Hispanic Collections Archivist Awarded Scholarship to RBMS Preconference

Lisa Cruces, Hispanic Collections Archivist

Lisa Cruces, Hispanic Collections archivist at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections, has been awarded a scholarship to attend the 55th Annual Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) preconference, “Retrofit: Exploring Space, Place and the Artifact in Special Collections.”

This highly competitive scholarship has been offered to first-time RBMS preconference attendees since 2000. It is intended to promote attendance and participation by students, qualified paraprofessionals, early career librarians and librarians with limited professional development support; to introduce attendees to RBMS and ACRL; and to foster diversity in RBMS and the profession.

Cruces recently joined UH Libraries in the newly-created role of Hispanic Collections archivist to document the influence of Hispanic history and culture in Houston.

“I’m very thankful and thrilled to be the recipient of this financial award,” said Cruces. “Along with being eager to attend my first RBMS pre-conference, I’m especially drawn to this year’s metaphorical themes of space, place, and the artifact. I will strive to bring back knowledge and strategies for expanding our services to undergraduates and graduate students in archival research and engaging Hispanic members of the community in the representation of Houston history. Also as a new member of the archives profession recently arrived at a new institution, I’m excited to learn more from my peers across the country and share the great collections and projects happening at UH.”

Posted on April 28th, 2014 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on Hispanic Collections Archivist Awarded Scholarship to RBMS Preconference

Library Ambassador Hosts Zine Workshop


Catherine Gonzalez at the DIY Zine Workshop held on April 8. Image provided by Andrew Gressett.

Art history senior Catherine Gonzalez will graduate from the University of Houston this semester. Through her studies of the analysis of art and visual culture, Gonzalez was immersed in the abstract realm, yet she wanted to explore art’s practical, tangible side.

After her freshman year, she jumped into internships. Her curiosity was piqued during her curatorial internship at Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum, where she encountered the visual art form known as the zine.

She noticed that her colleagues at the museum, including art historian and curator Claudia Zapata, were working on a zine called ChingoZine, which she helped to promote with friends and family.

What’s a zine? “It’s a little handmade book, and it could be anything from drawings to photography to poetry,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of people make them for fun, to distribute their work.”  Zines combine thematic elements that represent ephemeral, creative concepts in a personalized package.

At UH, Gonzalez became involved with the William R. Jenkins Architecture and Art Library Ambassadors, a new student organization that promotes the library’s collections and services. The group organizes events and activities that highlight library resources, promotes student research, and integrates UH art disciplines. Each member of the Library Ambassadors receives advanced research training, enabling them to guide their fellow students on the use of library resources.

“The Jenkins Library Ambassadors facilitate how students can create a relationship with the library,” said Gonzalez, who wanted to give back to fellow students in her own way. She brainstormed ideas with the group: what would be a creative way to help UH students?

The idea for a DIY zine workshop emerged. Gonzalez sought advice from local business owners who regularly run creative workshops, and was also referred to artists from Zinefest Houston, who agreed to be the facilitators of the zine workshop at UH. Gonzalez approached the artists of Antena @ Blaffer, and they offered to share their space in the Saleri Studio and co-host the workshop.

Library ambassadors and students from painting, photography, interior design, architecture and graphic design participated, and the result was a collaborative zine, comprising collages created with content ranging from Art Forum to Japanese comic books to scuba diving publications.

Gonzalez organized the workshop through networking, a practical skill that is essential for success in life after college. She says that people are quite approachable if you just allow yourself to be open and find common ground. She gained confidence in crafting her own creative event at which students enjoyed themselves while learning how to harness inspiration.

After graduation, Gonzalez hopes to meet more artists in the industry. “I love the Houston arts scene,” she commented. “There are really unique institutions that have opportunities to either host or curate fantastic exhibitions.”

Gonzalez says that curators hold a unique place in organizing and showcasing the past and present in art form, and she wants to fulfill that role. “The world is so complicated,” she said. “We don’t really remember that there are things like slowing down and looking at a painting. The role of curating is essential for preserving what your culture is producing. I want to be the example of why art is important.”

Posted on April 28th, 2014 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on Library Ambassador Hosts Zine Workshop

UH Libraries Honors Outstanding Librarians and Staff


Dean Dana Rooks recognizes librarians and staff at UH Libraries 2014 Staff Awards reception.

University of Houston Libraries recognized its top-performing librarians and staff at an awards reception on April 23 at the Rockwell Pavilion. Dean Dana Rooks addressed the gathering with a message of appreciation for excellence in service, innovation and dedication shown by the Libraries’ exceptional group of professionals.

