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Between the Lines: December member spotlight

Between the Lines: Member Spotlight, TLA News

Henry Stokes

Library Technology Consultant, Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC)

What inspired you to become a librarian?
Back in 1997, I was a studio art undergrad at the University of Texas at Austin working the dream summer job of shelving the amazing art books at the Fine Arts Library. To my surprise, I was soon recruited by my supervisor to work for a project elsewhere at the UT Libraries, as a student Web illustrator for TILT, or Texas Information Literacy Tutorial. This was the early days of the Internet, and the interactive online tool was the first of its kind to help students navigate the newfangled “information superhighway.” TILT ended up being a big deal, benefiting students around the world and ultimately winning one of the first SXSW Innovation Awards. Being part of the TILT team felt a little like getting to be on the ground floor of the NASA space program. It was the amazing librarians I got to work with and see in action that I found so inspiring. After TILT and graduation, I chose to continue working at UT Libraries as a full-time Library Assistant and ultimately pursued my MLIS degree. 

What is an innovative practice at your library/organization that you’d like to share with others?
The pandemic has now made most of us accustomed to endless Zoom calls, virtual conferences, and online meetings as the way to get our professional development, but the Texas State Library’s Continuing Education and Consulting (CEC) team, where I work, has been offering regularly scheduled free webinars for library staff since 2009 under the management of 20-year TSLAC veteran Naomi DiTullio, our Online Learning Consultant. We have a brand new online course site which has over a hundred archived webinars to watch on dozens of library topics for optional CE credit. Check out the cool retro card catalog interface, which I helped design.

If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and why?
Brené Brown: I’m a big fan of everything she does, and I imagine she’d be so much fun to chat with.

Octavia E. Butler: I love science fiction, and her groundbreaking work is so important and moving. It would have been an honor to meet her and to hear about her inspiration as well as her experience as a Black woman working in the sci-fi community.

Helena P. Blavatsky: The 19th-century founder of the Theosophical Society and writer of several books of esoteric philosophy that inspired most New Age spiritual movements was said to be very charismatic, mysterious, and occasionally exhibited paranormal powers – definitely good dinner guest material. I first learned of her while conducting genealogy research: my great-grandfather was actually an ardent Blavatsky enthusiast and follower, believing her to be an enlightened sage. All evidence suggests to me, however, that she was merely a skilled but highly entertaining charlatan.

What are you reading right now?
Uprooted by Naomi Novik, winner of the Nebula and Locus Awards. I’ve been reading several of her books in a row now, and I’m really impressed with her skill at storytelling and themes.

What is your most memorable Texas Library Association Experience?
I had the honor to be a TALL Texan a few years ago, and the experience and the people I met were wonderful.

“I am a TLA member because…”
It’s a great way to network with library colleagues across the state, share experiences, and support each other.

Anything else you would like to share?
I write a regular blog post series called “Henry’s High-Tech Highlights” about emerging technology and libraries on the Library Developments Blog, which I recommend subscribing to for library-focused news and information from TSLAC’s Library Development and Networking Division. I also host a free monthly half-hour Lunch & Learn “Tech Chat” on TLA’s Zoom for members of TLA’s Innovation Technology Round Table (ITRT). We tune in at noon on the third Thursdays of each month (except holidays and conference times) to chat informally with an invited speaker about the cool, innovative things their library is doing. So far discussions have covered such topics as AR/VR, telehealth, drones, ebooks, and how emerging technology has been deployed during the pandemic.