Student Produces in Media Lab

Roberto Torres, a recent graduate from UT Austin’s Radio, Television and Film program, has been one of the Media Lab’s most enthusiastic and regular users since we opened this summer. He received early training in film production at McAllen High School in south Texas, where he won awards for his work on the KMAC student-run news station.

Here at UT, Roberto has strengthened his skills in shooting, editing and post-production, and has started experimenting with special effects. This video shows how he combined 3D modelling software Maya with Adobe Premiere and After Effects to “shatter” the wall of a building:

Check out more of Roberto Torres’s videos at the PCL Media Lab blog.

Make It New: A Learning Commons at PCL

Learning Commons conceptual drawings by Gensler.
Learning Commons conceptual drawings by Gensler.

“A real building is one on which the eye can light and stay lit,” exhorted poet Ezra Pound, commenting on the need for architecture to be visually engaging in order to stimulate the mind — a thought that could just as easily apply to that which occurs within a given structure. With the Perry-Castañeda Library’s (PCL) recent entry in the Austin Chronicle’s “Best of 2014” issue with the dubious distinction of “Best Brutalist Architecture,” there’s little promise that the edifice of the 70’s-era building would meet Pound’s condition for generating intellectual inspiration, so the Libraries must instead focus on that which occurs within the walls of its spaces to spark creativity and innovation.

To that end, the Libraries is undertaking its largest transformation of space since the PCL’s construction in an effort to adapt to the changing needs and practices of its users, as well as to the expectations of the larger campus community.

This semester, construction is beginning on phase one of a project to create a cross-campus collaborative space in the Libraries’ flagship branch where student learning at the university will enter a new era. The University of Texas Libraries Learning Commons has been in development over the past 18 months through engagement with campus stakeholders and discussions with university administrators to envision the transformation of outmoded library space into a place where active learning and modern scholarship can occur.

“Libraries have learned from recent paradigm shifts to be more agile than they were traditionally,” says Executive Associate Director Catherine Hamer. “While shrinking budgets compound the difficulty of making wholesale changes to how we operate, we’ve continued planning and executing on efforts that are known needs for students, faculty and researchers. We’ve been developing the Learning Commons as a major strategic goal behind the scenes for some time, and I’m gratified that we’re finally able to announce it as a reality.”

Library space designed by Gensler.
Library space designed by Gensler.

The 20,000 square-foot renovation on the entry-level of PCL will include new technology-rich classrooms built for 21st century learning, consultation spaces and meeting areas. It will boast a modern media lab with high-end software and support for digital media creation that will be available to every student on campus — regardless of college or school — as well as support for faculty who want to incorporate digital literacy into their courses. The Learning Commons will also serve as the new home for the University Writing Center (UWC), the first-of-its-kind partnership between the Libraries and another campus service unit devised to streamline resources for students at UT by locating specialized service at the point of need. Continue reading

Bexar County Courthouse by James Riely Gordon

Bexar County Courthouse rendering, undated Bexar County, Texas. James Riely Gordon Drawings and Papers. Alexander Architectural Archive. University of Texas Libraries. The University of Texas at Austin.
Bexar County Courthouse rendering, undated Bexar County, Texas. James Riely Gordon Drawings and Papers. Alexander Architectural Archive. University of Texas Libraries. The University of Texas at Austin.

James Riely Gordon (1863-1937) was an architect who practiced in both San Antonio and New York City, best-known for his Richardsonian Romanesque designs of public buildings which accommodated a natural ventilation system so essential in the hot, Texas climate.

Gordon excelled at the design of public buildings and constructed 16 county courthouses in Texas alone. Among his designs for courthouses in Texas include the example above in Bexar County (1891-1896), as well as structures in Victoria County (1892), Ellis County (1895) and McLennan County (1901). 

His collection at the Alexander Architectural Archive contains 6,500 drawings, 13 linear feet of architectural records, and 1,600 photographs representing more than 300 buildings and documenting both the Texas and New York phases of Gordon’s career (1890-1937). 

Gordon’s public works across the state are cataloged in the book James Riely Gordon: His Courthouses and Other Public Architecture by Chris Meister (Texas Tech University Press, 2011).

Breaking the Silence: Excessive Noise

iIt’s a challenge to combat long-held stereotypes — especially those that have gained a foothold in cultural consciousness — but libraries are increasingly finding ways to overcome an accepted caricature as spaces where quiet contemplation is guarded by strict disciplinarians with fingers firmly pressed to pursed lips.

More and more, programs developed to redouble the idea of library as a community third place have cut through the silence and opened the space to utilization in unexpected ways. As gateways to information, libraries have always served as cultural hubs; the advent of the internet offers opportunities to reimagine how they can fit within a social framework where the written word has largely ceded prominence to ones and zeroes.

One such example of rethinking space is evident at the Fine Arts Library (FAL), thanks to its close ties with emerging artists at the Butler School of Music.

In 2011, Music Librarian David Hunter approached graduate research assistant and doctoral candidate Russell Podgorsek — also the evening and weekend desk manager for the library at the time — about launching a music series to take place in the Roberts Reading Room at the FAL.

