Remembering Phillippa Caldeira, beloved librarian and bibliophile

Phillippa Caldeira. Photo: P. Mullan

Phillippa Daniella Caldeira (known as Pippa by her friends) was born on Jan. 3, 1968, in Berkeley, California, where she lived her entire life. She passed away in Berkeley on Aug. 25.

Phillippa was an especially lively child, very intellectually engaged and always reading. Her loving and devoted mother, Sandra Aida Parsons, nurtured her daughter’s mind and instilled in her a love of books and education. They made regular trips to the library throughout Phillippa’s childhood. She attended St. Augustine’s Elementary School, Holy Names High School and Berkeley High School.

She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in African American Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. While attending school, she worked at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse and later at the Berkeley Public Library. After earning a Master’s degree in Library Science from San Jose State, where she was an American Library Association Spectrum Scholar, Phillippa worked at the Graduate Theological Union Library and at the Contra Costa Community College Library.

In 2012,  Phillippa was hired as a reference and instruction librarian at Laney College. She was liked and well respected by staff and faculty. Professors brought their students to her library orientations which she tailored specifically to each class.

Phillippa was a passionate teacher. She believed in students and made herself available to help them achieve their academic goals.  No one was more excited than Phillippa when her students succeeded. Phillippa’s strong work ethic, extraordinary research skills and eidetic memory made her a huge asset wherever she was employed.

Phillippa was driven by her inexhaustible curiosity. She possessed a near encyclopedic knowledge of music and lyrics and had a special passion for opera. She loved Leontyne Price. She was especially pleased to design the website for the big band, Mary Lou’s Apartment.

An avid reader with a special appreciation for James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler, she never stopped seeking knowledge about history, music and the people in her life. Phillippa had a sharp wit, keen sense of observation and a talent for making people laugh.

Phillippa is survived by her partner, Robin Nzingah Smith, her adopted siblings Anna Rodas and Matthew Schildgen, her niece, Marielena Soledad Rodas, her nephews Jediah and Dabi, and her step-parents, Robert and Brenda Schildgen. She is also loved and missed by a large circle of colleagues, students, and friends.

Fluctuat nec mergitur.

“She is tossed by the waves, but does not sink.”

A memorial for Phillippa Caldeira will be held Saturday, Sept. 21 at 11 a.m. at the Church of Jazz and Justice, 424 Monte Vista Ave., Oakland.