Each fall, a fresh-faced bunch of newlings comes to campus with dreams of independence and future prospects dancing about their heads, a world of opportunity and exciting new experiences presented at every corner. And at the end of each successive spring, harried and exhausted, the same students trudge about PCL all hours in a fog of dread and worry, struggling to meet project deadlines and prepare for finals.
In recent years, staff have attempted to ease attending anxieties by different means, from art therapy on the whiteboards throughout the library to partnering with campus units for healthy snacks and massage chairs to the recurring presence of therapy pets from local agencies, all of which efforts have been met with great appreciation from library users,
Being on the front line, our circulation staff have the most frequent contact with students in the throes of finals pressures, so they also tend to be the most attuned to the stress cycles, and are great at imagining ways to overcome or at least temporarily alleviate them.
This semester, staff wanted to try something new, something fun and goofy that would shake the doldrums and reinvigorate the weary denizens of PCL with a jolt of the unexpected. By now, most people have come across some version of the ubiquitous T-Rex costume that’s been a major currency of YouTube videos; that buzzy novelty is what created the spark of an idea for the eventual decision by staff to create their own costume persona that could serve as the embodiment of silliness and distraction for overtaxed students in need of a break.
Staff settled on creating the albino squirrel.
For the uninitiated, the albino squirrel* has become a bit of a folk hero around the Forty Acres. The squirrel (or squirrels — who knows?) is told in lore to be a harbinger of good fortune to anyone who spots the animal. Students are known to actively seek out the tree-dweller for particularly worrisome exams, so it made perfect sense for staff to conjure the animal for the benefit of students, especially at this particular time of the semester.
Being that staff had an idea and some spanking new tools with which to act upon it — in the form of the new Foundry makerspace in the Fine Arts Library — they only lacked volunteers to set about the task. From among their ranks they discovered that they had the requisite skill sets to create the form for the creature.
Early in the spring, senior library specialist Janeice Connors and Tré Miles, a student associate from the Kuehne Physics-Mathematics-Astronomy Library and Textiles major, began intermittent work on designing and creating a man-size version of the bushy-tailed talisman in the Fabric Arts Lab at the Foundry. By late April, the Connors and Miles had logged dozens of hours cutting, fitting, sewing and stuffing, and the suit was finally ready for its debut.
On Wednesday, May 10, accompanied by Libraries Director Lorraine Haricombe and Austin’s Pizza owner J.D. Torian, the albino squirrel stepped off the elevator on the 6th floor of PCL, and began a whirlwind tour of the library, spreading joy and smiles (And pizza. And KIND bars.) to appreciative students who got a much deserved break from their studies and a hopefully a little luck from their friends at the Libraries.
Postscript: Tré Miles graduated in May, and parlayed his experience building a squirrel (not really) to land a spot at Michael Kors in NYC. Congratulations, Tré!
*Yes, yes, Mr. Smartypants…we’re well aware that it’s not really an albino, just a rodent with a recessive gene.
We talk much of collections and spaces as the resources of great relevance to our users. But let’s not neglect the incredible expertise represented by our staff, whose skill and talent provide the basis for all of the work libraries do.
Jenifer Flaxbart is the Assistant Director of Digital Scholarship for the University of Texas Libraries. She directs the recently created Digital Scholarship department within the Academic Engagement division. Her portfolio includes Digital Scholarship projects, education and partnerships, Research Data Services, Scholarly Communication and Open Access initiatives and the Scholars Commons, a pilot space and related services designed to support scholars engaged in the research lifecycle.
She received her MILS from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a BA in English Literature from Hiram College.
Why did you decide to enter the field of library and information science? What motivated you to seek a library degree?
Jenifer Flaxbart: I knew I wanted to become part of a profession that facilitates the sharing of information and creation of new knowledge. My high school Math teacher opened each new chapter with a lecture and one was about the Ancient Library of Alexandria. I realized my goals for my own education and career aligned with the opportunities provided by the field.
How has your relationship with academic scholars changed over the years?