The Dean’s Library Advocate Award was presented to Cliff Redd, Associate Vice Chancellor for Advancement, and Kristin Burch, Executive Director for Alumni Relations, for their expertise in guiding the Libraries’ development efforts.

The Outstanding Group Award recognizes a group within the Libraries that has made an impactful contribution to its overall success. Rachel Vacek (chair), Nora Dethloff, Christina Gola, Vince Lee, Marilyn Myers, Shawn Vaillancourt and Frederick Young received this honor for their achievement in the development of the Libraries’ Strategic Directions.

The Digital Library Redesign Team received the Trailblazer Award for Leading Organizational Change, for their improvement of the functionality and look of the Digital Library. Members are Rachel Vacek, Sean Watkins, Chung Kang, Keith Komos and J Fisher.

The John P. McGovern Rookie of the Year Award recognizes a staff member who, though new to the organization, has demonstrated outstanding overall performance that shows he or she is becoming an important asset to the Libraries. This year’s winner is Santi Thompson.

The Student Achievement Award recognizes a student employee whose superior performance and accomplishments demonstrate that he or she is committed to carrying out the Libraries’ mission for UH. Bryan Bishop, a student employee in Special Collections, was chosen for this award. Catherine Gonzalez received the McGovern Outstanding Student Award for demonstrating leadership, knowledge and creativity in service for the Architecture and Art Library.

Pam Forbes was honored with the Staff Achievement Award for her integral role in the success of the Optometry Library, and especially for producing the 10th Edition of the Union List of Vision Related Serials, a resource used by institutions worldwide. Frederick Young received the Staff Achievement Award for his consistently high-quality initiative and creative problem-solving in Systems. The McGovern Outstanding Staff Award winner is Keith Komos, recognized for his seamless contributions to the critical resource of server infrastructure.

The Librarian Achievement Award recipients are Andrea Malone and Rachel Vacek. Both consistently demonstrate leadership in the profession and model values that inspire colleagues. Richard Guajardo received the McGovern Outstanding Librarian Award for forward-thinking organization and leadership, and the implementation of several large-scale projects that serve the UH community.

View photos from the Libraries Staff Awards reception.

Posted on April 24th, 2014 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on UH Libraries Honors Outstanding Librarians and Staff

The Dogs are Back: Paws and Relax at UH


Paws and Relax at UH Libraries April 28 – May 1

The University of Houston is abuzz with end-of-semester prep. Students are gearing up to finish strong, and the pressure to ace those finals can be overwhelming. A nuzzle from a furry friend can help.

Local organization Faithful Paws will bring certified therapy dogs to the MD Anderson Library for four days of stress relief this month. Students are encouraged to drop in for petting, snuggling and treat-feeding with these gentle and friendly canines, which can have a direct positive impact on well-being.

Research has shown that interaction with a dog has numerous physiological and mental health benefits, including the release of endorphins (oxytocin) which produces a calming effect, and increased feelings of comfort, motivation and socialization.

UH students have enjoyed Paws and Relax since its inception in ­­­­­Spring 2013, when librarians Kirsten Feist and Kelsey Brett proposed the plan that would help boost academic success through stress reduction.

“We had read about the astounding success of therapy dog programs at other college and university libraries, and wanted to provide a similar experience for the students at UH,” Feist said. “We were easily able to find partners and volunteers, with enthusiasm for the event growing each semester.”

Student engagement in the event has increased. In Spring 2013, over 1700 students visited with furry friends in the MD Anderson Library. In Fall 2013, that number grew to more than 2100.

Faithful Paws therapy dogs will be at MD Anderson Library, rooms 106T and 106P on the following dates:

April 28: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

April 29: 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. (concurrent with Finals Mania)

April 30: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

May 1: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.


Posted on April 9th, 2014 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on The Dogs are Back: Paws and Relax at UH

UH Librarian Elected to Research and Scholarship Committee

Christie Peters was elected to the Faculty Senate Research and Scholarship Committee.

Christie Peters, science research support librarian at the University of Houston Libraries, was recently elected to the Research and Scholarship Committee (RSC), a committee of the Faculty Senate.

The RSC serves as the advisory board for Rathindra Bose, Vice Chancellor/Vice President for research and technology transfer. The group formulates recommendations and policies that impact the UH research community.

