Category Archives: Staff

Read Like A Librarian: Staff Poetry Recommendations

Sarah Brandt, Librarian for First-Year Programs, shows off her selection (including the creepy illustrations), The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe from 1945.
Sarah Brandt, Librarian for First-Year Programs, shows off her selection (including the creepy illustrations), The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe from 1945.

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!

People-Building for Today and Tomorrow

Strategy

“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.

Katie Pierce-Meyer
Katie Pierce Meyer

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.

Sean O'Bryan
Sean O’Bryan

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.

Rachel Winston
Rachel Winston

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.

Jessica Trelogan
Jessica Trelogan

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.

Ashley Adair
Ashley Adair

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.

Boris Brodsky
Boris Brodsky

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.

Looking Back

Looking back...

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.

Learning Commons opening. L-R: Randy Diehl, Gregory Fenves, Lorraine Haricombe.
Learning Commons opening. L-R: Randy Diehl, Gregory Fenves, Lorraine Haricombe.

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 Haricombe.
Lorraine Haricombe.

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.

Doug Benson and Teresa Lozano Long.
Doug Benson and Teresa Lozano Long.

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.

The Libraries’ propensity for fostering creativity manifested itself in a successful crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the construction of a recording studio at the Fine Arts Library (FAL), and in the continued pilot of the Media Lab at PCL that provided students a technology rich resource for work on modern multimedia projects.

A pair of NEH 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.

T-Kay Sangwand and Christian Kelleher meet with Rwandan officials.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.

The Libraries continued its popular run of programming, with entertaining and informative events in the form of Science Study Break, Research + Pizza, Films in Person, Excessive Noise concerts, the Distinguished Author Dinner, and exhibitions from the Benson Latin American Collection and the Architecture & Planning Library’s To Better Know a Building series.

Dale J. Correa, MES Librarian, and Mahjoub Zweiri, professor of history at QU.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.

 

Susan Ardis

From Larayne Dallas

Susan Ardis.
Susan Ardis.

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.

 

Nancy Elder

From Liz DeHart

Nancy Elder.
Nancy Elder.

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!

 

Molly White

From Dennis Trombatore

Molly White.
Molly White.

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.

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.”

Looking to the Future While Reflecting on the Past

Lisa Hernandez at the Libraries' Information Literacy Summit.

As the end of another semester and year approaches, I find myself looking to the future, defining new goals, and exploring exciting possibilities, especially since this is the new normal at the UT Libraries today! However, I recently received an email that made me reflect on a past partnership that has blossomed into something greater than I ever anticipated.

The email came from Lisa Hernandez, currently the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo College, Career & Technology Academy Librarian and the Texas Library Association’s Librarian of the Year. In 2013, Lisa had been one of ten Texas high school librarians selected to attend the UT Libraries Information Literacy Summit, a day long summit about information literacy. Information Literacy (IL) is broadly defined by the ability to find and think critically about information and is not only a crucial skill for life-long learning, it is also one of the six requirements of UT’s School of Undergraduate Studies Signature Course program, a required interdisciplinary foundation course for all incoming UT freshman.

During the Summit, high school librarians from across Texas and librarians from the UT Libraries Teaching and Learning Services department shared expertise, identified overlapping skills, and created mutually-beneficial instructional content in order to better understand the types of issues and needs we have at both ends of the high-school to college transition.  UT librarians shared real syllabi used in freshman courses and we worked collaboratively to design activities and assignments that would help augment information literacy development at both levels, a need identified in national research conducted by Project Information Literacy.

Continued at the “Instruction @ the UT Libraries” blog.

Sustainability in the Library

The Tree of Knowledge.

What sounds better than saving money, adopting healthier habits, and conserving the Earth’s natural resources for future generations to enjoy and benefit from? The idea of sustainability is defined by the University’s Office of Sustainability as “societal efforts that meet the needs of present users without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”. It is an idea that is rapidly becoming mainstream. The University took a lead in the area of sustainability six years ago when it created the Office of Sustainability. The Texas Legislature showed its commitment to campus efforts in 2011 by authorizing a new student fee called the Green Fee. In 2015 UT Libraries is showing its leadership on campus by becoming one of the partners in the pilot project of a new student run program called Green Offices.

