All posts by Jenifer Flaxbart

Libraries Host Digital Humanities Gathering

This June, the Libraries will be ramping up efforts in the area of digital humanities by hosting an immersive, hands-on one-week institute for people interested in getting involved in the burgeoning field.

HILT 2017HILT — Humanities Intensive Learning + Teaching — took place previously at the University of Maryland and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and is this year heading to UT. The Libraries has played a key role in bringing this learning opportunity to campus and will host HILT classes and events in the recently renovated Learning Commons in the Perry-Castañeda Library.

Nine courses, taught by nationally-recognized experts, will introduce a national cohort of participants to a wide variety of digital humanities and digital scholarship tools, methodologies, approaches and considerations.

Following HILT, the university is hosting the “DH@UT” Pop-Up Institute, a series of planning sessions involving librarians, faculty, researchers and other members of the campus community who want to confer and consult with experts from HILT on specific ideas for digital humanities and digital scholarship projects.

The Pop-Up Institute — one of three in an initial foray sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research —  will provide opportunities to develop grant proposals for support from sponsors such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and Institute of Museum and Library Services, and to develop an organized research unit proposal for an Institute for Digital Scholarship at the university.

Both HILT and the Pop-Up Institute will foster scholarship, interdisciplinary community-building and collaboration here on campus and across the spectrum of disciplines and institutions represented at HILT.

The Libraries currently supports digital humanities and digital scholarship with software and tools, and through consultations, workshops and course-related instruction. Staff are constantly expanding expertise in these areas to provide individualized, experience-based project and research support. HILT is an exciting opportunity that will enable many Libraries subject specialist liaison librarians to develop new skills, and the Pop-Up Institute offers new opportunity for Libraries staff to partner with faculty in foundational efforts to digitally evolve research, teaching and learning at UT Austin.

A full description of HILT 2017 courses is available on the registration site, and an inventory of digital humanities work being done at UT Austin is available on the web pages describing the Pop-Up Institute: https://sites.utexas.edu/utdh/

Learn more about the UT Libraries’ efforts in digital humanities and scholarship here. 

In the Realm of Digital Humanities

Humanities meets technology.

You may have heard the phrase digital humanities (DH), or broadly, digital scholarship (DS), and wondered, “What exactly does that mean?” The reality is that DH or DS means different things to different people.

Within the University of Texas Libraries, we think about digital scholarship as research and teaching that is enabled by digital technologies, or that takes advantage of these technologies to address questions in a new way. Dr. Tanya Clement, UT faculty member and leading scholar in the digital humanities arena, believes that DH work applies technology to humanities questions and also subjects technology to humanistic interrogation.

DH and DS are interconnected and yet not interchangeable. In her recent book, When We are No More, author Abby Smith Rumsey describes the DS landscape as involving and leveraging “use of digital evidence and method, digital authoring, digital publishing, digital curation and preservation, and digital use and reuse of scholarship” to discover new things. Her description creates capacity for interdisciplinary investigation and the application of DS tools and methodologies to disciplines beyond the humanities.

Development of a framework to support digital scholarship is one of UT Libraries four current strategic priorities. The reorganization that we’ve undertaken in the last year has established a digital scholarship department that brings together a small team of experts focused on scholarly communication and open access initiatives, research data services, digital project work — including education and partnerships — and innovative spaces and services associated with the Scholars Commons pilot project.

The digital scholarship team is building on and expanding the UT Libraries capacity to engage with and support DH and DS projects and pedagogy. Much of this work involves UT Libraries subject specialist liaison librarians, colleagues in UT Libraries Information Technology (IT) and Discovery and Access divisions, collections, graduate students, and faculty, both as researchers and as teachers.

The UT Libraries has had some early successes with digital scholarship projects related to Human Rights and Latin American initiatives in LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, the partnership between the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Benson Latin American Collection. These projects include Primeros Libros, LADI, the Latin American Digital Initiatives archive, and research and teaching initiatives built around the Digital Archive of the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (AHPN), among others.

LLILAS Benson is currently wrapping up its National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Office of digital humanities Reading the First Books project, a two-year collaborative effort to develop platforms for the automatic transcription of multilingual books published in 16th-century Mexico. A public symposium on May 30 will celebrate the project’s milestones, which include the developed transcription tool, the interface prototype, and data sets. The symposium will also bring together invited scholars, librarians, developers, and students for a day-long conversation on the themes of digital scholarship, colonial and early modern history, and Latin American studies.

LLILAS Benson digital scholarship Coordinator Albert Palacios works with a number of UT Libraries IT and Discovery and Access experts to complete project work of this nature. He also notes the essential involvement of staff like Hannah Alpert-Abrams — doctoral candidate in the UT Austin Program of Comparative Literature — and the project’s Graduate Research Assistant (GRA), Maria Victoria Fernandez — a graduate student in the LLILAS-School of Information dual degree program — who manage and execute the complex, detail-oriented tasks involved.

