22:4 (2007:12) Profiles: Alice Rhoades

December 5, 2007 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Profiles | Leave a comment


Susan Davis, Profiles Editor

One of the perks of preparing these profiles is the chance to meet and learn more about fellow NASIG members. The subject of this issue’s profile, Alice Rhoades, is truly a Renaissance woman. At present she is a serials cataloger at Rice University’s Fondren Library in Houston. Alice had a life in the theater before becoming a librarian, and has put her theatrical talents to use at NASIG conferences. She performed in the wonderfully hilarious, and all too true, skits at the 20th anniversary celebration. Alice has also graced the “stage” at NASIG’s Open Mike sessions. Plus I learned that we danced some of the night away in San Diego!

Alice majored in theatre as an undergraduate, and worked in theatre, mostly in acting, for about a dozen years before becoming a librarian. She mainly worked at small theatres in the northeast, doing all kinds of stuff–Shakespeare, children’s theatre, the New York Renaissance Faire, dinner theatre comedy, you name it. Her first paying role in New York was a chicken in a children’s play (because she did a fabulous job clucking!)—she always knew she would be able to use that story when she was famous and appearing on a talk show. Instead, she gets to share the story with a much more discriminating audience, fellow NASIG members. While she was an apprentice at the Alley Theatre in Houston, she saw Katherine Hepburn backstage. Ms. Hepburn had come to see her good friend Kate Reid star in “The Corn is Green,” which she watched discreetly from the lighting booth. By the time she came down, word had spread and all the cast and crew were not-so-nonchalantly loitering in the hallways to try to get a glimpse of the legend. Alice was so excited to see her that she realized only years later that meant that Katherine Hepburn had seen her act!


Nowadays she mostly does community and regional theatre. Performing as an avocation means she only has to do plays that she really wants to do.

Many librarians end up in the field by accident. Alice realized that the unsettled lifestyle she was leading in the theatre wasn’t working so well and that acting began to seem more like a chore, so she started exploring other options. She did the whole self-evaluation thing, where you look at types of work you have done that you enjoyed and you were good at. There seemed a pattern in her offstage office day jobs and even in her theatre work itself, of projects that involved organizing things or information in such a way that they could be found again when wanted, and you know where this is leading. A career in library and information studies was a perfect fit.

Alice’s first professional job was at Amherst College on a grant-funded classification project. Next came a stint at a public library in Haverhill, Mass. (where the Archie comics author lived and supposedly set his comics–Pop’s Malt Shop was no longer there, alas!), then returned to Texas, her home state, to work at Texas A&M University at Galveston for eight years before coming to Rice and entering the wonderful world of serials cataloging.

Alice has spent most of her working life in the northeast and in Texas, at both theatre and library jobs. She was born in Texas and loves it; going to New England was a fluke, but enjoyed her time living there. New England was so different from Texas at the time that it seemed almost like going to another country. She also loved the New England countryside and the change of seasons (though snow is a lot less fun when you’re a grownup and have to shovel out your own car). Her roots and family are in Texas, though, so she’s glad to have finally returned. Rice University is a wonderful college and a great place to work, as well.

Moving on to all things NASIG, Alice was not really involved in serials work nor had she heard of NASIG before coming to Rice in 1999. There the two librarians in Acquisitions who handle the serials told her she had to join NASIG and come to a conference. Her first one was at the University of California at San Diego (2000), which was a fabulous conference and a wonderful site, and she’s been coming ever since (though the copious instructions in the UCSD dorm room about what to do in case of earthquake were a little alarming–that’s probably one of the few natural disasters Houston doesn’t have). During the late night socials that year, they had hired a DJ to play dance music, and a group formed a circle and danced like mad until the wee hours. Now that’s a great way to get to know people when you’re new! A few weeks later at ALA she would encounter some of these same folks walking around and knowing glances would be exchanged–it was like belonging to some secret society (yes, you may be wearing a suit and heels here, but we’ll always have disco night in San Diego!). The weather and scenery were just beautiful; maybe it drizzled for half a minute on the last day and the locals kept apologizing for how humid and horrid the weather was (Houston was more humid at 2:00 a.m. when Alice returned home than La Jolla ever was at high noon).

Alice has served on the Bylaws Committee, the ad hoc group formed for the anniversary conference a few years ago in Minneapolis, and most recently, the new Membership Development Committee. She has always appreciated the focus of NASIG conferences–all the meetings and activities are always relevant in some way to her work and she declares she’s never felt like she’s been to a “wasted” workshop. Plus, serials librarians just have more fun than the rest! Amen to that.

Alice has also been active in ALA while working at Rice, where she served nearly five years on the ALCTS Committee to Study Serials Standards (now the Serials Standards Committee), which instituted a standards forum held every year.

In our conversation, Alice mentioned many other diverse interests, so I asked her to talk a bit about why these appeal to her. In my own perverse way I hoped she could help dispel a commonly held myth that catalogers are somewhat stodgy, anal-retentive, rules-bound types. She has a great outlook that I’ll let her express in her own words:

What’s supposed to appeal to a serials cataloger–I became one by accident, I suppose. But I would think that we are as different as the many items that we catalog. I seem to get involved in most activities by chance, so maybe that’s the pattern. I got involved in Scottish country dancing years ago because a group happened to meet across the street from where I was living in New Haven, I’ve always been a pushover for banned books or plays (my father coerced me into learning Middle English just so I could read the juicy parts of Chaucer), and I met my Goth musician friend through a mutual acquaintance (he had a secret longing to play something acoustic–who knew?). I guess I enjoy activities that allow me to explore my creativity and that also provide some sort of social outlet (as otherwise I tend to hole up in my house puttering around). One of the many things I enjoy about Rice University is the great variety of things that the various staff members here are into–we have science fiction writers, artists, short filmmakers, concert musicians, and many others. I think people who are interested in things are able to bring more to their jobs as a result.


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