Even before the creation of this new program UT Libraries actively embraced green principles by making it standard procedure to do such things as responsibly recycle printer cartridges and send its used furniture, computer, and electronic equipment to University Surplus for reuse. And this isn’t the first time the UT Libraries has demonstrated its commitment to responsible use of resources. Several years ago UT Libraries staff formed their own “Green Team” to run an in-house recycling program. The Team provided containers in the Perry-Castañeda Library for various types of recyclable materials; collecting those materials themselves on a twice weekly basis, and coordinating with University Facilities to pick up the recyclables and deliver them to a recycling center.

Grainy image of PCL Green Team members in the wild, 2010.

The Green Offices program aims to up the ante by providing departments and units on campus a means by which they can measure how green they already are and shows them how they can become even greener. UT student Chantelle Baretto (Plan II, International and Global Studies) came up with the idea and two other UT students, Juhi Amodwala (Management of Information Systems, McCombs School of Business) and Hannah Bevers (Government), created the survey and act as the current coordinators of the Green Offices program.

So of course Libraries staff were eager to get involved. InterLibrary Services and Fine Arts Libraries Circulation both volunteered their areas to be involved in the pilot part of the program hoping to encourage other areas of campus to get involved when the full program rolls out in February 2016. The UT Libraries has always been committed to meeting the information and research needs of the University’s students and faculty, but it also acts as an active supporter of student leadership helping to advance and promote ideas embraced by the rising generation of young people who will become the leaders of tomorrow.

Building on a Solid Foundation at Life Science

The Life Sciences Library in the UT Tower.

The University of Texas Libraries is pleased to announce a new collection in the Life Science Library, the Gillson Longenbaugh Foundation Oncology Research Collection. This new collection was funded by a generous contribution of $50,000 by the Gillson Longenbaugh Foundation in honor of Alta G. Longenabugh. The Gillson Longenbaugh Foundation supports medical research across Texas, identifying researchers and centers at the cutting-edge of their fields. This gift will enable the purchase of substantial electronic resources to support cancer research at UT.

Nancy Elder talks with Lorraine Haricombe.More and more STEM researchers rely on electronic resources, but collection funding is inadequate to address the rising costs of these materials. UT Libraries is working closely with the Dell Medical School to ensure our collection will provide the basic fundamental resources necessary for medical research. As the Dell Medical School has not yet hired a Medical School Librarian, Nancy Elder, Life Science Head Librarian, has stepped in to assist with resource selection. This gift comes at a vital time, as after over thirty years of service, Nancy Elder is retiring in mid-November. Elder has been an incredible asset to the UT Libraries, enhancing the collections and bringing a wonderful passion and spirit to her position. She will be sorely missed by the users of the Life Science Library and her colleagues at the UT Libraries.

UT Libraries would like to extend thanks to the Gillson Longenbaugh Foundation and in particular, board members E.W. “Ned” Torian, Dr. Neal R. Pellis, and foundation president Lawrence I. Levy. Special thanks to UT Libraries Advisory Council Chair JD Torian who facilitated this gift.

We also thank Nancy Elder for her years of service and her recent efforts for the Dell Medical School. If you would like to honor Nancy Elder and/or help purchase similar resources, please support the Life Science Library.

Art in Progress

Hipstamatic photography by Stephen Littrell.

Though the Learning Commons is starting to take shape and less imagination is required to envisage the finished space, it is still a construction area, and not the spanking future version of itself quite yet.

Stephen Littrell is Head of Access Services for the Libraries, and an avid fan of the Hipstamatic digital photo app, which allows users to customize mobile-native photography using a variety of lens, film and flash filtering options, creating images with a nostalgic feel. Littrell recently used his digital photography skills to coax some subtle beauty from the otherwise drab, dusty and cluttered space that will soon be the new Learning Commons.

“When the Learning Commons opens in August it will be a lovely and vibrant space,” say Littrell. “But before the space opens to the public, there’s an opportunity to capture some of the construction process in a way that’s less documentarian and more playful…maybe even a little artistic.”

Littrell has posted his work on Instagram, and uploaded selections to Hipstography, a site that features galleries of work by Hipstamatic users.

Thank You…

Thank you.We made it!

HornRaiser campaign to build the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio in numbers:

45 Days
8 matching gifts totaling $4,350
127 gifts
158% of our original goal
$15,895

We are very excited that this campaign not only exceeded our original goal of raising $10,000, but also exceeded our stretch-goal of raising $15,000.

We are very thankful for those who contributed and helped us broadcast our message throughout the campaign.

So what’s next?

