Category Archives: Services

Smarter Systems at UT Libraries: Cloud Printing

Accessing cloud printing at PCL.

Contemporary application of technologies demands reimagination of libraries as creative academic spaces instead of just learning hubs. For the campus community, the Libraries are committed to delivering essential services in the most efficient way possible; a recently-launched cloud printing system is another step in this direction by the Libraries’ IT department, and we take pride in it.

Using the Pharos app to queue a job.In only two months, this service has redefined a significant part of user experience both online and onsite. The print stations are already experiencing periods of capacity use, and future expansion of the service is a likely reality. With the new and smarter cloud printing system, the requirement of printing more efficiently has been addressed. All printers within the UT Libraries system are now connected to a cloud printing portal —  MyPrintCenter. It can be accessed by UT students, faculty and staff to upload documents that they need printed without having to be physically present near a computer within the Libraries. Users may select an uploaded document at any Library printer and collect the printouts at their convenience within a 24-hour period. As an alternative to the cloud printing portal, print jobs can be sent to the system via a simple email. The system also integrates a smartphone application —  Pharos Print — into the printing service to augment its usability and mobile access for users.

That was simple.
That was simple.

Through better aligning our technological initiatives and muscle with our patrons’ behavior patterns and needs, IT at UT Libraries is dedicated to achieve a user-centric vision. We are exploring a number of exciting projects, aiming to hone and implement agile and innovative technologies to expand the UT Libraries systems with an eye toward the next advancement to benefit Libraries’ users.

Sarah Fahim is a graduate research assistant working in the UT Libraries’ IT department – Online Experience Team. She is working toward her graduate degree in Advertising at the Moody College of Communication.

A Parents’ Survival Guide for Finals

Photo courtesy UT Division of Student Affairs.
Photo courtesy UT Division of Student Affairs.

Imagine this — your student just returned to campus from Thanksgiving Break and realized that finals are just around the corner.  What do they do?  Panic?  Eat more mashed potatoes or pie and try to forget about it?  I’ll never argue with more pie, but when your student calls to talk about this stressful time, tell them that instead of panicking or eating their feelings, they can take advantage of services offered within the libraries.

University Writing Center at PCL.
University Writing Center at PCL.

PCL houses several partner organizations who offer great services to students:

  • The Writing Center (in PCL) offers help at any point in the writing process.  Tell your student that good writers seek feedback!  Appointments here
  • The Sanger Center’s Public Speaking Center is now open in PCL – their consultants can offer suggestions on any presentation or speech assignment.  Appointments here  
  • Tutoring for intro-level Calculus, Biology, and Chemistry courses is now available in PCL’s UFCU room.  See the schedule

Help at the desk.

The UT Libraries house many new services for students, but librarians have always been available to help with research.  Students can ask us questions about finding sources of information, about choosing or narrowing a topic, about when and how to cite sources, and about which sources of information are credible.  We are available to help in several ways.  Your student can:

If your student has an assignment that involves technology, we can help with that too!  They can:  

We know that finals are stressful, so we want to help with your student’s work AND help them de-stress.  With dogs!  We have therapy dog study breaks a few times at the end of the semester:

Kona from Austin Dog Alliance.

We Are Family

Family Weekend 2016 at PCL.
Family Weekend 2016 at PCL.

UT Libraries welcomed over 200 individuals to its main library, the Perry-Castañeda Library, and made many more connections at the Great Texas Showcase during Family Weekend.

Your students are in great hands with UT Libraries!

