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Between the Lines: April Member Spotlight

Between the Lines: Member Spotlight, TLA News

Travis Ford Holder

Research & Instruction Librarian
Texas Medical Center Library, Houston

What inspired you to become a librarian?
When I studied art history, I went to a school where the library did not allow students to take items out of the building. The collection included architectural blueprints and artist editions that were irreplaceable.  At that time there were no scanners onsite, so all reading and notes had to be done in the library space unless you wanted to spend a lot of money on photocopies. I really enjoyed setting aside time for research in the library.

Years later, I knew that I wanted to help people and wondered how I could use research to that end. I did not know very much about medical libraries at the time, but I have been very fortunate to learn from outstanding librarians such as Stephanie Fulton and Beatriz Varman. To any librarians or library school students who would like to know more about medical librarianship, please feel free to reach out!

What is an innovative practice at your library that you’d like to share with others?
The Texas Medical Center Library has a unique relationship to its users. We are an independent, consortial library that supports multiple institutions in the Texas Medical Center with our electronic resources, services, and a newly renovated space. We have to approach things like access and outreach in a different way than we would if we worked directly for the governing organizations. Each school and hospital has its own distinct needs and policies. There are thousands of employees and students in the Medical Center and every interaction is an opportunity to offer services or initiate new projects.

If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and why?   

St. Maria (Skobtsova) of Paris – She was a glorious poet and incredibly inspirational figure.
Harvey Kurtzman (founding editor and primary writer for Mad magazine) – He was clever and hilarious, and I’d love to hear his take on the 21st century.
Jorge Luis Borges – He had such an amazing imagination and a lot of it flows from his experiences with libraries!

What are you reading right now?
One book I come back to a lot is Sig Byrd’s Houston, a collection of some of his columns for the old Houston Press from the late 1940s and early 50s. He spent time in long forgotten Houston neighborhoods such as Catfish Reef and Vinegar Hill. You can read some of this material online at Robert Kimberly’s excellent Sig Byrd Digital Archive Project (

I am also reading the Stories That Must Not Die folklore anthology by Juan Sauvageau. I don’t think I can improve on Joe Galván’s description of it as a “Tejano goth classic!”

What is your most memorable Texas Library Association Experience?
Going through the TALL Texans Institute was an experience I will never forget. I learned so much from the mentors and my peers. I would definitely encourage others to apply!

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how have you had to adjust the way you provide library services? How is your library operating now?
We were renovating the library building in phases prior to the pandemic. That process is nearing completion. Affiliated users can enter the building with a mask and must maintain social distancing. The safety of everyone in the library is being taken very seriously.  We have moved all classes and research consultations online. Interestingly, there has been an increased interest in TMC Library services, and we have been especially productive with literature searches and systematic reviews. I miss teaching in person, but I am proud of how our library has handled things in the COVID-19 period.

“I am a TLA member because…” I am a TLA member because I am always learning from the experience and knowledge of others in our field, and I want to contribute where I can!