Category Archives: Commentary

Texas Exes Dallas Chapter Welcome Vice Provost

Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe with Libraries' Advisory Council member Ken Capps.

Last week, the Texas Exes Dallas Chapter hosted a reception featuring Dr. Lorraine Haricombe, Vice Provost and Director of University of Texas Libraries.

Lorraine shared her highest priorities to:

  • Strengthen UT Libraries core mission to support UT’s mission of teaching, research and learning in new and creative ways.
  • Fill key positions to align with new roles for libraries in teaching, learning and in the digital environment and to expand collaborative partnerships on campus (and beyond) and re-purpose prime real estate in our libraries to meet the expectations of 21st century learners.
  • Position UT Libraries to help transform teaching, learning and research at the University through open access to ensure that the ground breaking research conducted at our University will reach beyond the Forty Acres, nationally and globally.

She also expressed her excitement as UT Libraries is set to open 20,000 sq. ft. of repurposed space in the Perry-Castañeda Library, our main library, where we will partner with the University Writing Center, the Sanger center and others to provide a rich and energizing learning experience for our students.

To close, Lorraine reminded everyone, “supporting the Libraries has the potential to touch the lives of every student, staff and faculty member to ensure that what starts here really does change the world.”

Looking forward, UT Libraries plans to partner with Texas Exes Chapters across the country to host similar events that showcase the work being done at UT. If you are interested in hosting a similar event, please contact Gregory Perrin.

A Welcome from the New Vice Provost

Lorraine J. Haricombe Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries.
Lorraine J. Haricombe
Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries.

Welcome to the University of Texas Libraries!

As the new Vice Provost and Director of these great Libraries, I want to express my excitement to be here on the Forty Acres. I look forward to advancing the good work and building on the strong, effective leadership of my predecessor, Fred Heath, as we enter a period of renewal at The University of Texas at Austin.

It is my highest priority to meet the highly-talented staff of the Libraries and my colleagues on campus and around the state to gain a deep and full understanding of the rich culture and history of the state’s greatest public university and of its exceptional libraries that form the foundations of knowledge for this community.

We will be part of the transformative process for the next generation of leaders, welcoming students to be inspired and to relish the new and energizing learning experiences they will have during this phase of their life.

We will be critical partners in the advancement of innovation, discoveries and teaching with our world-class faculty and researchers and will reconfirm our unwavering commitment to lifelong learning for all.

And, we will aspire to live up to the vision of that grand idea at the University of Texas at Austin that “What Starts Here Changes the World.”

lorraine j haricombe
Vice Provost and Director
University of Texas Libraries

Read more about Haricombe in a recent interview with The Alcalde.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Posthumous Contribution: An Icon of a City

Plans for the redevelopment of Olin Park in Madison, WI from Frank Lloyd Wright’s work on the Monona Basin Project.

While searching for all of the items in Karl Kamrath’s Collection last semester, I was directly exposed to the vast depth and diversity of a successful architect’s personal library. From Alden Dow to Katherine Morrow to Richard Neutra, Kamrath’s collection spanned decades and encompassed elements of major movements and achievements in the 20th century.

While his collection contains some quintessential readings that were quite prolific (such as Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats and Other WritingsHassan Fathy’s Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egyptand Frank Lloyd Wright’s The Future of Architecture), there are also some limited publications of several design projects that Kamrath and his firm were associated with. As I sifted through special collections to find these professional reports, one caught my eye before I even noticed the Kamrath Collection stamp on the cover: The Monona Basin Project.

My interest directly stems from the report’s subject: a schematic master plan for the city of Madison, Wisconsin. As a University of Wisconsin graduate who spent five years in Madison, I was immediately intrigued by the possibility of being able to compare my visual of Madison with a plan dating back to 1967.

For anyone that’s either been a resident of the greater Wisconsin-Illinois area or happens to be a Frank Lloyd Wright buff, you know that Wright’s career began in Madison as a student at the University of Wisconsin. Though he never completed his engineering degree, he went on to realize many significant projects in Madison and the surrounding area, including the Robert M. Lamp House, Unitarian Meeting House, and Taliesin in nearby Spring Green, one of his most famous projects. However, Monona Terrace likely possesses one of the most interesting timelines of all of Wright’s works – and I’m here to share that story with you all!

You can continue reading the rest of this article by Architecture & Planning Library GRA Stephanie Phillips over at the Battle Hall Highlights blog.

Ruminations on Copyright Reform

Image courtesy Horia Varlan's Flickr photostream under a Creative Commons license.

