Women of Western: Gilda Baeza-Ortego

Silver City, NM- To celebrate Women’s History Month, Dr. Felipe de Ortego y Gasca, the Western New Mexico University scholar in residence, requested that The Mustang run a feature on his beloved wife of thirty years, University Librarian Gilda Ortego.

Gilda came to Western New Mexico University in 2007, seeking an environment that was conducive for her husbands health, and took on the role of University Librarian in the J. Cloyd Miller Library. She already had an impressive career behind her.

Gilda is a native of El Paso, TX and did all of her education in the state, receiving her Bachelor from the Texas Women’s University in 1974, her Master of Library Science from University Texas in 1976, a Postgraduate from University Texas in 1993 and finally her PhD from the Texas Women’s University in 2001.

Gilda has been working in libraries for almost her entire career. She held positions in numerous Texas and Arizona libraries throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. Before coming to Western, she was a tenured professor and Director of the Jernigan Library at Texas A&M University at Kingsville from 1999 to 2007. She ­was also previously Dean of the Division of Library and Information Technologies at Sul Ross State Uni­versity of the Texas State University System at Alpine, Texas from 1992 to 1999. During her time at Sul Ross, she was the first Latinx, male or female, to head an academic library in a Texas state university.

Gilda has received numerous honors over her storied career; in 1996, she was a recipient of the first Silver Awards from the National Commission on Library and Information Sciences for her lead­ership in the field, along with such notables as Ray Bradbury and AOL founder Steve Chase. She is both the only Texan and the only Hispanic to receive that award. In 2008 she was chosen by the International Association of Women of Color as an Outstanding Woman of Color in a ceremony at Sacramento, California. She is also a grad­uate of numerous leadership train­ing programs including the Hispanic Lead­ership Institute of Phoe­nix  in 1988 as part of a joint venture between Arizona State University and Valle del Sol, a community-based organization.

Gilda also served as the National President of REFOR­MA (Asso­ciation for Library Services to Hispanics), an affiliate of the American Library Association of which she has been a member for some time. She also sat on the ALA Committee on Education from 1994 to 1998, the ALA Committee on the Status of Women from 1994 to 1996, and has been a member of the ALA Ethnic Materials Information Roundtable  since 1990.

Gilda has also been published numerous times, and in numerous formats, including fiction, poetry, and prose.   She is also a much sought speaker on institutional diversity, multi-­cultural library systems, and reading materials for Hispanic children. She was Founding Editor of La Lis­ta, a review source for Spanish-language materials; and a Founding Indexer of the Chicano Periodical Index. She also has an interest in community theater and has even performed a few roles. She also wrote a reader’s play called “Voic­es of Women” with her husband, Dr. Felipe Ortego, that was performed at the 5th Inter­national  Con­ference on Women at the Univer­sity of Costa Rica in San Jose in  1993.

When talking about his wife, Dr. Ortego stated that he most admired her humility and joking stated that it was a trait that he wished he shared.

For any student or community member walking into the J. Cloyd Miller Library, one can see the amount of care and passion that Gilda puts into her library, whether it is through a friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff or through the numerous cultural events that the library hosts on an almost weekly basis.

Few people at Western New Mexico University have led lives as accomplished and full as Dr. Gilda Baeza-Ortego and there is no better person to close out this weeks series on the Women of Western.

Source: Who’s Who of American Women

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