Open Access Month – OA to Spur Innovation

October is Open Access Month. Throughout the month, guest contributors will present their perspectives on the value of open access to research, scholarship and innovation at The University of Texas at Austin.

This installment provided by Dr. Maryjka B. Blaszczyk,Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Anthropology.

A need for open access to research materials to spur new discoveries in biological anthropology

Dr. Maryjka B. Blaszczyk.
Dr. Maryjka B. Blaszczyk.

A major aim of research in biological anthropology is to understand how humans have ended up looking and behaving the way that they do. To understand the evolution of our body form, anthropologists look at fossils. Behavior, however, does not fossilize, and so we turn to studying our closest living relatives, the nonhuman primates, preferably in their natural habitats where they have to deal with selective pressures such as avoiding predators and finding enough food to eat. Primate behavior field data are hard-won, involving substantial investments of time and resources. Apart from jumping through logistical hoops such as obtaining permits and building relationships with local stakeholders in far-flung locales, establishing a new field site for behavioral fieldwork involves months if not years of patiently following wild primates around to habituate them to researchers’ presence. Once habituated, data collection begins, with blood, sweat, and tears invariably spilt as one accumulates precious hours of detailed behavioral observations on this group of primates at this place and particular time.

These investments are one reason given by field primatologists as justification for closely guarding their data. Another is the unique insights they have into the lives of their study animals, having spent hours upon hours of observation time with them. Some primatologists argue that researchers not familiar with their study site and animals may misuse the data if they were to make it widely available, subjecting it to improper analyses or not accounting for information about the study site/animals that is known only to researchers who have worked there. Researchers also generally have many ideas for secondary analyses of their data that they plan to get to in the future.

Each of these arguments is by no means specific to primate behavioral ecology, with very similar arguments having been made, for example, by medical researchers working with clinical trial data. Of course, clinical trial data has a substantially higher status (given its applications for human health and welfare) than primate behavior data, and arguments about the costs and benefits of trial data sharing have been ongoing in high profile forums for several years. Data sharing advocates point to benefits such as new discoveries, better metanalyses, and correction or confirmation of findings in the scientific record, which they argue far outweigh potential risks such as incorrect analyses or data misuse. We all know researchers who have been sitting on data for years (even decades) with plans for secondary analyses, many of which they will never find the time to conduct and publish. In the case of primate field data collected on a specific population at a specific place and point in time – and frequently on endangered primates living in rapidly changing habitats – these data cannot be reproduced, so it is a double shame that they may never make it into the scientific record.

Primate behavioral ecologists are included in Anthropology departments because comparative studies on primate behavior illuminate the ways in which humans differ from and are similar to our closest kin, allowing us to better understand the evolutionary ecology of our lineage.  However, many comparative studies are hampered by poor descriptions of how data in primate field studies were collected and processed, and many large-scale comparative studies cannot be undertaken unless raw data itself is made available. Behavioral ecologists should take a page out of their molecular primatology colleagues’ playbooks, where publication of genetic data alongside scientific articles is the rule. This type of data sharing has enabled large-scale comparative phylogenetic studies that have given us a rich understanding of primate evolution. It is time for primate behavioral ecologists to catch up and to make sharing of data as well as associated behavioral and ecological data collection protocols the norm. Who knows what insights await us.

Open Access Month – Open the Data

October is Open Access Month. Throughout the month, guest contributors will present their perspectives on the value of open access to research, scholarship and innovation at The University of Texas at Austin.

This installment provided by Spencer J. Fox (ORCID ID: 0000-0003-1969-3778), PhD candidate focusing on computational epidemiology.

Spencer J. Fox.
Spencer J. Fox.

Three years ago, I was choosing the next research direction for my PhD. I was interested in two subjects and had found a journal article in each to build upon. I thought to follow the computational biologist’s path of least resistance: pursue the paper whose results I could reproduce first, as that represents an important first step. One of the papers had published a repository with all of their data alongside working code for analyzing it, while the other had simply stated: “Data available upon request” with no reference to code used for the analyses.

Being a naive graduate student, I politely reached out to the authors of the second study to obtain their data and inquire about their code. In return, I received a scathing email filled with broken links to old websites, excuses about proprietary data, and admonishment for having asked for “their” code: “any competent researcher in the field could replicate our analysis from the information within the manuscript.” I was stunned.