Other examples of recent project work include European Studies and Digital Scholarship Librarian Ian Goodale’s use of open source publishing platform Scalar to create an access portal for documents from the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library related to a period of political reform in Czechoslovakia known as the “Prague Spring.” Initiated through collaborations between the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES) Director Dr. Mary Neuburger and UT Libraries Assistant Director of Research Mary Rader, the resulting website recently went live making these locally held documents available to the world.

Prague Spring
The Prague Spring website.

Ian realized their vision with the assistance of several GRAs, most recently School of Information graduate student Nicole Marino, and in consultation with and through support from UT Libraries Discovery and Access experts. Utilizing digital humanities tools and collaborative approaches to leveraging local expertise, the project creates context for important, unique primary source materials and shares them via UT Libraries open access repository, Texas ScholarWorks. Ian describes the Prague Spring Archive portal as an attractive, easy to navigate resource that will continue to grow over time. He collaborated with REEES faculty members Dr. Mary Neuburger and Dr. Vlad Beronja and students in their graduate course last semester to review and annotate additional materials for inclusion. This content and new features, in development, will expand its scope and elevate its impact.

Tamil pulp novels from the South Asian Collection.
Tamil pulp novels from the South Asian Collection.

The UT Libraries is also using Omeka, a flexible open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions, to feature collections of distinction. Digital Scholarship Librarian Allyssa Guzman and UT Libraries Ask a Librarian GRAs Ashley Morrison and Mitch Cota are working together to create an exhibition of South Asian Popular and Pulp Fiction collection book covers. The items in this collection broadly represent different types and periods of pulp fiction in India. The book covers included  highlight examples of texts that enable scholars to explore literary conventions, cultural themes, social anxieties and alternative uses of South Asian languages such as Telugu, Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam, and Tamil.

Katie Pierce Meyer, our Humanities Librarian for Architecture and Planning, launched a Digital Scholars in Practice lecture series last year. The series showcases scholars conducting research through digital technologies, conducting research on digital technologies, and critically examining digital technologies in practice. It also seeks to celebrate innovative scholarship and build a community of practice of Digital Scholars both on a local and national scale. The most recent lecture featured Dr. Kristine Stiphany, a practicing architect and scholar who holds a visiting postdoctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation at UT Austin. She spoke about her work using digital technologies to draw social parameters into the design and construction of infrastructure in Brazilian informal settlements.

UT Libraries has several other projects in the works, and once implemented, a reshaped digital project proposal process being created by a Digital Projects Cross-functional Team, will undoubtedly surface others of potential promise and impact. Meanwhile, the digital scholarship departmental team continues to build skills and relationships that will foster a collaborative, sustainable approach to digital project work and digital scholarship within and beyond the UT Libraries and UT Austin.

 

Scholars Commons Pilot “Sneak Preview”

Attendees see conceptual slides for the future Scholars Commons.

The Libraries held a Kick-off event on September 16 to share design renderings of a new academic work space in the Perry-Castaneda Library called the Scholars Commons that will be piloted on entry level starting early next year.

My colleagues and I had the great opportunity to welcome attendees into an empty room behind yellow paper-covered windows to share a “before” glimpse of what the UT Libraries hopes will become a favorite place on campus for graduate students and scholars.

Scheduled to open in January 2016, this “third space” for serious study is a pilot project to test services and different types of spaces.

The Scholars Commons initiative is comprised of 3 main areas:

  • silent study space,
  • a Data Lab, and
  • a Graduate Landing Spot, with reservable media-equipped rooms, a lounge and a break room.

Design development for the space was informed by input from graduate student and faculty focus groups and a survey with over 1,200 respondents conducted last spring. Additional insights came from the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), the Graduate Student Writing Group and Graduate Student Services within OGS. The design was created by Harmony Edwards-Canfield of E+MID (Edwards + Mulhausen Interior Design), also responsible for several successful recently completed PCL projects.

Situated opposite the new glass-walled Media Lab, in what was formerly the Periodicals Room and the adjacent office suites that housed the Research and Information Services department, the Scholars Commons is tangible, visible evidence of support for serious students and scholars.

The materials in that space were relocated elsewhere within PCL, and the staff relocated to a UT Libraries office suite in the new Learning Commons, next to the University Writing Center. As with space used to create the Learning Commons, the Scholars Commons project represents intentional repurposing of staff space for student use.

The office suite closest to the PCL lobby will host speech center services provided by the Sanger Learning Center and research consultations in media-equipped meeting rooms with UT Libraries librarians. When not reserved for consultations, the rooms will be available for group study use by students.

Subject specialist librarians, or liaison librarians, already work one-to-one or in small groups with students and faculty to advise on literature reviews, research paper resources, data needs and other aspects of the research process and lifecycle, including publishing. These refreshed rooms will expand existing consultation space.

