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Janice Rice Retires

October 7, 2015

After 36 years of service to the General Library System, Janice Rice retired from College Library on September 15, 2015. Janice had a long and distinguished career at the library, most recently serving as the Outreach Coordinator and supervisor for the Diversity Resident Librarians. Her work also includes helping create the Ethnic Studies Collection, for which she was a selector, and serving as a liaison to many campus student programs and student services offices. On Thursday, October 8, from 3-5 p.m., Janice’s friends and colleagues will meet in the Virginia Harrison Parlor of Lathrop Hall to celebrate her career and accomplishments.

Within the libraries, Janice has been an active participant in various state and national association committees, including WLA’s Intellectual Freedom Round Table, the ACRL President’s Committee for Recruiting Underrepresented Minorities, the Ethnic Materials & Information Exchange Round Table, and the American Indian Library Association, for which she served as President in 2008. Janice was the co-chair of the national Joint Conference of Librarians of Color in 2012. Her commitment to the library profession is also evident her support for UW-Madison’s SLIS program, Tribal Libraries, Archives and Museums, both as a consultant and course co-instructor. She has written book reviews, contributed to books and articles about American Indians and presented at local, state and national conferences. She is a true treasure of a resource and is counted on by University and community groups for her significant contributions to knowledge and information about American Indian issues generally and the Ho-Chunk Nation in particular.

Janice has a long record of commitment to improving diversity issues at the University of Wisconsin for the institution and its faculty, staff, students, and alumni. For example, she worked on committees such as the Coalition of Minority Women in the early 1980’s and the Committee on Minority Faculty and Academic Staff in the 1990’s, along with more recent efforts in the 2000’s on the American Indian Symposium, Diversity Forum, and the UW System (statewide) Task Force on Access to Success for Native American Students. Janice received several awards, including the UW-Madison and UW-System Outstanding Woman of Color in Education Award in 2009, and the Distinguished Service Award from the American Indian Library Association in 2012.

In recognition of her many achievements, we asked Janice to respond to a few questions about her career at College Library.

You have held a number of positions at College Library, at various times coordinating Reference, Instruction, and Outreach. What did you enjoy most about each role? Is there one position you preferred above all others?

I have enjoyed all the coordinating roles that I’ve had at College Library. The instruction role enabled me to partner with Eleanor Rodini. We co-chaired the Library Orientation Coordinating Committee (LOCC) and were advocates who worked to acquire what was then called the Bibliographic Instruction Coordinator position in GLS. I greatly admire all the teaching librarians yesterday and today who are committed to teaching and learning roles in academia. It was the rank and file librarians who established the program and gained administrative support. I will always remember the BI coordinators, teaching librarians, and the campus community who collaborated with us in establishing a foundation for library instruction in GLS.

Regarding Reference, I greatly admire and appreciate all the staff who perform public service roles on a daily basis. There are so many good public service people in the GLS. I am very pleased that I was part of the Reference Coordinators when we first began virtual reference services. College Library participated in pilot programs, and I fondly recall working with John Wanserski, Eunice Graupner, Chris Hooper-Lane, and David Null to initiate the first pilots. It was an exciting time, and I enjoyed the challenge.

In the outreach role, it’s been a pleasure meeting our campus colleagues and sharing the vast resources of our campus libraries. I have collaborated with program officers and faculty across campus who work with undergraduate students. Many of the courses and programs serve underrepresented groups, and their students use our collections and services in meeting their curricular and recreational needs. It’s a real treat to see them using the libraries, and I especially enjoy hearing from students who come back to thank us for helping them.

I’m basically a shy person, so the outreach role pushed me to get out and meet people. I would not say that I preferred it over the other positions, but it gave me the greatest opportunity to meet faculty, academic staff, and students. Because we have such excellent resources and great public service staff in our campus libraries, it was easy to be a cheerleader for libraries. It has been one of my greatest joys to have worked at a world class university and to have been able to touch the lives of so many students, academicians and future leaders.

What are some of the biggest changes, both at College Library and in the library profession, since you began your career in 1979?

The greatest change in the profession has been the use of technology in making our resources more accessible for the library users. When Al Gore began the ground work for the information super highway, librarians were among the first to embrace the idea. On campus, GLS had already begun to automate our services. While it was a time of drastic change, it was a time of excitement and challenges as we migrated from print to online sources. Our younger generation has accepted the digital world without question. It’s all they have known, and they have come to expect a lot from the library world. We are doing our best to meet the challenges and I look forward to great progress.

As a member of the Ho-Chunk nation, you have worked diligently to bring Native American issues to the fore and to advance understanding by connecting people of different cultures. Is there anything academic libraries can do to ensure the sharing of ideas and to support librarians of color?

As a profession, librarians have always carried the banner for intellectual freedom and inclusivity. If you examine our GLS collections, you will find that all cultures and ideas are represented. Bringing issues of diversity and inclusivity to the forefront has been a natural process and also a challenge. While we provide access to excellent resources, we still need to hire professional librarians from underrepresented groups and to provide staff development activities and programming which promote collaboration with other campus colleagues. There are so many aspiring librarians and faculty experts across campus and the nation who can enhance the library’s ability to support cultural understanding and inclusivity. GLS is taking steps to further strengthen these connections, and I am encouraged that colleagues and administrators are preparing to move forward.

You have mentored dozens of library students and early-career professionals both at UW-Madison and nationally. How important is it to you to give back to the profession?

My major professor at library school was Margaret Monroe. She was such a strong woman and great advocate for librarianship. Three other impressive leaders were Helen Lyman, Charles Bunge, and Gertrude Herman. Each of these professors inspired me to do my best, and to reach out and recruit more young people into the profession. Through the urging and supportive connections of Margaret Monroe and Helen Lyman, I become more involved in ALA. Once my name was out there as a person who is an advocate for recruitment, the rest fell into place. I have also been very fortunate to have had three library directors who were supportive of those efforts. One does not accomplish these things alone. It takes teamwork and advocacy.

Having spent your entire career at a library dedicated to serving undergraduates, have UW students changed in any perceptible way over the last thirty-five years?

Overall, the students have become more group-oriented in their projects and research. Gone are the days when students filled the study carrels and worked in isolation from one another. Today, I witness so many study groups and team efforts on a daily basis. Facebook is important to them, but I know that the one-on-one and group relationships have been of great value in comparison to days gone by.

You helped create the Ethnic Studies Collection at College Library, guided the creation of the Tribal Libraries program at SLIS and worked on a number of diversity initiatives at the university. All this in addition to your work with the national Joint Conference of Librarians of Color. What do you hope your library legacy will be?

I believe that any library program requires an advocate, a group of supportive staff, and administrators who value the services that are provided. The Ethnic Studies Collection was here when I arrived and tribal libraries were evolving when I was a library school student. Librarians from diverse backgrounds were small in number when I joined the profession. Nationwide the numbers have grown, and I greatly appreciate the collegiality and growth of diversity in the library profession. Our numbers are small at Madison, but I have planted a few seeds in College Library, GLS, SLIS and ALA. We are fortunate that there are many new library professionals who are ready to face the challenges. I encourage those who are like-minded to support these young professionals so that diversity and inclusivity may grow and flourish on our campus.

Do you have any plans for your retirement that you are willing to share?

I plan to spend more quality time with my family. I greatly enjoy sports, musical events, cultural activities, and staying active. You may catch me having fun at various venues across Wisconsin and the Midwest.  Go Badgers!