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We Would Like You to Meet: Gabriel Castañeda

eNews Edition: Fall 2023

Contributed by Gina Flores

Circulation Desk Lead Gabriel Castañeda

He is more than a friendly, familiar face on the front lines of the University Library, but also a charismatic leader with a passion for training and developing student employees to provide memorable customer service. As a champion of the Library, Gabriel Castañeda has dedicated twenty years to the intellectual heart of the campus, starting as a student assistant to becoming a pivotal staff member as the Guest Services Lead.

Get to know Gabriel, an inspiring mentor and perpetual student of life.

Where it all started

Gabriel is an L.A. native from a bustling neighborhood near USC. He began working in the Library in 2003 as a student assistant in Guest Services. While he originally set his sights on becoming a comic book artist, Gabriel graduated from CSUN in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Creative Writing. It’s no surprise that writing poetry and songs are among his hobbies today. While he started out as a very shy guy, the connections Gabriel made in the Library as a student were akin to a fraternity - becoming the catalyst for social growth and confidence. It was Gabriel’s favorite author, Neil Strauss, who introduced him to the concept that social skills can be learned, spawning a new perspective on human interactions.

Influence and Inspiration

Gabriel shared that his greatest inspiration working in Guest Services is the students. Not only do they keep him young, but they make him happy. The lifelong connections Gabriel has fostered with students on the team are a testament to his positive leadership style and supportive nature. As an aspiring stoic, Gabriel delves into practical philosophies with a deep appreciation for what’s most important in life. He is a firm believer in taking advantage of diverse learning opportunities and realizing his full potential. This personal growth mission includes taking a variety of courses at CSUN (currently studying Japanese), along with creative outlets like hip hop dance, jazz-funk, and singing lessons. Insightful advice Gabriel offers to students is, “Work on social skills. This isn’t something you learn in college.”

The Evolving Library

Of the many Library changes Gabriel has witnessed over the last twenty years, the most notable shift was in the culture. He appreciates the employee-centric and more accommodating environment under the current leadership team. “The administration really takes employees into account,” he shared. With the addition of friendly patron policies and open collaborative study spaces, the understanding of students’ needs is palpable. In his time as a commuter student, Gabriel was a regular in the Library with his CSUN boxing gear in tow, plus his other school supplies and meals. Knowing firsthand the challenges of education on the go, Gabriel is a fierce advocate for accommodating the needs of students. He also believes the Freudian Sip café was a great move, noting “Food and coffee are just as much of a resource as the books.”

group photo of guest services at CSUN's University Library
Group photo of Guest Services during the holidays.

Points of Pride

Gabriel is most proud of his growth as a leader, and as a person. While his identical twin brother was pursuing his Management degree at CSUN, Gabriel was intrigued by this subject matter. He began studying his brother’s textbooks and embracing leadership and customer service fundamentals, which have shaped his career and the work environment he’s created. With a firm belief that customer service is an experience, Gabriel developed an official Code of Conduct for student employees in Guest Services. The department’s mission statement, “To create an exceptional customer service experience by providing the first and last words” stems from two key concepts: 1) customer service is more than just checking books in and out, and 2) friendly greetings are the cornerstone of customer service.

Behind the scenes, Gabriel has fostered an open line of communication with students on the team, building trust, empathy, and loyalty. Celebrating students’ successes, ideas, and milestones is also an important part of the equation in cultivating joy and satisfaction in the workplace.

We in the Library are very thankful and proud of Gabriel’s positive contributions to Guest Services and his supportive role in student employee development.