Category Archives: Research

The UT Libraries Student Experience

Students get some pet therapy.
Students get some pet therapy.

“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.

Students can learn how to conduct research in free classes provided by the Libraries.

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!

A Foundry student technician talks with Lorraine Haricombe about 3D printing.
A Foundry student technician talks with Lorraine Haricombe about 3D printing.

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

A student at work on a multimedia project.
A student at work on a multimedia project.

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.

Tents occasionally pop up in the libraries during finals.
Tents occasionally pop up in the libraries during finals.

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.

Return to India

With the generous support of both the South Asia Institute and the UT Libraries, I had the good fortune to travel again to India in January 2017.  The primary focus of my travel was to continue the active development of the Libraries’ “South Asian Popular and Pulp Fiction Collection.”

“Comprehensiveness” is not ultimately the goal for this nationally distinctive collection, in part because the material itself is ephemeral and passes out of print quickly. In fact, the very fleeting nature of the material, particularly that published in serial formats and on low-quality “pulp” paper, is what makes collecting it so imperative.  Private collectors often don’t see the value in its popular content—it isn’t “high brow” nor particularly literary, some of it is geared towards women, while others are purely entertainment-oriented.  Public libraries (both in South Asia and abroad) might seem well situated for the content, yet they often aren’t equipped nor charged to preserve such fragile but highly used material.  As a result, in gathering this material at our research library, even if only at a representative level, we are assuring both current and future researchers a corpus of material within which to explore literary conventions as well as alternative uses of South Asian languages (particularly that not in high registers), to contemplate social norms and anxieties as represented in fictional accounts and graphic design at a particular moment in time, and to question the consumptive practices of publishing and distribution.  In order to be as broadly representative as possible with the collection, I am seeking to include multiple languages and different types and periods of publication.

Building upon earlier efforts in Telugu and Urdu already in the collection, on this trip I sought to acquire materials in Hindi, Malayalam, and Tamil.

Mary Rader in Delhi with Aaron Sherraden and  Neha Mohan.

In Delhi, and with the gracious help of Asian Studies PhD Student Aaron Sherraden and former SAI Outreach Coordinator Neha Mohan, I was able to acquire the works of authors such as Anil Mohan and Surendra Mohan Pathak.

Mary Rader at a bookstall in Trivandrum.

In Trivandrum, and following advice and guidance from Asian Studies Malayalam Lecturer, Dr. Darsana, I was able to acquire the works of authors such as Kottayam Puspanath, Ettumanur Sivakumar, and Meluveli Babuji.

Mary Rader at the Chennai Book Fair.

In Chennai, I was able to acquire materials in different publishing formats by authors such as Rajeshkumar, Suba, Uma Balakumar, and Indira Soundarajan.

I continue to be struck by how different the quality of publications is between languages as well as the places of distribution.  Malayalam print production seems best, even for lesser known and more “low-brow” content, while Tamil publications get rebranded and reissued at multiple price points and quality levels.  Train platforms of course continue to be active sites for purchasing this material but sellers there lament a decline, one they explain either by reduced readership overall and/or by the dominance of smart phones rather than books for “time-pass.”  Highly graphic covers dominate the pedestrian markets while less controversial covers of the same content find home in proper bookshops.

As we continue to acquire more and more of these materials, the Library is also in the process of digitizing the covers as they are compelling and research worthy themselves.   An online exhibit is expected to be released in mid-2017.   If you have any suggestions for, questions about or just want to see these materials—I’m happy for all input and eager for the collection to be used!

Building the Data Environment

Data Management Coordinator Jessica Trelogan.
Data Management Coordinator Jessica Trelogan.

Jessica Trelogan was brought in last year to fill the new position of Data Management Coordinator in order to build, maintain and enhance the data services deployed by the Libraries. 

This February will be the one-year mark for me here at UTL. I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown! Looking back, though, I can see why: our Research Data Services unit has been busy. We’ve accomplished a lot in a year, including a website overhaul, a GIS pilot, a move to a new department, and a bunch of workshops and consultations.

Perhaps most exciting of all is the launch of the Texas Data Repository (TDR), which we are shouting loudly about this month. This long-anticipated new service has been the result of a huge amount of effort by our friends at Texas Digital Libraries (TDL), who have been working toward it since Fall of 2013. After initially identifying a need for a repository service to handle small to medium-sized research data, they settled on the open-source Dataverse platform, developed and used by Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and they decided to roll it out as a consortial service for TDL members. The Dataverse Implementation Working Group (DIWG) were hard at it for over a year, piloting, testing, assessing, and, at last, launching the service this month.

