UTPA librarians' hearts belong to each other and the University
Posted: 02/11/2004
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U.S. humorist and author Sam Levenson once said that "love at first sight is easy to understand; it's when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle." In the case of The University of Texas-Pan American librarians George and Virginia Haynie Gause the years of looking at each other have included 31 years of working together as well.

Special Collections Librarian George Gause and Systems Librarian Virginia Haynie Gause first met and started dating while graduate students at the Peabody College for Teachers (now Vanderbilt University) in Nashville, Tenn. where both obtained master's degrees in library science in 1973.

George, who has an undergraduate degree in history from Park College in Kansas, became interested in a library career while researching his family genealogy in various locations. Virginia, who has an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Montevallo in Alabama, said her love of books and libraries started early.

UTPA librarians George and Virginia Gause are pictured on their wedding day, February 14, 1992.
"As a daughter of working parents, I was probably one of the first 'latch-key' children and I started hanging out in the library as a 10-year old," she said. She said she always enjoyed learning how to do certain things, like sewing, and often used the library as a reference.

George said he first learned about UTPA during a graduate course at Peabody that cited then Pan American University's early implementation of a computerized library circulation system. However, when an opportunity came to interview for library openings at the University, Virginia, who wanted to work in an academic setting, interviewed first and was hired in 1973 as a catalog librarian out of Edinburg serving the Brownsville extension of the then Pan American University.

"Virginia wanted to work in an academic library that was known while I, at that time, wanted to work in a public library in history," George said.

Fate intervened at this point, however, that would affect their future life together. When another individual who was hired at the same time as Virginia decided not to take the job, Virginia recommended some other classmates to interview, including her then boyfriend George. Two days after Virginia started her job here, George was hired on the spot as library coordinator at the Pan American's Brownsville facility. He later came to work on the Edinburg campus.

"After graduating from college in 1973, two weeks later we were both employed and working for Pan Am," Virginia said, recalling how quickly their lives changed.

Both the relationship and their jobs have evolved through the years. After dating more than 19 years, George said Virginia finally proposed to him.

"We were always very formal and had two separate apartments that were nearby but when the rent went up to $450, Virginia said '$450 and $450 added up comes to $900 - couldn't this be a monthly house payment?' She said we could buy a house together and have an even nicer house but there was one condition - marriage," George said.

The couple married on Valentine's Day in 1992.

Through the years as their job titles and responsibilities changed, George and Virginia always worked in separate areas of the library, under different supervisors. As the current Special Collections librarian, George oversees all the local history resources. A visit to that portion of the University Library reveals his great personal interest in Mexican art, folk art and gardens in its display of many items from his own personal collection.

In her position as a systems librarian, Virginia works with the Library's on- line catalog system. Mexican architecture is her favorite subject in personal book purchases and photography is her favorite hobby.

Virginia Haynie Gause and George Gause visit a Brazilian book publisher (at right) in her stand at the Guadalajara Book Fair exhibit hall.
While acknowledging that working in different areas of the library has made it easier to work together, there are advantages to working at the same place and in the same field.

"It's really nice to be able to drive to work in the same car every day. It saves us money on gasoline and it is a good time to talk about things," Virginia said.

Both also enjoy the trips they make together each fall every year to the International Book Fairs held in Monterrey and Guadalajara, Mexico in order to buy Spanish language books on behalf of the University. With the fairs' close proximity to the border, 20 to 30 percent discounts offered on site and the access to the titles on site not readily available through Mexico's method of book distribution, they offer a way to save money for the University said the couple.

"We select them, pack them, haul them to the bus station and ship them to Reynosa," George said describing the steps involved in the trips.

The Gauses, who buy 80 percent non-fiction based on patron usage and faculty and staff recommendations, have developed a very detailed system of the titles, types and costs of books they have purchased over the years.

"This year we bought $3,000 worth of books in Guadalajara and $1,000 worth in Monterrey," Virginia said.

Popular at UTPA are literary best sellers as well as books on Mexican artists, migration, Mexican politics and food, holistic healing and legends.

"We try to satisfy as many areas as possible while also anticipating future needs of our University library patrons," they both said almost in unison.

"We are obviously sweethearts," said Virginia, but "our hearts are also deeply rooted in the University Library" where the Gauses will celebrate a lifetime love of books, each other and a 12th wedding anniversary February 14.