May 11, 2018

Margo Gustina | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Change Agents

Margo Gustina


Deputy Director, Southern Tier Library System, Painted Post, NY


MSLIS, Syracuse University, 2012


She is the only Margo Gustina in the United States.


@MargoGustina on Twitter; Southern Tier Library System; Hooray for __________!

Photo by Eli Guinnee


Putting the Social in Justice

Librarianship was a natural fit for Margo Gustina, who has always loved connecting people with what they need but disliked the hard sell of bookstores or the bureaucracy of social work. Her first encounters with small libraries in rural western New York shaped her view of what good service should look like. She met directors with small staffs, tiny budgets, few open hours, and minimal digital resources who still brought their communities together with rich programming—not defined by their limitations, she says, but by their unique talents “and ability to translate those into strengthening the social connective tissue.”

As president of the New York Library Association (NYLA) Rural Libraries Round Table since 2015, Gustina has seen membership jump from 74 to just under 200, in part because she encouraged the smallest libraries to bring their perspectives to the table and made sure that state colleagues support those members’ roles in community regeneration. In the past three years, she has helped 16 libraries raise their funding by more than 25 percent—one by 230 percent! Gustina is also cocreator of the NYLA Sustainability Initiative and is coleading the first cohort of its Community Change Agent program, working with librarian–community partner teams to develop leadership on sustainability.

Together with colleague Eli Guinnee, she created the “Hooray for ____!” workshop series, which focuses on intellectual freedom, privacy, and confidentiality in the library in practical, actionable ways. Nominator Deanna DiCarlo, manager of adult and outreach services for the Upper Hudson Library System, NY, notes that “[Gustina’s] workshops…align theory and practice and hearken [back to] the best critical teachers, who are not afraid to have participants act as cocreators of knowledge.” (For Gustina and Guinnee’s take on social justice in the library, see their LJ article.)

Throughout Gustina’s work runs the desire to address social justice issues and systemic oppression, empower community members, and ensure that all voices are heard. “Margo understands privilege and power dynamics from a grassroots, social justice perspective, and she is not afraid to talk about it,” says DiCarlo.

Gustina sees herself as a “librarian’s librarian,” helping her member libraries find funding, apply for grants, catalog collections, market events, and write policies. Her work, she says, is “to help each library find its unique potential and marry it to its local community’s aspirations with services that facilitate intellectual empowerment and social well-being.”

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

Building Literacy-Rich Communities
Hosted by Library Journal and School Library Journal, Stronger Together is a national gathering of thought leaders and innovators from across the country who will share where and how partnerships between school districts and public libraries are having success. Join us May 10–12 at the University of Nebraska Omaha, as we explore the impact these collaborations are having on the institutions, communities, and kids they serve.


  1. Bonnie Schweizer says:

    Margo, she is the best – a SUPER SUPER suppporter of Libraries, smalll, medium or large!
    I am so happy that she is with our STLS library system.

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