Librarian, ArtCenter Library
As a first-generation library user (and son of immigrant parents from El Salvador) Mario Ascencio possesses an evangelical zeal for his work. A native Angeleno who grew up in South L.A.’s Huntington Park, Ascencio has become a fierce advocate for the equity of information for all. And as of Monday, May 12, 2014, the dedicated, nationally recognized leader will apply his passion for information science to the ArtCenter Library, where he was recently named librarian and managing director.
“I’m excited to return to my native city of Los Angeles,” he said, adding that he always insisted that he would only return to his hometown if the ideal position was offered by the ideal organization. “After almost 15 years living in D.C., I’m thrilled to join ArtCenter because of its mission, ‘Learn to Create, Influence Change.’ It’s at the core of my personal beliefs that the library and the staff have the power to help students explore and discover themselves as artists and designers, and to ultimately create a positive impact on their learning.”
Ascencio is keenly aware of the important big-picture issues faced by institutions and the role of the library in supporting overall goals and objectives. Looking ahead as the College continues its South Campus expansion close to downtown Pasadena, Ascencio envisions engaging with his colleagues to discover new opportunities to better serve the Art Center community.
Ascencio’s defining library moment occurred at age 17, when he helped an illiterate woman get her first library card. This empowering experience helped him realize how libraries can impact people’s everyday lives, particularly when it comes to the disadvantaged. A leader in promoting library services to Latinos and Spanish-speakers, he was named a Mover & Shaker by Library Journal in recognition of his commitment to improving and promoting library services at the national and international level.
During his visionary leadership as library director at the Corcoran Gallery of Art / College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C., Ascencio revolutionized library operations. He dedicated himself to improving the user experience with the addition of new educational technologies, social media and digital repository systems, creating new efficiencies for the Corcoran’s wide variety of patrons. As co-chair of the Corcoran’s Self-Study Steering Committee, he was instrumental in preparing the institution for its upcoming reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
In 2006, he was elected president of REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and Spanish-speakers. In this role, he led the organization’s 40 board members, more than 800 association members, and 26 chapters throughout the U.S.
Previously, he worked as the visual arts liaison librarian at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Virginia, and as a librarian for Latino research at the Smithsonian Libraries, National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. He has also held positions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the UCLA Arts Library, the Getty Research Institute Research library, and the Thomas J. Watson Library, the central library of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 2008 he served as a member of the honorary committee for the UCLA Department of Information Studies 50th Anniversary Celebration.
He received his masters of library and information science from UCLA, and his BA in art history with a minor in Italian from California State University, Northridge.
Ascencio’s appointment follows the retirement of Elizabeth Galloway who stepped down in July 2013 after 35 years of devoted service and commitment to the ArtCenter community.
The ArtCenter Library offers a comprehensive collection of resources in art and design for students, faculty, staff, alumni and the public. The Library’s resources include more than 100,000 volumes of books and periodicals; subscriptions for more than 400 magazines; 13,000 DVDs of feature films, animation, documentaries and more; expanding collections of zines and video games; plus subscriptions to dozens of online databases. A reference librarian is available for research assistance and online resource instruction. Photographs, papers, digital records and ephemera documenting the history of ArtCenter are housed in the College Archives.