Thoughts by the University of Texas Libraries Scholary Communications Advisor and resident copyright expert Georgia Harper on Pam Samuelson’s article, “Reforming Copyright is Possible,” published in the July 9 edition of  The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Pam Samuelson is a visionary copyright scholar, winner of a MacArthur Grant, and an optimist. She believes that despite the dim prospects for badly needed comprehensive copyright reform, we can take small steps to make big improvements, both within and outside the legislative process. Several of her proposals for libraries’ independent action exhort us to rely more confidently on fair use, engage in concerted efforts to search for owners of out-of-commerce works and identify them so that people may use more freely those for whom owners cannot be found, and work together to bring our out-of-copyright works to digital life. For example, she applauds the efforts to create a Digital Public Library that would provide public access to public domain works. She is right. All of these ideas are good ones that deserve our attention and our action.

Her suggestions about how modest legislative efforts could improve the picture for public access to libraries’ holdings are more difficult to embrace. Continue reading

On the Front Lines – Dr. E.L. Koschmieder

"The Inca Kingdom," by E. L. Koschmieder

Susan Ardis, head librarian at the McKinney Engineering Library, reflects on the relationship between librarian and scholar.

Thinking…really thinking…about problems sums up Dr. E.L. Koschmieder.

Dr. Koschmieder received his from Ph.D. from the University Of Bonn in 1963 and came to the University of Texas after having post docs at Harvard and the University of Chicago. He is now an emeritus faculty member in the  Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering. While at UT,  his technical interests included convection, hydrodynamic instability and turbulence. He is also well known for his fluid mechanics photographs—so well known that even after he retired we got questions about how to contact him for permission to use one of his photographs. I note that he always gave permission.

What has always set Lothar apart from others is not only his abiding interest in fluid mechanics but is his interests  in culture, photography, political science and education. Lothar is from the old school—an educated man who believes in education and is always trying to solve what he calls “my little problems.” Once he retired, he did not stop thinking of nor stop trying to solve his little problems. These “little problems” could be found anywhere but one in particular he discovered when he and his wife Kate traveled to Peru, Ecuador and specifically the Machu Picchu area, where he took literally thousands of photographs.

This  physicist/engineer was fascinated by the building techniques used and he wanted to know more. He examined and thought about the knobs or bosses on the stones found in walls at Cuzco—what purpose did they serve? So began another of his research projects. He borrowed books from all over the world, particularly those with early descriptions, drawings and photographs of Inca buildings, art and textiles.  He talked with experts and he read, read, read. The result of all of this effort and thought is a truly remarkable book  The Inca Kingdom (Xlibris, 2012).

As always when a librarian is acknowledged for her help—I was tickled pink to be honored for my help in his book.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la caneck, caneck….

The Last Lonestar Showdown

On Thursday of last week, college football fans around Texas and many from around the nation gathered around the flat screen to watch the final episode in the third longest running rivalry in college football.  After this season, the two teams are unlikely to encounter each other again in the regular season as the Aggies head toward the Southeastern Conference and the Longhorns lock up annually with their heartland foes.

But even as the sports scene in Texas changes fundamentally, so much remains the same.   The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University remain the two flagship institutions of our state, and when it comes to teaching, learning and research, the two schools remain ever so closely aligned.

And our libraries are united in their determination to advance the core educational missions of the two universities.  The University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System have united to fund and operate a common storage facility on property owned by Texas A&M.  There all the universities in both systems will be able to preserve their print copies in a shared resources in common facility that will ensure the preservation of the “long tail” of scholarly research while freeing up valuable central library space on every campus.  Full sets of journals now accessed electronically—such as JSTOR—will have their archive print instantiation in Bryan, Texas.

At the same time, the two flagships continue to work together to harness the power of digital technologies in support of research.  Combining their own powerful (but separate distinct) holdings of first century books from Mexico with other examples from Mexican partners, Spain, Brown University, Tulane, Harvard and elsewhere, the Los Primeros Libros project will eventually  enable scholars around the globe to access and study all of the 200+ surviving examples of printing in the Western Hemisphere.

So, as both schools rewrite the lyrics to their fight songs, where each disparages the other in the early stanzas, the librarians will resume the collaboration that makes their combined collections one of the state’s most important assets.

Hook ‘em /  Gig ‘em

 

Grasping at Strawmen

New Hampshire ILL: The sole survivor?

Most library supporters are willing to have a rational discussion about the viability of library services at a time when there are increasing budgetary constraints and amidst the changing nature of libraries in the digital age. But then you have the case of New Hampshire Rep. Steven Vaillancourt, who believes that the effectiveness of his state’s inter-library loan program indicates that it is too well-funded by the taxpayers of his state.