A preliminary meeting has been scheduled to start brainstorming and planning for the actual construction of the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio. We hope to have everything ready for the fall 2015 semester.

As I have mentioned before, this project is a smaller piece of a larger project called the Creativity Commons. We are still fundraising for the other studios in the Creativity Commons:

  • Video Production Studio, $50,000
  • Game Developer Studio, $35,000
  • Maker Workshop, $25,000
  • 3D Design Workspace, $15,000
  • Recording Studio (funded!)

While these tools are available in other areas on campus, they are restricted to students or a certain major. The Creativity Commons will be fully accessible to all current UT students, faculty, and staff.

To give a gift to support the Creativity Commons, click here, or click here to read a previous post with more detailed funding opportunities for individuals or corporations.

Special thanks to our campus and community partners who supported us during our HornRaiser campaign to build the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio: Austin’s Pizza, Tom’s Tabooley, Waterloo Records, KUT, KMFA, Butler School of Music, and Hook ‘Em Arts.

A Hidden Musicians’ History of the UT Libraries

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Being that we have a few music aficionados (and some practitioners, at that) on staff at the Libraries, we note that we’re once again amid the academic calendar timeout when the students take a (mostly) well-deserved break from classes and the city becomes a mobility nightmare as vectors from the tech, film and music industries converge on Austin to engage in a gathering of equal parts profile building and navel gazing.

South by Southwest is the place where The Next Big Thing is likely to happen, be it the social media juggernaut of the future (Twitter, SX2007), an Academy Award winner (The Hurt Locker, SX2009) or a game-changing musical act (White Stripes, SX2001).

It’s no easy task to break through, though — be it at an annual conference like SXSW, or just as a matter of standing out in a world where technology has been significantly democratized creating a flood of entertainment options. And refining your craft is somewhat easier when your passion is also your job; the tech sector tends to breed its own winners, and industry experience is almost a prerequisite for succeeding in Hollywood. That fact makes being a pure artist an almost Sisyphean undertaking in the modern world.

More often than not, people with creative dispositions need to find jobs among the ranks of the blue and pink collar working set in order to provide income to support themselves through early (or even permanent) periods of anonymity. In New York, fledgling thespians eye Broadway from behind the mirrored windows of cafes as baristas or bartenders. The young and attractive who trek west with eyes on Hollywood make ends meet working as waitstaff in LA’s swankiest hotspots, hoping to cross paths with an industry bigshot. And many visual artists bide their time in production jobs on Grand Avenue in Chicago waiting for their first big gallery show or positive review to launch their career.

So how do musicians who live in the “Live Music Capital of the World” sustain themselves while they hone their art and build an audience? At least one place you might find a featured act in a new music showcase or subject of a glowing Pitchfork review are among the staff in the libraries on the UT campus.

The Libraries have harbored a substantial lineage of musically-inclined talent among the ranks of its past and present staff, mostly in support positions that provide the heavy lifting — both literally and figuratively — of library work. Beloved Austin singer Marcia Ball worked as a clerk at the Collections Deposit Library on the edge of campus in the early 70s. Before he was placing his stamp on the scene with fellow True Believer Jon Dee Graham, Alejandro Escovedo was checking out books at the Perry-Castañeda Library circulation desk. And there’s a virtual catalog of other personalities from Austin’s music scene — both known and supposed — that have some connection to the libraries on the Forty Acres.

Photo provided by Katherine Strickland.
Photo provided by Katherine Strickland.

How an academic library became a magnet for creatives in Austin makes sense. As the city has grown in fits and starts, much of the wage-earning job opportunities have been in the retail and food service spaces that serve the university community and cater to the student demographic. Likewise, many of the low cost residential rentals have historically been clustered in north and west campus neighborhoods where it provided easy access to campus denizens who didn’t have access to vehicles, or artists who needed to be close to the arts and entertainment venues that afford the best opportunities for exposure. A university community tends to feed the intellectual curiosity of its host city’s population, and those with natural tendencies toward cerebral pursuits, in turn, gravitate to the campus.

Add in an ever-escalating cost of living — especially those costs associated with healthcare — and a university job with its relative security and benefits becomes a much more attractive prospect for an artist who needs income to support their creative habits than most of the other wage-based options available.

Then again, some folks just wind up here because they love the books, or the people, or the place.

Several past and current staffers who also happen to be musicians have offered perspectives on why they landed work at the library, and how that connection impacted their music. Continue reading