Sor Juana’s “Book of Professions”

"Libro de professiones y elecciones de prioras y vicarias del convento de San Gerónimo, 1586–1713." Ink and blood on paper. 8 x 12 inches. Dorothy Schons Papers, Benson Latin American Collection.
“Libro de professiones y elecciones de prioras y vicarias del convento de San Gerónimo, 1586–1713.” Ink and blood on paper. 8 x 12 inches. Dorothy Schons Papers, Benson Latin American Collection.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695) was one of most illustrious Mexican writers and scholars of the colonial period.

This page from the manuscript “Book of Professions” of the convent of San Gerónimo in Mexico City, which Sor Juana entered in 1669, features a written affirmation of her religious vows, signed by the famous nun in her own blood.

From the Dorothy Schons Papers at the Benson Latin American Collection.

The Libraries’ Closet

Library Storage Facility, Pickle Campus. Photo by Stephen Littrell.
Library Storage Facility, Pickle Campus. Photo by Stephen Littrell.

Like so many leather skirts, go-go boots and seersucker jackets that need to be carefully stowed in the interim between their respective periods in vogue, these great buildings of books, too, need to occasionally clear space for more useful, timely purposes.

To that end, the Libraries have thus far accommodated a need for additional “closet space” through the construction of off-site warehouses much reminiscent of the one imagined in the closing scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, seemingly endless rows of shelving stretched from concrete floor to stories-tall rafter, where once-prized tomes and formerly-current periodicals can reside until such time as they are once again called upon to provide the critical information needed to complete some important research or solve some lingering question.

These library storage facilities (LSFs) house those low-circulation items and fragile materials that might be considered complementary resources for collections from across the campus of The University of Texas at Austin and beyond.  Both the Harry Ransom Center and the Briscoe Center for American History are reliant upon this remote storage in order to free up room for the more high-value, high-use items in their ever-growing collections of cultural artifacts. Likewise, as parts of the Libraries’ valuable print collection are accessed less frequently than in the past, it’s logical to move those volumes into a high-quality storage environment and establish systems for retrieving books as scholars request them from storage. The migration creates space that can be repurposed for student use and newer technologies to facilitate a more productive, modern learning environment.

The Libraries also enjoined sibling rivals at College Station in two of the ventures thus far — the second of two facilities at the Pickle Research campus in North Austin, and a joint library facility (JLF) at Texas A&M’s Riverside campus outside of Bryan, Texas. In a collaboration that seeks to minimize the physical presence of materials while still availing the needs of institutions across the state, UT and A&M have pared some of their collections to a single-copy that is then shared cross-organizationally through a delivery system coordinated by the principals. The Austin unit constructed in 2010 is already at capacity, and the Riverside unit, which opened in 2013, has incorporated nearly half a million volumes to date. Given the successful outcomes of the partnership, there are already considerations for the development of further partnerships.

Beyond the space-saving functionality of the LSFs, there is a compelling financial reason for moving low-use items off-site.  A 2010 study showed the cost of storing a single volume in an open library stacks facility is $4.26 per year, taking into account personnel, lighting, maintenance and heating and cooling costs. The cost is pegged at 86 cents per volume for storage at a facility such as the Riverside unit jointly operated by the Texas A&M and University of Texas Systems — representing a savings of $3.40 per volume.

The Libraries learned recently that it had received approval from the Board of Regents to begin construction on a third unit at the Pickle campus, which is necessitated by the Dell Medical School’s future plans to build where the Collections Deposit Library currently stands. CDL has long served as a storage facility on campus for permanent collections, as well as a holding space for unprocessed materials, but due to its age and lack of available space, the building has just about outlived its utility. The new construction at the north Austin campus will allow significant additional materials from other campus locations, as well.

The coming facility will, like its predecessors, be climate controlled, and will hold roughly one million additional volumes, bringing the Libraries over halfway to completing a stated goal of removing two million books from campus locations to off-site storage. Construction on the $8 million building will begin in 2016 and is expected to open in late summer of 2017.

