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Between the Lines: August Member Spotlight

Between the Lines: Member Spotlight, TLA News

We are delighted to have a husband-and-wife librarian couple, Carrye and Jake Syma, as our first joint TLA Member Spotlight.

Carrye Syma, Associate Librarian and Assistant Academic Dean of Libraries, Texas Tech University Libraries

Jake Syma, Associate Librarian for Rawls College of Business & Department of Economics, Texas Tech University Libraries


What inspired you to become a librarian?

Carrye: My love for research and lifelong learning

Jake: Originally? Not getting into law school (lol). But apparently the only person actually surprised at my becoming a librarian… was me. Friends and family were (to put it mildly) ‘not in the least bit surprised’. I love learning at least a little bit of something about everything, and academic libraries are one of the last bastions where you can be a Jack of all trades, master of none  and… it’s considered a good thing.

What is an innovative practice at your library that you’d like to share with others?

Carrye: I really love the innovations of our Makerspace. They faculty and staff in our Makerspace are working to contribute to technology and research at our institution and beyond. We have an employee who has been creating components for face shields and other PPE with our 3D printer for health-care workers during the pandemic.

Jake: Well, I was going to say our Makerspace, but Carrye already did. So I will give a shout-out to either our fairly-new VR Lab, or to our world-class, award-winning ILL/DocDel unit. Our ILL/DocDel unit has developed some of the following programs/technologies, which are now considered industry standards:

  • Occams Reader (for ebook ILL)
  • Machine Learning (for collection management)
  • OBILLSK shipment tracking (for tracking ILL shipments between libraries)

These are awesome/amazing in their own right, but for completely selfish reasons, they also make me look sooo good to my Business and Economics faculty and students, and I don’t have to lift a finger! Indeed, I don’t even know about these requests until my patrons tell me (e.g. “Hey Jake, thanks for getting me that [book/article/etc.] I needed… it came so quickly!”).

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

Carrye: Isabel Allende – Daughter of Fortune is one of those novels that stays with you long after you’ve finished it. I would love to sit with Isabel and talk about her rich history and how she came up with the concept for this novel. Rudolfo Anaya – One of my favorite books that I often recommend to people is Bless Me Ultima. I would like to talk with Rudolfo about the juxtaposition that can come from our cultural beliefs and norms and our religious beliefs and norms. Edgar Allan Poe – I’ve always loved the imagery and imagination of Poe’s works and would love to pick apart some of his short stories and find out what inspired him to create these works.

Jake: Well, I was going to say “Poe, Parker, and Shelley,” but since Carrye already beat me to Poe, I will say:Dorothy Parker, Mary Shelley, and… ugh, I’m agonizing over this, but… probably Ray Bradbury over Stephen King. As for the why, I’ve just read so much of their output, and it has all struck me in different (and often profound) ways.

What are you reading right now?

Carrye:  I am about to start reading, The Gold Train: World War II’s Most Shocking Robbery by Ronald Zweig.

Jake: Sacrilege, I know, but… I actually don’t read a lot of books (or fiction) anymore. It’s mostly non-fiction now, and the vast majority of that comes from book chapters (e.g. of edited volumes), scholarly journal articles, and technical papers. I do have two Radley Balko books on my shelf (non-fiction, criminal justice-related), that I should probably get around to reading.

What is the best part about being married to a fellow librarian?

Carrye: We get to share what we are currently reading and researching and occasionally work on projects together.

Jake: Seriously, I don’t know how our colleagues who are either married to or partnered with non-librarians do it. There is just so much to this profession of endless possibilities, it’s so helpful to always have someone there whom you can bounce thoughts, ideas and questions off of.

What is your most memorable Texas Library Association Experience?

Carrye: TALL Texans! This was a transformative experience that led me to meet lifelong friends and helped me learn more about myself as a librarian and leader.

Jake: Carrye is such a better librarian than me, at basically every component of the profession. She got into TALL Texans in 2010, I think, and ranted about how awesome and amazing it was. I thought she had to be exaggerating (she is prone to complimentary hyperbole, lol). I finally got into TALL Texans in 2015, and she was so right. It was everything she said, and more! I had already made many lifelong friends through TLA (many of whom just so happened to be TALL Texans from previous classes, but I digress), but the ratio was completely unexpected, and truly something to behold. My TALL Texans classmates are dear friends and colleagues, and have made me not only a much better librarian, but a much better human, as well. And we will eventually take over the world!

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how have you had to adjust the way you provide library services? What plans do you have in place for the fall?

Carrye: I think we have done really well trying to provide services with as little interruption as possible. We are putting in place many safety precautions as mandated by the university as well as what we feel we need to do to protect employees and patrons.

Jake: As a personal/subject librarian (aka liaison), I do miss the human contact (with patrons, colleagues, etc.), but it was surprising to see just how much of the job can be done remotely. I just wish my colleagues would fall in love with Microsoft Teams the way they have with Zoom. As for the Fall, most of my class is already online (and has been for years), but I’m currently awaiting word from the university as to what ‘Fall teaching’ is going to look like. I will adapt, because that’s what libraries and librarians do… we adapt, or die. Because so little of this stuff is about us… it’s about the work, it’s about posterity, and it’s about serving our patrons.