While expressing my frustration to my peers, I found that their requests had also been met with equal hostility and degradation from scientists in their respective fields. When data or code had been provided – usually after months of negotiations – cooperation came with heavy stipulations in article authorship, time-stamped embargos, or permissible analyses. Clearly, it’s not enough to rely on researchers to act in good faith.

The unfortunate truth is that the onus falls on journals to enact real change. Many major journals now require that raw data be deposited in permanent online repositories like Dryad1. This has improved data sharing, but is only half the battle and simply provides the likeness of reproducible research. I have spent weeks reproducing someone’s analysis using their provided data and code. It would have been impossible without both. Simply put, freely available code – even if messy and difficult to follow – provides an invaluable foundation for future researchers to build upon, and all journals should require that both analysis code and data accompany a manuscript.

Too many conscious and subconscious coding decisions are made over the course of a project that even minor decisions early on present serious stumbling blocks for researchers trying to reproduce results. Differences in mundane behaviors between programming languages, versions, library functions, and self-written pipelines can have drastic implications on end results. A great example of this is the inadvertent errors in one fifth of genomics papers attributed to Microsoft Excel use2.

Finally, while ultimately it is the researcher’s responsibility to provide code alongside a manuscript, there are tangible incentives for doing so: citations. Open access manuscripts and those that provide their data receive more citations3,4, and the same likely applies to providing analysis code. After debating between those articles three years ago, I alone have cited the reproducible paper in two separate publications. How many other potential citations are lost “upon request”?


Citations

  1. http://datadryad.org/
  2. https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-016-1044-7
  3. https://elifesciences.org/articles/16800
  4. https://peerj.com/articles/175/

Open Access Month – Open Educational Resources in Biology

October is Open Access Month. Throughout the month, guest contributors will present their perspectives on the value of open access to research, scholarship and innovation at The University of Texas at Austin.

This installment provided by Sata Sathasivan, Senior Lecturer, Biology Instructional Office.

K.Sata Sathasivan.

I have been using open educational resources (OER) in biology as supplemental instructional sources for many years. These included animations, videos, simulations and public databases of DNA and protein. These resources are constantly evolving and they complement well with any level of teaching.

Recently, I started using a biology textbook published by Open Stax based at Rice University for my introductory biology classes successfully. While a publisher’s popular textbook may cost the students up to $250 each semester, OpenStax textbooks are free to download a PDF and have a nominal cost ($40) for printed versions. Several students liked this free textbook and I received only a few complaints about the inadequacies of this textbook to explain a particular concept. Overall, it was well received by the students and they found this very helpful.

This free textbook can be supplemented with other open educational resources that can be found online in various sites such as https://www.oercommons.org, and if you want to explore more OER sites, check this site.

The only concern that I have about OERs is the time it takes to check them for quality and consistency with your teaching, and the time involved in making the structure for them to be seamlessly integrated into the course.

Hurricane Harvey from satellite imagery. NOAA/NASA GOES Project.

Recovering from Harvey

The recent succession of weather events provided a rather inauspicious beginning to the new semester, though the main campus and our local branches have been spared all but an abundance of rain. Our family and friends along the coast, however, weren’t so lucky.

For those who attempt to recall the list of branch locations overseen by the UT Libraries, it’s not uncommon to overlook the one library that doesn’t reside in Austin, but rather on a usually pastoral stretch of sand a few blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. The Marine Science Library serves the faculty and researchers at UT’s Marine Science Institute (MSI) in Port Aransas, which is just across the bay from Rockport, Texas — a city that was the focal point for much of the news coverage surrounding the arrival of Hurricane Harvey on Friday, August 25. Port Aransas actually took a direct hit from Harvey and suffered catastrophic damage, which was also visited upon the MSI, including the building where the library is located.

Hurricane Harvey landfall.

As a matter of course, the Libraries have a Collections Emergency Team composed of relevant administrators, dedicated facility staffers and outstanding preservation experts, who jump to action in the event of a threat to the resources or infrastructure of the libraries.  With any storm of Harvey’s magnitude and destructive impact, staff are paying close attention and preparing for potential issues, but in the case of this hurricane and the position of its landfall, most proactive considerations gave way to planning how to react to whatever damage would inevitably be wrought upon the library and its collections.

