A Dubious Anniversary

It’s hard to believe it has already been five years since Hurricane Katrina nearly leveled the Big Easy.

Next Tuesday (8/31), the Libraries will host a novel event to mark the occasion of the fifth anniversary and reflect on the costliest natural disaster in American history.

The interactive program and exhibit – Hurricane Katrina: 5 Years Later – will take place in the Map Collection on the first floor of the PCL, and will feature relevant Libraries resources like maps, books and video along with presentations by both faculty and experts familiar with the past and current state of the affected areas.

Speakers scheduled to participate include, Dr. Robert Gilbert, Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering; Joyce Shaw, Head Librarian, Gunter Library, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, University of Southern Mississippi (via Skype); Mr. Troy Kimmel, Jr., Department of Geography; and Dr. James McClelland, Marine Science Institute and Environmental Science Institute (via Skype).

The event is free and open to the public, and takes place from 11:30am-1:30pm, so please drop by, have some New Orleans-style café au lait and join in the discussion.

HRDI in DC

T-Kay Sangwand is the Archivist for the Human Rights Documentation Initiative.

Since its inception in 2008, the Human Rights Documentation Initiative has garnered attention within the academic, archival, and human rights communities.  At the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting this week in Washington D.C., the HRDI hopes to raise awareness of its preservation partnerships and connect with members of the archival community who are working on similar projects.

At this year’s Annual Meeting, the newly formed Human Rights Archives Roundtable will hold its inaugural meeting.  In 2009, I worked with Valerie Love, Curator for Human Rights and Alternative Press Collections at the University of Connecticut, to establish SAA’s first Human Rights Archives Roundtable.  The Roundtable “aims to create a space for SAA members and other stakeholders (human rights advocates, scholars, government officials, and non-governmental organization workers) to increase dialogue and collaboration on issues related to the collection, preservation, disclosure, legal implications, and ethics of human rights documentation.”  The first half of the Roundtable meeting will be jointly held with the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives (LACCHA) Roundtable and will feature the panel, “Silence No More! Archives Threatened by Political Instability in Central America.”  The second half of the meeting will feature a presentation on the Center for Research Libraries’ “Human Rights Electronic Evidence Study” preliminary findings by project coordinator, Dr. Sarah Van Deusen Phillips.

SAA’s Oral History Section has invited HRDI Project Manager / Benson Latin American Collection Archivist, Christian Kelleher, to present on the HRDI’s work with the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and its collection of Rwanda Genocide survivor testimonies.  The Oral History Section Meeting will feature three other speakers discussing archival projects with human rights and social justice components.

If you’re in the D.C. area this week, please join us!

In the Land of Peace and Quiet

Susan Ardis is Head Librarian of the McKinney Engineering Library.

I recently had the amazing opportunity to visit two technical libraries in Hanoi one at Hanoi University of Technology (HUT) and the other at Vietnam National University (VNU)-Hanoi not to be confused with the largest university in Vietnam with the same name in Ho Chi Minh City.  Both universities have over 30k students. My visit was in conjunction with an outside consulting project where  I’m the library representative on a team charged with planning for a new technical university to be built 60 kilometers outside of Hanoi.

Hanoi is an enormous city with an estimated population of over 6.5 million and I think I may have seen nearly half of them.   It was the rainy session so if you think about what Houston would be like on serious steroids then you’d have a sense of the temperature and the humidity. I was told how lucky we were since it didn’t rain much (only 20 minutes one day) during our visit. But it was kind of weepy at times.

Sadly there wasn’t much time to be a tourist but I did see and learn a number of things. Cars and motor bikes are everywhere and only cars need to follow road signs such as the one way sign and no driving on the sidewalks.  How do I know? Our driver got a ticket for driving down the wrong way on a one-way street. The motorbikes did not. We saw cars of all types from BMWs to Daewoos to Cadillac Escalades to Fords.  I was surprised to be driven around town in new Ford Explorer. Probably the most interesting aspect of transportation was to see a guy with two front doors tied on to his motorbike just zipping down the street.

