By: Joel Gilleland, Staff Reporter
CNM employees as well as librarians from all over the region said goodbye to a cherished staff member, the Administrative Director of Libraries and Educational Resources, Ben Wakashige, said Poppy Johnson-Renvall, associate director of libraries.
Wakashige has only worked at CNM for two years, but has been a librarian for 40 years. During his time in New Mexico he made a big impact on the school and the state, said Johnson-Renvall.
“He really made this place bloom and grow like we knew it should, and could,” said Johnson-Renvall.
Wakashige had an instrumental part in bringing in the Discovery System to CNM libraries. Discovery System is a tool that allows students to easily search for all kinds of library materials. Before this system was developed, finding books, articles and prints was a bit of a hassle because students had to search for them all individually. The Discovery System allows students to search for them all at once, said Johnson-Renvall. She also said that CNM was the first school in New Mexico to have a tool like the Discovery System.
“He was recruited, his reputation precedes him. He came in and he saw the types of needs of the student body here. He developed the idea, he found the funding, he gathered support, he was key in implementation and marketing,” said Johnson-Renvall.
Wakashige said that in his time at CNM, his co-workers and he were able to expand CNM libraries to all six campuses including the Advanced Technology Center.
He said that without his staff, none of these accomplishments would have been possible.
“I’ll share this with you because I feel very strongly about it. CNM is very fortunate to have the leadership of Kathie Winograd as president and her staff. They really, I believe, have the students at heart,” said Wakashige.
Johnson-Renvall said Wakashige has been an advocate for bringing library programs to Native American reservations all over New Mexico since the 1970s. He has been heavily involved in the Native American Libraries Special Interest Group for decades. Much of his professional research interests and professional committee interests revolve around minorities in libraries, said Johnson-Renvall.
The NALSIG started as a round table, but because of Wakashige’s work in training library aides and recommendations, the organization was put under the New Mexico Library Association. To this day the association is still very active, and it is all because of Wakashige, said Mary Allice Tsoiu, UNM librarian and former NMLA president.
“He is irreplaceable. Since the beginning when he first started he has done so much for so many libraries,” said Tsoiu.
Wakashige had a clear passion for libraries, students and for learning in general, said Johnson-Renvall.
“I feel passionate about all libraries because they represent the public. You don’t need to go to a university to be educated; you can do it at the library,” said Wakashige.
His passion has been appreciated by the people whose lives he has touched. A group of local Native Americans heard Wakashige was retiring and contacted Johnson-Renvall to do something in honor of Wakashige’s accomplishments.
At Wakashige’s retirement reception they gathered in a circle, sang Native American songs and beat on their tribal drums to send him off on a good note.
Wakashige was clearly liked by his staff and he will be missed, but they were glad to see him reach retirement and were hopeful that he can do a little relaxing now, said Reference Librarian, Olivia Baca.
“He’s an amazing boss. He supports his staff for professional development and he’s an incredible model of someone who uses leadership in the best possible way. He makes wise decisions and supports staff when they desire to be creative and innovative. It’s never about ego for him, it’s about results. It’s sad to see him retire but everyone needs their well-deserved breaks,” said Baca.