Peters is the first UH librarian to serve on the committee in an official capacity. Having attended RSC meetings since 2010, Peters is well-positioned to represent the UH Libraries’ commitment and voice in research, a high-priority area of the University’s strategic principles.

“This important appointment will help the Libraries better respond to evolving needs of research faculty and students for collection resources, technical support, and data management associated with their research,” said Dana Rooks, dean of Libraries and Elizabeth D. Rockwell endowed chair.

Posted on April 7th, 2014 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on UH Librarian Elected to Research and Scholarship Committee

Head of Web Services Creates an Engaging User Experience


Rachel Vacek, head of UH Libraries Web Services, has been selected as a 2014 Library Journal Mover and Shaker.

Rachel Vacek, head of UH Libraries Web Services, has been selected as a 2014 Library Journal Mover and Shaker. Each year, Library Journal honors forward-thinking library professionals who are actively shaping the future of libraries. Vacek was recognized as an Innovator whose focus on applying novel approaches to web-based tools and services for the UH community reflects a transformation in the academic research library space.

Vacek’s team leads an integrative web presence that optimizes the ways in which users access and discover knowledge. “My job is to help make our library’s web site easier to use,” Vacek said. “The web site is the virtual front door to the library, and it’s important that it’s welcoming and inviting.”

Vacek, who is the vice president/president-elect of the Library Information Technology Association (LITA), envisions the UH Libraries as a reimagined space that not only facilitates the ways in which students, faculty, staff and the public find information, but also one that cultivates creating and sharing knowledge.

Much of Vacek’s work in Web Services is behind-the-scenes, but as a self-described extrovert, she enjoys planning events and programs that bring students to UH Libraries. Through the Libraries’ microgrant program, Vacek has spearheaded a number of interactive events that allow users to explore the Libraries’ programs and services in unconventional ways, fostering collaboration and engaging new users. “I like doing events because it allows me to interact with our users to get a better sense of how they’re using the library,” Vacek noted. Past successful initiatives include the Cougar Social Media Showcase, the Mobile Walking Tour, and Game On, Cougars!

Vacek’s focus on the connections between technology and collaboration will continue to enhance the user’s experience for learning and research. “The ‘library of the future’ will definitely have more services online, but also more opportunities to interact with people,” Vacek said. “I see libraries as social places where web services can really add value and enrich the user experience. I’m excited to be a part of that.”

Read Vacek’s Library Journal Innovator profile.

Posted on March 11th, 2014 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on Head of Web Services Creates an Engaging User Experience

New Liaison Librarian for Communication, Sociology and Anthropology

University of Houston students and faculty of communication, sociology and anthropology have a new liaison librarian for learning and research excellence.

Wenli Gao recently joined UH Libraries Liaison Services to provide guidance and service in collection development, instruction, research support and outreach.

To meet the information resource needs of students and faculty, Gao will assess current collections and facilitate the acquisition of new materials. Gao will also provide specialized instructional sessions that introduce students to a wide array of information and reference resources available at UH Libraries, with an emphasis on upper-level undergraduate and graduate instruction.

Gao will also provide substantial support to researchers in the communication, sociology and anthropology fields, and will form partnerships with members of the UH community to facilitate new and ongoing initiatives in teaching and research success.

View Gao’s in-depth research guides for University of Houston communication, sociology and anthropology courses

Posted on March 10th, 2014 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on New Liaison Librarian for Communication, Sociology and Anthropology

Frontier Fiesta Exhibit Captures History of UH Student Spirit


UH students in western garb, sitting on a wall at a 1950s Frontier Fiesta. From the UH Digital Library.

A new exhibit at the University of Houston Libraries highlights the revelry and renown of Frontier Fiesta, a campus tradition that began in 1940.

The festival holds a vibrant history all its own. Interrupted by World War II, reestablished in 1946 through 1959, revived in 1992 and continuing today, the event takes place each spring on the UH campus.

Fueled by student talent and leadership, Frontier Fiesta is a testament to the rich traditions passed down from one generation of Cougars to the next. It continues to be a major fundraising vehicle for scholarships and programs.

“The event celebrates UH student life, and shows the philanthropic work of students,” said Mary Manning ’98, university archivist and curator of the Frontier Fiesta exhibit. “It says that we are a culture that appreciates its traditions.”

The exhibit evokes the spirit of the festival, drawn from the University Archives collection of ephemera from “the greatest college show on earth,” as it was once dubbed by Life magazine in the early 1950s.