I am especially excited to be managing our local instance of it here at the Libraries. Thanks to the highly flexible Dataverse platform, each local institution that takes advantage of the service gets to decide how much control to give users. We’ve decided to give our users full control, meaning anyone from the UT-Austin community can log in with an EID, deposit data, and decide how much, with whom, and when to share it. I have high hopes that this new service, which complements our publication repository, Texas ScholarWorks, will help our research community comply with funder mandates for data sharing and archiving, get credit by facilitating reliable data citation, and promote open and reproducible research.  

I look forward to getting the word out this spring about the Texas Data Repository, along with all our other research data-related services. One way we plan to do so is through a workshop series we’re launching called Data and Donuts. You’ll find us talking about research data every Friday this semester at 3pm at the Libraries (mostly at PCL). Oh yeah, plus there will be donuts!

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.

Speak Clearly, For Science’s Sake

Science, not in plain English.
Science, not in plain English.

Even if it is rocket science, it certainly helps to be able to explain it.

Grant funding has become increasingly competitive in a world driven toward the next great innovation or discovery, so researchers are seeking to find ways to present complicated ideas in terms that are easily understandable, even to non-experts, in order to generate interest in their areas of work.

To introduce the campus community to this strategy for professional success, UT Science Communication Interest Group is hosting a contest to challenge student researchers to present complex ideas to general audiences.

Science in Plain English will test participants’ ability to distill their often obscure technical knowledge into prose that can be comprehended by non-scientists in non-academic environs. Contestants will have to rely solely on their ability to communicate verbally — there is a prohibition on props, visual presentations, audio or video — and on their talent for connecting with an audience.

Presentations will be limited to 3 minutes, with judges assessing performances on brevity, clarity, speaking style and a meticulous avoidance of jargon and/or technical terminology.

The winner will be awarded a trip to the 2017 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, February 16-20, in Boston. Contest winner’s registration, travel, and accommodations will be paid for, up to a maximum value of $2,500.

The contest will be held on Wednesday, October 19 at 4:30 p.m. in the Student Activity Center Auditorium. The competition is already filled, but the contest is open to the public and audience participation will help determine the winner.

Supported in part by the Austin Radiological Association.

Hear a piece by Houston Public Media on a similar science communication competition. 

Data Lab Coming to PCL

Conceptual Gears.

A new lab is coming to PCL as part of the Scholars Commons, opening in January 2016. The Data Lab will have 15 dual-boot iMacs capable of running Windows and Mac OS. Based on the results of a campus-wide survey of graduate students and faculty conducted last spring, the pilot lab will have software for statistical analysis, data visualization, and text encoding. Users will also have access to a UT Libraries-installed instance of Omeka and other web-based tools for digital scholarship. In addition to the new types of software, look for workshops on digital scholarship tools and methods throughout the spring semester.

The Data Lab will be a pilot space. We’re especially interested in your feedback about what works and what doesn’t so that we can provide the software that you need.

Software available in the Data Lab will include:

  • Adobe Creative Suite 6
  • Autodesk Design Suite (free educational version)
  • NVivo
  • Omeka
  • Oxygen XML
  • R
  • SAS
  • SPSS
  • Stata/MP
  • Sublime Text
  • Tableau Public

The lab will also offer standard office productivity apps.

The Scholars Commons, located on the entry of level of PCL, will offer silent study space to facilitate studying, space exclusively for graduate students to take a break, refresh, or meet with a group of colleagues and a Data Lab.

Have a project or idea that you think might be a perfect match for the Data Lab? Let us know! Contact Jenifer Flaxbart.

The Libraries and García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez working on “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” Credit: Guillermo Angulo/Harry Ransom Center

As the university wraps up this year’s Fleur Cowles Symposium “Gabriel García Márquez: His Life and Legacy,” it’s worth noting the Libraries (specifically the Benson Latin American Collection and LLILAS Benson) involvement in support of the noted Colombian author’s archive at the Harry Ransom Center.

The Benson’s Mexican materials bibliographer Jose Montelongo accompanied Ransom Center director Stephen Ennis on a trip to Mexico City, where García Márquez spent his final years, to review the archive materials, and upon the announcement of the acquisition, Montelongo responded to media inquiries providing perspectives on the importance of the archive to the university and researchers, and on the author’s station in the literary canon.

As the premiere Latin American special collection in the western hemisphere, the Benson will provide the complementary resources and support for researchers who come to Austin to utilize the García Márquez archive, further strengthening the partnership between the two institutions.

An article by the Austin-American Statesman on the recent opening of the archive drives home the importance of the relationship between the Ransom Center and the Benson.

Listen to a Public Radio International interview with Jose Montelongo on the acquisition of the archive of Gabriel García Márquez:

 

Preserving Voices from the Past

Phone conversations of the past.

Just in the last month, the university has announced research achievements in areas as varied as digital neuroscopy, millennial socioeconomic demography, biofuel farming practices, new species discovery and engineering to improve physical therapy. It’s a testament to how much starts here that really does change the world that we are constantly moving on to the next discovery or innovation.

