Commons Learning

Cindy Fisher teaches first-year students in a class at PCL.

Leading up to the opening of the Learning Commons, we’ve spoken in broad terms about the impact of having a suite of student resources and services co-located for ease of access and use, and how that convenience is expected to improve student outcomes. Much of the talk regarding that impact of the Learning Commons has centered on the process and completion of finished products of a more temporal nature such as reports, projects and other assignments, but beyond the resources — technical help, knowledge resources and technology — that will serve as the basis for user productivity, it’s worth considering the persisting influence that the learning opportunities supported by the new space will provide to the next generation of Longhorns.

Students attend one of the LIbraries' classes at PCL.Staff in the Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) unit has played a central role in planning the Learning Commons, and their activities will have a significant impact on the success of the initiative. The longstanding relationship between TLS and the University Writing Center was essential to the relocation of UWC to the Perry-Castañeda Library, and much of the vitality in the Learning Commons will be determined by how the partnership between the two groups evolves over time. UWC’s nascent presence has already reaped ideas for collaborating with the Libraries on programming in the new space, and coordinating with other student resources around campus — such as the Sanger Learning Center — will allow a crossover between the provisional service needs of users for the purpose of completing assignments and the generation of lasting skills like interviewing, public speaking, information literacy, and much more.

TLS emerged in 2002 — at the time designated Library Instruction Services — to take the place of the Digital Information Literacy Office (DILO) and expand on its mission to integrate information literacy into the campus-wide curriculum for general education, which it successfully accomplished in 2010. The unit’s name evolved to Teaching and Learning Services as its mission has expanded to represent a more comprehensive view of the academic landscape and the ways in which students and faculty interact to share knowledge and experience.

By its increased involvement in campus curriculum via information and digital literacy, TLS has routinely collaborated with faculty on assignment design and presents course-integrated classes in hands-on classrooms in the libraries. They’ve also created video tutorials on subjects such as avoiding plagiarism for integration into course web sites and embedding in online courses. Through a combination of these methods, TLS now reaches almost 3,000 lower division undergraduates every year.

Head of TLS Michele Ostrow at an information literacy conference organized with regional high school librarians.“The Learning Commons isn’t just about co-locating academic support services for ease of access but is about collaborating in new ways across those departmental lines to better support teaching and learning,” says Michele Ostrow, head of the Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Services unit. “We’re fortunate to work closely with a lot of fantastic faculty who teach in our freshmen programs and are committed to helping the excellent high school students who get into UT become excellent college students.” Continue reading

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Collections Highlight: Sanborn Maps

Dallas, 1885, Sheet 13. Sanborn Map Collection, PCL Map Collection online. Original courtesy the Briscoe Center for American History.

Founded in 1867 by D. A. Sanborn, the Sanborn Map Company was the primary American publisher of fire insurance maps for nearly 100 years. A 2007 partnership with the Briscoe Center for American History resulted in a multiyear scanning project that made the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for the state of Texas and Mexico (1877-1922) available online through the PCL Map Collection.

Over 10,000 maps were scanned primarily from the Briscoe’s collection, with additional items ingested from the most comprehensive collection of the maps at the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, in Washington, D.C.

The information on the maps — which were published to determine fire insurance risks of particular buildings — has a multitude of uses for historians, urban planners, architects, social scientists, geographers, genealogists, environmentalists and anyone interested in the history and growth of cities.

Maps include details regarding the shape and size of residential and commercial buildings, street addresses, block numbers and property boundaries, as well as type of construction, type of roof, building height, location of windows and doors, proximity to fire hydrants and alarm boxes. For many of the maps, multiple editions exist that allow for the study of change over time for a particular area.

 

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Reel Answers to Reel Questions

The microfilm in question. Photo by Stephen Littrell.

Summer is the time for housekeeping around the Libraries, and much like undertaking the reorganization of one’s own closet, an occasional unexpected discovery occurs that either provokes nostalgia or rouses curiosity.

The latter was the case when staff at the Library Storage Facility at the Pickle Research Campus in north Austin recently came across more than 400 reels of microfilm which appeared to document the entire card catalog of the Libraries through images of each individual record.

Sample card from the catalog microfilm. Photo by Stephen LIttrell.Evidence dated the media from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, but none of current Libraries staff had a clue as to the reason that an entire catalog of just over 2 million volumes (at the time) would’ve been recorded in such a way.

Enter the institutional memory of a loyal retiree class.

Associate Director for Collections and Technical Services Robin Fradenburgh put out the call to a cadre of ex libris stalwarts to see if they could unpack the Riddle of the Reels.

