Fondren’s 2016 Shapiro Award recognizes Rice’s GIS ‘go-to person’

Fondren Library’s historic Kyle Morrow Room was filled to the last row May 17 for a reception honoring an exceptional library employee. Kim Ricker, head of the Geographic Information System/Data Center, was recognized with the 2016 Shapiro Award.

Kim Ricker, second from right, received the 2016 Shapiro Award at a May 17 reception at Fondren Library. She is flanked by, from left, Special Collections Librarian Dara Flinn, University Librarian Sara Lowman and Rice Director of Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity Programs Russell Barnes. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Kim Ricker, second from right, received the 2016 Shapiro Award at a May 17 reception at Fondren Library. She is flanked by, from left, Special Collections Librarian Dara Flinn, University Librarian Sara Lowman and Rice Director of Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity Programs Russell Barnes. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

The Shapiro Award is presented annually to a member of the Fondren Library staff who has developed an innovative program to provide library services at Rice or has shown exemplary service to the university community. Ricker, who came to Rice in 2008, is the 15th recipient of the award since it was first given in 2002.

Geographic information systems (GIS) are computer-based tools that allow users to visually convey information from databases and spreadsheets — such as demographics and dates — in the form of a digital map that allows for manipulation, analysis and modeling. Rice’s GIS/Data Center (GDC) has helped historians map events, architects develop site graphics, biologists see distribution of flora and fauna and civil engineers create elevation maps.

Ricker’s supervisor, Kathy Weimer, head of the Kelley Center for Government Information, Data and Geospatial Services, noted Ricker’s dedication and professional ethos. “Her service and innovation are without question at the highest level,” Weimer said. “In a nomination letter, a colleague pointed out that the success that she has had in building a dynamic and viable department within the library … (is) evident by the number of faculty and students who have used GIS in their research. The service cannot be appreciated enough because Rice has no department to learn GIS, so the GDC is a focal point for the campus GIS users.”

Rice faculty, students and staff can use the GDC to access GIS software, hardware and data resources as well as print and digital map resources. The center maintains and purchases both local and global GIS data sets — from Houston and Harris County to the U.S. and beyond.

Ricker is sought after by faculty across campus to fold GIS concepts and training into courses, Weimer said. Ricker also has used her expert skills to help faculty such as History Professor Douglas Brinkley incorporate GIS in one of his books or assist Engineering Professor Phil Bedient with the creation of a hydrology module for a course. “Kim is the go-to person for all things GIS on campus,” Weimer said. “Faculty and campus administrators have sought her input on a variety of GIS-related initiatives, such as reviewing job descriptions for newly created GIS positions on campus and for faculty who are writing federal grant proposals having a GIS component, including a recent NSF proposal. These requests are a testament to Kim’s expertise well as her collegiality and successful team work.”

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. Russell Barnes, Shapiro’s husband and Rice’s director of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity programs, spoke at the award ceremony and noted Shapiro’s interest in recognizing outstanding employee service.

“I know Beth would be very pleased to see the list of past Shapiro Award winners and hear about how they’ve helped move the library forward through their use of innovation and service,” said Vice Provost and University Librarian Sara Lowman. “I’m really pleased that this year’s award is going to Kim. She’s done a lot of things that exemplify what the Shapiro Award is meant for.”

Ricker expressed appreciation to her supervisors and colleagues at the ceremony. “Like I told Russell, I am extremely proud and happy to receive this award. In addition, I wanted to say that, if you ever lead an organization or lead a department, you can never really take all the credit. We have an amazing department. Jean (Aroom), who works with me and won this award two years ago, is an amazing support specialist, and she had done some great things. To have amazing people and students working for you makes what you do all that much easier.”

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.