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Giving Profile - Jane Garner

For Jane Garner, a crushing disappointment could not have come at a better time.

It was the summer of 1964, and the recent University of Texas graduate was in Washington training to become a Peace Corps librarian in Chile. At the end of the summer, Garner was told her perfectionist nature would 'cause too much trouble.' She was effectively kicked out of the Peace Corps.

The young Garner was devastated. But the timing was perfect for another opportunity: UT's School of Library and Information Science was launching a new program to train librarians to manage Latin American collections.

"I walked in and was presented on the spot with a fellowship," she says.

That fellowship launched a 35-year career at UT, the majority of which Garner spent overseeing the rare books and manuscripts of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.

Garner, who retired in 2000, had long wanted to "pay it forward." So, with the hope that a contribution might open a door for future students, she recently made the iSchool a beneficiary of her life insurance policy. The funds from the policy will be shared with the Longhorn Band of which Garner - a clarinetist - was one of the first female members.

It's a gift, she says, that allows her to express her gratitude for the iSchool paving the way for a career she loved.

Garner looks back fondly at the early years working with legendary librarian Nettie Lee Benson. That perfectionism problem? It came in handy as she dove into researching, cataloging and making inventories of microfilm holdings. She combed through Publishers Weekly magazines to find every book with Latin American content, helping to build what would become the largest university library collection of Latin American materials in the U.S. - and one of the most prestigious.

Even in retirement, her iSchool education continues to pay off.

She recently began advising the Texas Retired Teachers Association on alternative archival methodology, providing her expertise on preservation for a statewide training manual that will help historians develop digital archives.

Garner has watched the iSchool evolve over the decades and now sees students venturing into unchartered territory much as she did when she began working with Latin American collections in the 1960s.

Technology has dramatically reshaped the school. But the iSchool's unique purpose, she says, remains.

"We still need information specialists."