After a frenetic summer of construction, the new maker space at the Fine Arts Library — The Foundry — opened to great fanfare (literally) on September 7.
More than 300 attendees were welcomed to the renovated area on the main floor of FAL with a flourish of horns by the FivE Euphonium Quartet — as well as other performances by Butler School of Music students and director Jerry Junkin — and remarks by Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe, College of Fine Arts dean Douglas Dempster and Provost Maurie McInnis.
FAL staff and students provided demonstrations of the new tools and technology that inhabit the space, and the centerpiece video wall projected examples of creative work produced by art and design students from across campus.
Guests had the opportunity to see the 3-D printers, a carver, sewing and embroidery machines, and MFA student Jon Haas provided a hologram projection onto a large model of the UT Tower to the delight of onlookers.
The opening attracted interest from around the university community, as well as area residents, donors and local media.
With the space completed, efforts to train staff and student assistants on the technical particulars of the new equipment and the development of training materials and video tutorials for patrons is well underway. The space is expected to be fully functional by the end of October, and the wait begins to see how students will use the space for creativity and innovation.
All photos by Lawrence Peart, provided by the College of Fine Arts.
As the last of the equipment was being installed and tested for the opening of The Foundry, resident mobile photography aficionado and Collections Logistics Librarian Stephen Littrell took his smartphone by the Fine Arts Library to capture some images from around the space in its pristine glory. Check ’em out.
And if you’d like to see the various 3-D printers, laser cutters, milling machines, virtual reality equipment and more in action, then join us next week for a ribbon cutting and open house at FAL, 12:30-2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 7.
A fellow library staffer recently observed that libraries are the place where the public goes to get an introduction to new technologies. One may scoff at that notion as an overstatement of importance, but on examination, it’s not such a far-fetched idea.
Libraries are in the business of early adoption for technological innovations, as most leaps forward have a profound effect on how library resources are preserved, shared and consumed. And as we begin to augment ways in which knowledge can be transformed either at the point of inspiration or in the presence of the resources that make transformation possible, it’s a natural progression to provide users with tools to communicate new ideas through the creative process as a next stage of evolution for libraries.
To wit, the very first cuneiform tablets may not seem terribly innovative given our immersion in modern digital technologies, but they represented a leap forward in how to document the knowledge of human existence. And they were collected in the precursors to libraries discovered in Sumeria — some dating as early as 2600 BC — which initially served to house government and religious records, but later incorporated information regarding history, mathematics and sciences.
Clay eventually made way for papyrus and paper, and later the printing press made duplication and dissemination a reality. In their early stages, these techniques and what they produced weren’t available to common people so the library, in time, filled the demand for access. Following a historical timeline forward, libraries have continued this trend, introducing the public to initially expensive and difficult to access post-industrial technologies like typewriters, copiers, PCs, printers and the internet — and to varying degrees, have made freely available tools for manipulating information of all types.
We’ve previously talked about a new kind of space that will launch at the Fine Arts Library (FAL) this fall that will continue precisely this function for library users. “The Foundry” is a maker space being developed to support the new undergraduate major in the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET) announced in February by the College of Fine Arts (COFA) by providing a suite of creativity tools that either have limited availability, limited accessibility or don’t exist elsewhere on campus.
The Foundry will feature numerous studios equipped with the most current technologies for specialized production by students in the CAET program, that will also be accessible to students from any department on campus.
The Game Development Studio will permit collaborative and immersive game play, game testing and game creation, where users will be able to check out the most recent consoles and connect these to large-format monitors for multi-person, multiplayer activities, as well as tools for developing artwork, sounds and game scripts for a variety of platforms. The Singer-Songwriter Studio will provide a variety of equipment for song creation — keyboard, computer, mixer, microphones and, most importantly, a voiceover booth that provides significant sound isolation for singers and narrators to practice and record vocal parts. A Video Production Studio will provide high-end video technology and software as well as equipment to check out. A 3D Print Workspace will include a cluster of 6 LulzBot TAZ 6 3D Printer stations and a Next Engine Desktop Laser Scanner that will be fully supported from design assistance to production. A Fiber Arts Studio will provide modern sewing and embroidery machines for textile work. And the Maker Workshop will include microelectronics materials and a variety of shop tools and materials for creating across a broad spectrum of media, as well as a selection of high-end production machines:
There’s an air of nostalgia to a book-centric notion of libraries that persists with the institution’s adherents over time. But let’s not forget that libraries have long been on the leading edge of adopting new technologies throughout history — books included — and making them available to everyone.
