Fondren Library

Fondren Library’s Focke honored with Shapiro Award

Rice News staff

Amanda Focke believes the best part of working at Fondren Library is the people. They are encouraging, supportive and generous of their time, knowledge and skills. Because Focke herself embodies those very characteristics, Fondren Library’s Staff Travel and Development Committee recognized her with this year’s Shapiro Library Staff Innovation Award.

Amanda Focke

The assistant head of special collections in Fondren’s Woodson Research Center was honored at a May 2 ceremony for exemplary service to the university, which includes involvement in countless committees, working tirelessly on innovative projects and helping library staff cope creatively with the ongoing library renovations.

“Amanda is a truly multitalented person,” said Lee Pecht, head of special collections and Focke’s supervisor. “She is creative, ambitious and tenacious, and we’re especially fortunate to have her at Fondren — and grateful that she’s a part of the Woodson team.”

Since joining the library staff in 2002, Focke has been heavily involved in the creation of the Fondren Digital Collections (FDC), home to high-quality digital content of original photographs, letters, drawings, rare publications and unique materials held by Fondren—all accessible on the Web. The FDC currently features the William Ward Watkin Architecture Collection, the Illuminated Sacred Music Manuscript Collection, the Schumann Collection and the Rice Institute Pamphlet Collection.

Focke also has been a major voice in the development of the online Museum of Houston, a cooperative effort among the city’s leading educational institutions, cultural organizations and public archives to create a digital storehouse of historic resources relating to Houston’s past.

Extracurricular involvement is also important to Focke, who is “extremely immersed in her profession,” Pecht said. Focke served as president of the archivist group in the Houston area last year and is currently publications chair for the regional archivist group, the Society of the Southwest Archivists. She also serves on several Fondren committees, including the library’s ad hoc renovation committee, established to watch out for the mental health and morale of the employees during the ongoing library renovations.

“There’s been a lot of moving around, temporary and cramped quarters, loud noises, yucky smells and sometimes a lack of faith that it will end at some point,” said Focke, who led activities to help staff blow off steam through finger painting, bookbinding and “needle felting,” sculpting fleece into felt.
Chuck Henry, university librarian and vice provost, has worked with Focke on a number of these projects, including the Americas collection, the recent “Vanishing Bits and Bytes” conference on preserving digital information and the Museum of Houston. “On all of these endeavors, she’s been, quite frankly, a guiding light,” he said.

Focke earned her bachelor’s degree in art history from Georgetown University and her master’s in library science from the University of Maryland. She is a certified archivist by the Academy of Certified Archivists.
She has worked in various special collections departments, including the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas–Austin and at Southwest Texas State University, where she was named “Librarian of the Year” in 2001.

Focke is the fifth recipient of the Shapiro Award, presented annually in recognition of 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. The award is funded by the estate of Beth Shapiro, who served as university librarian from 1991 until her death in 1995.

During this year’s ceremony, Shapiro’s husband Russell Barnes, Rice’s director of Equal Employment Opportunity Programs and Affirmative Action, said he was glad to see the award becoming a part of the Rice tradition. “Libraries are built around the whole notion of service,” Barnes said. “Beth would have been very proud.”

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