The Benson Latin American Collection recently announced the acquisition of the archive of poet, politician, priest and revolutionary Ernesto Cardenal, and in celebration of the partnership, hosted an event to honor the man and his legacy.
LLILAS Benson director Virginia Garrard-Burnett led a discussion of Cardenal’s impact with novelist and former Nicaraguan vice president Sergio Ramírez, scholar Luis Cárcamo-Huechante, historian Douglass Sullivan-González and political scientist Eric Selbin, and Cardenal followed with readings from several of his poems for an overflow crowd.
The archive features rare editions of Cardenal’s writings, translations of his poetry, interviews, photographs, videos, newspaper clippings, documentaries about his life and work, and hundreds of letters to and from key protagonists of Nicaraguan culture and politics.
Most recently, though, staff from LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections and the Libraries have been building upon a project — initially funded from a 2014 Mellon grant award — that takes a more comprehensive approach to preserving the culture and history of Latin America.
The Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI) repository, currently represents the collaborative efforts of LLILAS Benson with three Central American organizations on four distinctive projects:
Theresa Polk, post-custodial archivist at the Benson and one of the project’s leads, is gratified by the success of the project, and looks forward to its future potential.
“It was tremendously exciting to see how the metadata facilitated these disparate collections talking to one another and to other Benson digital collections,” says Polk. “As the site continues to evolve, new collections are added, and researchers begin to actively engage it, we hope it will facilitate new insights into human rights scholarship in the region.”
When the Libraries began investigating the possibility of having the University Writing Center (UWC) become the first campus partner to inhabit the new Learning Commons at the Perry-Castañeda Library, there were high hopes that the marriage would reap significant benefits for library users, patrons of the writing center and the larger campus community. One of the primary goals of the effort was to co-locate complementary services and resources in a central location in order to facilitate greater success in referrals from the Libraries to UWC, and vice versa.
So how has the partnership worked so far? We sat down with UWC program coordinator Alice Batt to get her perspective on the first half-year of life at PCL.
What does the landscape look like for UWC six months into life at PCL? Have you settled in?
Alice Batt: Definitely. Right now there are 13 consultations happening outside my door—lots of energetic conversations! And our presentations team is making good use of the Learning Labs. About 10% of our writing presentations last semester were delivered in those labs. It’s great when that happens because, after the presentation, students can come right down to the UWC and make an appointment.
Any takeaways from what you’ve seen so far?
AB: One of the things that strikes me most is what it’s like to be central again, and to be in a library. Collaboration with our library partners is easier, we’re much more convenient for students, joint workshops are easier to plan and put on, and we’ve been able to experiment with programs like Long Night Against Procrastination. We’re seeing more students, and we’re more confident that, when we refer them to a librarian, they’ll actually go.
What’s the most unexpected outcome?
AB: It took us a while to get used to seeing people on the consulting floor when we arrive in the morning—some of them have been here all night! Now we just tap them gently and send them on their way to class, breakfast, or home.
How has the integration with relevant Libraries staff and services worked?
AB: Overall, it’s going beautifully. Trish (UWC Director Patricia Roberts-Miller) and I are part of the Learning Commons Steering Committee, which meets once a month to iron out wrinkles and make sure we’re all pursuing the same goals. Lately we’ve been talking about cross training: we had a well-attended workshop for our consultants conducted by two librarians that gave consultants some of the basics about the services, when to refer students to them, what sorts of resources are available. Since our consultants are students, it was helpful to them in both capacities–as students doing research, and as consultants working with students on researched writing.
Have you changed or adapted in some way you didn’t foresee?
AB: I haven’t checked the data to confirm this, but I get the sense we’re seeing a more diverse group of students coming to the UWC—more diverse ethnically, racially, linguistically, and also more diverse in their majors. We think it’s because this location is where students already are; they don’t have to make a special trip up to FAC.
What’s been the student response to the new space?
AB: Overwhelmingly positive. Everyone—our administrators, consulting staff, and the students we serve—loves working in a bright, cheery environment. And loads of students come here for private study after we close.
Are you considering any developments that you’d like people to know about?
AB: Our first semester working with grad students in College of Liberal Arts has been a big success. Grad students particularly like the 6-week writing groups; nothing improves productivity like being held responsible by a group! We’d like to expand our services to support graduate students throughout the university. Grad students who would like us to support their writing should tell their deans.
Any other thoughts?
AB: In the Learning Commons, we’re right in the path of students who need our services. We’ve always been a busy place, but now our numbers are up 4% from last year—and they’re rising!
As the fall semester kicks into full swing and due dates for papers and projects start to loom, the reference staff at the Perry-Castañeda Library is gearing up to best serve the student population at UT both in person and online. One of the key access points for many students seeking help in the evening and nighttime hours is the Ask a Librarian service, which is staffed by graduate students in UT’s School of Information. The program welcomed four new interns over the summer, all of whom are excited to serve both the UT community and the broader, international base from which they receive questions.
While the Ask a Librarian interns each take multiple shifts staffing our instant messaging-based reference service, they also gain experience in several other areas of academic librarianship. Answering email questions received from patrons worldwide is an important aspect of the internship program, and allows the interns to interact with a very diverse range of questions across a broad spectrum of disciplines.
Staffing the Information & Research Help Desk in person at the PCL is another vital component of the internship, and provides the Ask a Librarian staff with valuable in-person reference experience. “Staffing the chat, email, and Research Help desk has been an amazing learning experience about serving the varied information literacy needs of a vast research institution with incredible diversity,” said Christina Gasull, one of the new interns. Laura Gienger, a returning intern appointed last spring, agrees: “The most interesting part of this position so far has been getting glimpses of all the different research projects and papers that students are currently working on!”
