|Special Collections Division
the University of Texas
at Arlington Libraries
Vol. XV I* No. 2 * Fall 2002
Shirley Rodnitzky, 2002
Regular readers of the Compass Rose are familiar with the regular feature, "Seek and Ye Shall Find an Aid," written by Shirley Rodnitzky, the Special Collections Historical Manuscript Archivist. She has written this feature about newly processed collections as well as other articles over the years. The feature in this issue as well as the article on the Arlington Garden Club are her last as Shirley retired from the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries on August 31, 2002.
Shirley took early retirement so that she could have time to spend on all those things that she never had time to do when she was working. She has two grandchildren, John and Macy Rodnitzky, with whom she plans to do some babysitting. She also wants to get back to her watercolor painting, something she has put aside for several years. And she wants to work on redecorating her house.
Shirley was born in Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana, where she met her husband, Dr. Jerry Rodnitzky, who was a graduate student in history. Jerry accepted a teaching position at The University of Texas at Arlington; they were married and moved to Arlington in 1966. They have two children, Mark and Joan, and Shirley was a stay-at-home mom for about ten years.
During this time Jerry told Shirley about a course in archival management being taught in the History Department by Larry Sall, now the Director of the University of Texas at Dallas Library; he thought she might find it interesting. She took that course and really enjoyed it, but when she finished there were no jobs immediately available. However, in 1978 another faculty wife told her that there was a half-time position available in Special Collections. Shirley called J. C. Martin, who was then director of Special Collections, and she was offered the position as a Library Assistant II. The position was for public service at the Special Collections service desk. Even though Special Collections was not very busy at that time, Shirley was told that she could not do any other work at the desk except to sit there and wait for someone to come in. To occupy herself and to learn more about the collection, Shirley read the cards in the card catalog!
A little later there was an opening in the archives area. Bob Gamble, then head of archives, needed a Library Assistant III to process Texas labor collections. However, Shirley did not want to work full-time because her children, although in school, were still young. Shirley and Bob reached a compromise, and Shirley began working ¾ time. Eventually, as her children became older, she went to full time. She processed collections as well as supervised up to five students, who were also processing collections. Eventually Jane Boley, who retired four years ago from Special Collections, transferred to the archives; she became interested in processing and Shirley taught her the procedures.
Later Shirley transferred back to the Special Collections area and dealt with many different areas of the collections. Sometimes it was processing, sometimes it was cataloging sheet music, graphics, maps, or manuscript collections, and sometimes it was a newspaper project. Shirley especially enjoyed these assignments as they were project oriented, and she could feel a sense of accomplishment when they were done. And it also allowed her to become familiar with all the different formats in Special Collections.
In 1988 Shirley decided to enroll in the library school at North Texas; she graduated in 1991. She only took one class a semester, and, then to finish up, she took a leave of absence and took five classes her last semester. She received a UTA Libraries Staff Association scholarship while in library school.
In 1989, the first year of existence of the Academy of Certified Archivists, Shirley became a member of the charter group of certified archivists. In 1992 the position of Archivist was added to the employee classification at UTA, and Shirley’s position was reclassed to that level.
Shirley has been involved, along with other Special Collections staff, in the creation of the Archives and Manuscripts Processing Manual [available online at http://libraries.uta.edu/SpecColl/processman/title1.htm ] in order to have consistent practices in the processing of collections. She has been the one to keep it up-to-date.
Shirley also produced the 2nd edition of A Guide to Manuscript and Archival Collections in Special Collections Division at the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries [available online at http://libraries.uta.edu/SpecColl/findaids/guideIntr.htm ] Through much diligence Shirley was able to track down every collection that Special Collections had by checking and rechecking holding files, accession records, and the unprocessed shelflist. This guide is now on the Web as well as available at the Special Collections service desk. Shirley has continued to keep this document up-to-date as new collections are received. She said that working on that has made her familiar with all the collections in Special Collections, not just the ones that she worked on.
When asked, Shirley said that she had three favorite collections that she had processed. The first is the Trussell Family papers. These papers document one American family from 1831 to 1962 as they moved across the frontier from South Carolina to Kentucky to Tennessee to Alabama to Mississippi and finally to Texas. The collection also has a wide variety of types of material: correspondence, diaries, legal documents, financial records, literary works, printed materials, photographs, and artifacts.
The Henry W. Benham Family papers [available online at http://libraries.uta.edu/SpecColl/findaids/AR388.htm ] was especially interesting since Benham was a prominent figure in U.S. history. He was in the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers and served in both the Mexican American War and the Civil War. He also invented the method of laying pontoon bridges by simultaneous bays as well as a trenching tool. The collection came in somewhat poor condition, and Shirley helped win a contest by the Conservation Division of ICI for repair and preservation treatment of part of the collection. This was very satisfying to her.
Cover of Jazz-Age Boomtown (Texas A&M University Press, 1997), book co-authored by Jerry and Shirley Rodnitzky about Breckenridge, Texas, using the photographs of Basis Clemons.
The Basil Clemons Photograph collection [available online at http://libraries.uta.edu/SpecColl/findaids/AR317.htm ], which concentrates on the town of Breckenridge, Texas, in the 1920s and early 1930s, was the third collection she mentioned. Shirley knew little about photographs when she began processing the collection but learned as she proceeded. She was fascinated by the photographs of everyday life in a small Texas town and the changes it experienced when oil was discovered, and she would go home and tell her husband about them. Eventually he came to see them, and together they decided to do a book featuring the photographs from the 1920s. Jointly they selected the images to use and then Jerry wrote the captions. This resulted in the book, Jazz Age Boomtown, which was published in 1997 by Texas A&M University Press.
Shirley says that she enjoyed writing the articles for the Compass Rose. One of her favorites was the article on the Jenkins Garrett Postcard Collection in the Spring 1999 issue [available online at http://libraries.uta.edu/SpecColl/crose99/postcard.htm ]. She enjoyed doing the research on the history of postcards, interviewing Jenkins Garrett on how he developed the collection, and becoming familiar with the collection. As a hobby Shirley herself collects postcards that show maps of states.
We thank Shirley for all her contributions to Special Collections over a twenty-four year period. She has done a lot to contribute to the unit’s successes, and she will be missed by both the staff and researchers of Special Collections. Most of all we wish her a long and happy retirement.
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