JF: I have been in several roles in which I’ve been the information conduit for students and faculty, connecting them with relevant resources through the collections acquisition, research consultation, online guides and video tutorials, classroom instruction and frontline reference assistance at a service desk or via a virtual chat service.
More recently I’ve worked with scholars through focus groups, steering committee work, and collaboration to inform space renovation initiatives, plans services and events, and work to create partnerships in pursuit of shared objectives.
Right now I’m participating in a series of Town Hall conversations with faculty about the next big research question at UT Austin through a program called Bridging Barriers that’s coordinated by the Office of the Vice President for Research. The UT Libraries submitted a concept paper that was layered into each of the six themes under discussion. We are well-positioned to assist researchers with data management as well as the creation of Open Educational Resources (OERs). OERs communicate research outcomes and impacts in transparent ways that support students in their studies and benefit members of the public.
How have the ways academic scholars research changed over the years and how has that changed your job?
JF: I’ve been an information professional for over two decades. During that time, I have helped others conduct research in many ways, using card catalogs, CD-ROMs, online databases that charge by the use, and databases that charge by the year. I’ve championed and leveraged the technological shift that enables expanded access as we have transitioned from print-based to online searching.
Because technology enables remote access, research can be done almost anywhere. Students and faculty can work at home and in coffee shops or airports as easily as they can in the library. If you watch them in action, they typically use a hybrid approach: several devices, such as a smart phone and a laptop or tablet, as well as a print book or two and some paper notes.
Many who have experienced this migration retain a fondness for the printed object: content that can be cradled, carried, stashed and retrieved at will, without the aid of a computer or device. Yet technology can enhance access to content in many ways. Digital formats can ensure that the content endures beyond the life of the paper on which it’s printed.
Libraries have, in an effort to accommodate group project work as well as the need for silent study, evolved spaces formerly dedicated to the storage of physical formats to compelling, flexible spaces equipped with embedded technology and robust wireless networks. The spaces and added-value services provided attract students and faculty engaging in the modes of research, teaching and learning that define higher education today.
Can you think of an example where access to content has been transformational in your personal life?
JF: Being able to source article or book content from our collections or through our InterLibrary Services unit is one of the privileges of UT affiliation. I’ve leveraged this access in simple ways, like using authoritative reviews to inform major purchases, and in more profound ways that enrich my professional knowledge and my parenting style.
Another fun example of how content can be personally impactful, for my family, is Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The classic film content preserved and shown by TCM provides context for cultural norms and timeless themes, readily available on basic cable. Thanks to TCM, our 8-year-old daughter knows who Marilyn Monroe and Bette Davis were, and her favorite film is the Billy Wilder comedy Some Like It Hot. She and her 13-year-old sister enjoy being scared by Alfred Hitchcock and convulsed by the Marx Brothers. Without vision, technology, and funding, TCM wouldn’t be able to fulfill its mission. It is a credible source of information about and access to an impressive vault of film content.
Likewise, the UT Libraries collect, organize, preserve, and provide access to content. If the content is in digital form, or we can create a digital derivative of it, we can do more with it. We can make it easier to discover and more visible. We can make it available to anyone with an Internet connection on the other side of the globe.
How will libraries mesh the use of print and electronic resources?
JF: This is already happening every day. Content is often available in multiple formats, in print and online, and what’s online can be printed. We make a significant investment in electronic resources, both because some things are only available in that way and because online access extends the reach and impact of these resources. When materials are unrestricted by copyright, we can also digitize and share content worldwide, as with our PCL Map Collection.
What is the academic libraries role in affordability in higher education?
JF: We provide curriculum-aligned research materials, particularly academic journal content that is peer-reviewed, rigorous research, book content and aggregated, proprietary database content, including music, film and special reports that contain proprietary information. This licensed content is subscribed to or purchased by the UT Libraries in support of all students, leveling the playing field in support of student success.
Additionally, we continue to advocate Open Access, to mitigate or eliminate the cost of subscription-based access, given that some of the authors of that content are right here at UT. And we encourage the creation and sharing of Open Educational Resources (OERs) so that faculty and students can access and reuse, revise, remix and redistribute resources that fuel teaching and learning in current and compelling ways.
