UH Libraries News

A Salute to Libraries Employee Excellence

Libraries interim dean Christina Gola and Rooks Award winner Joyce Gabiola

Libraries interim dean Christina Gola and Rooks Award winner Joyce Gabiola

With a tropical flourish, University of Houston Libraries celebrated high-performing employees at the 2024 Library Excellence Awards this week. Now in its 24th year, the joyous event, held at the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion in MD Anderson Library, recognizes the exceptional work and talent of UH librarians and staff. The annual tradition is supported through the generosity of the John P. McGovern Foundation.

Kerry Creelman, associate dean for collections strategies and discovery, opened the ceremony. Pinch-hitting for interim dean Christina Gola, Creelman emphasized the importance of Libraries colleagues gathering to show appreciation for one another and to acknowledge professional wins of the past year. The many individuals who helped produce the awards event, including all nominators, members of the awards committee (Jeannie Castro, Jamie Duke, Alma Gallo, Julie Grob, and Natalia Kapacinskas), Dwendol Nelson, Mauricio Lazo, Melinda Colmenero, Devianee Vasanjee, Beryl Sang, Jessica Rodriguez, Michael Caldwell, Larry Schmidt, Santi Thompson, and members of the employee engagement committee, were recognized for a superlative job. Eight Libraries student employees who won scholarships were also honored.

The Student Achievement awards were presented to Claire Garza-Gonzalez and Vinh Nguyen Han Nguyen, two Coogs whose accomplishments demonstrate their commitment to the Libraries’ mission for UH. Garza-Gonzalez works in the William R. Jenkins Architecture, Design, and Art Library. An art major, she applies creativity to problem-solving: last year, she created signage incorporating illustrations, QR codes, and humor to inspire timely book renewal. She is described as polite, cheerful, and always on top of her tasks.

Nguyen helps users in the computer labs. His efforts prevent technical issues on computers and printers. He works well with others in Library Technology Services, provides training to fellow student workers, and backs them up on issues at the circulation desk. He is known as a problem solver who is not only able to follow instructions but to research complex questions that are thrown at him, and to try new things to achieve results.

This year’s McGovern Outstanding Student is Allison Young, who began in Special Collections as an undergrad and continues as a graduate student. Knowledgeable, capable, and productive, Young has contributed to the processing of a silver collection, a zine collection, and an architectural collection; trained other student employees; and added her creativity to the department blog, several pop-up exhibits, and a department zine. Her dependability makes her invaluable, and serves as a model for other student employees.

Larry Schmidt is the McGovern Staff Rookie of the Year. Schmidt has excelled in his position and built great rapport with colleagues in the short time he has been at UH Libraries. Nominators praise his work effort, emphasizing how he routinely exceeds expectations, brings dedication and creativity to the job, and shares a can-do spirit. Schmidt has a welcoming and friendly demeanor he conveys to coworkers and library users, and exudes positive energy and enthusiasm.

The McGovern Librarian Rookie of the Year is Kate McNally Carter who has been an essential part of Open Education Services since arriving in 2022. Her nominator praises her high-quality job performance, noting her commitment to student success and to making higher education more affordable through open pedagogy and open educational resources. Carter has refined and expanded programmatic offerings, developed relationships with campus partners, and strengthened collaborative opportunities in the Libraries. Carter shows care and intentionality when working with colleagues, faculty, and students.

Greg Yerke and Susan Ryan received Staff Achievement awards. Yerke performs multiple services that bring unique archival materials to internal and external audiences. An integral part of the Libraries’ exhibition and on-demand digitization programs, Yerke works with colleagues to bring exhibition ideas to life and connect scholars with high-quality digital files of Libraries collections.

Ryan is recognized for showing care and thoughtfulness as she moved from one library department to another. Since the beginning of the year, Ryan has learned the responsibilities of a new position while actively sharing the expertise she gained over the years with colleagues, helping them succeed in taking on new roles and workflows. Her efforts have allowed the Libraries to continue offering services that benefit users every day.

The McGovern Outstanding Staff awardee, Roberto Gomez, is an inclusive and empathetic leader who, as one nominator stated, “understands that building a strong team means supporting and contributing to the success of others.” In his short time at UH Libraries, Gomez has taken the lead on several projects resulting in improved processes and support for Libraries users and colleagues. Gomez was praised for his ability to analyze problems and find solutions. His ability to build effective teams and identify solutions is evident with a recent promotion to a managerial position.

Stefanie Lapka and Cherie Turner were honored for Librarian Achievement. Lapka went above and beyond with her librarianship, professional enrichment, and service over the past year, moving into a new role and building strong relationships with faculty and staff, consulting with faculty and students on research, and teaching. She was active in scholarship and service, producing a publication and serving on committees locally and nationally. Lapka was selected for the Network of the National Library of Medicine Region 3 Leadership Pathways program, a professional development opportunity that brings recognition of her work and indicates a promising future in the profession.

Turner has a proven record of success at the Libraries and in the profession as an advocate for transparent and data-driven decision-making who shares her expertise locally and nationally to advance library assessment best practices. Of note was her service on the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Statistics Survey Revision task force which is indicative of the professional respect Turner holds in the ARL community. She is regularly sought out by colleagues in the Libraries and across the country to work on projects due to her consistent and effective counsel and her ability to produce solutions.

Ariana Santiago is the McGovern Outstanding Librarian, noted for making high-impact contributions in librarianship, professional enrichment, and service. She has held several leadership roles in the organization. In her first full year as a department head, she guided foundational services and workflows while also stepping into an interim leadership role to ensure continuity during a time of organizational change. Santiago was well suited for these opportunities because of her effective leadership acumen, thoughtful and pragmatic approach to problem-solving, and ability to collaborate with colleagues. Beyond the Libraries, Santiago was elected among her local and national peers to serve in high-profile roles, including representative to the UH Faculty Senate and member of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) steering committee.

This year’s Outstanding Group is the Agents of Change exhibition team, Mary Manning, Bethany Scott, and Greg Yerke. They demonstrated exceptional creativity, professionalism, fortitude, and attention to detail throughout the process. Despite a tight timeline and setbacks, the team collaborated well, with colleagues in the Libraries and UH Center for Public History, to produce a cohesive and engaging exhibit.

The Libraries’ Digital Humanities Core Facility team was selected for the Trailblazer Award for Leading Organizational Change. Linda Garcia Merchant, Taylor Davis-Van Atta, Emma Fontenot, Andrea Malone, and Danny Fuller, in coordination with the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Data Science Institute, developed the infrastructure to provide researchers with web and cloud hosting for digital projects, thus addressing a gap in service offerings for scholars in the humanities and social sciences. They also devised a micro-credentialing program to build digital humanities and project management competencies among researchers, both faculty and students. These initiatives have helped campus researchers be more competitive for funding. The team has been lauded for their intentionality in critical work that serves the University’s research priorities.

Joyce Gabiola received the Dean Dana C. Rooks and Dr. Charles W. Rooks Diversity Award for demonstrating a commitment to expand opportunities for students and enhance accessibility to library resources and services for all users. Gabiola takes a multifaceted approach to providing a welcoming environment for students, faculty, and community members. They’ve partnered with faculty to serve as a student intern mentor, and created co-curricular experiential learning opportunities within Special Collections. Gabiola is empathetic and considerate in matching student interests with projects that can benefit them, and advocates for inclusive collection development policies. They engage extensively with the local community to promote awareness of the Libraries’ scholarly resources and to grow the richness of the archives.

View photos from the 2024 Library Excellence Awards.

Written by Esmeralda Fisher on May 16th, 2024 and filed under Announcements, Featured