Podgorsek ran with the idea, imagining an eclectic program that had its roots in classical techniques, but would be creatively free-form in substance. He began pitching the concept to his colleagues and contemporaries in the university and broader Austin music communities and recruiting artists for the series premiere that took place in early 2012 and featured three original compositions by students of the Butler School — including Podgorsek, who is himself an accomplished composer, violist and guitarist.

To date, concerts have featured an array of composers, artists and performers from both the School of Music and the Austin community, including the Cordova Quartet; university Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, Bereket; Duo Brucoco; alumna Pamela Wilkinson; and dancer Reema Bounajem.

“Excessive Noise” will resume its run with the seventh concert in the series on January 31, and Podgorsek continues his curatorial duties under the appellation of the recently-formed Pale Blue. collaborative.

The concert, “winter winds… by Pale Blue. part 1,” features chamber music for winds including “Jabberwock” by current Butler School of Music (BSOM) DMA student Chris Prosser; “Poco Adagio” by BSOM alumnus Russell Podgorsek; and performances by the Butler School of Music Graduate Saxophone Quartet, the Aero Quintet, and current DMA students Charlotte Daniel (flute) and Chad Ibison (guitar).

Russell Podgorsek.

Podgorsek took time recently to answer some questions about his experiences in developing “Excessive Noise.”

What spawned the idea for “Excessive Noise”?

Russell Podgorsek: Back in 2011 Dr. David Hunter asked me if I’d be interested in resurrecting a music series at the Fine Arts Library since one had been done years earlier but not in recent memory.

At the time “Excessive Noise” started I was a Graduate Research Assistant at the Fine Arts Library. (Fine Arts Head Librarian) Laura Schwartz, (Theater and Dance Librarian) Beth Kerr and David Hunter were kind enough to fold it into my responsibilities along with supervising and stacks maintenance. Once I graduated I stayed on as an hourly employee so it was easy to continue the series.

How do you come up with the programs?

RP: The programs are largely centered around players’ availability and interest in performing what they’re working on. Being a composer myself it also seemed natural to have several new works on each concert. UT and Austin in general are musically so rich that it’s almost too easy to fill up a program sometimes. Recently I’ve asked others at UT to collaborate with us in an effort to engage other libraries and collections as well as other departments. Last spring we did a joint event with the PCL Map Collection’s event series, “You Are Here,” that showcased works with ties to specific locales and the corresponding items in the Map Collection and at FAL. Later this semester we’re joining up with the Asian Studies department to present a concert exploring the intersection of Eastern and Western cultures. On smaller scales, we’ve had students from both Architecture and Theater and Dance perform or present on these concerts as well.

What sort of benefit does it provide for the performers/artists?

RP: Performing itself is an enjoyable activity but the audiences that these events draw are of a different composition than those at a “regular” recital or concert and connecting with a new part of the community is what it’s about. That being said, all of the performers are young professionals (the Butler School of Music is a great place), they know what they’re doing, and always present a high quality artistic product.

Laura Schwartz is really open to programs like “Excessive Noise” that make use of library space in an unexpected way. What’s it like holding the event in a library? Continue reading

Reaching Out to Make New Connections

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The University of Texas Libraries reached out in new ways this past semester to actively engage patrons through initiatives demonstrating how the UT Libraries is evolving, changing in ways that might be unexpected, and honing services that are more relevant than ever before.

This fall the UT Libraries participated in a nationwide “Outside the Lines” initiative, in its nascent year, by showcasing services, hosting activities and highlighting treasures, and then expanded its “Crunch Time” initiative, now in its seventh year, to insert the Libraries collections, resources and experts into the flow of academic endeavor that culminates as midterms approached.

Concentrated within one week in mid-September, our incarnation of “Outside the Lines” (OTL) consisted of a Perry-Castaneda Library (PCL) Media Lab-sponsored activity enabling participants to make music with a robot or animate a cartoon, an open house for Chinese-speaking students, a slam poetry performance by Spitshine at the UT Poetry Center, an event co-sponsored by the departments of English, Middle Eastern Studies, Molecular Biology and Spanish and Portuguese, and the 5th Annual LLILAS Benson Student Photo Exhibition featuring photographs taken by students highlighting research, fieldwork and volunteer activities related to Latin America and U.S. Latino communities.

The culminating OTL activity, DJs spinning music from the Fine Art Library’s recently acquired KUT CD collection, was postponed due to rain but successfully paired with a subsequent Hearts of Texas State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) event on the PCL Plaza for a truly “Outside the Lines” mash up of music and philanthropic momentum.

“Crunch Time 2014” was sponsored by these seven UT Libraries in mid-October: Architecture and Planning, LLILAS Benson, Chemistry, Fine Arts, Life Science, PCL and Physics Mathematics Astronomy.  Each location featured Crunch Time handouts, mini-Nestle Crunch bars, and opportunities for students to get help with assignments, schedule a research consultation session with a subject specialist, and check out collections and places to study.

These exciting efforts yielded vital means for the UT Libraries to connect with a diverse array of UT students, library users, authors and members of the broader Austin community. Planning and execution of each of these events was achieved through cross-Libraries and campus-wide collaboration, as well as the talent, knowledge, and expertise of Libraries staff, presenters and the participants themselves.  These successful connections of people, resources, and spaces provided further evidence that the UT Libraries serve as nourishing places for learning, discovery and inspiration.