Immediately in the wake of the storm, the island and the surrounding areas lost power and, subsequently, most communications were sporadic at best. It wasn’t until Sunday that the Libraries became aware of the extent of damage to MSI, but without specific information about the library, so staff began to prepare for the worst possibilities. Liz DeHart, the Libraries’ liaison at MSL, was contending with the personal effects of Harvey and unable to get to the library, and administrators at MSL were prioritizing assessment of the impact on research assets and infrastructure at the campus, which had suffered severe damage. Representatives from the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) in Austin became the conduits for information about the situation on the ground, and eventually an initial assessment was returned suggesting that the damage to the library was hopeful, with wet floors, but dry books — almost miraculous, since the same building that contained the library had extensive roof damage, flooding and blown out windows. But there was also no air conditioning or power, and as one might imagine, paper doesn’t fare well to exposure to the balmy coastal climate of late summer. As much as the team wanted to rush to the coast on a rescue mission, widespread destruction, impassable roads and a moratorium on travel to the island by non-residents made that seem like an impossibility.

Roof of MSI where the library lives.
Roof of MSI where the library lives.

By Wednesday, August 30 — the first full day of the fall semester — staff had worked with CNS to obtain permission for a response team to travel to Port Aransas to assess damage and hopefully, recover the most valuable of the  close to $9,000,000 worth of collections, but there was a caveat: they had one day to do it.

A team of Geoff Bahre (Manager), Matt McGuire and Bill Gannon from the Facilities & AV unit along with Joey Marez, a library specialist from the Preservation department, immediately began preparations for all contingencies that could be imagined on a first trip into a storm disaster zone: food, water, tools and equipment, supplies for any mechanical trouble. And gas.

Geoff Bahre, Joey Marez and Bill Gannon grab a much-deserved break.
Geoff Bahre, Joey Marez and Bill Gannon grab a much-deserved break.

The window was tight, so the team left Austin at 3:30 a.m. on Friday, September 1, agreeing to make sure they refilled fuel on the south side of San Antonio, but discovered that the rush on gas stations had already drained supplies when they stopped to refuel. A fortunate encounter with a kind soul at a local pancake house directed the team to a station with adequate fuel supplies, and the team continued its journey to the coast.

Because the ferry wasn’t yet operational, the team had to travel through Corpus Christi and up the length of Mustang Island to reach Port Aransas in the mid-morning hours of Friday.

Upon arrival, an initial assessment verified earlier information about the state of the library — some wet flooring, but the books were dry, and no apparent mold — and even some welcome evidence that local administrators at MSI had taken measures to mitigate environmental threats with the arrival of fans and dehumidifiers that were powered by portable generators.

The environment in the library, nonetheless, wasn’t at an optimum stability, so the team began to identify items that they would return to Austin for temporary safekeeping and care. Thanks to earlier efforts to identify salvage priorities, the team was charged with bringing back 900 special collection items, and due to conservative estimation, were able to also rescue additional theses, dissertations and maps.

By 8 p.m. that evening, the team had returned to Austin with the most valuable resources from the MSL in tow. The following week, MSL staffer Marg Larsen relocated to Austin temporarily due to the storm, and so was available to process and assist in storing the rescued materials in the Collections Deposit Library at UT to await their inevitable return to their home in Port Aransas.

There are currently no firm timelines for recovery and reopening of the Institute or the Library, but as with a Gulf hurricane or other natural and unnatural disasters, we’ll be prepared when the time comes.

It’s easy to imagine that a library is a simple machine where books fall onto a shelf and then into hands before returning to the shelf again, uncomplicated by the affairs and events beyond its doors and walls. But out of sight and mind, there are an army of loyal people working to build, protect, rescue and share our body of collective knowledge, both in the face of an average day or during extraordinary times.

Looking forward to rebuilding.
Looking forward to rebuilding.

Welcome Back

Welcome to the University of Texas Libraries!

Thank you for helping us launch into the Fall semester by celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Perry-Castañeda Library, one of our most highly trafficked facilities on the Forty Acres.  Drs.  Perry and Castañeda – whose portraits hang on the wall inside the entrance of PCL – were the first minorities appointed at the University of Texas in 1964 and in 1927, respectively.  We continue to honor their legacy and their contributions at The University of Texas at Austin.

Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe hands out cake to students for the PCL's 40th birthday celebration.
Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe hands out cake to students for the PCL’s 40th birthday celebration.

