In Memoriam: UTSA Libraries commemorates the legacy of librarian Rita Wilson

(JANUARY 18, 2024) —UTSA Libraries and the entire UTSA community are mourning the loss of librarian Rita Wilson, who passed away earlier this month. Wilson was the UTSA government document expert and subject area library liaison for the anthropology, modern languages, linguistics, criminal justice and geography departments.

Rita Wilson

Lovingly referred to as a sleuth and detective by many of the faculty she assisted and served, Wilson joined UTSA in October 1997 as a reference librarian, bibliographer and coordinator of bibliographic instruction. Anthropology, Spanish and government documents were her passions.

As the government documents librarian, Wilson managed UTSA Libraries’ participation in the Federal Depository program, facilitating access to U.S. government documents and ensuring the Libraries’ compliance with federal regulations.

Regarded as an expert in legal research, government information and data, she often fielded some of the most obscure and challenging questions the Libraries received. She created and maintained several government resource guides, including the United States Government Information, the United States Congressional and the Constitution Day and U.S. Constitution Resources guides, which were featured on the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) site.

“Rita's dedication and contributions to our library were truly invaluable. Her passion for knowledge and unwavering commitment to serving our community made her a beloved team member,” said Dean Hendrix, UTSA vice provost and university librarian. “Rita's absence will leave a void that will be deeply felt by all who had the privilege of working alongside her. Her legacy of excellence and the positive impact she had on our library and its patrons will be remembered with great admiration.”

For many years, Wilson organized the Constitution Day annual celebration at UTSA Libraries, partnering with the Student Government Association. She also created and maintained an election and voting guide for all local, state and national elections.

As a subject librarian for the anthropology department, she worked with UTSA faculty to create a teaching collection of primate skulls and bones for students to check out.

“Rita was treasured by the anthropology faculty and students,” said Jason Yaeger, UTSA President’s Endowed Professor of anthropology and associate dean for graduate studies in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA). “She shared our love of books, our passion for learning and discovery and our joy at coming across the perfect — but unanticipated — piece of evidence for an argument we’ve been trying to make. She was always positive and optimistic and very knowledgeable, an important partner in our quest to undertake research to better understand the world and its people. We miss her keenly.”

Rita loved the Spanish language and Latin American cultures. She was responsible for the depth of UTSA’s Spanish-language collections, often tracking down rare books from local publishers in multiple Spanish-speaking countries. For years, she made an annual trek to attend the Guadalajara International Book Fair to hand-select hard-to-find Spanish-language books. Her Latin American and Mexican Online News guide has been a resource for many.

“In the decade that I have been at UTSA, colleagues in modern languages have always referred to Rita as a rockstar librarian, said Melissa Wallace, associate professor of COLFA’s translation and interpreting studies department. “She was always available to faculty and students and was known for relishing a challenge. She was a beloved presence every fall when we welcomed new cohorts of graduate students. Her impact on faculty and students is simply unquantifiable. She was a dear colleague and will be so deeply missed.”

She attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a Master of Information and Library Studies (MILS). She also received a Master of Arts in Economics from Eastern Michigan University.

After college, Wilson fed her love for Latin American cultures through extensive travels in interior Mexico. In the 1980s, she spent several years in Quito, Ecuador, teaching English as a second language to high school students and National Police Academy cadets. She received a Certificate of Proficiency in Intensive Spanish from Pontifica Universidad Católica de Ecuador.

In addition, she worked as a publication liaison for The Institute for Scientific Information in Philadelphia.

“I will miss her as one of the people who, silently, contributed the most to my research and publications,” said Francisco Marcos-Marin, UTSA professor emeritus of COLFA’s modern languages and literatures department. “She was a nice and welcoming lady with whom I could chat about sundry issues of life and science. In the library of our memory, she has left her signature."

UTSA Libraries is working with Wilson’s loved ones to organize a memorial service in San Antonio. Specific dates and location details are not confirmed at this time. If you wish to receive notifications about the memorial service, please email library.general@utsa.edu.