February 16, 2018

Courtney Saldana | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Change Agents

Courtney Saldana


Youth Services Supervising Librarian,
Ontario City Library, CA


MLS, San José State University, 2009; Master’s in Children’s Literature, Simmons College, 2005


“Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy”: Albus Dumbledore,
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


@courtneymae99 (Twitter); ontariotbf.org

Photo by Kelela Wakefield

STeP-ing Up

Youth services librarian Courtney Saldana says she “came into the library world backward.” She got her master’s in children’s literature because she loved the books but not (yet) the audience for them: “I joke that I started Teen Book Fest [at Ontario City Library] as a way to stalk authors without freaking them out.”

Then, in 2006, Saldana worked part-time at a library, helping with the teen group. “I was captivated,” she says. “They were so smart, honest, and open about their passions! Fearless.” She became teen librarian at Ontario later that year; when the new library opened without a teen area, she “willed” one into being, says library director Helen McAlary.

“Courtney doesn’t ever stay put, though,” says McAlary, pointing out that Saldana has “almost single-handedly” revitalized the Inland Library Cooperative’s Teen Services Committee and is heavily involved in statewide programs.

Locally, Saldana created KinderGo—a program to engage kindergartners in reading—and the aforementioned Teen Book Fest, which grew from a single panel to a full-day conference with regional appeal. “For a community that struggles to keep residents from driving to Los Angeles for cultural events, having an event that draws people [from L.A.] to us is an accomplishment,” McAlary says.

In 2012, Saldana launched Skills for Teen Parenting (STeP), a program connecting teens with what they need to succeed as adults and parents. Years earlier, helping a teen mom, Saldana was “incredibly frustrated” at programs that claimed to focus on the teenager but inevitably focused on the child. “We can’t help a child to succeed if we don’t teach their parent how to [do that],” says Saldana.

In six months, STeP taught 22 teens how to interview successfully, dress professionally, deal with conflict and time management, care for their child, postpone or prevent a second pregnancy, and more. After seeing Saldana’s presentation on STeP’s success, a member of the California State Library selected STeP for statewide expansion. Now, in its second year, STeP programs are being run at 16 libraries, including Sacramento and San Francisco. Saldana continues to work as a consultant on the program throughout the state. She’s presenting on STeP with San Diego librarian Ady Huertas at the American Library Association annual conference in Orlando, FL, in June 2016.

“I will always be a teen librarian at heart,” says Saldana, “but [as youth services manager] I’ve realized that I can do much more to ensure that tomorrow’s teens have a better chance of future success.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Well deserved! This title is most appropriate as she truly does make great things happen for our community.

  2. Cindy Mediavilla says:

    Congratulations, Courtney! You are the best!

  3. Nissa Perez-Montoya says:

    Congratulations, Courtney! Well deserved. :D