At UT Libraries, we invite the diverse communities of campus and the residents of the state of Texas to explore and utilize the rich depth of our resources, our collaborative and reflective spaces, high quality equipment and professional expertise in libraries across the campus. For a list of libraries, centers and museums please visit http://www.lib.utexas.edu/help/librarylist.html

Recently, President Fenves remarked that a UT education is about faculty and students learning how to create, build, probe, discover, and solve together, so that our students are prepared for life after they graduate. And there are many examples of this kind of learning and teaching taking place across campus, including at UT Libraries. We have invested in creating alternative learning environments in spacious collaborative study areas in PCL such as the Learning Commons, STEM tutoring spaces, Scholars Commons, the Graduate Landing Spot, the Media Lab, the Data Lab, the Foundry at the Fine Arts Library, and more. I hope you find your favorite spot and when you do, send us your feedback.  We value your suggestions as we continue to respond to your needs, it matters!

It is our goal to support you towards success at UT and beyond. If you need help or advice please do not hesitate to let us know. Remember, what starts here changes the world. Be bold, be audacious!

Have a productive and successful semester.

Hook ‘em Horns!

 

 

 

Vice Provost and Director of UT Libraries

"I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always, forever, now" by Damien Hirst.

Experiencing Artists’ Books

Look closely and you will find the rare and unique collections at the UT Libraries.

One of the special collections at the Fine Arts Library is the FAL Artists’ Publications Collection which includes artists’ books — books created with the intention of being a work of art. Some artists use books to explore narrative or the relationship between images and text, while others challenge our understanding of what books are and how we read them through the manipulation of form.

"Fishbubbles" by Jill Timm.
“Fishbubbles” by Jill Timm.

The Fine Arts Library contains over 200 artists’ books. Serving primarily as a teaching collection, the artists’ books show different binding techniques, materials, sculptural forms and conceptual approaches, with the FAL holding titles by such recognizable artists as Damien Hirst, Richard Prince and Ed Ruscha. Some of the books in the collection push the boundaries of reading by engaging with other senses such as smell, touch and taste.

"Schengen's kit : rules and advices for survival of refugees at sea : content: instructions on a funeral body bag in a plastic envelope" by Christine Kermaire.
“Schengen’s kit : rules and advices for survival of refugees at sea : content: instructions on a funeral body bag in a plastic envelope” by Christine Kermaire.

The opportunity to smell, touch, taste and hear the artists’ books will be available on November 7th from 5:30-7:30 pm as part of the Experiencing Artists’ Books event. This event is associated programming for the new Visual Arts Center (VAC) exhibition Fool’s Romance / Books from Aeromoto curated by Allison Myers, Art History PhD candidate and 2016-2017 VAC Curatorial Fellow. Myers will lead a dialogue between local artists and bookmakers including Jason Urban, Artist and Studio Art Faculty, and Lindsay Starr from Cattywampus Press. After our dialogue, audience members will have the opportunity to engage with the unusual books in our collection.

"Scent" by Stephen Gan.
“Scent” by Stephen Gan.

The Fool’s Romance / Books from Aeromoto exhibition opens on September 22nd from 6-8pm. Come and explore over 300 artists’ books from Aeromoto, a non-profit art library and community space based in Mexico City.

We hope to see you at the exhibition opening and the Experiencing Aritsts’ Books event later this fall.

Ervin Perry.

On Ervin Perry’s Legacy by Gene Locke

Dr. Ervin Sewell Perry.
Dr. Ervin Sewell Perry.

The following statement was presented by Gene Locke — Dr. Ervin Perry’s nephew — to the University of Texas Black Alumni Network at their Legacy Dinner on September 8, 2017, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Perry-Castañeda Library.

On behalf of the family of Dr. Ervin Perry, we express our appreciation to the Black Alumni Network for recognizing Dr. Perry at your Legacy Dinner.

The Perry-Castañeda Library now has forty years of service to the UT community. During these years, many of you have been in and around the library that bears his name without knowing the story of Ervin Perry. Yes, you may have known that he was the first African American professor at a predominately white university in the South. Perhaps, you even knew that he was a civil engineer of recognized distinction. Maybe, you also knew that Dr. Perry was one of several trailblazers as students at the University of Texas-all who played an integral role in opening the university to people of color.  However, our beloved “Ervin” was so much more.

