Libraries and Technology — From Clay Tablets to 3D Printers

3-D printing a Longhorn at the Fine Arts Library.
3D printing a Longhorn at the Fine Arts Library.

A fellow library staffer recently observed that libraries are the place where the public goes to get an introduction to new technologies. One may scoff at that notion as an overstatement of importance, but on examination, it’s not such a far-fetched idea.

Libraries are in the business of early adoption for technological innovations, as most leaps forward have a profound effect on how library resources are preserved, shared and consumed. And as we begin to augment ways in which knowledge can be transformed either at the point of inspiration or in the presence of the resources that make transformation possible, it’s a natural progression to provide users with tools to communicate new ideas through the creative process as a next stage of evolution for libraries.

To wit, the very first cuneiform tablets may not seem terribly innovative given our immersion in modern digital technologies, but they represented a leap forward in how to document the knowledge of human existence. And they were collected in the precursors to libraries discovered in Sumeria — some dating as early as 2600 BC — which initially served to house government and religious records, but later incorporated information regarding history, mathematics and sciences.

Clay eventually made way for papyrus and paper, and later the printing press made duplication and dissemination a reality. In their early stages, these techniques and what they produced weren’t available to common people so the library, in time, filled the demand for access. Following a historical timeline forward, libraries have continued this trend, introducing the public to initially expensive and difficult to access post-industrial technologies like typewriters, copiers, PCs, printers and the internet — and to varying degrees, have made freely available tools for manipulating information of all types.

We’ve previously talked about a new kind of space that will launch at the Fine Arts Library (FAL) this fall that will continue precisely this function for library users. “The Foundry” is a maker space being developed to support the new undergraduate major in the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET) announced in February by the College of Fine Arts (COFA) by providing a suite of creativity tools that either have limited availability, limited accessibility or don’t exist elsewhere on campus.

The Foundry will feature numerous studios equipped with the most current technologies for specialized production by students in the CAET program, that will also be accessible to students from any department on campus.

The Game Development Studio will permit collaborative and immersive game play, game testing and game creation, where users will be able to check out the most recent consoles and connect these to large-format monitors for multi-person, multiplayer activities, as well as tools for developing artwork, sounds and game scripts for a variety of platforms. The Singer-Songwriter Studio will provide a variety of equipment for song creation — keyboard, computer, mixer, microphones and, most importantly, a voiceover booth that provides significant sound isolation for singers and narrators to practice and record vocal parts. A Video Production Studio will provide high-end video technology and software as well as equipment to check out. A 3D Print Workspace will include a cluster of 6 LulzBot TAZ 6 3D Printer stations and a Next Engine Desktop Laser Scanner that will be fully supported from design assistance to production. A Fiber Arts Studio will provide modern sewing and embroidery machines for textile work.  And the Maker Workshop will include microelectronics materials and a variety of shop tools and materials for creating across a broad spectrum of media, as well as a selection of high-end production machines:

a large-format Roland VS-30i Printer/Cutter,

a BOSS LS-2436 Laser Cutter,

a Carvey Desktop CNC Router,

a Roland MDX-40A CNC Mill,

Roland MDX-40a milling machine

and a Manix Precision Hot Wire EPS Foam Cutter.

Manix Hot Wire Foam Cutter.

There’s an air of nostalgia to a book-centric notion of libraries that persists with the institution’s adherents over time. But let’s not forget that libraries have long been on the leading edge of adopting new technologies throughout history — books included — and making them available to everyone.

Collections Highlight: Audio Equipment Morgue at HMRC

Edison Amberola 75 cylinder player and cabinet. ca. 1915. Photo by Mark Menjivar.
Edison Amberola 75 cylinder player and cabinet. ca. 1915. Photo by Mark Menjivar.

The Historical Music Recordings Collection is the largest repository at the university for sound recordings (and one of the largest such collections in the United States) featuring a breadth of genres in almost every type of format utilized to store sound.

Due to the variety of formats, the HMRC also maintains an equipment morgue of anachronisms —  a collection of Victrolas, Edisons, wire recorders, reel-to-reels, tape recorders and other bygone audio recording and listening devices.

 

Students Providing Creative Support

ULN lab assistant Charisma Soriano and Learning Technologies Librarian Cindy Fisher.
ULN lab assistant Charisma Soriano and Learning Technologies Librarian Cindy Fisher.

When Teaching and Learning Services initiated the PCL Media Lab pilot phase in the Fall 2014 semester, we opted to experiment with a unique staffing model. Partnering with the University Leadership Network, a similarly youthful campus initiative, we developed a tiered, three-year internship program that would synthesize our staffing needs with an effort to cultivate digital media expertise in the Libraries.

