Chris Martinez reflects on 43 years at the Kraemer Family Library

Christina Martinez, Associate Dean & Senior Instructor Library Administration
After 43 years at UCCS, associate dean and senior instructor of library administration Christina Martinez reflects on UCCS’ past, her attendance at basketball games over the decades and her plans for the future. Photo credit: Lora Brekke.

After a career at UCCS that spanned 43 years, Christina Martinez is retiring from the Kraemer Family Library.

She leaves behind a legacy of better accessibility, better representation of multicultural and marginalized individuals through literature and attendance at many, many UCCS basketball games.

Reflecting on the past

Martinez joined UCCS as a user services librarian in 1977, when the student enrollment at the university was just over 4,000 students. She made the move from Arizona – where she was a reference librarian at Arizona State University – to Colorado just before marrying her now-husband.

“1977 was a big year for me,” she said. “I got married, I started at UCCS.”

In the years before Martinez joined UCCS, the library was housed in South Hall, previously the nurse’s dormitory for the Cragmor Sanatorium. Students reported that books were stored on staircases and back issues of newspapers were kept in leftover bathtubs. Photo credit: University Archives.

Just a year before Martinez accepted her position at the university, UCCS staff moved the library’s holdings from Dwire Hall to the new library building using a giant gravity conveyor belt system. More than 20,000 books and periodicals traveled down the hill from Dwire Hall – Centennial Hall was not yet built – across the Upper Plaza, and then up and into the third-floor windows of the new building.

The changes, of course, did not stop there.

“In most ways our library doesn’t resemble the library that I started working at,” Martinez said. “When I started working at UCCS in 1977, we had no electronic resources, period. Everything that we had was in print. And all of the research tools we had were print research tools. In many ways, it was a much more labor-intensive, complex process to do library research than it is today.”

“I don’t think I could pinpoint a specific moment when it all changed. The most dramatic change that I can pinpoint would be once we expanded the library building in 2001. Once we did that, we had a major shift in our scope and our offerings – from total reliance on print sources, to a greater reliance on electronic resources, to the point that we’re at today.”

Christina Martinez, Associate Dean & Senior Instructor Library Administration
Martinez poses for a pre-retirement photo. Photo credit: Lora Brekke.

As for the physical changes Martinez has seen across campus?

“Those were so dramatic,” Martinez said. “It’s really hard for anybody who wasn’t here back then to picture what our campus was like. For one thing, there was no Austin Bluffs Parkway. That came long after the campus was established. I believe our address was on Cragmor Road back then. And,” she said, smiling wryly, “my recollection is that parking back in those days used to cost about $5 per semester.”

Over her career, Martinez has held a number of roles in the library, from reference librarian to associate dean, as well as twice stepping in as interim dean of the library.

She is also famed for her dependable presence at UCCS basketball games over the decades, often alongside chancellor emerita Pam Shockley-Zalabak. The games are among her fondest memories of UCCS.

“Pam and I encountered each other many, many times at basketball games,” Martinez said. “We shared many games, both good and bad. Certainly we were among the most loyal spectators over the years. There’s no question that she and I have together seen probably more basketball games than any faculty or staff who don’t work for Athletics.”

Why she stayed

When asked what kept her at UCCS for so long, Martinez replied, “It’s quite a simple answer. One of the things that I discovered when I started my job at UCCS is that it gave me the opportunity to do a lot of different things over the years. In contrast to a larger institution and a larger library where you are much more restricted in terms of your responsibilities, UCCS gave me the opportunity to do a lot of different jobs.”

She continued, “I had opportunities to move into more of a managerial position: I started out as a reference librarian, and then I was head of a department, and then I became associate dean in my last years. I had a path of development. And I was also involved with a lot of different tasks over the years. When we first automated our library system, I had a significant role in that. In a larger institution, I never would have gotten close to a project like that, but when you’re in a small place, everyone pitches in.”

“One thing about being a librarian is that you are constantly learning new ways of doing things,” Martinez concluded, “and that has kept it interesting for me. I’ve never gotten bored.”

Making her mark

After 43 years, Martinez has had the opportunity to make her mark on UCCS – “for better or for worse,” as she puts it.

In 2015, Martinez published an essay to “Why I Came, Why I Stayed”, which features 20 first-person essays from some of the university’s earliest and longest tenured faculty and staff members. Read Martinez’s essay.

“One of the best parts of my position has been making decision about materials to be purchased,” she said. “For good or bad, I can look at the literature collection in our library and say, ‘The bulk of that is on me.’ I am responsible for what that collection looks like. I couldn’t say that if I had only been here for five years.”

As he recalled Martinez’s impact on UCCS, Dean of the Kraemer Family Library Martin Garnar highlighted her work in multicultural representation across campus.

“When it comes to equity, diversity and inclusion, Chris has been a longtime advocate,” he said. “She has been very active in the faculty multicultural affairs committee, and also involved with system-wide initiatives. And within the library, one of her signature contributions has been book displays that feature materials about and by communities that haven’t always gotten the attention they deserve.”

“When Chris announced her retirement, we started coming up with plans of how we can keep that legacy alive,” Garnar said, “and make sure that we continue to have displays and exhibits where people who come into the library can see themselves, so they can feel like they belong.”

“They aren’t just book displays,” he said. “They are tangible symbols of the inclusive community that we have at UCCS, and Chris was integral in creating that culture.”

What we’ll miss

As Martinez takes her leave from UCCS, colleagues are already reflecting on what they will miss.

Christina Martinez, Associate Dean & Senior Instructor Library Administration
Martinez is looking forward to some well-deserved rest and relaxation…but isn’t planning to stop attending UCCS basketball games anytime soon. Photo credit: Lora Brekke.

“I know I’m going to miss having that voice of history when we’re having our meetings, both at a leadership level and in our larger staff meetings,” Garnar said. “It’s really irreplaceable.”

He continued, “I’m going to miss having my living encyclopedia of both the Kraemer Family Library and UCCS. I’m going to miss having someone with whom I could talk about anything, and from whom I could always get great perspective. And I’m really going to miss the enchiladas she always brought to our potlucks. They were vegetarian, and they had an absolutely lethal kick.”

As for Martinez, she knows what she’ll miss most of all are the people.

“I’ve been really lucky over the years to work with a lot of good people,” she said. “My favorite memories are all tied up with all of the different people I’ve worked with – all of my best memories are of them.”

And as for what’s next, Martinez plans on taking it easy.

“After working for 43 years, I want to take some time to just relax,” she said. “But I will definitely be back at the basketball games next season.”