Gladys Gómez-Rossié was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to Miami when she was 14 years old through what she later found out was the Pedro Pan Program. She went to live with her extended family, the Dauvals, in Flushing, Queens, NY. After a year there, she returned to Miami to live with the Hernández family, who had been taking care of her younger brother. Her first job was at the University of Miami Family Medicine Department, which led her to apply to a job opening at the Otto G. Richter Library in the Periodicals Department. That was 43 years ago, and she has been with the Libraries ever since.
While she was working with serials, Gladys took part in a project that exposed her to the Library’s Cuban materials. At that time Cuban émigré lawyers needed to prove the legitimacy of their degree to be able to practice in the U.S., and one way to do that was to locate the official notice of their being sworn in as a practicing lawyer upon graduating. These notices were published in Cuba’s Gaceta Oficial. During her lunch breaks, helped countless lawyers find their citation. During this time, she got to know some of the other Cuban librarians and staff.
Throughout her years at Richter, Gladys worked with various departments and collections, including the Russian collection (at the time the second largest collection of Russian materials in the United States), the photocopying department, course reserves, gifts, and for a short period of time with archives and special collections. In this way, she became familiar with many different facets of the library, ideal training for the position of receptionist and later assistant to the library director. As the director’s assistant, Gladys was in charge of human resources, budgeting, facilities, and the Friends of the Library.
After working with the Friends of the Library, Gladys proposed the idea of forming a similar group for what was at the time the Cuban Collection in the Library’s Archives and Special Collections department. The Amigos first formed in 1995, with former University of Miami President Henry King Stanford and benefactor Elena Díaz-Versón Amos as co-chairs. This group became instrumental in raising funds and attracting donors to the growing Cuban Collection. In 1998, the Library established the Cuban Heritage Collection as a separate department, and in 2002, Gladys took on new responsibilities as assistant to the Chair of the Cuban Heritage Collection, a position which she continues to holds to this day. In addition to providing support to Esperanza B. de Varona, Gladys coordinates all events in the Goizueta Pavilion and tours for visitors from outside the UM community.
For Gladys, the best thing about CHC is not only the actual collections themselves but also the people that have been involved over the years. “The people have a lot to do with what makes the CHC special,” she observes. “We give a lot of ourselves; whenever there is an event, or a researcher in need of help, we are all willing to go out of our way to try to help find materials, locate people who they can meet and interview, and so forth. And the researchers are sometimes amazed that we can do all this for them; they get a lot out of it, and we do too.” Gladys also gets a feeling of fulfillment knowing that collections that she helped build are being used by researchers. She recalls that when she was just starting her career at Richter, librarian Rosita Abella would tell her that when she went to the grocery store she would have to bring her back the little periodiquitos and pamphlets being distributed there, and every Monday, Rosita would ask Gladys what she brought her. “It’s amazing to see how we made those collections at that time, and we’re still doing that,” Gladys says.
In addition to her time working at the University of Miami Libraries, Gladys has been engaged in student activities on campus as well. In 1990, she became the adviser of the Federation of Cuban Students (FEC), and in 2000 she brought Lambda Theta Phi, a Latino-based service and social fraternity, to campus.
Since the birth of her first granddaughter, most of Gladys’s free time involves spending time with all six of her grandchildren. She also likes to do crafts, and plans to spend time working with her father’s quite extensive stamp collection.