Oster honored for exemplary service

Jeff Fitlow
Oster, senior Sirsi database administrator at Fondren
Library, has been named this year’s recipient of
the Shapiro Library Staff Innovation Award for her exemplary
service to the library and the Rice community.

Rice News staff

A Fondren Library
computer programmer who maintains the database controlling
the online catalog will receive this year’s Shapiro
Library Staff Innovation Award. The award will be presented
to Karen Oster at 2 p.m. May 13 in Lovett Lounge on the
third floor of the library.

Oster is a senior
Sirsi database administrator at Fondren. Her efforts to
keep the online catalog available 24 hours a day were among
the achievements that made Oster the obvious choice for
the Shapiro Award, according to Susan Leister, catalog librarian,
who chaired the selection committee. The award recognizes
a library staff member who has developed an innovative program
to provide library services at Rice or who has shown exemplary
service to the university community. Funding for the plaque
and cash award that the recipient receives is provided by
an endowment from the late Beth Shapiro, who served as university
librarian from 1991 until her death in 1995.

Since joining
the Fondren staff in 2001, Oster has managed several major
upgrades to the Sirsi software, the integrated library system
that includes the online catalog. When Fondren changed the
interface through which library users access the catalog
from a DOS-based program to a Web-based program, Oster was
responsible for the “behind the scenes” programming
to make sure the new interface could access the database

The Sirsi software
keeps track of which books are checked out, and Oster has
written programs that access Sirsi to produce summary reports
for the circulation, reference and catalog departments and
other Fondren staff. She has also simplified a program so
that in one step the staff can reassign books that are relocated
offsite at the new Library Research Center — a process
that initially required five or six steps.

Oster, who has
a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University
of Pittsburgh and is working on a master’s degree in
information science, feels very strongly about the importance
of having a back-up system for the online catalog. In case
the current system experiences a failure, she helped implement
a new underlying database structure known as Oracle. She
worked many late hours bringing Oracle up on a test system,
converting files from the live system, testing them to make
sure the new system would work and then returning them to
the live system. Having a redundant system will enable Fondren
to immediately bring up a back-up catalog if the live system

extensive knowledge, background and dedication make her
an incredibly valuable asset to Rice,” said her supervisor,
John Ferro, acting director of Information Technology Client
Services and manager of Library Systems. “She’s
willing to work 24/7 if that’s what it takes to run
the system, and you wouldn’t have to ask her to do

Fondren Library
Director Sara Lowman will present the award to Oster. Shapiro’s
widower, Russell Barnes, who is director of Equal Employment
Opportunity Programs and Affirmative Action at Rice, is
scheduled to attend the ceremony.

About admin