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.
Those words of Thomas Edison are representative of a sentiment that is increasingly reflected in the way that libraries are evolving to meet modern needs. In a departure from the traditional notion as a place where people go to simply gather information, the modern library is becoming a vibrant space where knowledge is partnered with tools that allow users to immediately synthesize ideas into creative output.
The University of Texas Libraries have, in recent years, been working with campus partners and administrators to reimagine spaces to meet these new expectations, and the results have been worth noting. The opening of the Learning Commons on the entry level of the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) provides students with onsite support for writing projects through a partnership with the University Writing Center, and a substantial new Media Lab offers users the opportunity to create the kind of dynamic multimedia projects that are gradually replacing project papers as a measure of student understanding. The Scholars Commons — opened earlier this spring, also in PCL — provides a space for both isolated study and cross-discipline collaboration, and includes a Data Lab for greater capacity for complex data visualization, making synthesis of information possible within arm’s reach of essential resources.
With the launch of the new undergraduate major in the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET) announced in February by the College of Fine Arts (COFA), the Libraries are partnering with the college to develop a new kind of creative space in the Fine Arts Library (FAL) to support the specialized needs of students in the new program. “The Foundry” will occupy space in the main level of the FAL, and will consist of a series of interconnected studios designed to support audio recording, video production, fabrication, 3D printing, animatronics, game design and fiber arts where students can gather to create independently or collaboratively, and where they’ll have immediate access to traditional library resources and services to augment their work. Although it was developed primarily to support CAET, The Foundry is open to every student at the university.
The focus of the space redevelopment is to provide advanced technological systems for all aspects of performance, game development, music production, digital visual arts, and other forms of digital entertainment. The project is funded by the Office of the Provost, the Libraries, the College of Fine Arts and by a generous grant from the Hearst Foundations.
It’s not quite Menlo Park (yet), but libraries are finding ways to become a larger part of the creative process by providing the materials and tools that allow ideas the potential to be realized at the point of conception. Edison might even be impressed.
Construction on The Foundry began with the close of the spring semester and is slated to open in time for the students’ return in the fall. Check back for progress reports on the renovation throughout the summer.
When the Libraries began investigating the possibility of having the University Writing Center (UWC) become the first campus partner to inhabit the new Learning Commons at the Perry-Castañeda Library, there were high hopes that the marriage would reap significant benefits for library users, patrons of the writing center and the larger campus community. One of the primary goals of the effort was to co-locate complementary services and resources in a central location in order to facilitate greater success in referrals from the Libraries to UWC, and vice versa.
So how has the partnership worked so far? We sat down with UWC program coordinator Alice Batt to get her perspective on the first half-year of life at PCL.
What does the landscape look like for UWC six months into life at PCL? Have you settled in?
Alice Batt: Definitely. Right now there are 13 consultations happening outside my door—lots of energetic conversations! And our presentations team is making good use of the Learning Labs. About 10% of our writing presentations last semester were delivered in those labs. It’s great when that happens because, after the presentation, students can come right down to the UWC and make an appointment.
Any takeaways from what you’ve seen so far?
AB: One of the things that strikes me most is what it’s like to be central again, and to be in a library. Collaboration with our library partners is easier, we’re much more convenient for students, joint workshops are easier to plan and put on, and we’ve been able to experiment with programs like Long Night Against Procrastination. We’re seeing more students, and we’re more confident that, when we refer them to a librarian, they’ll actually go.
What’s the most unexpected outcome?
AB: It took us a while to get used to seeing people on the consulting floor when we arrive in the morning—some of them have been here all night! Now we just tap them gently and send them on their way to class, breakfast, or home.
How has the integration with relevant Libraries staff and services worked?
AB: Overall, it’s going beautifully. Trish (UWC Director Patricia Roberts-Miller) and I are part of the Learning Commons Steering Committee, which meets once a month to iron out wrinkles and make sure we’re all pursuing the same goals. Lately we’ve been talking about cross training: we had a well-attended workshop for our consultants conducted by two librarians that gave consultants some of the basics about the services, when to refer students to them, what sorts of resources are available. Since our consultants are students, it was helpful to them in both capacities–as students doing research, and as consultants working with students on researched writing.
Have you changed or adapted in some way you didn’t foresee?