Help us help your family and remind your student that:

  • UT Libraries has 10 libraries across campus and many of them have extended hours to help your student during crunch time.
  • Our libraries have quiet and collaborative floors and some libraries have reservable group study rooms.
  • You can visit or chat online with a librarian for help with your research projects.
  • PCL’s Learning Commons has writing, public speaking, and media project support available through one-on-one appointments or through workshops @ PCL.
  • Students can use computers and printers in any library. PCL and the Fine Arts Library have media labs with specialized hardware and software.
  • Find books, ebooks, movies, music, journal articles, and more online and in the library. You can also check for course readings at the front desk!
  • Headphones and calculators are available for check out in more libraries; the Fine Arts Library even has cool equipment like GoPro cameras and tablets available.
  • The Libraries host free concerts, workshops, study breaks, lectures, panels, and therapy dogs. Find out more on social media! (Event calendar)

Interested in getting more involved with UT Libraries or have suggestions for next year? Please contact us at events@lib.utexas.edu

Sharing Tech Resources with Campus

One of the Libraries' many computer labs.
One of the Libraries’ many computer labs.

We talk much about the collections (physical and digital) and spaces at the UT Libraries, but there’s a significant technology infrastructure in place to facilitate access and digitally preserve the Libraries’ massive assemblage of electronic resources. To maintain those important tools, a highly-trained cadre of technology professionals is constantly on call to respond to issues, discover and implement technological innovations and provide for the support needs of staff.

As the Libraries have continued to explore ways to expand services to address the needs of campus, we’ve considered how we might leverage this technical expertise to provide support beyond the Libraries.

Chris Carter — the Libraries’ Director of Planning and Operations — was approached by representatives of the McCombs School of Business after they heard a description of the cost model for supporting UT Libraries labs. McCombs Director David Burns wondered if that support could be scaled to provide lab support in the Business School. Carter and his staff ran the numbers and took the proposal to Libraries administration, who roundly backed the evaluative project, and after a pilot period in Summer 2015, Libraries’ IT Infrastructure staff took over the tech support of a lab at the McCombs School.

Under the terms of service, the Business School purchases the hardware and secures licensing of specialized software, and the Libraries provides installation and support of operating systems, applications and updates for the computers; when there’s a problem with a PC, Libraries IT staff respond to address it. Fees charged per computer by the Libraries was determined to allow for the accommodation of additional IT staff should growth of the lab make it necessary.

Computers at the PMA Library.
Computers at the PMA Library.

Along with the branches, this brings the support coverage area maintained by Libraries staff to 14 locations, and Carter feels that there is room to expand to provide the service to other interested parties on campus.

“We structure the service so that it fits into our current, lean and efficient desktop support approach,” says Carter. “The cost per PC for support is intended to allow us to add an FTE if we increase the service so much that it needs an extra person. For now, we just rely on the excellent and efficient people we currently have.  In particular, the excellent systems administration skills of David Roberts makes this possible.”

The College of Natural Sciences recently contributed 20 additional units to the Mallet Chemistry Library — bringing the number of computers to 32 — and provided specialized software, but, in this case, the Libraries simply took ownership of the expanded lab. The opportunities for growth in the third-party support model for campus computer labs, though, is extensive thanks to an ever-present need for technology.

Computers at Fine Arts.
Computers at Fine Arts.

Carter thinks the Libraries are well-suited to play the support role for other campus partners by virtue of what we’ve learned from internal efforts.

“We see the service from the perspective of supporting a high volume 24/7 kind of operation in PCL and extend the same service offering to anyone who wants to have a library lab in their space,” Carter says. “The McCombs lab is a 24/7 facility for business students and we’ve been able to both replicate what is available in PCL and customize it for their needs.  It’s a good model of a basic, replicable service that will both scale and also allow for local customization depending on the discipline.”

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.

Stay Safe Out There

*

If you’ve recently been in or around PCL (and you’re a college-age student at UT), you’ve probably noticed the increased activity, especially in the hours between midnight and 4 a.m. Those late-night denizens of the central branch library at the university are a result of the expanded 24/5 service — 24-hour, 5 day-a-week — that went into effect in mid-October as the result of work by Student Government to raise the necessary funding.

While those late hours are a good thing for the students who need a place to put in dedicated study time (or for those who waited until the eleventh hour to get started), it also means that individuals will need to traverse the campus to get to and from the library in the middle of the night, a less than optimal prospect.