The large room that once housed the current periodicals and reference materials will become silent study space. And the office suite in the back of that room will be a dedicated Graduate Landing Spot for group study and informal community building.

The Scholars Commons will also offer programming, including salon events with featured speakers, research presentations and exhibit space. In brief, the pilot focuses on real-life needs, real-world challenges, research and relationships.

Lorraine Haricombe with representatives of Graduate Studies.Kick-off participants enjoyed locally-sourced refreshments and live music by Maxwell’s Daemons, a celebratory nod to the soon-to-be-silent zone for scholarly endeavor.

Brianna Frey, an Architecture graduate student in attendance, expressed that the quality and amenities of a study area are important because productivity stems from the ability to focus. “Additionally, it is important, especially because my field has a lot of group work, to have collaborative spaces in study areas” Frey told the Daily Texan. The pilot will offer both options.

Monitor this blog and UT Libraries social media outlets for more details as the January reveal approaches.

Showcasing the Hamilton Book Award Winners

Authors, left to right: Allison Lowery, Dr. Desmond Lawler, Dr. Huaiyin Li, and grand-prize winner Dr. Denise Spellberg.
Authors, left to right: Allison Lowery, Dr. Desmond Lawler, Dr. Huaiyin Li, and grand-prize winner Dr. Denise Spellberg.

Doing research in a library can be an adventure in serendipitous discovery. For Dr. Denise Spellberg, Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, an unexpected search result was the impetus for a research project that resulted in her acclaimed book, Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders.

Dr. Denise Spellberg sharing the details of how her award-winning work began.
Dr. Denise Spellberg sharing the details of how her award-winning work began.

Dr. Spellberg shared this recollection—along with other fascinating insights from her research—at the Hamilton Book Awards Author Showcase and Reception, which was held at the Perry-Castañeda Library last Friday. Dr. Spellberg’s book was the 2014 grand-prize winner of the Robert W. Hamilton Book Award.

Dr. Spellberg was joined by three of the runner-up prize-winners, whose work was also honored at the 2014 award ceremony: Dr. Desmond Lawler of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (for Water Quality Engineering: Physical/Chemical Treatment Processes, which he co-authored with Mark Benjamin); Dr. Huaiyin Li of the Departments of History and Asian Studies (for Reinventing Modern China: Imagination and Authenticity in Chinese Historical Writing); and Ms. Allison Lowery, from the Texas Performing Arts Center and the Department of Theatre and Dance (for Historical Wig Styling: Volumes 1 and 2).

Dr. Lorraine Haricombe, UT Libraries Vice Provost and Director.
Dr. Lorraine Haricombe, UT Libraries Vice Provost and Director.

With presentations nearly as diverse as the PCL’s collection, each faculty author gave the audience an introduction to the themes and motivations that define and drive their research. Both Dr. Lawler and Ms. Lowery spoke of their passion—for clean water and the craft of wig creation, respectively—while Dr. Li described how his experiences in China and the United States allowed him to analyze modern Chinese historical writing. Dr. Spellberg recounted how the discovery of playbill from a 1782 performance of Voltaire’s Mahomet in Baltimore led her to research the role of Islam in early American history.

George Mitchell, president and CEO of the University Co-op.
George Mitchell, president and CEO of the University Co-op.

The University Co-op has sponsored the Hamilton Book Awards since 1997. Winners are determined by a multidisciplinary committee appointed by the Vice President for Research at UT Austin, and the prize is awarded each October. The Hamilton Book Awards Author Showcase and Reception is an extension of the partnership effort by the Co-op and University of Texas Libraries to foster and promote faculty research on campus.

This well-received inaugural Showcase and Reception event was planned by School of Information graduate student and Ask a Librarian intern Katherine Kapsidelis, who graduates this May.

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.

Hamilton Winners at PCL

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Last fall, almost sixty beautiful, full-color book cover reproductions in poster form of titles nominated for the University Co-op’s annual Robert W. Hamilton Book Author Awards were put on display in the UFCU Student Learning Commons room at the Perry-Castañeda Library.  The posters were originally produced for presentation in folding frame screens at the awards presentation dinner, but through a promotional partnership with the Libraries, the nominees for the university’s highest literary award now have an annual home in the university’s flagship library.

The 2014 grand-prize winner, along with the 4 runner-up prize-winners, were announced Wednesday, October 15, and the Co-op has again provided the Libraries with posters of each of the nominated titles for display at PCL.

The exhibit serves as acknowledgement of the research, scholarly and creative accomplishments of the world-class faculty and staff of the university — many of whom are reliant on the collections, resources and services provided through the Libraries to support their notable contributions to a better understanding of the world.

The posters will be on display until the 2015 winners are announced next year.