Reference Librarian earns award for innovation

Providing relevant reference material
Reference Librarian earns award for innovation

Rice News staff

As Fondren Library implements its Vision for the Second Century goals, all members of the Rice community will benefit from the work of Sandi Edwards, head of reference. To provide relevant and dynamic services and collections, Edwards tracked more than 1,300 survey responses to understand the needs and expectations of Fondren’s users.

Her work yielded the framework for the library’s goals and, along with her leadership, earned her the 2008 Shapiro Staff Innovation Award. This annual award recognizes Fondren Library staff members who have developed an innovative library service at Rice or who have shown exemplary service to the university.


“‘Competence,’ ‘calm’ and ‘leadership skills’ describe Sandi,” said Sara Lowman, university librarian. “On a personal level, Sandi is a wonderfully, supportive colleague. She always has good advice, remembers co-workers’ birthdays and special events and is a thoughtful, kind person.”

Lowman said that Edwards has chaired many search committees and organized and completed many projects, including the major library assessment project. Administered by the Association for Research Libraries to assess user satisfaction with library services and resources, the LibQUAL+ survey was implemented at Rice by Edwards and her team in 2007. The surveys assessed customer service, library collections, access to resources and building facilities and amenities.

“The library is a service organization so our goal is to benefit students, faculty, staff and the community,” Edwards said. “The surveys give us a better idea of what we can do to help them do what they need to do.”

In coordinating the collection of information, Edwards came up with creative ways to reach members of the Rice community to assure the largest possible response — creating mass mailings to students, faculty and staff, posting flyers around campus and making the rounds of colleges to place table tents in the commons. Her efforts to target students by offering prizes drew more responses and a more representative picture of community wants and needs.

The Fondren Marketing and Services Team (MAST), of which Edwards is a member, identified common themes among respondent comments and formed working groups to address user priorities. Among the improvements recently implemented are a new library Web site, improved signage and floor maps, designated quiet study areas, easier retrieval of materials, improved stack maintenance in the Brown Library and new artwork.

“It’s an exciting time right now,” Edwards said. “We are acting on what we learned from the responses.”

Edwards said Fondren plans to administer the survey again in two or three years to keep up with changing technologies and needs of users.

“Sandi’s service to Fondren Library is a splendid example of leadership and service,” said Fondren staff members Jane Segal and John Hunter in a letter to nominate Edwards for the award. “She leads without hubris and is always willing to pitch in and participate in the daily, less glamorous work of the Reference Department.”

Having earned her graduate degree in French, Edwards said she never planned for a career in library sciences, but the blend of public service and intellectual stimulation drew her in. She has been at Rice for more than 20 years.

“In a way, it doesn’t feel like it’s been so long because things are always changing and evolving,” Edwards said. “When I first got here, we were using the card catalog.”

The card catalog has since disappeared, but Edwards’ love of her work remains constant.

“I love the opportunities I have to work with people,” she said. “I get to work with a variety of people on any given day. Some of them are so excited by their projects that they’ll tell me all about it. It’s inspiring to see them so enthralled by the work they’re doing.”

Her colleagues said that Edwards’ personality comes through in all of her interactions.

“Sandi is very approachable and supportive,” Hunter said. “She is self-assured and shows a quiet strength and a deep wisdom in many routine and varied situations.”

The Shapiro Award, which includes a monetary stipend and a plaque, is funded by the estate of Beth Shapiro, who served as university librarian from 1991 until her death in 1995.

Edwards will receive the Shapiro Award at 2 p.m. May 14 in Lovett Lounge on the third floor of Fondren Library. Members of the Rice community are welcome to attend the ceremony and reception.

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