How do you foresee patrons interacting with libraries in the future?
JF: I think about the Ancient Library of Alexandria and its’ destruction, and draw connections between the past and what’s to come. Physical materials, papyrus and artifacts, are always at risk. Few have direct access to such items and too little is known about the treasures held behind closed cabinet doors.
Technology makes the capture and delivery of irreplaceable content and information about it, what we call metadata, which describe the physical format as well as subject matter, possible in ways unimagined. It enables a scholar in another time zone or on another continent to look at and learn from a digital derivative of a printed pamphlet or text from an earlier era. And the magic of technology extends to ensuring that this captured content is preserved even if the original is lost.
Some argue that artifacts like a scroll or fibula must be experienced in person. When that isn’t possible, technology offers a via alternative, from scanned pages of a calligraphed manuscript to a 3-D printer-generated replica of a metal tool. I would argue that these visual and palpable replicas are vital windows into the past, and that with appropriate funding, staffing and technological resources, libraries are well-positioned to enable and evolve new levels of access to and engagement with content for all forms of scholarly endeavor.
“Thank you for representing comradery for the university experience. For me, [the Libraries] serve as everything from academic and professional home bases, to safe spaces where friends can chat and grab coffee between classes, to settings where team work and innovation flourish at all hours of the day and night. The libraries are where we go to reinforce friendships, academics, as well as our longhorn pride.”
—Judy Albrecht, Psychology, Junior
2.5 million visitors passed through the gates of the University of Texas Libraries in 2016. That gate count is the equivalent of 25 home games at full capacity at Darrell K. Royal stadium. Have you ever wondered what students do at UT Libraries?
Some students come to UT Libraries because it is integrated into the UT curriculum. Librarians teach students the fundamentals of research at a tier-1 research university. At our core, the library is about experiences, not just lending books.
In library classrooms, librarians work with faculty to teach students to be better researchers. Students learn to navigate our materials (10 million volumes in our collections, our online maps, images, databases, e-journals, e-books, news sources, and government information), of course, but library instruction is most concerned with developing critical thinking skills. 18 and 19 year-old students stepping foot on the Forty Acres need to learn to evaluate sources of information for reliability, to use information ethically, and to consider what information will best meet their needs.
Librarians are available to help students in each of these areas in classes and one-on-one at the reference desk. In fact, the UT Libraries provided over 50,000 individual reference sessions for students and faculty, and welcomed almost 12,000 attendees to Library Instruction Sessions in 2016. The skills we teach in these sessions are essential to success in college, and library instruction is one way we participate in UT’s efforts to increase retention and progression.
Students come to UT Libraries for the special things we have. Thanks to private philanthropy, students have access to everything from special collections to cutting-edge software and gadgets. Imagine yourself cheering the Longhorns at Darrell K. Royal stadium. Now imagine eleven football fields, that is the space our books, reference materials, classrooms, collaborative study spaces, and technology would fill!
Over the years, UT Libraries asked students, faculty, and staff, “What do our student need to succeed?” We learned students needed spaces for in-house tutoring for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. UT Libraries met these needs by working with campus partners to build the STEM Study Areas and tutoring spaces in the PCL. Students wanted a space to talk, work, and learn together, so we created PCL’s Collaborative Commons. Students needed computer labs with advanced software, new equipment like 3D printers, and creative spaces like a recording lab, and with the help of donors we created the Foundry, the Scholars Commons, and enhanced the media lab, meeting each of these needs
Students come to UT Libraries to meet classmates to work on projects. They pick UT Libraries because we are open 24 hours, 5 days a week and they feel safe here. Just how safe are the UT Libraries? Enough for students to bring in blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags and use us as their temporary home for all-nighters during finals week. It is not unusual to see a student wake up early in the morning and head out to take their test. We’ve even seen a student set up a tent in PCL.
We do all we can to provide safe and comfortable spaces for students. Parents can take comfort knowing their student has to show their UTID card past a security guard after 10pm to get in and out of the library.
