Bixby wins Fondren Library’s Shapiro Award for Innovation

Bixby wins Fondren Library’s Shapiro Award for Innovation

BY FRANZ BROTZEN
Rice News staff

Since Mary Bixby came to Rice 14 years ago, she has applied herself to improving Fondren Library in many ways. As executive director of the Friends of Fondren, she organized author panels and lectures, tours of British libraries, staff recitals, book sales, an annual gala and a trip to Archer City, Texas, to visit the bookstore of author and alumnus Larry McMurtry. Her tireless efforts have significantly increased the library’s annual budget.

DIANE BUTLER
  Mary Bixby, left, was presented the Beth Shapiro Library Staff Innovation Award by Sara Lowman, vice provost and university librarian.
   

Last week, Bixby’s efforts were recognized with the Beth Shapiro Library Staff Innovation Award, which she accepted at a ceremony and reception in the library’s Kyle Morrow Room.

The annual Shapiro Award is presented to members of the Fondren Library staff who have “developed an innovative program to provide library services at Rice University or who have shown exemplary service to the university community.”

“Mary Bixby is directly involved in the implementation of Friends’ events and programs,” Kerry Keck, assistant university librarian for collections, wrote in her nomination letter. “Although always self-effacing about her role, Mary invariably provides the wherewithal for these events and programs. She ensures each activity is presented with style and culture, and with an appearance of effortlessness that belies extensive planning, time, effort and skill.”

While Bixby serves as the liaison between Fondren Library and Rice’s Office of Resource Development, her work often goes beyond fundraising. She was selected to lead the inauguration committee for David Leebron when he became Rice’s seventh president in 2004. “This was no small undertaking, but unfolded very smoothly and with great success, as is the case with everything Mary does,” wrote Geneva Henry, executive director of the Center for Digital Scholarship at Fondren Library. “Mary’s efforts are not focused simply on the library, but in making sure that the library’s activities are fully integrated with the mission of the university as a whole. This role as a genuine citizen of Rice has gained her the respect of Rice’s leadership at the highest levels.”

Bixby has also worked diligently to make Fondren Library a great place to spend time. She was responsible for recognizing the opportunity that led to the acquisition of Mike Stilkey’s ”When the Animals Rebel” book art installation in 2008. And she has been involved in soliciting gift funding for collections, as well as library spaces like the John Brice Study Room and Asian Studies Reference Alcove.

Lynda Crist, editor of the Jefferson Davis Papers, praised Bixby for having “long exemplified the wisdom and practicality of librarianship while paying attention to the aesthetics of the whole experience of using and being in our building — accessibility, outreach, beauty, comfort, updating.”

But it is her role in maintaining the Friends of Fondren Library as one of the premier library support organizations in the nation that is most responsible for her winning the Shapiro Award. The trip she organized in 1998 to McMurtry’s bookstore has become legendary within the Rice library community. But it also played a key role in relationship-building that helped the Woodson Research Center acquire a substantial collection of the famed Texas author’s manuscripts. “Mary has been the face and the energy behind the Friends of Fondren Library for years, and she represents the library with grace, creativity, and great competence,” wrote John Boles, the William P. Hobby Professor of History and editor of the Journal of Southern History.

Bixby is the 10th recipient of the Shapiro Award since it was first awarded in 2002. The 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.

“I am deeply honored and humbled by this award and am thrilled to be in the company of the previous honorees,” Bixby said. “Beth Shapiro will be remembered for her many accomplishments at Rice and for her dedication to Fondren Library evidenced by her efforts to establish this award. Her legacy inspires us all.”

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