Fresno State librarian Vang Vang wants to disrupt any notion that a library operates as a silo, separate from other areas of study on campus.
“I want to bring the library into the University,” said Vang, who has been with the Henry Madden Library since 1998. “I want the library to be part of the community and part of the university as well. So I’ve been working on bridging that gap a lot with a lot of the diversity and inclusion activities.”
When the newly rebuilt Madden Library opened in 2009, Vang advocated for a diversity area in the library and championed staff time to build relationships, programs and events that would celebrate and educate the community regarding diversity issues and activities.
Ten years later, the Diversity Lounge on the second floor is thriving and the Library Diversity Committee is recognized as a leader throughout the campus, regarded as a “best practice” among CSU libraries for faculty and staff collaboration.
For Vang’s work on this and other initiatives, the California State University Chancellor’s Office will honor her. She is one of 19 CSU faculty members who will receive 2019-20 Faculty Innovation and Leadership Awards, to be awarded by Chancellor Timothy P. White at the CSU Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium Oct. 17-18 in Sacramento.
“I’m so pleased that Vang received this prestigious recognition,” said Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Her resourcefulness and unique perspective benefit our students, their assimilation and subsequent production of knowledge, and our understanding of the Fresno State and the world as multicultural and interdisciplinary.”
The award, now in its second year, recognizes outstanding faculty who are implementing innovative practices that significantly improve learning and course outcomes or who have demonstrated leadership in improving student success at the department, college or university level. Last year’s recipient for Fresno State was Dr. Rajee Amarasinghe, chair of the Department of Mathematics.
The faculty-led selection committee reviewed more than 230 nominations from across all 23 campuses.
“Vang is a creative, resourceful dynamic librarian/educator who has a proven record in developing programs and devising innovative solutions to engage faculty, staff and students, said Gretchen Higginbottom, the head of interlibrary loans in the Henry Madden Library, who nominated her longtime colleague for the honor.
The 19 recipients represent 18 of the 23 CSU campuses. Each campus can have no more than one winner, which can be an individual or a team of up to three members.
In 2007, Vang and librarian Monica Fusich were instrumental in creating information literacy modules, online lessons that about 5,000 students use annually. Topics include preventing plagiarism, evaluating sources and scholarly articles.
The modules, originally embedded in Blackboard and now available in Canvas, can be accessed by students online anywhere and anytime.
“You have to be where the students are,” Vang said. “You just can’t make them go to different websites trying to find something that can be all in a one-stop shop.”
Vang also took the lead on the Affordable Learning Solutions initiative, serving as the coordinator. From 2013 to 2018, she secured more than $125,000 in grant money from the Chancellor’s Office to help students save money on textbooks.
Through Affordable Learning Solutions, more than 9,000 students have saved more than $900,000 on textbook costs. The initiative is now part of the toolkit provided by the Center for Faculty Excellence to help faculty redesign their courses to help make higher education more affordable and accessible to all students.
“One of her greatest strengths is building relationships and making connections between students, staff and faculty,” Higginbottom said. “Her rapport with our students and her skills with emerging technologies are legendary as is her quiet leadership.”
In 2015, Vang, special collections librarian Tammy Lau and professors Drs. Maria Aparecida-Lopes and Andrea Johnson received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association to present “Latino Americans: 500 Years of History,” a public programming initiative shedding light on the rich Latinx heritage and stories of the Central Valley. The program attracted StoryCorps to Fresno State, leading to a feature on KQED.
Vang left Fresno for her college education after graduating from Roosevelt High School, earning a bachelor of arts in history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. For her graduate studies, she went even farther, obtaining a master of science in library and information science from Simmons University in Boston.
She returned to Fresno in 1998, when she took a position at Fresno State as a reference and instructional librarian. She earned tenure and was promoted to associate librarian in 2004, and later promoted to librarian in 2011. Vang was the first librarian nominated by President Joseph I. Castro to represent Fresno State in Education, and Professional and Applied Sciences for the Wang Family Excellence Award in 2017.
For the past 10 years, Vang has also played another small part in student success by providing free jigsaw puzzle therapy on a table on the second floor of the library. Anyone passing by can pause and tune out the worries of the day as they focus on connecting interlocking pieces.
She talked about it as a pretty new 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle — one she completed over the summer — sat on her desk, awaiting its turn to move to the puzzle table.
“I find that the students love it because it’s very relaxing,” Vang said. “Sometimes you’re so stressed out that if you just fit one thing together, you feel like you’ve done something. … I’ve noticed that during midterms and finals, the puzzle gets done really fast, and I have to go and put a new one out.”