Sunday, August 30, 2009

Memories of a Great Lady, Dr. Janelle Paris

This afternoon I attended a memorial gathering for Dr. Janelle Paris, former professor at Sam Houston State University. She had been in poor health for several years, and died in June. Those in attendance were members of her church family, friends and neighbors, and members of the Department of Library Science at SHSU. Many people spoke fondly of Jan, but she will always be Dr. Paris for me. I had three classes with her back in the 1980's, Literature for Children, Library Administration, and Library Programming. They were all wonderful, and the programming class in particular influenced me. Because of this class, I became a librarian who placed a high value on special events, promotional activities, contests, and efforts to encourage everyone at my school to love books and enjoy visiting the library. At the gathering there was a table covered with written tributes to her from people who remembered her.

Dr. Paris did a lot for faculty and students at Sam Houston State University, and she continues that service through a bequest by which future students will receive scholarship money to assist them with their studies. But her reach went much further than that. It was Dr. Janelle Paris who led the campaign to have a state book award for children's literature. Like many state awards, the annual honor is given to a book chosen by boys and girls in Texas who choose from an annual list of outstanding titles. Because of her leadership, youngsters throughout the state and beyond its borders are encouraged to read widely and compare books in order to pick their choice each year. Information about this year's list, activities to accompany the reading of the books, and how to participate in the voting process can be found at

I hope that this year as librarians, parents, and teachers introduce the list to youngsters, they will take a minute to remember Dr. Paris, who loved children, loved books, and loved bringing them together. Her legacy will live on through the award, through the Janelle Paris Library at the First Methodist Church in Huntsville, TX, and through the Janelle Paris Memorial Scholarship to be awarded annually at Sam Houston State University. Thanks, Dr. Paris, for all you did for me.


  1. Thank you so much for your touching description of Jan and her memorial service. You see, Jan was my Great Aunt; my father and Aunt helped to care for Jan in her final years after her husband passed. I was unable to attend the memorial service myself but have been told it was wonderful, a truly moving tribute. It is partially because of Jan that I have decided to pursue my Masters in Library Science (hopefully at TWU where I am currently finishing my Bachelors). Unfortunately I never got to spend time with Jan while she was here with us mentally as well as physically so any other stories you have to share about her would be appreciated. Once again, thank you for your touching recollections!

  2. I just found this page. Dr. Paris was my elementary librarian in the late 1960's or very early 1970s at Lavace Stewart Elementary in Kemah, TX. I ran into her when I attended SHSU 79 to 83. She was a very special lady. Sorry to hear of her passing.
    Randy Beaty