People in the Neighborhood: Meet Dennis Abad, the ‘face’ of La Jolla Riford Library


Editor’s Note: Welcome to La Jolla Light’s “People in the Neighborhood” series, which shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to or call us at (858) 875-5950.

Nineteen years ago, Riford Library assistant Dennis Abad arrived in San Diego to visit from his native Philippines and never left. This 43-year-old, whose favorite color is blue, said he obtains joy from doing his job at the library and serving others. He lives in Sabre Springs (Poway area) and he has found a community of Filipinos in San Diego. He goes back to to the Philippines to visit family “every once in a while.”

What do you like about your job?

“I live to make a difference in the lives of future engineers and leaders. I like to see people smile and not leave here empty-handed, that gives me great satisfaction.”

Why did you come to the United States?

“I always saw the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty in textbooks and I thought, someday I’ll be there, someday I’ll visit that country because we were taught that (the United States) is the land of milk and honey. I applied for a tourist visa in 1997 and when I got here, I loved the country and that’s why I stayed.”

Are you married?

“I met my wife during my first trip to San Diego, and three months afterward we got married, Dec. 14, 1997.”

Do you have children?

“We have no kids; it’s not bad being child-free. Some people say, ‘Who’s going to take care of you when you get old?’ But now we have a lot of nursing homes, we have competent and caring nurses, it doesn’t have to be your kids, and kids these days take you to the nursing home anyways. It’s our choice, we are not typical of a Filipino family, but we want to enjoy our lives more.”

What do you do for fun?

“We enjoy life. We watch movies, either go to the cinema or rent a movie here at the library. We go to spas, from time to time we get a massage. We listen to music, watch concerts, Broadway shows, and we go to antique shops. I meditate and we explore different cultures through food and travel.”

How did you end up working at Riford Library?

“In the Philippines, we had no money and my mom told me, ‘You’re not going to go to school.’ I was like, ‘No way! I’m going, I’ll find a way to go through it.’ I paid for my tuition by working at the university’s library. I was a ‘working scholar,’ that’s how I fell in love with the library. The library took care of me in the times that we had nothing. I started working in libraries in San Diego (such as Mira Mesa and Carmel Valley) and then eventually, I applied for a full-time position and they offered me this job. What I tell people who want to work in a library is, ‘Hang in there, start from the beginning, volunteer, that’s how they recognize you.’ ”

What’s the work in the library like?

“I typically help people find information, find books, phone numbers of companies ... I don’t give medical or legal advice, because I’m not a doctor or a lawyer. When we get those questions, we refer them to the main library downtown.”

What colors do you like to wear?

“Sometimes I wear a pink shirt, sometimes I wear maroon pants, or bright neon sneakers with green and different colors. I love colorful stuff, but most of my shirts and T-shirts are blue, my favorite color. I like to wear nice clothes, take care of myself, especially because I’m sitting here in front of people. Like my boss says, I’m the face of the La Jolla Riford Library because I’m the first thing people see when they come in.”

What’s something that La Jollans don’t know about you?

“I’d like them to know that I am a good dancer. I’m not as graceful as I was in high school, because I’m a little older now, but I can still move on the dance floor. I used to be part of a dance group in the Philippines called Mystiques. We did modern dance. When my wife and I go to parties, we are in the middle of the floor dancing to hip hop, rap and house music.

I also cook Filipino food, like pansit (similar to Chow Mein but with thin strands), lumpia (a sort of spring roll), and sinigang (a savory stew), but I also like to experiment with different cuisines.”

What’s your hope for the future?

“I’d like to still be here, enjoying my job, because I love my job. I come here every morning, and this is my home next to home. I consider my co-workers brothers and sisters. I’d like to retire some day in the Philippines, where we have built a house for retirement, but it will be awhile. Maybe in two decades.”