In Year 1, interns undergo basic training in audio, graphics and video software, following step-by-step tutorials that we developed in house. By the end of their first semester, we expect our interns to have a shared vocabulary in multiple areas of media production. They assemble a short podcast using Audacity, then reconstruct a digital collage in Photoshop, and finally use public domain footage to edit a short video with music in Adobe Premiere Pro. For the Spring 2015 semester, we encouraged our interns to specialize in a software area of their own choosing, and to propose a project with the most appropriate software. That approach resulted in two short films, a digital music composition, the first phase of a student organization’s website, a 3-D modeling project and a graphic guide to using the pilot lab’s scanners. Furthermore, the Lab Assistants produced tutorial guides to help users understand the workflows and technical vocabulary required to produce this work.

Starting in Fall 2015, we wanted the Year 2 Lab Assistants to improve on their existing strengths, develop their areas of interest and, when possible, create work that could benefit UT Libraries as an institution. What follows is a summary of the work done this year by our ULN Lab Assistants as part of the digital media training that forms the backbone of their internship, and helps us to offer expertise to users in the PCL Media Lab.

Graphics

During the first semester, Product Design junior Whitney Chen and Fine Arts sophomore Jessica Vacek collaborated to produce a desktop calendar, copies of which were printed and sent to Libraries’ supporters. The pair took original photographs in different library branches around the 40 Acres, then embellished those pictures using Adobe Illustrator

From the Libraries calendar.
From the Libraries calendar by Whitney Chen and Jessica Vacek.

Later in the semester, Whitney designed UT Libraries’ annual holiday card, which is distributed stakeholders and peers nationwide.

Greeting card.
Greeting card by Jessica Vacek.

In the spring semester, Jessica took a turn doing some work for Communications by designing our popular Greetings from the Library postcard, distributed for free in PCL and featuring iconic images of the branch libraries (such FAL’s hanging piano).

In another graphic combining freehand drawing with Adobe Illustrator, Jessica also gave us a new design for the birthday cards that UT Libraries sends to supporters. Much of Jessica’s artistic training has been in freehand techniques and photography (check out some of her work here: http://operation-jessica.tumblr.com/), so her internship in the PCL Media Lab has helped her to integrate more traditional media with new digital tools.

Whitney was equally busy with clever graphics work this semester, this time training her designer’s eye on promotional materials for one PCL’s most popular events, the visits from dog therapy groups. We’ve featured some of Whitney’s work on Tex Libris before  and there is more to view on her portfolio website, so we’ll just let these two pieces speak for themselves.

"The Dogfather" by Whitney Chen.
“The Dogfather” by Whitney Chen.
"Barks and Recreation" by Whitney Chen.
“Barks and Recreation” by Whitney Chen.

Video

Video production and editing software is some of the most popular in the lab, so it’s no surprise that it was an equally popular area for our Lab Assistants to choose for specialty training. We featured one of these projects in Tex Libris earlier in the year, recounting how, using Adobe Premiere Pro, Charisma Soriano (Junior, Marketing + Film and Television), Lucia Aremu (Junior, Government) and Jocelyn Mendoza (Junior, Bilingual Education) “organized, shot, edited and produced a short documentary film” about the Freud Reia punk collection that the Fine Arts Library had recently obtained.

The video team took a more whimsical approach for their next project, using iMovie to stitch together a dreamy snapshot of life after hours in the PCL.

We unfortunately lost Jocelyn Mendoza to another internship at the beginning of the spring semester, but the video team benefitted from the addition of Computer Science junior Victor Maestas, who has been active in amateur filmmaking since high school. Working with Librarian for First-Year Programs Sarah Brandt, Victor, Charisma and Lucia produced an Orientation to UT Libraries video that will be used to help incoming freshmen get to know their way around different branches and library services.

3-D Modelling

With the increasing popularity of 3-D printing, and especially in light of the incipient makerspace in the Fine Arts Library, we are grateful to have the expertise of Thang Truong, a Biology junior, in the PCL Media Lab. Thang began experimenting with Autodesk’s  Maya software last year, and has significantly expanded his knowledge to include 3-D printing with Sketchup and more complex modelling techniques in Maya and Blender, another application offered in the Media Lab. The images below feature examples of Thang’s work, including an iPhone case that he printed through UT’s Innovation Station.

3d  modelling.
3d modelling.
iPhone case by Thang Truong.
iPhone case by Thang Truong.

The PCL Media Lab Assistants continue to exceed our expectations and do a terrific job of helping our patrons in the lab. Next year we aim to offer more one-on-one and small group consultations with the Lab Assistants, allowing them to share their expertise with an increasingly large user base.

Harvesting Hardboiled Literature

Sricharan Navuluri.
Sricharan Navuluri.

The UT Libraries has been busy working on our role in national collaborations for deepening and diversifying South Asian collections while simultaneously making them more accessible. One of these efforts exemplifies our multi-pronged approach, namely the growing — albeit idiosyncratic — niche collection in popular and pulp fiction in regional South Asian languages. The various projects associated with this collection have harmoniously united to form a synergy of resources for scholars of South India.

On a brief acquisitions trip to South India last year, Mary Rader, the South Asia Librarian and Global Studies coordinator, obtained a treasure trove of popular and pulp fiction novels to jumpstart our efforts. These novels were primarily in Telugu, the chief language of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and third most spoken language in India.