Ervin Perry was born in Coldspring, Texas, in rural East Texas in 1935 during the height of the depression and in the midst of brutal Jim Crow segregation.  Ervin started out with two great assets: a mom, Edna Perry, and a dad, Willie Perry, who appreciated hard work, family and faith.  They were dirt farmers who valued education and who dreamed for better lives for their children. Willie and Edna Perry worked miracles with their income from a small cotton crop.  Ervin and his twin brother, Mervin, were the last of six children; all of whom somehow got thru college and graduate school despite money limitations and the inequities of racial segregation.

The Perry Family.
The Perry Family.

There was a “specialness” about Ervin Perry that might be instructive to all of us today. Despite all of the successes he enjoyed as an engineer and a university professor, he was at all times humble and down to earth. He was a man of high character who gave an excellence of effort in everything he did. He was a devoted family man (husband, father, brother and uncle). Ervin grieved at the inequities that others suffered, while fully appreciating the burden of the spotlight on him for being the first of us on the faculty at the university.  In truth, Dr. Perry was smart-SUPER SMART-but he never felt the need to demonstrate this at the expense of others. His first love was his family.  He drew strength from his unsung heroine, Jean Perry, his wife and he got enduring satisfaction from his daughters, Patricia, Edna and Arvis.

When Ervin joined the UT academic faculty in 1964, American society was so different from-yet so similar to-today’s society.  HOPE-HATRED-HESITATION. These three characterized the times in 1964. HOPE that the civil rights movement would change America’s social order. HATRED as manifested in the strong resistance to social change and the accompanying violence.  HESITATION by political and civic leaders who were afraid to take a bold stand for true equal opportunity for all.

Dr. Ervin S. Perry.
Dr. Ervin S. Perry.

Against this backdrop, the University of Texas did not hesitate.  UT made Dr. Perry a faculty member in 1964. This was truly a bold step by the university that had a history of segregation and exclusion–but it was made so much easier by the character and academic accomplishments of Ervin Perry.  In 1977, the university took another equally bold step in naming the new library in his honor.

Our family is immensely proud that the library bears his name. As we think of the historic significance of naming the library for him and for Dr. Castañeda, we hope that having Ervin’s name on the library has been a small inspiration or source of pride for African American students and all students at UT thru the years. We hope that it continues to serve a small nail in the coffin of racial stereotypes that impair our ability as a nation to love and respect  all  humanity.

As alumni of the University of Texas, we ask that you keep working to make sure this, our state’s flagship university, embraces diversity and demonstrates itself to be an institution for all.

Thank your again for your recognition of Dr. Perry.

Attorney Gene Locke
Nephew of Dr. Ervin Perry

Gene Locke (second from left) with members of the Perry Family during the PCL 40 weekend of celebrations.
Gene Locke (second from left) with members of the Perry Family during the PCL 40 weekend of celebrations.

 

 

 

infrastructure

The library of the future starts with infrastructure

This commentary appeared in the Houston Chronicle, August 26, 2017.

Ask what the campus library does and many will say, “It provides access to books.” Looking toward the future, if libraries are to succeed, they will need to increase investment in services that extend beyond such user assumptions. Libraries should invest in virtual spaces that complement existing technology, unique collections, and content expertise, and library space as a concept will need to be redefined to accommodate work in new arenas.

In a 2015 AACU survey employers reported that they believe only 27 percent of recent graduates are proficient at written communication and even fewer are “innovative/creative”. When thinking about this in concert with student impressions of campus technology in a 2016 ECAR study, the library must contribute to both creative and deepened use of technology in the classroom. Leading students into virtual environments to create research products, utilizing classrooms designed with multiple screens for active small group work, and helping students manage work with the use of project management tools all present opportunities for rich collaborative teaching partnerships between librarians and faculty.

It’s also important for libraries to invest in infrastructure to support web publishing platforms, virtual reality, makerspaces, and large visualization walls that complement existing university resources. Integrating these technologies into the classroom experience will challenge us all to think in new ways about where and how learning occurs. Libraries can provide support to students and teachers as they engage with, critically examine, and build community in and around these spaces. But in order for this to occur, a shift in the way people conceptualize library spaces and services has to occur. By working in new environments, libraries can help students improve communication and develop critical thinking and digital literacy skills that will serve them in all areas of their lives.

