Baber receives Fondren Library’s Shapiro Award

Baber receives Fondren Library’s Shapiro Award

Rice News Staff

Sometimes innovation pays off … literally. Just ask Elizabeth Allspach Baber ’60.

She received Fondren Library’s first Shapiro Staff Innovation Award, which includes $1,500 and a plaque, for her dedication to improving library services. The award is funded by an endowment from the late Beth Shapiro, who served as university librarian from 1991 until her death in 1995.

Baber, head of Database Management, has co-chaired Fondren’s Collection Management Project Team since its inception in 1998. That team was charged with a number of tasks that are fundamental to library service, including verifying that materials are in call-number order, bar-coding each item for identification and efficient circulation, moving materials to best fit the library’s restricted space and comparing a physical inventory of materials to the online catalog to confirm the titles that are in the collection and itemize those that are missing.

Envisioning and achieving such a project “is an innovation many distinguished libraries cannot claim,” said Baber’s boss, Melinda Flannery, assistant university librarian for Technical Services, at the award ceremony May 8. “With the dedication, meticulousness and patience of many regular and temporary staff, following the outlines of Elizabeth’s detailed flexible master plan, this great work has moved through its phases and is nearing completion. This work will lay the foundation for Fondren’s future, including the smooth implementation of its Library Service Center.”

Baber said receiving the Shapiro Award was “an unexpected honor” and noted that the award is “an appropriate memorial to Beth Shapiro, who sought to foster creativity in the library staff from the beginning.”

Baber graduated from Rice with a degree in psychology in 1960 and then completed a library degree at the University of California at Berkeley. She joined the Fondren Library staff as a cataloger in 1961 and has served on the staff for 40 years, except during a brief period in the ’60s when she worked for a book vendor in Germany. She has long served as editor of the library’s “News from Fondren.”

The Staff Travel and Development Committee of Fondren Library, chaired by Keith Chapman, music catalog librarian, sought nominations for the Shapiro Award, which was created to recognize a member of the Fondren Library staff who has developed an innovative program to provide library services at Rice or who has shown exemplary service to the university community.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Fondren Library Director Sara Lowman paid tribute to Shapiro, crediting her with Fondren’s first strategic planning initiative, the creation of the User Services Division, the delivery of electronic and information resources and other significant developments for the library.

“She was consistently open to contributions from staff and always looking for new talent,” Lowman said, adding that Shapiro was a “strong advocate for staff development.”

This point was made even stronger at the award ceremony by Shapiro’s husband, Russell Barnes, Rice’s director of Equal Employment Opportunity Programs and Affirmative Action, who noted Shapiro’s enthusiasm for and interest in libraries, innovation and service.

“[Creating] this award was one of the last things Beth did before she passed away,” he said.

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