‘We’re more than just books’, STC librarian inspires students to reach their full potential
South Texas College Library Specialist Michael Gutierrez takes pride in helping new generations of professionals reach their goals as he continues to grow STC’s newest library located at STC's Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr.
Dedicated to student success for nearly 20 years, South Texas College Library Specialist Michael Gutierrez takes pride in helping new generations of professionals reach their goals as he continues to grow STC’s newest library located at STC's Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr.
“Most of our students just need someone to believe in them and I feel like that’s where I can make a difference,” he said. “They all have the potential to grow and succeed if they have the right resources, that’s where I come in, and if I can help my community even one person at a time, that’s already a life changed.”
From creating study guides to keeping up with the latest reading materials, updating the library’s collection and even organizing student events, Gutierrez has made it his mission to help students make use of all the different resources that STC has to offer.
“College was never promoted to me when I was in high school and we didn’t have all these amazing opportunities like dual enrollment programs or unlimited resources such as free access to the internet or the Jag Express (STC’s bus service),” said the 37-year-old. “That’s where my passion comes from. I can easily put myself in the shoes of these students who get here fresh out of high school without a clue, because I was just as lost.”
Born in California, but a Texan at heart, Gutierrez moved to the Rio Grande Valley when he was a child and graduated from Veterans Memorial High School in Mission in 2004.
Two years later and with no interest in college, he heard from a friend that STC’s library at Pecan campus was hiring and decided to give it a try, embarking on a 17-year journey that has led him to a successful career in higher education.
“Our libraries are so much more than just books. We have many technology resources available,” he explained. “Students can borrow everything from laptops to mobile hotspots or headphones. It’s everything they could ever need.”
After four years working part-time while studying for his associate degree in Computer Science at STC, Gutierrez saw an opportunity to start a position with the college’s Educational Technologies department in 2010, assisting with the technology and equipment utilized in class and at student events.
Most of our students just need someone to believe in them and I feel like that’s where I can make a difference. They all have the potential to grow and succeed if they have the right resources, that’s where I come in, and if I can help my community even one person at a time, that’s already a life changed.
During that time, he got to connect with faculty and staff from STC’s Pecan and Nursing and Allied Health campuses, while completing a bachelor’s degree in Computer and Information Technologies also at STC.
In 2015, he decided to return to the library, but now at STC’s Mid-Valley campus, because he knew his true commitment was with the students and the community.
“Mid-Valley has a huge community presence so we would always encourage them to come by to our events and visit the library,” he said. “Many people don’t know this, but STC’s libraries are open for everybody in Starr and Hidalgo counties. They can come and use our internet, print, scan and among many other helpful resources. Everybody’s welcome.”
Because of his impressive experience and commitment to students, in early 2020, he was tasked with growing the newest STC library at the time, which was met with challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic, at the STC Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. The library had been established in 2018.
“You’d be surprised at how much reading is required in law enforcement and firefighting,” he explained. “Police cadets must learn everything from the Penal Code to traffic law, and the fire cadets study a great number of hazardous materials and chemical reactions. I knew nothing about these careers when I started, so I collaborated with faculty on what resources they needed and got to work.”
Despite the pandemic, Gutierrez has been able to slowly build a collection of helpful resources and has worked on his expertise, to the point where he hopes to inspire his two children to become first responders. By going above and beyond, he has become a helpful ally and friend to the cadets at STC’s Police and Fire Academies.
“I want to help students not only in their academic careers, but to be lifelong learners. We’re a technology space and a community center where team effort is encouraged. Long gone are the days of quiet libraries,” he said. “All I’m saying is if you’re struggling in class, but haven’t visited the library, you’re missing out.”
Gutierrez recently completed a master’s degree in Library Science and said he does not plan to retire any time soon.
“I want to keep learning everything I can, so I can inspire others to do the same,” he said.