the process). I tend to include and involve more people in a conversation, rather than less, because I truly believe the best solutions come from the collective brain, rather than any one individual.


  4. What strengths would you bring to the position?
    I believe one of my key strengths is my ability (and interest) in connecting people and bringing together ideas. I am positive and supportive, and I love learning and understanding how things fit together. I also believe in the value of mentorship, whether formal or informal. We have such a vibrant California library community, and while I have not been as active in formal committee work in the past few years, I have still learned so much from my fellow librarians. I’d like to continue to expand that network of learning and connections within CLA.

  5. What experience do you bring to this position?
    I’ve worked as a Teen Services Librarian, a branch manager, an interim Director (briefly), and (currently) an Assistant Director. My experience working in a small/medium-sized library system spans 11 years, although I am fairly new to my administrative position as Assistant Director. I can also offer the perspective of being a new, young (ish) professional in a leadership position who constantly tries to balance work life, family life, and professional growth and development.

  6. What issues or trends are particularly informing your work at this time?
    Currently, one of the biggest issues that I am involved with is addressing homelessness, safety, and security in the library. The growing trends of homeless and mentally ill individuals who are untreated both in California and across the nation continue to affect our libraries, our communities, and our staff. The other “trend” (although not a new one) is the idea of libraries and staff moving outside of the walls of the library and into the community. Some systems are amazing at this, while others need more resources, more guidance, and more support. We continue to balance some of the more traditional models of service with innovative models. We understand the importance of “Turning Outward” but acknowledge that sometimes, true community engagement is challenging to obtain. Third, more stream-lined and intentional approaches to staff training and leadership development is also a topic I’ve seen on various discussion lists and what libraries are doing both internally and in partnership with their City/County/District to be more comprehensive about staff development.

  7. Who are the thought leaders (in libraries or in other fields) who interest you?
    I admire leaders who inspire and can positively influence others without being “heavy handed,” who speak openly and honestly and who are comfortable sharing their failures, as well as their successes. Our “uber-mentor” at the Eureka Leadership Institute, Stacy Aldrich was one, as well as Carla Hayden, Virginia Walter, and Elaine Meyers. Sheryl Sandberg is a leader who has inspired me in a more personal way, reinforcing the fact that achieving the balance of work and personal life (especially with young children) often feels like a never-ending struggle, but ultimately, it is the most rewarding thing ever. Finally, I feel the need to throw in composer/musician Lin-Manuel Miranda because I am currently listening the book Hamilton: The Revolution, but more importantly because I am in awe of his artistic innovation and the passion with which he connects people to his ideas, his music, and his work.

  8. Who are the regional and statewide stakeholders libraries need to be in communication with?
    Community leaders, library schools, school districts, community colleges, youth/family-centered organizations, local/regional businesses, philanthropic organizations who support libraries and innovation, policy makers, cultural organizations, service providers such as homeless shelters, and clinics/hospitals, to name a few. Now more than ever, it is important to communicate the library’s value and articulate how we can work together with our community to support wellbeing and build resiliency. 

  9. What do you feel are the most critical challenges and opportunities facing California libraries right now?
    Critical challenges include the current administration’s lack of support for a more inclusive, global approach to solving problems and issues, threats to local and federal funding, and infrastructure issues regarding California library facilities and access to technology. Opportunities include advocacy training at all levels, new leaders and “leaders-in-training” rapidly emerging and eager to learn from mentors and seasoned professionals, and continued community trust and good will—in which libraries are still considered valuable, trustworthy institutions for learning, connecting, and sharing.

    Board Member At-Large

  10. Describe your experience serving on Association committees and/or interest groups.
    I have been on national and local committees as a teen librarian, including ALA YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, YALSA’s Program Clearinghouse, and YALSA Local Arrangement committees. I was also involved with the SCLC YA Committee and co-chaired the YA Workshop planning committee. Most recently, I serve on the 2017 CLA Planning Committee, where I helped score the program proposals for the conference. I was also the APALA liaison for the ALA Advocacy Coordinating Group.

  11. Describe your network of connections with library professionals and library stakeholders in California
    My main network is local and regional Southern California librarians, including those who attended UCLA with me, as well as fellow teen librarians who were part of SCLC. I regularly meet up with librarians and managers from LAPL and LA County systems, and I have remained in communication with regional teen librarians. I continue to keep in touch with some of the Eureka Leadership Institute cohort, and have begun to better network with deputy and assistant directors across the state.