Lick’s Librarians: Guides to Print and Digital Resources

Need a primary source for your World History project? Don’t know where to turn for those last few visual sources? Looking for a good book recommendation?

The place to go is Lick’s airy epicenter of learning, the McCullough Library, where you will find Lissa Crider, Mao and Thu Nguyen.

Freshmen—you may only know them as the friendly faces of the library staff, or you might have a vague memory from freshman rotation, when Lissa took you on a whirlwind tour through the wonders of the library.

Sophomores – if you haven’t already, you’ll be learning to utilize these wonderful people for all your history classes to come.

Juniors—these women will (figuratively) save your life. It’s still a long way off, but you all know that big, scary history paper is coming at you full speed ahead next semester. Don’t sweat it; Lissa and the Nguyen sisters have your back.

Seniors—is it even necessary to say how thankful you are for the library staff? You look upon them with grateful eyes, remembering how they magically procured the perfect book in the nick of time countless instances in previous years.

Now that we’ve established just how wonderful these librarians are in our lovely community here at Lick, let’s venture into their domain, the sweetly silent repose that is the McCullough Library, for a chat.

Raised in Manhattan Beach, California, head librarian Lissa Crider grew up in the freedom of the 60s, spending her childhood playing volleyball and riding bikes in a world steeped in small-town charm, quite different from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco.

But Lissa’s no stranger; she’s been at Lick for over 20 years. This is, in fact, her 21st. Lissa was an essential member of the design team for the library, built in 1997.

The building as we know and love it is due to her vision of what a top-notch high school library should look like. She put countless hours of work and thought into it—the entire process took a total of three years.

When asked to describe her aims for the design of the 7,000+ square foot library (complete with seating for over 100 people) in three words, Lissa said, “welcoming, useful, and visually appealing.”

Before coming to Lick, Lissa ran a K-8 library in Hermosa Beach for twelve years, where she enjoyed getting to know the kids and watching them grow up.

Here at Lick, she says, running the library is almost like “running a shop;” and she works to “make the library warm and welcome.”

“That satisfaction, that service… I can’t get enough of it,” she says of her job. Her least favorite part: any necessary confrontation, especially when she has to deny access to the library to people who need it.

In recognition of her immense contributions to the Lick community, Lissa received the yearbook dedication in 2004-2005.

“Lick is blessed with the inexhaustible, energetic spirit of Lissa Crider,” the dedication states.

She  was  happy to  be acknowledged “as a teacher as well as faculty,” and grateful that the value of a school librarian was honored, not just for herself but for all school librarians.

Something you may not know about her: she rides an off-road motorcycle, and she’s a vegan!

Lissa’s dedication finishes off on a poignant note: “We never say it enough, Lissa, but thank you for your energy, your encouragement, your kindness, and your endless resource of project-saving knowledge.”

Mao Nguyen, born and raised in Vietnam, moved around the world quite a bit before coming to San Francisco in the 90s.

She worked in human resources and then in a financial office in the Vietnamese army until 1975. When she first came to San Francisco, she studied cosmetology and worked nights at restaurants, then began librarian studies. She came to work at Lick in 2000.

“I really love libraries, I love to read books,” Mao said when asked why she decided to become a librarian. “The students here make me feel younger and younger. I learn a lot of language here, a lot of English. The students here are wonderful people, you know. Anything I’m stuck with I ask them, and they explain it to me.”

Mao’s daily duties as an assistant librarian include helping students find books and checking books in and out. Her favorite part of the job is talking to the students. “I love that,” she says.

When she’s not hard at work, you can often find Mao perusing the History section of the library, particularly the books on the American Civil War. She also enjoys watching the History Channel and reading Stephen King – “Makes me nervous,” she says.

When Mao is on duty, you know you’re in good hands. Over the years, she’s deftly dealt with everything from a student collapsing to another found asleep on the bathroom floor.

Something you may not know about Mao: her husband actually went to Lick. She also loves going on field trips with the students.

Thu Nguyen grew up with her sister in Vietnam and came to the US in May 2001. She was the last in her family to leave Vietnam, so when she came here, “everything was available, ready for me, so I didn’t have to worry much.”

At first she worked in a restaurant for a few months, then studied secretarial duties and librarian technology at SF City College for four years. There was a position open at Lick’s library, so she interned for about 3-4 months and was hired near the end of her studies at City College.

Her studies at City College interested her and piqued her curiosity; she remembers a specific teacher that was tough but nice, and made her want to learn more about the subject.

This is Thu’s ninth year at Lick; she spends most of her time cataloging the books and making records, circulation, shelving, pretty much doing everything except teaching.

When asked what her favorite aspect of the job is, Mao said she likes cataloging and making records of the books, and also helping students.

“Any time I help students, I feel very happy, I feel like I am useful,” she said.

Thu has always been observant of the student body. Her first few years here, there were lots of trouble-makers, but after they graduated she realized she missed them. She’d been able to watch them grow and mature, which had more effect on her than she realized.

Something you may not know: Thu and Mao are sisters.s

“We are happy to work here with the students. Anything that we can help with, we are happy to do; it makes us feel good. We love the students here because they are all good students, very nice and study hard,” she said. “The work that we do for them is not wasted. They always come back to see us.”

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About Amanda Braitman

Amanda began her illustrious writing career at the tender age of seven with a beautiful debut titled Flowers, illustrated by the author herself, who is by no means, as they say, “une artiste.” She went on to co-author a book in the third grade about why people with curly hair want straight hair, and why people with straight hair want curly hair—the work was an instant success and sold millions. Amanda has taken a hiatus from novel writing for the last nine years, supposedly to “concentrate on schoolwork,” as she said in an interview with the Paris Review. However, sources tell us that she’s secretly been compiling stories for a massive anthology. We’ll see. Amanda currently resides in Hillsborough, California with her mother and her hyperactive dog, and sometimes she tries to feed the cat who lives next door, but the cat isn’t very friendly.

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