The academic rigors, competitiveness, and challenges that take toll on students are also on the forefront of our mind. We help students relieve stress with therapy dogs during finals week, and ask them to send postcards home so parents know they’re okay (and studying).
The UT Libraries are an integral part of the overall student experience, whether it is providing research guidance, cutting-edge technology, or safe innovative spaces that serve as incubators where ideas and progress are born at all hours of the day.
Today’s college students face a daunting financial landscape due to a variety of factors that include rising tuition. A quick primer on the current outlook reveals some distressing data:
$1.26 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt
44.2 million Americans with student loan debt
Student loan delinquency rate of 11.1%
Average monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $351
Median monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $203
The lack of financial literacy, sometimes called financial illiteracy, can negatively impact a graduate’s earning potential, job opportunities and even housing options after they leave college. The Libraries are hosting Professor Robert Duvic of the McCombs School of Business for a discussion of ways to navigate the minefield of financial management during the transition to adulthood and independent responsibility.
“Got Debt? The Importance of Being Financially Literate” will attempt to guide students through basic money management skills such as living within a budget, handling credit cards, and managing student loan debt. Students will learn about resources that are available to aid them in overcoming real life financial decisions.
In addition to the lecture, the Office of Financial Aid offers courses in money management and financial aid called Bevonomics as part of a national and local effort to provide free resources to students.
Professor Duvic is a 2011 recipient of the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, given by the University of Texas Board of Regents to recognize faculty members at the nine University of Texas System academic institutions who have demonstrated extraordinary classroom performance and innovation in undergraduate instruction. He has also twice received The Hank and Mary Harkins Foundation Teaching Excellence Award for Effective and Innovative Teaching in Undergraduate Classes from the McCombs School of Business, among other prestigious university awards. Dr. Duvic’s areas of research are corporate capital budgeting, international corporate financial management and international foreign exchange markets. He is a Major (retired) in the United States Army Reserve and served with the Americal Division in the Republic of Viet Nam. His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Purple Heart.
Poetry can be intimidating – it can be vague, filled with too many metaphors, caught up in form. We’ve tried to de-mystify poetry with our latest display at the UT Poetry Center, Read Like A Librarian: Staff Poetry Recommendations. Library staff found a great range of selections, including 19th century classics by Edgar Allan Poe and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and recently published volumes by poets like Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Peter Macuck.
Here’s a selection of staff recommendations and what they had to say about these books:
Fat Girl Finishing School by Rachel Wiley
Selected by Stephanie Lopez, Weekend & Evening Desk Supervisor
“Fat Girl Finishing School pulled me in with its cheeky cover, and once I started reading I was hooked! Wiley’s words are so powerful and thought-provoking that I found myself looking around to see if anyone else felt the earth shift under them. Before long, I was chasing down everyone I saw so that they, too, could read the words that caused such a visceral reaction in me. Do yourself and favor and read this. Your heart will thank you.”
Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Selected by Sarah Morris, Learning & Assessment Librarian
“Barrett Browning is best known for two things: Marrying Robert Browning and writing Sonnets from the Portuguese. But she’s also the author of Aurora Leigh, a feminist epic that explores issues of class, gender, art, and the challenges women face in finding opportunities for work, and respect for their work, in a restrictive society. Groundbreaking at the time, it’s still a great read today.”
Come visit the UT Poetry Center in PCL 2.500 to see more staff picks and read the books in person!
Two years ago, I began writing end-of-year blog posts about my time at UT Libraries. As you may recall, my name is Rosa Muñoz and I am a senior majoring in Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. I wanted to give my last update before I graduate in May.
These four years at UT have flown by. It feels like just yesterday I became a Longhorn, went off on my own, and experienced what it was like being the first to attend college in my family. Now I am a semester away from graduating, and one step closer to making my dreams become a reality. Something I never thought I was capable of achieving. I have gained so much knowledge from working at the Libraries and by spending a great amount of time here. I have also been incredibly lucky to have had made such amazing relationships with not only my fellow classmates, but also with the staff from the UT Libraries who are like family to me now. Throughout my time at UT they have been such an enormous help to me and my studies. With their help I was able to make one dream of mine come true, which was to study abroad in Australia for a semester. I have learned that with the right guidance and resources anything is possible. No dream is too big or impossible to achieve. This is what UT Libraries has taught me. After 5 months, I am finally back in the states and could not be any happier to share what my experience was like abroad.
