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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: November 11, 2002
Volume 38, Number 9


Dennis' childhood, work stuff of sci-fi

By Carolyn Gonzales

Nancy DennisAs a Roswell native, Nancy Dennis understands science fiction. As a librarian, she puts technology to work in ways recently considered the stuff of sci-fi.

As director of Library Information Technology (LIT) at the UNM General Library, Dennis leads initiatives to take information out of a box, off a shelf, dust it off and bring it to life through the Online Archive of New Mexico.

“This is probably the greatest time to be working in libraries. Working to apply technology to organize and reveal unique collections to the campus and the state, that’s the fun stuff,” she said.

Dennis came to UNM in 1995 to serve as Internet training librarian. Several months later, the director of Library Technology Development, now LIT, left and she was asked to take over. Three years later she was officially named LIT director.

In January 2000, the library gave her another title, interim head of Collections and Technology Services, bringing together cataloging, collection management, acquisitions, serials and technology.

Prior to UNM, Dennis’ library experience had been in public libraries. After earning a master’s in library science at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, she worked for eight years in the Los Angeles Public Library, then headed up technology services at Long Beach Public Library. While in L.A., she earned a master’s in information systems, as well.

“When the Internet became a reality, I was attracted to applying this new technology. The Internet was, and is, on the leading edge of library initiatives. The position at UNM appealed to me because I wanted to come home to New Mexico,” she said.

“Roswell is a great place to grow up,” said Dennis, whose grandparents owned a farm on the edge of town. Her father worked at Ballard Funeral Home driving the ambulance and running all aspects of the business.

One day in July 1947, her father, Glenn Dennis, got an ambulance call that would become part of world history.

“He was told there was an accident in town. They had a contract with Walker Air Force Base and he was to pick up an injured serviceman and take him to the base hospital,” she said.
Upon arrival, the elder Dennis saw a lot of activity at the hospital.

“He knew nurses, others, who said aliens or something was retrieved from a crash site. As soon as the MP’s [military police] knew he was there, he was threatened and told to keep quiet and to say he knew nothing,” she said.

Dennis points out that her father’s account was put with others to piece together the story of that July day.

“He never talked about it,” recalls Dennis. “I never heard a peep of the UFO business throughout my childhood from him or anyone in Roswell.”

It was as if the police and government officials told them to say they knew nothing and collectively the town forgot.

“You could look at the headlines of the Roswell Daily Record that day and wonder, what the heck? Then nothing at all throughout the 50s and 60s,” said Dennis.

She speculates that people in Roswell didn’t want to be identified with it. “They were more interested in promoting Goddard’s rocketry,” she said.

The book, “The Roswell Incident” came out in the 70s and interest in UFOs grew. It wasn’t until the 80s that Dennis’ father talked to her about that day. It is also when he became one of the people sought out by the media and researchers. He, Walter Haut, another Roswell-local involved in the incident, and others, opened the UFO museum in Roswell.

“They have journals, first accounts, sightings, photos and research on international UFO events from amateur scientists and historians,” she said.

Dennis sees Roswell today as a “hidden jewel.” “It is environmentally clean with a good climate and a small town feel,” she said.

Just as technology drives much of Dennis’ library work today, she thinks it might help explain what happened outside of Roswell that day in 1947.

“Maybe by revealing the true stories, Roswell will be remembered for more than a UFO crash,” Dennis said, “But we may not know in my lifetime.”