Digital Media Center’s Spiro recognized for offering innovative educational opportunities

Digital Media Center’s Spiro recognized for offering innovative educational opportunities

Rice News staff

When Lisa Spiro started graduate school, working toward her Ph.D. in English at the University of Virginia, she used computers only to do word processing — and to play the occasional game of Tetris. Now, Spiro is director of Rice University’s Digital Media Center and earning kudos for her enterprising work in promoting the effective use of technology in teaching, research and learning.

“Lisa never ceases to think of innovative approaches to creating and disseminating knowledge, reflecting her genuine passion to help people acquire the skills needed to communicate more effectively in a digital-information world,” said Geneva Henry, executive director of the Center for Digital Scholarship at Fondren Library and one of many who nominated Spiro for this year’s Shapiro Staff Innovation Award.


Spiro received the award at a ceremony in Fondren Library Thursday. She is the eighth recipient of the Shapiro Award, which recognizes Fondren Library staff members who have developed a novel library service at Rice or who have shown exemplary service to the university.

Spiro, who earned her bachelor’s degree at Rice in 1992, began working at the university in early 2000 as a digital media consultant and then as director of what was then the Electronic Text Center. Over the years, Spiro shepherded the center’s transition from focusing on just text and images to its current multimedia incarnation. Today, the Digital Media Center, or DMC, provides access to the essential tools for creating digital resources such as Web pages; digital images, video and audio; PowerPoint presentations; and animations, as well as hands-on training and consultation on digital projects.

Spiro is proud of the DMC’s evolution, but she is quick to share credit with the people who make it all possible, specifically, DMC supervisor Jane Zhao and Nadalia Liu, who runs the center in the evenings, as well as the student workers.

“It’s great to enable people to do really exciting multimedia projects, but without Jane, Nadalia and the students, we wouldn’t be able to do that,” Spiro said.

She takes satisfaction in helping others with projects or problems and is inspired by the endless opportunities for learning and the collaborative nature of her work.

“Lisa has been a remarkably innovative, activist and collaborative staff member,” Paula Sanders, dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies, wrote in her nomination letter. Sanders has collaborated with Spiro on undergraduate research education, graduate teaching and a variety of Web projects. “She is truly an imaginative thinker, but even more, she works tirelessly to create and sustain partnerships among staff, faculty and students around Web-based projects. I’ve especially appreciated her commitment to intellectual rigor in creating content for Web sites. She’s not just a technology wonk (though she certainly knows her stuff); she’s truly an educator.”

Spiro has offered faculty, staff and students courses on XML, creating digital documentaries and Web 2.0 technologies. She’s helped organize conferences and workshops on copyright, teaching with technology and advanced technology in the humanities. She and colleague Jane Segal, a social sciences/humanities librarian at Fondren, have run a series of workshops for first-year English graduate students on research skills and preparing for their profession. She also teamed with Carlos Solis of campus IT to create the Teaching with Technology brown bag series, lunchtime courses to familiarize faculty, graduate students and staff with technology that can be incorporated into the classroom.

Spiro also works with academics and other librarians on building online collections that other scholars can use, such as the Travelers in the Middle East Archive project and the Our Americas Archive, and seeks out new tools for researchers. She started a collaborative wiki, Digital Research Tools, or DiRT, that is a guide to online tools for researchers in the humanities and social sciences.

“Lisa’s wiki is a great example of digital librarianship,” Leah Krevit, assistant university librarian for public services, said in her nomination letter. “Working with a group of contributors, she is mining information about new tools that will benefit researchers involved in many different types of research activity.”

DiRT was even featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Wired Campus” blog, among others.

Several nominators also mentioned Spiro’s blog, “Digital Scholarship in the Humanities,” which considers scholarly communication and the shifts occurring in this rapidly changing and emerging area.

“By creating this blog, Dr. Spiro has significantly raised the profile of Rice University — and Fondren Library in particular — in the growing field of digital humanities scholarship,” wrote an anonymous nominator. “Through her attention to and research for the blog, Dr. Spiro has become a noted authority and valuable resource for Rice and Fondren on many topics of widespread interest that intersect with the digital humanities field, such as GoogleBooks, Wikipedia and digital research tools. Dr. Spiro’s work represents the future of humanities scholarship, as well as a future path for the relationship between the library and the scholar.”

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.


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