Butler chosen for Fondren’s 2012 Shapiro Award

When Diane Butler took on the newly created role of assistant university librarian for library systems in 2006, she set out to improve Fondren Library’s extensive information technology (IT) operations.

Her success over the past six years is evident in a letter from Mary Bixby, executive director of the Friends of Fondren, who nominated Butler this year for the Shapiro Library Staff Innovation Award, which Butler won.

Diane Butler

“Diane has improved technology for everyone: students, faculty and staff,” Bixby wrote. “Her attitude of superior customer service has shown the entire campus that Fondren Library is a service center.”

Other colleagues also nominated Butler for the award, which monetarily rewards a member of the Fondren staff for developing an innovative program to provide library services at Rice or for showing exemplary service to the university community.

Kerry Keck, assistant university librarian for collections, said, “Diane has stabilized and strengthened Fondren Library’s technology infrastructure, in terms of both hardware/software and staff. A modern academic library cannot be successful without appropriate, well-supported technology tools.”

Keck noted that since Butler joined the Fondren team, staff computers and the library’s servers and software have been updated regularly, and problems are addressed in a more timely manner.

Kerry and Fondren Web developer/graphic designer Jeffrey Koffler cited a number of technological improvements that have been made under Butler’s leadership, including:

  • An online reserves module that eases the work of faculty requesting material for a new semester’s course.
  • An online system for reserving the library’s popular study rooms that enables students to plan individual and group use of the library’s space.
  • Single sign-in technology for online catalog functions, interlibrary loan, reserves, off-campus access to e-resources, and study room reservations; previously, each system had required a unique password.
  • Self-check machines to help eliminate waiting time for students and faculty at peak periods.
  • Public scanners and a pay-for-print system to support the needs of community guests.
  • Planning and implementing the technology in Fondren’s satellite space at the BioScience Research Collaborative.

Butler, whose title is now assistant university librarian for IT, said one of the projects she is particularly proud of is Fondren’s mobile website and mobile catalog. “We were way ahead of other libraries in deploying these,” she said.

Developing the ability to receive text messages for fines, book holds and overdue notices was another key accomplishment, she said, as was designing the John T. King Media Room with sophisticated equipment for library users and renovating other study rooms.

“What I like about working at Fondren is that I have an amazing team that I work with who is willing to try new and innovative things,” said Butler, who began working at Rice in 1995 in the IT Department. “They rarely tell me ‘no’ when I approach them with an idea that I think would be beneficial for Rice University. Of course, it helps that [Vice Provost and University Librarian] Sara Lowman is very supportive of me and my team and gives me great latitude in selecting the services that we deliver to the university.”

Lowman noted that Butler’s leadership extends beyond library technology. Butler has produced several videos for Friends of Fondren Library galas, initiated a Student Advisory Committee for the library and helped integrate the DVD collections from the Rice Center for the Study of Languages into Fondren’s video collections, which opened doors for “substantive partnerships” between Fondren Library and the School of Humanities. Butler serves as Rice University’s representative to the MetaArchive digital preservation consortium, and her organizational and people-management skills as chair of the 2011 EDUCAUSE West/Southwest Regional Conference enhanced Fondren’s image, Lowman said.

Lowman will present the Shapiro Award to Butler at 2 p.m. April 23 in Fondren’s Kyle Morrow Room. A reception will be held in the adjacent lounge on the third floor.

The annual Shapiro Award is supported by an endowed fund set up by the estate of Beth Shapiro, who served as university librarian from 1991 until her death in 1995.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.