But the basis for these discoveries doesn’t just disappear into some massive warehouse never to be seen again. Especially in the age of digital preservation, even those materials that could easily have fallen victim to the ravages of time can now be reasonably saved for contemplation or further consideration at some point in the future.

Such is the case with a trove of audio recordings compiled by Communications professor Robert Hopper (1945-1998) documenting the most seemingly commonplace of activities — human conversation.

Over the span of decades, Hopper meticulously captured thousands of hours of person-to-person interactions, phone conversations and phone messages in an attempt to understand how we connect with each other in the most basic of ways.

Hopper’s research resulted in nine books, over sixty essays and numerous papers on the subject, but just as importantly, he left us with a sizable snapshot of how people shared space with each other during a particular era in which the telephone was a significant tool for conversation.

From voice to magnetic tape and now to a collection of ones and zeroes spread across time and distance, this information has been carefully preserved from its origination in the 20th century to today, and is available through the Libraries digital repository, Texas ScholarWorks, for anyone to access.

Established in 2008 as the University of Texas Digital Repository, Texas ScholarWorks was created to provide open, online access to the products of the University’s research and scholarship, preserve these works for future generations, promote new models of scholarly communication and deepen community understanding of the value of higher education.

Along with its recent renaming, the repository received a significant upgrade making it easier than ever to access, utilize and synthesize data and knowledge generated at UT for broadening our understanding of the world and of ourselves.

In such a way as to warrant a reconsideration of his work — made possible through endeavors like Texas ScholarWorks — Hopper presaged the increasing centrality of technology to the human experience in his 1992 book, Telephone Conversation:

“As citizens in the telephone age become increasingly summons-vulnerable, technical innovation transforms and constrains possibilities for speaking. In constructing summons and in answering them, we use resources already available in the speech community. But adaptation to this new medium alters communications patterns that are among our most priceless community resources. Ecological pollution may strike semiotic systems as well as air and water. We experiment on ourselves by using the telephone which may be the electronic medium that transforms its users the most thoroughly.”

The Libraries copy of Robert Hopper's "Telephone Conversation," inscribed by the author.

Open to Change? Change to Open.

Year of Open

As the world grows larger and closer at the same time, how do we ensure that we grasp the opportunities for sharing knowledge in ways that precipitate the ideas and innovation that will the global community?

Open access has been put forth as at least part of the solution to democratize information and expand knowledge through a lowering of barriers to access.

So what is open access? According to the statement of the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative: “By open access, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software or use them for any other lawful purpose….” Scholarly Communications Librarian Colleen Lyon has provided a more lengthy explanation of the idea at the Open Access blog.

Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe came to the UT Libraries with a set of informed priorities for expanding the campus understanding of the concept of open access. Having developed a comprehensive strategy for the libraries at the University of Kansas — spearheading the effort to make it the first public university in the U.S. to adopt a campus-wide OA policy — she’s brought a reserve of energy and ideas to Austin to convert open agnostics to the cause.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that there are some nascent allies on the Forty Acres as the university investigates flipped classrooms and distance learning opportunities, and to that end, the Libraries have joined forces with Texas Learning Sciences to establish a year of awareness-building on concepts of open access with the hope of generating some grassroots momentum toward a campus-wide embrace of open practices.

The “Year of Open” kicked off in September with BYU adjunct faculty and co-founder of Lumen Learning David Wiley, who provided a promising overflow crowd with a high level explanation of open access and discussed the rationale for moving from a resource ownership model to the shared model that is at the heart of the open content movement. Wiley helped develop Lumen Learning as an open access advocacy organization dedicated to increasing student success and improving the affordability of education through the adoption of open educational resources by schools, community and state colleges, and universities. Video of Wiley’s presentation is available for viewing at the Texas Learning Sciences “Year of Open” page.

On November 5, the second “Year of Open” event will feature David Ernst, Chief Information Officer in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, as well as Executive Director of the Open Academics Textbook Initiative — a program developed to improve higher education access, affordability and success for all students through the use of open textbooks. Ernst created and manages the Open Academics textbook catalog — a single source for faculty to find quality openly licensed textbooks — and he and his colleagues are also developing a toolkit to help other institutions interested in starting their own open textbook initiative on campus. He’ll talk to attendees about how the adoption of open textbooks can help overcome the impediments of access and cost to improve student success outcomes.

After the holiday break, the “Year of Open” continues with events in the spring, including talks by Georgetown University professor and Executive Director of Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship Randy Bass (February), and Bryan Alexander (April), senior fellow at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), as well as a panel on open access and the future of scholarly communication, also tentatively scheduled for April 2016. Check back with the Libraries calendar for coming details on these and other “Year of Open” events.

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.