The public is invited to an opening reception for the Frontier Fiesta: “The Greatest College Show on Earth” exhibit on Tuesday, March 18 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. in the MD Anderson Library near Special Collections (second floor). The program will feature a talk by distinguished alumnus Welcome Wilson Sr., as well as guided tours led by exhibit curator, Mary Manning.

The exhibit runs from March 18 – June 6, 2014 in the MD Anderson Library.

Posted on March 3rd, 2014 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on Frontier Fiesta Exhibit Captures History of UH Student Spirit

Digital Archives Specialist Supports Born-Digital Initiatives

Valerie Prilop, Digital Collections Librarian at the UH Libraries Special Collections, earned a DAS Certificate from the Society of American Archivists.

Valerie Prilop is one of 33 new Digital Archives Specialists (DAS).

Prilop, digital collections librarian at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections, earned a DAS Certificate from the Society of American Archivists (SAA) after completion of coursework on the theories, problems and solutions in the management of born-digital records.

The DAS curriculum provides participants with the skills and knowledge necessary to address issues in the appraisal, preservation and access of materials originally created in digital format.

Although the management of born-digital materials in academic and research libraries is still largely nascent, it has become an urgent concern for institutional repositories, such as UH Special Collections, which are receiving more and more archival items in digital format.

Born-digital archival materials have a unique set of preservation and access issues. Digital records are fragile and will degrade much more quickly than paper documents, which are stored in climate-controlled stacks within acid-free containers and can be preserved for hundreds of years. “You could discover a file drawer of 75-year-old paper, and in a lot of instances, you can still read the content,” Prilop said.

The same isn’t true for digital files. “Time is of the essence when dealing with born-digital materials,” Prilop noted. The evolution of technology dictates ongoing software and hardware changes, and access to digital files on older versions of technology, such as a floppy disk or zip disk, could be lost to the ages without expeditious archival processing.

Prilop is developing a comprehensive survey of UH Special Collections audio/visual and digital materials, which will inform a future processing plan for those materials. Other ongoing born-digital efforts at UH Libraries include the efficient accessioning and storage process developed for digital University Archives material; and provision of reading room access to born-digital materials in Special Collections.

Posted on February 17th, 2014 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on Digital Archives Specialist Supports Born-Digital Initiatives

University Archivist Appointed to ArchivesSpace User Advisory Council

Mary Manning (’98), university archivist, has been appointed by the ArchivesSpace Board of Trustees to its User Advisory Council for a two-year term.


ArchivesSpace, a new open source archives information management application, was developed by archivists for describing, managing, and providing access to archives, manuscripts, and digital objects.

ArchivesSpace, a new open source archives information management application, was developed by archivists for describing, managing, and providing access to archives, manuscripts, and digital objects. ArchivesSpace will soon be widely adopted for use by archives across the country, replacing Archon and Archivists’ Toolkit as the leading application.

Manning serves as one of 10 new appointees who will shape software functionality enhancements and ensure that ongoing development represents the needs of the ArchivesSpace community. “It will be the Council’s job to make sure that the voice of all the ArchivesSpace members are heard when making decisions to improve the application,” she said.

As a proud charter member of ArchivesSpace, UH Special Collections joins a group of over 50 institutions which will spearhead the Governance Board, User Advisory Council and Technical Advisory Council. Charter members are granted primary access to early releases of migration tools, and will participate in the initial phases of development.

Julie Grob, coordinator for digital projects and instruction, served on the Special Nominating Committee for the ArchivesSpace Board of Trustees. “The web-based aspect of ArchivesSpace makes it easy for us to deliver finding aids quickly to our users,” Grob said.

An internal group is working to plan the timeline and migration, which is tentatively set for the spring semester. Patrons will be kept apprised of changes, and a seamless transition is anticipated.

Matt Richardson, a new program manager in Special Collections, will be responsible for checking finding aids to ensure that records have migrated successfully, and will work with curators, UH Libraries Web Services, and the ArchivesSpace user community to promote a positive user experience. After the transition is complete, Richardson will manage finding aids and explore the ArchivesSpace accessioning tool as a potential method to record incoming collections.

The mission of UH Special Collections is to preserve, safeguard, organize, and describe materials in our collecting areas, making them available for current and future generations. Special Collections supports the teaching and research activities of the University of Houston, and serves as a resource for the scholarly community and the general public. Services include reference, instruction, archival collections processing, book processing, digitization, collection development, exhibits, marketing, and outreach.

Posted on February 11th, 2014 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on University Archivist Appointed to ArchivesSpace User Advisory Council