AB: I haven’t checked the data to confirm this, but I get the sense we’re seeing a more diverse group of students coming to the UWC—more diverse ethnically, racially, linguistically, and also more diverse in their majors. We think it’s because this location is where students already are; they don’t have to make a special trip up to FAC.
What’s been the student response to the new space?
AB: Overwhelmingly positive. Everyone—our administrators, consulting staff, and the students we serve—loves working in a bright, cheery environment. And loads of students come here for private study after we close.
Are you considering any developments that you’d like people to know about?
AB: Our first semester working with grad students in College of Liberal Arts has been a big success. Grad students particularly like the 6-week writing groups; nothing improves productivity like being held responsible by a group! We’d like to expand our services to support graduate students throughout the university. Grad students who would like us to support their writing should tell their deans.
Any other thoughts?
AB: In the Learning Commons, we’re right in the path of students who need our services. We’ve always been a busy place, but now our numbers are up 4% from last year—and they’re rising!
The Scholars Commons, a UT Libraries pilot initiative introducing new spaces and approaches to research and data lifecycle support at UT Austin, opens on Wednesday, January 20 at noon. Located on entry level of the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL), it features space for silent study, a Data Lab, an exhibit area and a Graduate Landing Spot with a suite of study rooms exclusively for graduate student use.
Aesthetically compelling and functional in design, the Scholars Commons is a dynamic intellectual environment for scholars at all levels engaged in serious study. It is a gateway to a suite of services provided by the UT Libraries and campus partners to facilitate academic inquiry and scholarship, connecting scholars with librarians and with each other. UT Libraries subject librarians are available by appointment to consult on resources, scholarly publishing, research data management, and digital scholarship, and will provide workshops along with other experts from Learning Sciences and the University Writing Center.
Last spring, UTL librarians conducted focus groups with graduate students and faculty to learn more about their research and writing needs, and received survey input from over 1,100 graduate students and faculty. The Scholars Commons bring to life the spaces and services informed by these members of the UT Austin research enterprise.
The silent study area of the Scholars Commons offers a tranquil place for scholars to focus fully and reflect on their work without distractions. Researchers will be close to UTL’s robust collections and the expertise of service providers at the Research Help & Check Out desk. Study tables, comfortable chairs, and abundant outlets make it easy to drop in for a few minutes or stay for an entire afternoon of productive work. This area will be a unique UTL space on campus in that it is designated as a completely silent study area.
Graduate students wanted a place for networking with their colleagues that would be flexible for a variety of needs and the Graduate Landing Spot in the Scholars Commons is a home for graduate students within PCL. Students can swipe their UT ID cards to enter a suite adjacent to the silent study area comprised of four technology-equipped group study rooms that may be reserved online, a lounge for heating and enjoying meals, and a general purpose study and networking area. This space is open to graduate students of all disciplines.
Part of the pilot will include an increased focus on digital scholarship and the digital humanities. A Data Lab with 15 dual-boot iMacs allows UTL to offer access to high-end statistical analysis software, like SPSS and SAS, for the first time. The Lab can accommodate small classes and library workshops. Faculty interested in bringing a class to the lab to use the software can contact email@example.com.
The Scholars Commons initiative will also highlight and promote UT scholarship in the form of events and rotating exhibits. The first exhibit in the space, Crafting Art and Geology: The Publications of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), was curated by Dr. Janice Leoshko from the Department of Art and Art History and Department of Asian Studies. The Scholars Commons will also host lectures and seminars to share the world-class research that is being done at UT.
The Scholars Commons is a pilot project. Librarians and UTL staff will be soliciting feedback from users and taking note of the ways that scholars use the space, including what works and what doesn’t. Come by PCL for the opening event or to investigate the Scholars Commons to find your place for exploration and innovation within the Libraries.
A happy convergence of circumstances at the beginning of the recent academic year resulted in a creative endeavor that highlights the Libraries, its users and the students who represent the quality of talent at The University of Texas at Austin.
Reia was a guitarist for Berkeley-area punk band The Criminals in the 1990s, active during a time when the city was spawning a pop-punk revival that manifested bands that would go on to garner broad attention, such as Rancid, The Offspring and Green Day. His connection to the punk music scene and the various players in a place where record stores are in abundance made it possible for Reia to build an exceptional collection of genre-specific gems.
Reia’s collection was donated to the FAL’s Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC) by Reia’s mother, Flora Salyers, and his wife, Tamara Schatz, with the hope that the music he had spent his life compiling would benefit future students, faculty and researchers who rely on the archive as a resource. Salyers delivered the collection herself, hauling the records in her car on a road trip from Little Rock, Arkansas, after a series of consultations with Hunter.
