African American Reading Room Dedicated in John Peace Library

Feb 20, 2012

By Stephanie Sanchez, Communications Specialist

UTSA officials on Feb. 8 held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the African American Reading Room in the John Peace Library.

The room, located on the third floor of the John Peace Library, serves as a group study space for UTSA graduate students and now houses a print collection celebrating African American achievements in literature.  It was redecorated with funds from Sue E. Denman endowment. 

Joycelyn Moody, Ph.D., the Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature, came up with the idea for the room. She said she was looking to emulate a room she used as a graduate student.

“When I was at the University of Kansas, where I did my final graduate studies and was preparing for my Ph.D., I was in a huge, cavernous building … and there very few places where you could tuck away,” she said at the ceremony. “I managed to find the German Reading Room on the basement level. … It was a perfect place in many ways to study; so much so that when it was time to defend my dissertation, I asked to have the defense in that tiny room.”

Moody said she hopes students use the room as a place to study and have meetings or conversations about their academic work.

The cozy room has an eggplant-colored accent wall, and black and white photographs depicting African American public figures reading and writing. UTSA President Ricardo Romo bought the photographs from Eugene B. Redmond, an academic and poet who in 1998 read a poem at Maya Angelou’s 70th birthday gala hosted by Oprah Winfrey.

More than 20 people, including Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts Dan Gelo and Dean of Libraries Krisellen Maloney, attended the ceremony.

Gelo, Ph.D. said that with the busyness of academic life, it’s important to have small rooms where students can get away and become engrossed in their studies.

“That ability to concentrate on the life of the mind, that’s the most precious and attractive thing that perpetuates our studies,” he said. “It allows the thinking and inventiveness to continue from one generation to the other. Our students now have a place to go and just think about the contributions that came before.”

Michael Ruiz, a master’s degree student in English, said having an African American Reading Room consolidates some of the University’s resources and offers students a “jumping off point” in their research.

“I think these places are extremely necessary and very vital to an academic research school,” said Ruiz, who took Moody’s African American literature class last semester.

>> View the photo gallery of the ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception