During her career working for libraries within the county of San Diego, Cecilia Salgado Begent has always been good at adapting, whether it was for the community or for programs. Once again Salgado Begent is adapting. She was recently hired as the new San Diego County Library branch librarian in Imperial Beach after June Frost retired. Due to the coronavirus Salgado Begent has not been able to meet her team in person but has done so virtually. In fact, Salgado Begent has not had the opportunity to set foot in the library yet.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Salgado Begent had been interviewing for a management position and was hired for Imperial Beach. “I got the good news during the pandemic…To be able to work for a beach community and make good use of my bilingual skills, I was thrilled,” she said.
Salgado Begent doesn’t know when the Imperial Beach library will open and knows that a shift will have to be planned, possibly starting with reopening the parking lot to maintaining social distancing. She sees the positive side of the situation and finding solutions to problems is exciting for her.
Salgado Begent comes from a family of educators. Her mom is a retired adjunct Spanish language professor and her dad a retired librarian with a 34-year career. “Mom is the bookworm…the love of books comes from her. She likes classical literature. She always wanted to be a librarian,” Salgado Begent said.
Both of her parents are from Mexicali and they have been together since they were 14 years old. “I grew up in an academic household. We all had to get a Master’s degree and follow the education path. Every weekend mom took us to the library and we spent hours there. She made us bookworms. All three of us have Master’s degrees,” said Salgado Begent, the youngest of three.
Salgado Begent’s parents wanted the best for their kids and pushed them to reach their goals. “Always the conversation at the table was ‘What is the next educational goal?’” recalled Salgado Begent.
Salgado Begent knew her focus would be in education and outreach. After she received her BA in anthropology from San Diego State University she took what she calls a detour in her 20s and taught English to international students, and even worked with loans. “I tapped into every single category and saw the aspects of sales through my sister… I’m more of an educator. I like to connect with people, work with people and I’m very organized,” she said.
In time she went back to school and received a Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from San Jose’ State University and in 2012 she received a Master’s degree of Library and Information Science.
After receiving her Master’s degree, the recession set in and the hiring freeze stopped her from getting job in a library so Salgado Begent first volunteered at the Bonita library - which is the town she grew up in. When the time was right she applied for the position of Librarian I, an entry level job with the county library system and was hired for the Ramona branch. Salgado Begent worked for six years in Ramona where she also met her future husband, an artist.
Salgado Begent had the opportunity to work as the acting branch manager for six months in Ramona while the branch manager was on medical leave. During that time she learned how the library functioned at the operational level.
“My favorite part about my job is working with people…learning how to work together… One of the things I’m working on is having a shift in the strategic plan. Libraries are going to change but we have to figure out how. [I’m] trying to understand what the shift is going to be,” she said.
This is not only because social distancing will be an issue for a while, but she has seen first hand how libraries can be a community center. Case in point was when she worked for the library in Ramona and the library became a local assistance center for flood victims.
In another instance Salgado Begent started a Green Teen Garden program.
“What are some programs schools are missing that libraries can provide?” she asked herself. Salgado Begent got a grant and started the teen program when she was the teen librarian in Ramona. With the help of a master gardener and a garden club, she hosted workshops for teens and built a spiral garden with them.
“We had 20 teens who all grabbed a brick… That’s how libraries are changing,” she said.
For her work with the garden Salgado Begent received the National Association of Counties Achievement Award, Green Teen Garden.
Her next promotion led her to a move to San Marcos as Librarian II where she continued as a teen and bilingual librarian. Once again working in a new town and library she adapted to the community. “You have be open and flexible,” she said.
Salgado Begent is a non-fiction reader. “I’m always trying to see how to better myself,” she said. Right now she is reading “21 Lessons from the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari which fits with the time of the pandemic.
“I’m always reading books on management, always in the studying frame, ‘What am I going to learn next?’” she said.
She grew up doing cross country in high school and likes individual sports like biking, running and yoga. “I’m breaking the stereotype of a librarian.”
Salgado Begent loves a challenge and looks forward to working in Imperial Beach and learning about the community. Some people jump in with personality and ideas, but Salgado Begent wants to hear from her team as well as the community before making important decisions. She plans on attending city council meetings, going to schools, talking to parents, assessing the needs of the town and then bringing in volunteers, resources and programs.
“I want to get to know the members, readers, resources… what works, what doesn’t,” she explained.