The Forty Acres has opened doors for me that never seemed attainable, and that is something I am going to miss. The UT Libraries will always be a second home. Since freshman year it is the place I go to study for my exams, pull “all-nighters” cramming for exams and final essays. I am proud to say that throughout my time at UT, I have been a part of helping renovate UT Libraries to make it an even better place. Not only has UT Libraries been useful to me while in the states, but it was also very useful to me abroad. When I needed to find certain research articles I would log into the UT Libraries databases on their website with my UT information, and use that as help for my assignments abroad.
I plan on taking a year off to figure out what I want to do before applying to graduate school. I hope to work in a lab during that time off to gain more field experience and find some clarity in selecting which career route I want to pursue in psychology. It has been tough getting to where I am now, but I know that everything will fall into place. My last spring semester is not going to be easy, but just like freshman year I will be in the library getting work done.
As a senior I can say that UT Libraries has shaped me. I have utilized almost everything that the libraries has to offer, such as study spaces, computer and printing access, writing and research assistance, access to an abundance of information, and so much more. I have one semester left to fully take advantage of these resources, and I am excited to see what else will be added. I will forever be grateful for what UT Libraries provided for me. Please consider making an end of year contribution to the UT Libraries to help support us.
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.
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
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:
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.
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
Later in the semester, Whitney designed UT Libraries’ annual holiday card, which is distributed stakeholders and peers nationwide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“We will do things differently, and we will do different things.”
These were among the first words that Lorraine Haricombe offered to Libraries staff on her arrival one year ago, and that exhortation has been realized in large ways as a new strategic vision becomes reality.
While some changes are more subtle, the way that the human resources of the Libraries are being adapted to the evolving needs of our users and to technological advancements is distinctive. New faces are filling positions that are outside the traditional library mold as a means of addressing new currents and new fields of inquiry in ways that take advantage of opportunities in the digital realm, as well as within traditional institutional frameworks.
Over the past year, the Libraries have hired for a succession of new titles that were necessitated by adjustments in university priorities and developments in the practices of scholarship.
One of the first moves made to reimagine the organizational structure within the Libraries occurred as the result of a vacancy at the Architecture & Planning Library, when head librarian Beth Dodd resumed her curatorial work in the Alexander Architectural Archive. Rather than simply refill the position as was originally planned, Haricombe worked with her executive team to adapt the title to a larger current in the field of digital humanities — an area of research and teaching at the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. The Libraries hired Katie Pierce Meyer as Humanities Librarian for Architecture and Planning both to take on a role as both administrative lead of the APL and also to focus on how to develop efforts in the digital humanities at a branch level that could be scaled to an organizational-wide scope.
The Libraries were in the process of reviewing its gifts policy even before Lorraine Haricombe arrived, and early decisions about putting controls on the intake of unsolicited gifts meant that head of gifts processing Sean O’Bryan could be redeployed toward another important priority. Sean was hired to the position of Collections Strategist, where he has become the catalyst for development of a new strategic policy for collections management. His work now is core to the improvement of efforts to move from print to electronic resources.
As African & African American Studies has joined the predominant fields at the university, the need for bibliographer support from the Libraries has become clear. Especially relevant to our existing resources is the growing focus on the African Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean, and with the recent attention given to our southern neighbors by UT President Greg Fenves, we recently hired Rachel Winston as Black Diaspora Archivist at the Benson Latin American Collection. Winston will work to enhance the Benson’s holdings while developing university collaborations to strengthen scholarship in this burgeoning field.