Apparently even when confronted with the fact that the program was run with federal monies and was only composed of four vans traversing the state, this was Vaillancourt’s response:

 He’d be happier to wait longer and save money by reducing the number of vans, (Vaillancourt) said.

“The state does not need a gold-plated service,” he said.

Reasoned debate should be, and for the most part is, the currency of discourse, but occasionally you get a partisan crusader who is either unwilling to recognize personal fallibility, or has otherwise created a controversy out of whole cloth for the purpose of political brinksmanship. In this case, it seems Vaillancourt has stumbled into both categories equally.

For a more complete takedown of this utter nonsense, the Annoyed Librarian weighs in.

On Litigating Fair Use

From Duke University Libraries:

When the Association of Research Libraries wrote a letter to the CCC expressing disappointment over the decision to help underwrite the lawsuit, CCC’s reply emphasized that no damages were being sought and maintained that their participation had the simple goal of “clarifying” fair use. This strikes me as disingenuous. There are more efficient ways to clarify fair use than litigation, and the CCC has a definite financial interest in the case even absent any request for damages. CCC’s aim here is not to clarify fair use but to narrow it dramatically, to their direct and immediate profit.

The argument developed here by Kevin Smith places the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) in a harsh light – subvening copyright violation litigation in order to further restrict access options to intellectual property, thus securing its own role in the publishing community while attempting to prop up that foundering industry a little longer.  As Paul Courant observes elsewhere (and thanks to Paul for the pointer to this article) it forces a reluctant higher education community to seek alternatives to its own and commercial presses – an outcome potentially fatal to the industry.

Choosing a Path Forward

Recently, The University of Texas at Austin has found itself at the center of a debate over the structure of modern research universities. Questions have been raised about the value of research to the academic mission of higher education, and in light of the state’s current budget situation, whether state institutions can afford to be so heavily invested in the research enterprise. There is a belief in some quarters that the commitment to research excellence that characterizes top-tier research universities is unavoidably detrimental to the University’s teaching mission.

President Bill Powers presented his case last week in a speech that effectively made the argument that teaching and research are inextricably linked at the level of excellence the University pursues. In fact, his examples demonstrated that the interplay between teaching and research has resulted in the sort of collaboration and innovation invoked by the notion that what starts here changes the world. President Powers noted that our ability to sustain this level of excellence requires a continued commitment to the tradition of ongoing institutional introspection and transformation that have made The University of Texas at Austin a model of efficiency and excellence.

If you’ve yet to do so, you can view the speech in its entirety or read the transcript.

Heath Talks Assessment in Austere Times

 

Before Dr. Fred Heath joined the University of Texas Libraries as Vice Provost and Director, he had spent several years at Texas A&M with a team of faculty and research professionals developing and honing an assessment tool called LibQUAL+™. With a certain degree of prescience, his earlier work has given the Libraries a leg up in dealing with the economic downturn.

Dr. Heath took some time to discuss his experience and perspective on the vital role of assessment in building a library.

So, why do assessment?

Fred Heath: I think this pressure for accountability has always been part of the public sector where it’s really hard to measure bottom lines. If you’re going to succeed in advancing your program then you are going to have to have some structure that relates investments to outcomes, and there aren’t many tools to measure our “profits and losses” in the public sector. For several years we’d been searching and we found a tool called SERVQUAL that was used with great success in the private sector, and we also had a great relationship with the developers of that tool. We started noodling there, and it grew.

There were three young professors in the College of Business at Texas A&M – assistant professors at the time they started developing SERVQUAL – who needed a research protocol, and grew it into, perhaps, the most significant user satisfaction survey in that sector. It applied to everything from aircraft companies, to insurance, to restaurants. And one day we visited with the professor who was still there – the other two are now employed elsewhere around the world in higher education – and asked, “Do you think we can redirect SERVQUAL to the not-for-profit sector, specifically to education, and then even more specifically to libraries?” And we were really cautious, because it was a shameless emulation of what those three researchers were trying to do, but he was hugely supportive, open to the idea, and, in fact, all three of those developers have lent time to us over and again to help us build the tool that LibQUAL+™ became. Without them, without that beginning, I doubt we would’ve had the perspective and background ever to get it launched.

How important was it for the development of LibQUAL+™ to have faculty members as part of the development team?

FH: We could never have done this without the methodologists and the economists and the statisticians that we had on our side. And we, ourselves, were faculty in our own specialties, but not those skill sets. It was bringing all of those tools, all of that commitment, an emerging awareness of survey protocols in a nascent Web environment…we’d had no clue how we’d plan to do this on paper, and one of the methodologists said, “You know, I think we can do this on the Web pretty soon.” So, it took a village to build it; it took many different types of faculty to make it happen. Continue reading