“We are calling on our dearly missed retired colleagues to help us with this mystery.  We have about 400+ of these reels of film of catalog cards.  Stephen (Littrell) looked at three of them to see if they had dates…one didn’t, one looked like it was 1964 and the other was 1973.  Did we used to make films of our catalog cards as back up and do you see any reason we need to keep them?  Ben (Rodriguez) says they were added to LSF very early on.”

Thanks….none of our institutional memories go back that far.

Robin”

There are no guarantees when seeking an answer to a 40-year old question, but the former librarians didn’t miss a beat.

“Robin,

Of course, I wasn’t there before 1980, but when at the University of Pennsylvania, it was the year 1968 of upheaval of student protests, campus takeovers, etc. that the Penn Library experienced some incursions in which trays of catalog cards were dumped on the floor helter-skelter (as well as books being swept off stack shelves).

Those attacks led several academic libraries, including Penn, to microfilm either their catalogs or shelflists.

Bob”

University Freedom Movement rally, UT campus, 1967. Photo from “The Rag.” (linked)

And in further validation,

“I’m remembering a special project to microfilm the card catalog as a precautionary measure in the wake of student unrest on a number of college campuses.  The project may well have gone on for some time, but card microfilming was never a routine back-up procedure that we did for years on end.

Al”

So, the mystery solved and a lost history unearthed and passed along, the summer cleaning continues, and we’re reminded that technology has made preserving the Libraries’ catalog just a little less daunting than it used to be.

Thanks to Libraries alumni Bob Stewart and Al Rogers for bringing their respective knowledge and memory to bear.

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Steps Toward Success

Students at PCL.

Think back to your time on campus.

What do you remember?

I can tell you what my first few days on the Forty Acres looked like: I walked across campus to the North Administration Office for orientation, walked back to my office to eat lunch, then walked to the Flawn Academic Center to have my identification card created, walk back to my office, and finally walked to the Brazos Parking Garage at the end of the day.

If your experience as a student or faculty member was anything like mine as a new staff member, you can probably relate: working and studying at the University of Texas means you get around quite a bit!

As you might imagine, the University of Texas Libraries is one of the many locations that students flow in and out of throughout the course of their week. With one of the largest footprints on campus, our nine libraries see over 2.5 million visitors every year.

University of Texas Libraries is more than a location. It is a destination that provides resources and expertise that are fundamental to student success.

Research shows that first-year students who used library services in their first semester have a higher grade point average and are more likely to graduate in four years.

The Libraries are making a huge investment to improve the student experience both in our physical spaces and with enhanced technology-rich supportive services.

Save Your Soles at the Learning Commons.The Learning Commons at the Perry-Castañeda Library is our first step toward our goal of becoming a one-stop-shop for research, writing, digital media technology, and oral communication.

More research and collaboration; less walking.

Will you join me in supporting our Save our Souls campaign? Each gift will help us provide the technology and academic support services and transform the undergraduate learning experience for our students.


If you or your company is interested in contributing a matching gift during the campaign, please contact Natalie Moore for more information.

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Support OA? Earn a Trip to Brussels

OpenCon2015

The Libraries are looking for a current grad student or post-doc to become a serious advocate for Open Access on the Forty Acres with a unique opportunity to attend an international conference in Europe later this fall.

OpenCon 2015 FlyerThe Libraries are offering the chance to earn a travel scholarship to attend OpenCon 2015 taking place in Brussels, November 14-16, 2015. OpenCon is an academic conference that brings together students and early career academic professionals from across the world to learn about the issues, develop critical skills, and return home ready to catalyze action toward a more open system for sharing the world’s information — from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital data.

The selected applicant will receive a $2500 scholarship to attend the conference — an amount which conference planners have designed to cover all expenses.

This conference is an excellent opportunity to learn more about open access, open education and open data, and to learn how to advocate for these issues. Last year’s meeting convened 115 students and early career academic professionals from 39 countries in Washington, DC.  More than 80% of these participants received full travel scholarships, provided by sponsorships from leading organizations, including the Max Planck Society, eLife, PLOS, and more than 20 universities.

To find out more about how to apply for the scholarship, visit the Libraries’ Open Access blog.

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Art in Progress

Hipstamatic photography by Stephen Littrell.

Though the Learning Commons is starting to take shape and less imagination is required to envisage the finished space, it is still a construction area, and not the spanking future version of itself quite yet.

Stephen Littrell is Head of Access Services for the Libraries, and an avid fan of the Hipstamatic digital photo app, which allows users to customize mobile-native photography using a variety of lens, film and flash filtering options, creating images with a nostalgic feel. Littrell recently used his digital photography skills to coax some subtle beauty from the otherwise drab, dusty and cluttered space that will soon be the new Learning Commons.