The importance of digital collections and electronic resources remains on an upward trajectory, so there is a constant need to reconsider strategy for making the most of campus technology for institutional gain. Between the expansion of digitization efforts, the prioritization of Open Access, and the unabated growth of Big Data in research, finding ways to manage a new universe of information has become essential. Jessica Trelogan recently became our new Data Management Coordinator to build, maintain and enhance the data services deployed by the Libraries. She’ll work closely with our campus partners at places like the Texas Advanced Computing Center and Information Technology Services to ensure that we’re making the best use of resources across the Forty Acres.
As digital collections continue to grow, the need has arisen for a dedicated custodian to manage both the born-digital and digitized materials that increasingly are the currency of library collections. Ashley Adair joined the Libraries Preservation Department last year as Digital Archivist to take over stewardship of digitized collections across its various libraries and archives, where she plays an active role in the acquisition, appraisal, arrangement and description of these modern core resources.
Technology has also created new opportunities for study at UT, and not just in the STEM fields. The university recently announced the formation of a degree in Creative Arts and Entertainment Technology within the College of Fine Arts, and the students of that program will rely heavily on a space being developed at the Fine Arts Library. The Foundry — a digitally-focused maker space within the library — will feature a recording studio, fiber art studio, video production studio, gaming studio, digital media lab and more. To support the student needs both within the new program and across relevant technology and design studies at UT, the Libraries created a librarian position for Arts and Creative Technologies, and hired FAL veteran Boris Brodsky. Brodsky will be the custodian of the Foundry, and will build from scratch the liaison role that the Libraries have with students and faculty in this exciting new program.
These are just the initial movements of a transformational time at the University of Texas Libraries, where we’re doing different things and doing things differently.
It’s been a year of change at UT and the University of Texas Libraries, with the arrival of new leadership and major transformations taking place across the campus.
As we prepare to close out the final page on the calendar, it’s worthwhile to take a look back at a year in which the Libraries and the university entered a period of renewal.
As staff eagerly anticipated the arrival of a new director after the departure of former Vice Provost Fred Heath, construction began on the Learning Commons at the Perry-Castañeda Library in January — a 20,000 square foot renovation that represented the largest transformation of space in the building’s history. The space opened at the beginning of the fall semester with an event featuring some 200 attendees including new UT President Gregory Fenves and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Randy Diehl. With the relocation of the University Writing Center to its new digs in the Learning Commons, the PCL is seeing more activity than at any time in recent memory.
Lorraine J. Haricombe arrived in February from her previous post at the University of Kansas to chart a new course for the Libraries, bringing with her fresh ideas and perspectives as well as a record of successes in the field of open access. After a short period of acclimatization during the spring, Haricombe enlisted staff to help her envision and begin to implement a new path for the organization, one that has grown in momentum to the current day.
Cultural advocates Theresa Lozano Long and Nettie Lee Benson were honored in a ceremony with leaders, family, friends and supporters at Sid Richardson Hall that saw the unveiling of twin plaques recognizing the great ladies’ contributions to the Latin American Studies at the university in March.
A pair ofNEH grants buttressed research support efforts by the Libraries as staff committed more energy to seek public funding for essential projects. And a grant from the Hearst Foundation provided a boost for the construction of a broad-ranging makerspace — The Foundry — at the FAL, which will support students across campus, but especially in the new Creative Arts, Entertainment and Technology program announced this year at UT.
Partnerships at home and abroad evidenced the way in which libraries can contribute to the preservation of and access to the historical record. A web-based medieval mapping project — MappaMundi — launched after a collaborative effort involving Libraries technology staff and faculty from the College of Liberal Arts, and partners in Kigali and Great Britain announced the launch of the expanded and updated Genocide Archive of Rwanda, marking the latest grand success of a years-long relationship.
And collections continued to grow, especially in areas of distinction, thanks to the hard work of staff who circumnavigate the globe in search of rare and niche materials — as Telugu pulp fiction acquired by a bibliographer in Hyderabad — and by donors, as well, who provide resources in new and underrepresented subjects to benefit current and future researchers — like the Freud Reia punk collection, now part of the Historical Music Recordings Collection.