Communication and collaboration with full-time library staff is another important aspect of the internship program. In addition to working their digital and in-person reference shifts, all of the current Ask a Librarian interns have taken on additional projects in fields they are passionate about, working with librarians to develop and carry out work in areas of their interest. Hayley Morgernstern is exploring subject librarianship in Gender and Sexuality Studies, Ian Goodale is working with the Slavic bibliographer to research and supplement online research guides and do cataloging work, Robin Vickery is creating stack guides for the dance, music, and theatre materials at the Fine Arts Library, Laura has worked with the digitizing of materials, and Christina is currently helping to revise the PCL’s Youth Collection.
All of the interns are passionate about serving the diverse communities of patrons they encounter. As Robin said, projects “that advance the library’s mission to support its community of patrons and researchers are what interest me most about librarianship, so I am excited for the opportunity to be so involved!”
As the university wraps up this year’s Fleur Cowles Symposium “Gabriel García Márquez: His Life and Legacy,” it’s worth noting the Libraries (specifically the Benson Latin American Collection and LLILAS Benson) involvement in support of the noted Colombian author’s archive at the Harry Ransom Center.
The Benson’s Mexican materials bibliographer Jose Montelongo accompanied Ransom Center director Stephen Ennis on a trip to Mexico City, where García Márquez spent his final years, to review the archive materials, and upon the announcement of the acquisition, Montelongo responded to media inquiriesproviding perspectives on the importance of the archive to the university and researchers, and on the author’s station in the literary canon.
As the premiere Latin American special collection in the western hemisphere, the Benson will provide the complementary resources and support for researchers who come to Austin to utilize the García Márquez archive, further strengthening the partnership between the two institutions.
One of the most important resources online documenting the causes, processes, and consequences of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, GAR demonstrates the generative impact that the Libraries’ programming can have. The HRDI project, begun in Rwanda in 2008, engaged staff and volunteers at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, a museum and documentation center for education and memory in Rwanda, to combine their personal experiences, deep knowledge, and historical resources with the technical expertise at UT Libraries in order to preserve and provide access to the fragile record of the Genocide that was daily being lost.
The first version of GAR, developed by the Libraries’ Technology Integration Services, Information Technology Architecture and Strategy, and Digitization Services departments using Glifos media software, was installed on a laptop and hand-carried by me and human rights archivist T-Kay Sangwand to Rwanda, where it spent the next year demoing the project to build local community, government, and international support.
Launched online in 2010, GAR enabled people in Rwanda and around the world to hear testimonies from Genocide survivors as well as perpetrators and elders in Rwanda about their experiences of Genocide, its root causes, and the lives and society that it destroyed. Photographs and historical documents were collected and digitized by Aegis Trust’s Rwandan staff to be added to the Archive and preserved digitally by UT Libraries, and soon UTL was consulting on construction of a climate-controlled physical archive in Kigali in addition to the online digital archive.
The new Genocide Archive of Rwanda moves the archive to the cloud and integrates new mapping features, improved access to documents and photographs, and interactive tours of memorial sites around the country. The new site also includes features to engage youth in peace-building, and highlights important community renewal and reconciliation programs.
When recently retired Vice Provost Dr. Fred Heath and I attended the Kwibuka 20 commemoration ceremonies marking 20 years since the Genocide, Rwandan president Paul Kagame stated that, “Historical clarity is a duty of memory that we cannot escape. Behind the words ‘Never Again’, there is a story whose truth must be told in full, no matter how uncomfortable.” Born in the basement at Perry-Castañeda Library, and now managed in the cloud by a team of new information professionals in Rwanda, the Genocide Archive of Rwanda is a resource that preserves and gives clarity to the 1994 Genocide in support of memory, reconciliation, education, and scholarship in Rwanda, Texas, and around the globe.
The global impact of the University of Texas Libraries is made possible in large part to the financial support of individual, corporate and foundation donors. To contribute to projects like the Human Rights Digitization Project, please contact Natalie Moore or visit our online giving page today.
LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections celebrated the memory of Dr. Nettie Lee Benson and the achievements and generosity of Dr. Teresa Lozano Long at the unveiling of two bronze plaques in Sid Richardson Hall honoring the influential women on Friday, March 6.
LLILAS Benson director Charles Hale provided a warm introduction to attendees, and UT president Bill Powers followed, remarking with admiration of the late Nettie Lee Benson, a librarian and a scholar, whose vision and tenacity built the Benson Collection into one of the world’s premiere collections of Latin American materials. Powers also spoke to the significant contributions — material and intellectual — that Lozano Long and her husband Joe Long have made to Latin American scholarship and to The University of Texas at Austin.
The Longs shared the ceremony with family and friends, and Benson was represented in attendance by her three nephews, Bill, Doug and Joe Benson.
See more photos of the event from the Austin American-Statesman.
For over 25 years, graduate students from the School of Information’s Masters of Science in Information Studies program have volunteered at the Perry-Castañeda Library at what is now the Research Help and Check Out desk.
Through the Volunteer Program iSchool students gain experience providing expert research help in a university library by shadowing experienced librarian coaches. Each volunteer is paired with one or two coaches who guide them over the semester. By the end of the semester, volunteers will begin answering patron questions with support and feedback from their coaches.
Participants from both sides of the program speak highly of the relationships that it fosters between experienced librarians and students who are just entering the profession. The iSchool students bring fresh enthusiasm to working at the library that benefits everyone who works at or visits the PCL.
This semester’s program began on February 2nd and will run through May 8th. This semester’s volunteers are Corey Fifles, Alia Gant, Nicole Harris, Rachel Panella, Jeremy Selvidge, and Alicia Zachary-Erickson.