Student Government, however, was also able to improve this situation.

The organization developed SURE Walk, a student-run volunteer group that provides walks to and from campus to students, faculty and staff of the university, with the help of both male and female student volunteers selected from university sanctioned organizations across the campus. You can read more about it here.

The program has existed for a few years now, but SG recognized that the bulk of increases in requests would likely come from the space they fought to keep open, so they’ve decided to move the operation to the place that makes the most sense, and will be working out of the PCL, providing an extra measure of safety (and relief) to students (and parents).

SG representatives will have a small kick-off party tonight (11/14/12) at 8 p.m. in the UFCU room at the PCL, so come out and support them for making life a little safer on campus.

Tip Jars in the Library?

We all know the cliche, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so in age of YouTube and TwitterLibrary Instruction Services decided that collapsing our text-heavy web pages into succinct and visually stimulating comics and videos would help bridge new media, instruction-on-demand, and quick reference for our time-strapped undergraduates.

The idea for these short light-hearted videos evolved over time to incorporate comics instead of actor librarians; we’re slightly camera shy here and creating comic alto-egos mean we’ll never have a bad hair day. Staff in Library Instruction Services scripted the vignettes, and our Library Assistant and resident-artist Elise Nacca and Graduate Research Assistant Krystal Wyatt-Baxter used a free version of Bitstrips to create characters and dialogue incorporating the scripted scenarios.

Since their release in September 2010, the Tip Jar posts have covered topics such as how to use Google Scholar, narrowing a topic and placing it in context , finding E-Books and more.

Creating this digital content means that it’s easily distributed and re-purposed depending on student and staff needs. For instance, Tip Jar instructional videos are integrated with a collection of videos created by students from our 2009 Library Video Contest to be used in the Undergraduate Studies First-year Interest Group program as a way to introduce the students to library services in a fun and flexible way. We’ve also included these videos within our online research guides for course-integrated instruction or during a reference exchange over our Ask A Librarian chat service.

The posts run every other Monday on our News For Undergraduates Blog, which also incorporates events, resources, and items of interest for the University of Texas undergrad community. Stop by and get a tip from us!

Cindy Fisher is the First-year Experience Librarian, Library Instruction Services.


Survey says…

LQlogoWithText copyThe Libraries have fired up another round of the LibQUAL+ survey hoping to get some solid feedback on the quality of service around the branches.

This will be the eighth time we’ve randomly queried students and faculty about their perceptions of resources, collections, service, facilities and the like, and the program has been ramped up this year in order to generate higher response rates. We’ve scaled to the LibQUAL Lite version of the online survey to keep it short and simple; the current version takes about 5 minutes to complete, hitting on a smaller sample of the core questions.

We’re also trying to get in front of people with signage in conspicuous locations, and offering some carrots to the student participants in the way of automatic entry – upon completion of the survey – into drawings for one of two 16GB Apple iPads or an Amazon Kindle. How’s that for motivation?

Invitations to 4,800 current students and 1,200 faculty went out last week and the survey ends April 16, so if you’re here at the University of Texas and think you might have overlooked the initial solicitation, it might be worth taking a moment to check. This minute imposition is one of the primary ways we get real, quantifiable data directly from our users regarding the ways we can improve the Libraries for everyone, so let your voice be heard.

Coming soon to a library near you…

av_retrieval_graphicThere are no more excuses to be made for not getting knee-deep into the Libraries’ music collections.

The Fine Arts Library (FAL) has officially launched a retrieval service for its combined collection of audiovisual materials. Now users can have CDs, DVDs and other media shipped to the most convenient library branch for pick-up in around a couple of days.

I happened to be working with our Social Work & Government Librarian, PG Moreno for an article in our print newsletter, when I noticed that he had a box set of Stax/Volt Records singles on his desk, and I immediately became covetous. Continue reading