“When the Learning Commons opens in August it will be a lovely and vibrant space,” say Littrell. “But before the space opens to the public, there’s an opportunity to capture some of the construction process in a way that’s less documentarian and more playful…maybe even a little artistic.”

Littrell has posted his work on Instagram, and uploaded selections to Hipstography, a site that features galleries of work by Hipstamatic users.

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Halfway Home to the Learning Commons

Hallway to staff offices.

We’ve mentioned in past summers that even while students are mostly taking a well-deserved break and faculty are about and abroad staying abreast of trends and developments in their respective fields of focus, the Libraries use the regular academic hiatus to upgrade and transform services and spaces to meet the evolving needs of a constantly changing campus community.

Learning Commons concept drawings by Gensler.This summer is no different. We’ve highlighted the new space to open for an incoming class of Longhorns — the Learning Commons, a different kind of learning space that will inhabit a renovated space of some 20,000 sq. ft. on the ground level of the Perry-Castañeda Library, and represents the largest transformation of space in the PCL since its construction in 1977. The concept has been a long time in planning, but will finally be realized as construction of the new space ramps up to meet a mid-August deadline.  Continue reading

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Collections Highlight: Gravitation

"Gravitation" by Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne, and John Archibald Wheeler. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1973.

Gravitation is a seminal work familiar to all advanced physics students, but the Kuehne Physics Mathematics Astronomy Library (PMA) has an uncommon copy of the book.

Co-author John Wheeler presented this copy with his inscription to a former engineering professor at UT, who donated the book to the PMA Library.

A time later, co-author Kip Thorne  gave a lecture at UT and a Physics undergrad asked if he would add his inscription. Finally, co-author Charles Misner visited campus for a lecture and he, too, added his inscription to the volume, completing the trio.

Inscriptions by the authors on the frontispiece of "Gravitation."

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Reflections on a Practicum

Mark GoodwinMark Goodwin is a project assistant for HeadsUpGuys and student librarian in the Music, Art and Architecture Library at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He undertook a practicum with Music Librarian David Hunter of the Fine Arts Library at UT this spring. He has graciously provided the following reflections on his time in Austin.

For my two-week practicum, I was extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to work under Music Librarian and Musicologist Dr. David Hunter at the Fine Arts Library at the University of Texas in Austin. My time there resulted in profound growth on both a professional and personal level.

The Fine Arts Library.Dr. Hunter was an outstanding mentor. He has a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge relating to the profession and was more than willing to share this wealth of experience with me. He was also exceptionally kind and constantly made sure I was getting the most out of my time, even going above an beyond my role in the library to inform me of events occurring throughout the city. In terms of my role, Dr. Hunter had me take on an assistant-type position in which I shadowed him and helped with his daily duties. This was key to making the experience an invaluable one for me, and I am extremely grateful to Dr. Hunter for giving me this role. Continue reading

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A New Frontier for Middle Eastern Studies in Qatar

Doha skyline.In early January of this year, Libraries’ collections development staff traveled to Doha, the only major city and capital of the small Persian Gulf country Qatar. Although in English our convention is to say the Persian Gulf, Qataris in fact speak a dialect of Arabic. This was a particularly exciting opportunity because Qatar was new territory for Middle Eastern Studies at the Libraries. Although the Middle Eastern Studies staff have traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, Qatar just had not made the list until this year. This fact presented challenges that have proven useful to our professional development, most notably in gaining experience with utilizing professional relationships that lead to local, on-the-ground contacts in unfamiliar locales.

This trip was instrumental in three principal ways: first, for enhancing the Libraries’ distinctive collection in Middle Eastern Studies, especially in the areas of Islamic law and Persian Gulf Studies; second, for getting a sense of the research environment in Qatar; and third, for our professional development.

View of book fair from aboveOne of the reasons that January was chosen as the ideal time for this trip (besides the weather being much more pleasant than the Persian Gulf in summer) was to attend the Doha International Book Fair.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the book fair.We could say that book fairs in Arabic-speaking countries are a big deal, but that would be an understatement. The Cairo International Book Fair, which we have attended in the past, is the largest of the book fairs in the Middle East. It is part scholarly paradise and part carnival. Whole families come out to look at books, make purchases, and find unique materials for their children. The Doha Book Fair was similar, especially as the fair itself put an emphasis on children’s literature.

Book fair booth map and publisher list, including children’s materials.

Armed with a booth map and publisher lists, we started working the book fair on the night of its opening. One of our new colleagues – so new that we met for the first time in Doha through our professional contacts – was in charge of a booth for an interfaith center, and another was a professor at the Georgetown Qatar School of Foreign Service. Yet another was a graduate student in the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies and a Doha local. Their insights and recommendations for local presses and the best ways to get around town and the book fair were indispensable. Continue reading

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