’On equal terms:’ Lillian Castillo-Speed, head ethnic studies librarian

Lillian Castillo-Speed, head ethnic studies librarian and Chicano studies librarian, is one of 18 "unsung heroines” being honored this month. (Photo courtesy Lillian Castillo-Speed)

In honor of the " 150 Years of Women at Berkeley ” project, each day until Aug. 18  Berkeley News is hosting a series of Q&As featuring 18 unsung heroines on staff from all corners of the campus. The series will culminate on Aug. 18 with a special edition of  Berkeley Campus Conversations , featuring four remarkable female staffers:

  • Cruz Grimaldo, assistant vice chancellor and director of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office
  • Sunny Lee, assistant vice chancellor and dean of students
  • Mia Settles-Tidwell, assistant vice chancellor in the Division of Equity and Inclusion
  • Charmin Smith, head coach of Cal women’s basketball


The twelfth woman honored as part of this series is Lillian Castillo-Speed, head ethnic studies librarian and Chicano studies librarian.

You were nominated for "having been significant in growing the various library collections in Chicano/Latino Studies, Asian American Studies, Native American Studies and Ethnic Studies" since the 1980’s. You’ve been an active and consistent member of Alianza including doing research for Alianza’s 25th Anniversary celebration. Additionally, you’ve hosted various speakers, panels and events in the Ethnic Studies Library, building community and engagement for so many members of the Cal community. People have come to know you as a "femtor," when it comes to research and analysis, and a friend to all. How have you had such an impact on different groups and individuals during your time at UC Berkeley?

I’ve been a librarian on campus for almost 36 years, and I realize that what I most enjoy about my job is helping students and other researchers find the information they need. Building collections, making connections with other librarians, joining professional organizations, learning about my subject area (Chicano Studies) , and managing a bibliographic database called the Chicano Database have helped me do my job. Advising faculty, meeting authors and activists, and working towards staff equity with my Alianza colleagues - all these activities also prepare me to help students and others who find their way to the Ethnic Studies Library. I think it is more important and more effective to make an impact by working with others rather than trying to do it alone.

What advice would you give to other staff members looking to move individuals, teams, units, or improvements forward at UC Berkeley?

Join organizations such as Alianza so that you can observe leaders in action; find out about events and projects that align with your interests; be inspired and encouraged by other people; try out your leadership skills among friendly and responsive people.

Who is a female staff member that you admire on campus and why?

I greatly admire and appreciate Lupe Gallegos-Diaz, director of the Latinx Student Development Office. No one is a better organizer of students, staff and community members. She is tireless. She connects people and creates good relationships. She adapts and changes strategies as needed in order to accomplish the goals she knows are important to the Latinx campus community. Anyone who can organize the Chicano Latino Graduations on campus every year and build a team of alumni, staff, and students who create a beautiful event under her direction and encouragement is a true leader.

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