In order for us to be successful, campus level administrators have to provide a seat at the executive table for library leadership. Increasing the visibility of challenges being faced by libraries sheds light on the complexity of our current operating environments. Sharing information about the value of library services, and about staffing and IT infrastructure needs, provides an opportunity for those that are invested in the library to ask questions about future directions and provide input on anticipated needs.

Libraries are increasingly becoming key testing grounds for innovative classes and research projects that take advantage of emerging technologies. Administration can demonstrate support for these innovative faculty-library collaborations by providing financial, administrative, and moral support for departments that are attempting to reinvigorate the curriculum. Libraries are not operating in the same way that they were five years ago, and it is imperative that administrators see and fully understand the ways in which our services are evolving, and the ways in which our services provide pathways for new ways of teaching and learning.

Library leaders, similarly, need to fully understand the challenges faced by library staff as they revise organizational and operational models to accommodate new working environments. By providing services in hybrid environments, libraries are demonstrating their capacity to play a key partner role in the teaching and learning process in higher education. This role can advance the critical inquiry and discourse skills of our students, and can contribute to student success post-graduation.

So much of what we think about when we think about our students after graduation is focused on success in the workplace, but at a higher level, many in academic communities are concerned with the development and evolution of civil society. As we expand library services more and more into virtual spaces, we will increasingly ask our communities to redefine their understanding and expectations of our role in developing capacity to engage in dialogue. By investing in the changing landscape of libraries, we are also inviting them to adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of communication and civic engagement.

Amber Welch is the head of technology enhanced learning for The University of Texas Libraries.

 

 

 

pcl arch rendering

Happy 40th, PCL!

Photo by Ryan Steans.
Photo by Ryan Steans.

Since the birth of The University of Texas at Austin in 1883, the history of the University of Texas Libraries has consisted, in large part, of the construction and habitation of a series of buildings designed to support a constantly expanding collection of resources for an ever-growing community of people. When the original library in Old Main quickly outgrew the meager space there, it was moved twice before finding a dedicated home in Battle Hall in 1911. Just a couple of decades later, the 27-story Tower was constructed with the express purpose of becoming the “permanent” home of the university’s library collections. But, if history has taught us anything, it’s that you can never have enough resources to satisfy the intellectual curiosity of this campus.

And so it was that in late August of 1977, the university threw open the doors of its most ambitious library structure to date — a massive 6-story monolith just southeast of the original Forty Acres with a capacity for more than 3 million books — and students flooded into the new Perry-Castañeda Library.

The PCL was originally proposed to support 15 years of collections growth — a relatively modest expectation given the investment, but one that probably recognized the potential for nascent technologies to effect how information would be stored and used. Little could our forebears have conceived, though, the present that now exists. The Libraries eventually exceeded the space needed to contain the whole of its physical collections, but the revolution in library transformation spawned by the internet and the rise of microcomputing technology has simultaneously created new opportunities and challenges for reimagining the concept of library space.

Vice Provost Haricombe cuts cake celebrating PCL's 40th anniversary.
Vice Provost Haricombe cuts cake celebrating PCL’s 40th anniversary.

As we celebrate the 40th birthday of this beloved building, we judge that history has served us well. The library played a critical role in the age dominated by physical materials — especially at the leading institutions of higher learning, where costs of materials and space have been the necessary sacrifices to bear in support of learning, innovation and discovery. Today, however, the environment is different. Users have different needs, and constantly shifting needs that track to technological innovation. And the library still plays a critical role — we are a bridge between the old sensibility and the new.

For years, the PCL was known mainly as the campus destination for finding the book. Today, it’s increasingly becoming something more…a place where the book still exists, but as a component in an ecosystem that has moved beyond that of passive provider of information, and toward that of an active partner in teaching, learning and research and in the creation and realization of ideas. The spaces that once served as holding areas for physical materials now increasingly accommodate services for writing support and tutoring, technologies for productivity and visualization and environments for interpersonal experience and collaboration.

How do we prepare for tomorrow given the pace of change today? The library has always been a place, a location, and the library’s evolving purpose will likely be similar, but also different. It will be enhanced and dynamic, where the various media of information will not sit idly on shelves, but will move in streams that can meet, expand and re-form almost instantaneously with a community of people from across the globe.

As we commemorate what the library — this library, in particular — has been and what it has become, let’s also look forward with great anticipation and hope to a vibrant and exciting future at UT, and well beyond.