Plenty of other gains were made this year, but it would be remiss not to talk about a few noteworthy losses the Libraries experienced, too. Along with the normal churn of staff that occurs over time in an organization, we saw a late-year spate of retirements by some of our foremost and long-serving librarians. Engineering Librarian Susan Ardis, Life Sciences Librarian Nancy Elder and Physics-Mathematics-Astronomy Librarian Molly White all contemplated careers of success and left behind their respective legacies for the next generation. Colleagues have honored their contributions with the career reflections offered below.
From Larayne Dallas
Susan used to tell us that she’d been around since dirt was a baby but actually she started work as Head, Engineering Library in 1979. She came to Austin after serving Galveston’s Rosenberg Library as Head of Reference. It was Michigan (and Wisconsin) before Texas. Susan’s B.A. (History) and A.M.L.S. (Library Science) are from the University of Michigan. She stayed on at Michigan to work in Cataloging, and then for six years was Head of the Natural Science Library.
During Susan’s time at the Engineering Library, valuable endowment funds were added; society publications and technical reports were brought into good order. Engineering was the first at UT to remove the card catalog, to add a CD-ROM index, and to offer computer-aided instruction. Also, Engineering was among the first to offer public computer printing and a computer lab. Engineering became a U.S. Patent and Trademark Depository Library. Susan oversaw the opening (and then the closing) of the Balcones Library Service Center. After Virginia Phillips’s retirement, Susan added responsibilities as Head, Science Libraries Division.
Susan wrote three books and numerous articles. She taught credit classes at UT and (online) at San Jose State. Additionally, she taught patent workshops for the Texas State Library and for SLA (Special Library Association). She won an innovation award from SLA. A particularly big adventure was a consulting job that took her to libraries in Viet Nam.
Colleagues remember Susan as full of energy and always ready with innovative ideas in support of providing better library service.
From Liz DeHart
I had the pleasure of working with Nancy for 16 great years and I cannot say enough what she has meant to me. As mentor, friend and colleague, she’s been an inspiration for all of us at UT Libraries.
One of the most memorable times with Nancy was during my interview for the position I hold now at the Marine Science Library. She, Virginia P. and I flew in a small state plane to Port Aransas to meet with MSI faculty and staff. My nerves were already scrambled just thinking about the interview and flying in that “puddle jumper” really added to my nervousness. I remember Nancy telling me, “it’ll be okay.”
Nancy was an instrumental part of the Science Team, sharing her wisdom and keen sense of wit. She always had this knack for providing great analogies when describing certain points, whether it was work-related or just part of daily life. Loved it! Nancy was open, honest and good-hearted and because of that, she entrusted me with the Marine Science Library. I respected that very much and could not have asked for a better working relationship.
With all that comes with retirement, I wish you a happy one, Nancy. It’s been a blessing to work with you and I shall miss you, as we all will.
~~ HAPPY QUILTING, m’friend!
From Dennis Trombatore
Molly White joined the Science Library crew in 1987. I had been here for two years, but Molly was already an old timer with a deep institutional memory. She had been an undergraduate and a Library School Master’s student at UT, and worked for the Libraries as early as 1968. She worked in the Tower when it was still the Main Library, she worked in a number of other units, and during that period she also took a long break and worked for Texas Pacific Film in Austin, so she has deep ‘old Austin’ cred. When she came to the science group, she was at the Balcones Service Center and at Life Sciences before she became the PMA Librarian in 1991.
Molly took on a formidable group of traditionalists in her disciplines, and despite a rough couple of years during our first wave of serious journal cancellations, she rose above it and developed strong working relationships with all three groups, working back and forth across the lines to develop new technologies and services while maintaining the core capabilities that her scientists required. She has also wrestled with the vagaries of her space, spearheading a number of improvements that made PMA a better and more user friendly library.
Molly took a keen interest in our organization, and has served on numerous projects, committees and task forces through the years, as well as in the profession, where she has been very active in the Physics Mathematics Astronomy Division of the Special Libraries Association and served on a number of science publishing advisory groups. Her colleagues know her as someone willing to ask difficult questions, and work with a team to find good solutions. Molly has been a real contributor, a good colleague, and a friend. I am grateful to have had her as a member of our team, and we will all miss her.