by Ryan Barba, staff writer
Three planters grace the front of the Laney College Bistro in memory of Laney Librarian Phillippa Caldeira, who passed away unexpectedly on Aug. 25 at the age of 51.
The planters, containing flowers and budding trees, were dedicated at the celebration of life ceremony Sept 10 at the Laney Bistro, where family, friends, colleagues, and students gathered to honor her memory.
Laney College President Tammeil Gilkerson tearfully remembered Caldeira as being a “generator of light” and an integral part of the campus.
“She used her gifts daily: at the forefront, in the background, as an advocate, as a quiet mentor caring enough to listen,” Gilkerson said.
In her speech, Gilkerson shared a quote that she and Caldeira loved from novelist James Baldwin.
“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we can’t live within.”
Before joining the Laney College family in 2012, Caldeira worked for Berkeley Public Library, Freight & Salvage and Contra Costa College. After being hired full-time as a reference and instruction librarian in Fall 2013, Caldeira immediately developed relationships with faculty who admired her teaching and dedication to students.
“Many people remember Phillippa for her role as instruction librarian, but her contributions to reference services were also significant.” said Evelyn Lord, Laney’s head librarian.
Lord said Caldeira was an active contributor in the library who coordinated an important project of the reference collection. She oversaw the introduction of online reference services and the development of a new method that gathered data on reference transactions.
“Phillippa was highly engaged with the library and the campus. She was eager to participate in committees and quickly made friends across the campus and the district,” Lord said.
Fred Bourgoin, Faculty Senate President, presented a resolution authored by Caldeira’s fellow senators that acknowledged her impact and her commitment to social justice. The resolution was unanimously ratified.
“There’s also going to be a copy of that resolution hanging in the library, and we will have another one hanging in the faculty lounge so that Phillippa is always with us,” Bourgoin said.
Former Laney student Jarrett Wright stood up to speak about how Caldeira taught him how to conduct research. He credited her for helping him with his personal statement, which ultimately led to his acceptance to UC Berkeley.
“I didn’t know how to do research when I got here, and she taught me how to do that,” Wright said. “When applying to Cal, the little hours that she took out of her day to help me with that was astounding to me.”
Caldeira’s relationships with students reflected the close bonds with her co-workers in the library that was a family where she often felt at home.
Lily Leung, Laney Library Technician, recalled her fondest memory of Caldeira at a Christmas party for library staff and student workers. She said Caldeira served as interim DJ and encouraged people to perform the “Electric Slide” dance move.
Another colleague of Calderia, library technician Andrew Skinner-Demps, explained how he considered Caldeira as his sister and cherished the time they spent together. He recalled her dry sense of humor and her deep love for Star Trek, which was also mentioned by other speakers.
“If we had a moment, a lot of the time we would talk about work and a lot of the time we would talk about Star Trek,” Skinner-Demps said. “I’m not going to be able to text her about Star Trek — but anytime I watch it, I will be thinking of her.”
As the event came to a close, it was clear that attendees did not come for a farewell or a goodbye — just an outpouring of love for Phillippa Caldeira.
“Phillippa loved Laney College,” said Evelyn Lord, “and we loved her.”
Ryan Barba is a staff writer for the Laney Tower.