All these two-stroke engines means the air is quite polluted so nearly everyone on a motor bike is wearing a face mask. I never saw anyone out of the probably 1m motorbikes not wearing a helmet so this must be an enforced law.  Hanoi is a city on the go, everyone is moving all the time and building are being build and remodeled all over town at an enormous pace. Everyone has a cell phone and everyone is calling all the time even during meetings with what we were told were “high officials.” Continue reading

A Killer Diversion for Galloway

James Galloway, longtime evening supervisor in the Mallet Chemistry Library, has published a book chronicling a fascinating but little-known episode in Austin’s history:  The Servant Girl Murders: Austin, Texas 1885.

The book gathers extensive primary source materials and original research and puts it all together to tell the story of a frightening and ultimately unsolved crime wave in the capital city during the time when UT was in its infancy.  The tale is complete with clues, suspects, detectives, gory details and an elusive perpetrator that had the population of Austin on edge in 1885.

During the course of that year, six women, one man, and one child were murdered in their sleep by a silent, axe-wielding killer.  Many more were attacked.  The police and Pinkertons alike were powerless to stop the crimes. Then the murders ended as mysteriously as they began.  Who was responsible?  How was the person able to escape detection and capture?  And why did the murders stop?  James adds an accompanying essay that examines these still-tantalizing questions.

David Flaxbart is Head Librarian of the Mallet Chemistry Library.

And the Winner is…

On Saturday, July 24, Library Instruction Services hosted the Amazing Library Race as part of the Honors Colloquium sponsored by the School of Undergraduate Studies.

The Colloquium, in its 29th year, invites exceptional high-school students from throughout the state to a unique summer program designed to showcase the very best the university has to offer.  Students attend class sessions and special lectures by distinguished faculty in addition to going on tours and choosing among interest sessions hosted by departments across campus.

During the Amazing Library Race, ten groups raced through PCL, following clues for their assigned country that led them through the stacks, to photocopiers and group study rooms, and to our electronic resources before they had to make a mad dash to the finish line in the Map Room.

This year, Team Netherlands won, finishing in less than 15 minutes. Donuts were enjoyed by all at the end of the race.

The Race is designed to provide students with an introduction to the space and resources of an academic library, allowing them to compare their previous public and school library experiences to the vast collections that they will find in a research library like PCL.  At the end of the event, students had questions about the collections of government documents they saw in the stacks, how they could get a job in the Libraries, and how academic librarians will support them in their research as college students.

This event remains the highlight of the summer for all of the staff in Library Instruction Services and consistently receives rave reviews from the Colloquialists.

See photos from the event here.

Meghan Sitar is Instruction & Outreach Librarian for the University of Texas Libraries.

Breaking Through Austerity

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

-Benjamin Franklin

You’ve probably heard the news that UT-Austin has initiated a plan to cut $14.6 million in expenditures for 2010 – 2011. Everyone on campus has been looking for places to trim back, trying to decide what is core and essential and what is just “nice to have.”

The UT Libraries has a long-standing commitment to staff training and professional development and that commitment has not wavered during these tough economic times.   However, we have had to find creative ways to provide this training with fewer financial resources.

One approach we have taken is a program called Learning Breaks.  Every other week, someone from the Libraries staff will do two 30 minute presentations, one in-person and one online through our online meetings software, about a topic in which they have expertise.  This approach has allowed us to offer trainings on a wide variety of topics ranging from Web 2.0 applications such as Twitter, Flickr, wikis and blogs to time management practices such as managing your to-do list.

Since these topics are suggested by staff we know they fulfill a need.  What’s more, the benefits of Learning Breaks go beyond what is learned in the training; this peer-to-peer model also allows the Libraries to recognize and value the expertise and diverse talents of the staff.    And by incorporating ongoing training into the work day on a regular basis, Learning Breaks send a message that library staff are worth the investment.

Catherine Hamer is Interim Associate Director for User Services.