“Abhiśāpaṃ” by Yaddanapūḍi Sulōcanārāṇi.

Popular and pulp fiction literature gained popularity across India during the 1950s and 1960s — a time of tremendous social activism in the subcontinent. For example, after India gained independence in 1947, many social reformists and their movements sought to encourage women to learn to read and write. As a result of these efforts, women writers across the socioeconomic spectrum took advantage of the medium of popular and pulp fiction to address contemporary societal dilemmas. The issues these women wrote about included problems they faced personally as well as those issues that permeated throughout Indian culture. Thanks to these movements, the 1960s were dominated by female writers who wrote fiction that subtly critiqued social issues while piquing the interest of the common reader with imaginative storylines and exuberant characters. In this vein, pulp and popular fiction presented a very raw and realistic take on life, which allowed the middle class to see elements of their lived experiences within the confines of these beautifully illustrated, modest books.

“Kālakanya : saspens, miṣṭarī thrillar” by Madhubābu.

These popular and pulp fiction authors also had close connections with the movie industry, aside from writing for popular cinema magazines. Another one of the authors whose works we have acquired — Yaddanapūḍi Sulōcanārāṇi — wrote sought-after fiction that was frequently used as the plot of many successful Telugu movies.  Her love stories and dramas were popular for younger generations and directors such as K. Viswanath adapted her stories into extremely popular films that addressed a wide array of social issues.

“Sampeṅga podalu” by Si. Ānandārāmaṃ.

Another set of contemporaneous novelists replicated the detective novel literature that was popular in the U.S. during the 1930s and 1940s. Proliferous authors like Sāmbaśivarāvu Kommūri, Madhubābu, and Rāmmōhanarāvu Sūryadēvara produced dozens of novels providing quick entertainment while still addressing contemporary social issues in a more informal context.

"Ekkavalasina Railu" by Dwivedula Visaalakshi.
“Ekkavalasina railu” by Dvivēdula Viśālākṣi.

As we continue to develop this distinctive niche collection, we are also working to make our Telugu materials more accessible.  As part of the South Asian Language Journals Cooperative Table of Contents Project (SALToC), we have been annotating Telugu journals within the Libraries’ collection.  As we worked on the annotations, unique parallels with our pulp and popular fiction emerged.  Our first contribution to SALToC was the creation of a table of contents for Āndhrasacitra vārapatrika, a 200+ issue weekly cinema magazine that included short stories by amateur authors. In the early 1960s, weekly and monthly journals like Āndhrasacitra vārapatrika flooded the market with editors who eagerly encouraged women to write. Many of the short stories written by these women gained critical acclaim. In particular, a short story called “Sampenga Podalu” or Tuberose Vines, written by C. Ananda Ramam in Āndhrasacitra vārapatrika, jumpstarted her career as a successful popular fiction novelist. Similarly, another of the authors whose works we have acquired – Dvivēdula Viśālākṣi – had the beginning of her career founded in a short story she wrote for another one of these popular journals.

We have a lot more annotating, researching, and acquiring to do and we have started work in other regional languages like Tamil and Malayalam. In the meantime, check out the amazing resources we are compiling.

Written by Sricharan Navuluri — South Asia Library Assistant working with Global Studies Coordinator Mary Rader.

Support Open Access? We Want to Send You to DC.

The University of Texas Libraries wants to send you to OpenCon 2016 in Washington, DC.

If you’re a graduate student with interest in Open Access (OA), Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Open Data who wants to help shape the future of research and education at UT, consider applying for a travel scholarship being provided by the Libraries to attend this year’s OpenCon —  an academic conference for students and early career researchers taking place November 12–14, 2016 in the nation’s capital.

The scholarship winner will receive a $2000 stipend — an amount that planners designed cover all expenses for attendees. OpenCon is an excellent opportunity to learn more about open access, open education and open data, to learn how to advocate for these issues, and to network with people from across the globe. The program includes keynote talks, panel discussions, workshops, hackathons, and an opportunity to lobby at the US Congress. It truly is an international conference — last year’s conference included attendees from 5 continents!

In exchange for the stipend, the winner will participate in campus discussions about their experiences at the conference, and share ideas with Libraries administration, faculty and student government leaders about how to make Open Access a campus priority.

Requirements:

UT Austin graduate student or postdoctoral researcher. Attendee agrees to engage in the open discussion on campus and to give updates to undergraduate and graduate student government upon their return.

To apply:

Please send a statement (no longer than 500 words) discussing how you would work with the Libraries to engage the campus community in discussions of an open agenda for UT.

Submit your statement and resume/CV to Scholarly Communications Librarian Colleen Lyon by Thursday, June 30, 2016. Applicants will be notified with a decision by July 15, 2016. If you have questions about the conference or about the application process, please contact Colleen at 512-495-4244 or c.lyon@austin.utexas.edu.