Dr. Carlos Castañeda

Collection Highlight: The Carlos Eduardo Castañeda Papers

Historian, archivist, educator Carlos E. Castañeda was born November 11, 1896, in Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. His father was a professor of French and government at the College of San Juan in Matamoros, but the family moved to Brownsville around 1910. Castañeda’s parents both died before he was 15, leaving him with 3 sisters and 3 brothers.

Though he began his college career as an engineering major, Castañeda switched to his major to history (under the influence of E.C. Barker), and graduated with a BA from The University of Texas in 1921, having been elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was married in 1922, and his first daughter, Gloria, was born in 1923, the same year that he obtained his MA from The University of Texas and began teaching Spanish for the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

From the Carlos E. Castañeda Papers.
From the Carlos E. Castañeda Papers.

In 1927, Castañeda was asked to return to The University of Texas, to take control of the newly acquired Genaro García collection, which served as the foundation for Latin American collections — and specifically, the Benson Latin American Collection — at UT. While acting as librarian for this collection, Castañeda began work on his PhD, producing more articles on the early history of Texas. Castañeda also collaborated with Texas State Library archivist Winnie Allen to launch the Mexican Photo Print Company, in an effort to recover copies of documents he had discovered in Mexico, a project that faced an unfortunate end with the advent of the Great Depression.

Castañeda completed his doctorate in 1932, his dissertation being a translation of the famous Morfi’s History of Texas.  He re-discovered the text — at the time believed lost — while searching through the records of a Fransiscan monastery. Later that year, Castañeda’s second daughter, Consuela, was born.

Castañeda did not begin his career as a full professor for The University of Texas until 1940, after some protracted debate in the 1930s concerning his salary and teaching responsibilities (Castañeda felt that his salary had been reduced because of his ethnicity). It was these issues that led to his leaving in 1933 to become the Superintendent of the San Felipe School District in Del Rio, Texas, where he met with resistance from white families due to his ethnicity. He remained in that position for only a year.

Photo by Bill Monroe.
Photo by Bill Monroe.

After returning to The University of Texas for the 1935 school year, Castañeda resumed his career as a professor, and continued work on Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, a massive seven-volume life-spanning work on the early history of Texas, the last volume of which was not published until just prior to Castañeda’s death. Shortly after his return to the university, Castañeda was knighted by the Catholic Church as a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, and in 1951 became a Knight Commander in the Order of Isabel the Catholic of Spain. These honors were granted on the basis of Castañeda’s long-time work with the Catholic community and Catholic history more generally.

Being concerned with the plight of minorities in Texas, Castañeda took another leave of absence in 1943 to work for the Fair Employment Practice Commission (FEPC), an agency that was concerned with helping minorities to obtain the same working conditions and jobs that whites were granted in the 1940s. Though the commission ended prematurely with the onset of World War II, Castañeda continued to actively work against discrimination, and became involved with the Pan American Union, and on its behalf, gave an internationally broadcast radio address in 1948.

In the 1950s Castañeda’s health failed, and he suffered three heart attacks during the decade, severely limiting his ability to write, teach and stay active in his many causes. The author of twelve books and over eighty articles, and recipient of many honors, Castañeda died on April 3, 1958, at the age of 62.

Along with first African American faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin Dr. Ervin Perry (engineering), Castañeda’s legacy was recognized in 1974 with the approval by the University of Texas Board of Regents to name the university’s new central library in his honor. The Perry-Castañeda Library opened in 1977, and remains the flagship library at the university to the current day.

The Carlos E. Castañeda Papers feature includes articles, speeches and drafts of books, notably Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (commissioned by the Knights of Columbus) and Castañeda’s translation of Morfi’s, History of Texas, along with transcriptions, translations and notes.   The collection also documents Castañeda’s involvement with The University of Texas — including records of his faculty appointment and restricted student records —the Catholic Church and his international activities and various projects he took on over the years. Materials from his time in Del Rio, his service with FEPC, his work in many voluntary organizations, his teaching and departmental activities and his library and acquisitions work reflect the extent of his professional activities. The papers also feature a collection of historical documents dating from the late 15th century to the early 20th century, as well as a large selection of photographs, 8mm movies, phonodiscs, maps and book illustrations.

Benson staff are hosting a workshop on tracking relationships in research with network visualization and analysis tools using the Castañeda Papers on Wednesday, October 25. More information here