University of Houston Libraries recognized outstanding employees at an awards ceremony this week. The 23rd annual Library Excellence Awards celebrated librarians and staff who bring a high level of leadership, collegiality, and care to their roles. The yearly tradition is supported through the generosity of the John P. McGovern Foundation.
Athena N. Jackson, dean of Libraries and Elizabeth D. Rockwell chair, opened the spirited event with acknowledgment of the positive influence all Libraries’ employees have on the workplace and on our communities of students, faculty, and researchers, and gratitude for those who brought the awards ceremony to fruition, including committee members Jeannie Castro, Alma Gallo, Annie Wu and Christina Gola who facilitated the nomination process; members of the Employee Engagement Committee who contributed to the development of the event theme, “Hats Off To You;” to Mauricio Lazo for contributing his design and photography talents; and to Dwendol Nelson who coordinated logistics and venue preparation.
The Dean’s Advocate award was presented to Emily Messa, PhD, CASP, senior associate vice chancellor and vice president for administration. The award recognizes a UH employee who has collaborated closely with UH Libraries during the past year. Messa has given considerable time to building a relationship with Dean Jackson in support of UH Libraries. She has been an advocate and partner in finding opportunities for improving the student experience.
The Student Achievement awards were presented to Katie Aguiar and Robby Reyna. Aguiar works in the Jenkins Architecture, Design, and Art Library. Her colleagues stated that very quickly after being hired she became essential to the department and proved to be a terrific teammate. She is described as welcoming to students, reliable, patient, and someone who understands the value of time and productivity. Reyna goes above and beyond as part of the Libraries Administrative team. He is always kind, smiling, and working hard. He is willing to come in early, and do what is needed to get the job done, often providing great ideas to make processes more efficient. When not working in the Libraries or tending to his studies, he serves as a College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics student ambassador. He was recently selected as one of the John P. McGovern Library Scholars.
This year’s McGovern Outstanding Student award recipient is Celenia Garcia, the lead student worker for resource sharing in the department of Acquisitions and Resource Sharing. She is described as being extremely helpful, trustworthy and responsible, demonstrating excellent time management and organizational abilities. She makes positive contributions to the department’s overall success and shows confidence. She is also creative and innovative in her work, looking to be sustainable and cost effective in her use of supplies and resources.
Duong Pham is the McGovern Staff Rookie of the Year. She has been a true asset in many ways. Colleagues describe her as thoughtful, friendly, warm, competent, and communicative. She has been instrumental in helping employees get settled into new workspaces and helping them understand all the technology equipment they need. She takes on major projects with care and consideration, ensuring positive outcomes for all employees involved.
Maurine Nichols is the McGovern Librarian Rookie of the Year. She has quickly proven herself to be a positive leader. Faced with multiple staffing vacancies, changes, and potential challenges, Nichols demonstrated effective leadership by engaging staff, listening, exploring options, and developing clear plans. When tackling challenges, she immediately identifies and brings together key stakeholders to find collaborative solutions. She is full of new and good ideas and is making positive changes.
Chris Galloway and Dolores Martinez received Staff Achievement awards. Galloway is known for consistently and enthusiastically volunteering for, and serving as a resource, for annual events such as Cougar First Impressions, student orientations, and other campus events. He is a wonderful supervisor and collaborative colleague, having worked at UH Libraries for many years in a variety of positions and locations, making smooth transitions and quickly becoming a critical asset in each of his roles. Martinez also consistently and enthusiastically participates in supporting our students across campus through events such as Cougar First Impressions and fundraising efforts such as March of Dimes. She is a long-time employee who has adapted to many changes over the years and has been essential to the Resource Management unit. She has hired and trained numerous students, learned new skills, and is a friend and colleague to many across UH Libraries.
The McGovern Outstanding Staff award recipient, Keith Komos, demonstrates leadership, flexibility, emotional intelligence, and innovative solutions. Over the years, he has contributed to faculty research projects and countless web applications, and has served on numerous committees. This past year he has focused his expertise on enhancing the Libraries’ discovery platform and helping to streamline workflows. He is pleasant to work with, highly responsive, thoughtful, and trustworthy.
The Librarian Achievement awards were given to Natalia Kapacinskas and Linda Garcia Merchant. Kapacinskas began her UH Libraries career remotely during the more challenging days of the pandemic, but nonetheless made meaningful connections with colleagues resulting in successful collaborations that have accelerated her impact. She has taken the lead on instruction efforts for lower-level undergraduate core courses, and has been successful in moving forward a curriculum mapping project, an online learning videos project, and learner-centered pedagogy. One colleague shared that she is the most courageous in taking on challenging and demanding instruction opportunities. She has also served as a leader on the Organizational Learning Committee. Garcia Merchant has also made an incredible impact in a short amount of time. Her decade of experience in the field of public and digital humanities has centered her as a critical leader in the development of the Digital Humanities Core Facility. She has created a strategy for planning and implementing key elements of the DH Core, gained buy-in on this strategy from key stakeholders, and built critical relationships across campus. She is adept and creative in her problem solving, evident on a daily basis as she navigates a complex and politically nuanced campus landscape. On top of the many wonderful traits and talents she brings to the Libraries, she also shares joy, enthusiasm, and good humor in every aspect of her work.
Carolina Hernandez is the McGovern Outstanding Librarian, excelling in all areas of librarianship, scholarship, service, and job performance. She has proven to be an effective leader and collaborator within the Teaching and Learning department to develop lessons, online objects, and videos, as well as new documentation and workflows for LibGuides. She has represented the Libraries with appointments on the Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluation Committee and Honors in Co-Curricular Engagement Advisory Board. She also serves as a mentor in the Las Comadres organization, which supports Latina students on campus. She has also led the Organizational Learning Committee. Her extensive service and scholarly contributions have resulted in peer-reviewed articles and prestigious conference presentations, earning her the Rooks Early Career Fellowship.
This year’s Outstanding Group Award goes to the Collections Assessment Working Group (CAWG), chaired by Wenli Gao, and current and past members Jeannie Castro, Orolando Duffus, Ian Knabe, Maurine Nichols, Judy Parsons, and Shawn Vaillancourt. The group was formed in January 2022 for the purpose of fostering cross-departmental evaluation of existing collections and potential new resources. In just one year, this group has made tremendous progress in ensuring responsible stewardship of collections budgets and has helped to enhance the value and relevance of our collections. They have established workflows, created and applied holistic evaluation criteria, began evaluating subscriptions and maintenance fees, and made recommendations on renewals. They also created a review schedule and automated processes for long term planning.
Madelyn Washington received the Dean Dana C. Rooks and Dr. Charles W. Rooks Diversity Award for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of her life and work, in both nuanced and noticeable ways. She is intentional about how she interacts with others to demonstrate inclusion, and is often asked for advice on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. She has been asked by many groups across campus to lead diversity initiatives, including leading book discussions and working with student groups. She has championed inclusive recruitment practices on search committees, and been involved with community building in the surrounding campus neighborhood. She is always setting a good example in leadership meetings on how to explore multiple perspectives with empathy.