Reia’s lifetime of collecting — and his family’s decision to make the donation of materials — serves to fill a genre gap in the HMRC. Punk music was notably underrepresented as a focus within the archive, but the addition of such a range of items, many of which are uncommon or even obscure, has opened a new avenue of development for the collection.
This fall also saw the opening of the new Learning Commons in PCL, including the new expanded Media Lab on the ground level of the building. The lab is designed to provide students and other users access to the tools needed to build creative multimedia projects that are increasingly the currency of productivity in the higher ed learning environment. The lab is managed by Libraries Teaching and Learning professionals, but is staffed by students — Media Lab Assistants — from the University Leadership Network, a program of the UT Provost’s office designed to help undergraduate students from historically disadvantaged communities develop leadership skills while achieving academic success consistent with graduating in four years.
Lab assistants come from a range of different fields of study across campus, and work in tandem with their supervisors to develop expertise in the use of hardware/software in order to share their skills with fellow students who use the lab. Some of the assistants were chosen by the Media Lab managers for skills and knowledge they already had, such as Charisma Soriano, a junior Marketing and Radio-Television-Film major, who has experience with filmmaking and production. Charisma brought with her an understanding of that process which has been invaluable for Libraries staff.
To expand the opportunities for the ULN students in the Media Lab, as well as to fill a need for the Libraries, Charisma and her fellow lab assistants Lucia Aremu — junior Government major — and Jocelyn Mendoza — junior, Education — were approached by their supervisors to see if they would be interested in making a short film to highlight some aspect of the Libraries efforts; the subject matter was left completely to the students’ own interests. All three enthusiastically agreed to take on the project, and settled on the Reia punk collection as the focus for their effort.
Working in coordination with Media Lab Manager Andy Wilbur, the students toured the HMRC collection (located at the Collections Deposit Library) with David Hunter, conducted preliminary interviews with Hunter and Katherine Strickland — PCL Map Collection manager and punk music aficionado — then organized, shot, edited and produced a short documentary film on the collection, which is viewable below.
The Libraries relies on the generosity of donors and the talent of students and staff to make efforts such as this possible.
The preliminary estimate for processing the Reia Punk Collection is estimated at $8,000 — covering the cost of a graduate research assistant and cataloging. Consider donating to the Fine Arts Library to make this collection available for use by students, faculty, researchers and scholars.
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)
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.
Prior to the opening of the Learning Commons, the Libraries were piloting a digital Media Lab in the PCL to gauge how useful students would find certain hardware and software in service of their personal and academic creative work.
The diminutive 14-seat pilot helped to guide the development of the robust new 44-unit strong Media Lab that opened as part of the new Learning Commons last Tuesday, and, thus far, its central and very visible location has attracted even greater attention and use than was imagined.
Even during the pilot phase, though, the lab was earning a the loyalties of regular users, many of whom are students in departments that don’t necessary provide access to all of the tools or resources that can help to ballast student productivity.
We discovered one such student through the approval process for filming in PCL, which is a pretty regular occurrence, especially with members of the RTF and Communications programs at the university.
Nate Jackson is a Communications senior at UT who wanted to shoot a short film on synesthesia for a Journalism Portfolio summer class using the 5th floor stacks in PCL as a backdrop. As is the case with almost every request to use Libraries facilities for class projects, Jackson received approval, and enthusiastically agreed to share the finished work with us upon completion so that we could highlight alternate student uses of the libraries.
After viewing the finished product — which coincided with the preparations for the Learning Commons opening — and being extremely impressed with the quality and skill it exhibited, we reached out to Nate to find out if, in addition to serving as a location for his film, he might also have used the Media Lab at PCL as a resource in the process of creating it. As it turns out, that was indeed the case; Jackson used the tools provided by the Libraries to edit and record voice-overs for the project.
Nate graciously indulged us by participating in the opening of the Learning Commons, where he and his co-creator of the film project Erin Kedzie talked to attendees to the event about the process of making the film and the value of the resources in the Media Lab to their classwork and creative projects.
“Being able to go any time the PCL is open and having this software available works really well for me because I can’t afford this computer software on my own,” Jackson recently told the Daily Texan.
Jackson and Kedzie are just one story in a massive community of talentedstudents on the Forty Acres who have the opportunity to succeed because the Libraries are finding ways to provide resources that level the playing field for everyone, regardless of program or personal resources.