Texas Oilmen and Coastal Architecture

Sid Richardson residence photograph of exterior corner, undated. San Jose Island, Texas. O'Neil Ford collection, Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.
Sid Richardson residence photograph of exterior corner, undated. San Jose Island, Texas. O’Neil Ford collection, Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Along with providing invaluable resources for myriad scholarly and research inquiries, the Libraries collections can also occasionally become a sole source for needs of journalistic enterprise, as well, especially in the form of those unique items that are part of the Libraries’ special collections.

That was the case in a current three-part series by reporter Alan Peppard of the Dallas Morning News that looks at two small islands off the Texas coast that served as recreational and power centers for a pair of the richest oilmen in the state’s history.

“Islands of the Oil Kings” examines the islets of Matagorda and San Jose near Port Aransas. A significant portion of the former was purchased by Clint Murchison Sr., and the entirety of the latter was acquired by his lifetime best friend, Sid Richardson, both of the properties becoming retreats where the oilmen could both relax and play host to the most influential of guests, magnates of business and current and future leaders, including Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and a then-aspiring senatorial candidate named Lyndon Johnson.

Richardson’s San Jose sanctuary featured a house designed by esteemed Texas architect O’Neil Ford that married the sophistication of European modernism with the simplicity of the Texas ranch style. Being located in a place that was consistently the red zone for hurricanes, the building had to also be constructed with the strength to withstand the worst that nature could offer. When completed, Ford claimed that the structure was “tight enough to strum,” and, indeed, when Category 5 Hurricane Carla hit the Texas coast in mid-September 1961, the house survived with a mere broken window in the kitchen.

In pulling together resources for Part 2 of this excellent long-form article featuring engaging complementary multimedia components, Peppard leaned on the Alexander Architectural Archive (AAA) — part of the Architecture and Planning Library in historic Battle Hall — to provide photography of Ford’s design work on the Richardson compound.  AAA maintains the collections of numerous notable Texas architects and designers, including a comprehensive archive of O’Neil Ford’s career with papers, plans, photographic prints and negatives, slides, exhibit boards, drawings and sketches that are preserved for use by students, scholars, researchers and architecture aficionados.

See more images of the Richardson home from the O’Neil Ford collection below.

Libraries at Work, A Student Perspective

Rosa Muñoz
Rosa Muñoz


My name is Rosa Muñoz and I am a sophomore majoring in Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. I am fortunate enough to be able to have an internship at one of the most well-known libraries on campus, the Perry-Castañeda Library.

I am the first person in my family to attend a university, so moving to Austin from Dallas was a big step for me. The idea of attending college was never supposed to be a part of my plan. I was brought up in a traditional Hispanic household where women were not expected to leave home, especially without being married first. I decided to come to UT because I had encouraging high school teachers who persistently pushed me to apply for colleges. During my junior year of high school, my English teacher encouraged our class to start researching colleges. The idea of something new sounded like a good opportunity, so I started my research. I decided that UT was where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life without ever stepping foot on campus.

During my time at UT I have created some great friendships and have learned so much more in my first year and a half than I had ever expected. My plans are to graduate from UT and attend graduate school to pursue my goal of starting my own practice as a psychologist.

Ever since I started working at UT Libraries I have come to find the library to be one of the best places to study at on campus. I try to take full advantage of the resources available. The library staff is always very kind and understanding and they help me with any questions or concerns that I have. My friends and I like the ability to study individually or as a group or even practice our presentations in the library. The efficient technology that has been added in the Libraries gives students more capability in utilizing those resources to their best advantage. In addition, to top it off the library is now opened 24 hours during the most critical study times leading up to finals.

The Libraries have so much to offer, not only for me but for students in all majors. Please consider making an end of year contribution to the UT Libraries. My fellow Longhorns and I are fortunate to have access to all the resources we need for academic success, but I know my tuition only goes so far.

The library is a very popular place! I enjoy telling my friends and classmates that I am interning in one of the most visited buildings on campus. I have definitely enjoyed the time I have spent working in the libraries, and I am certain that this experience will have an impression on me for years to come. All the connections I have established will last well beyond my college days.

Be generous and give today. Thank you for making a gift that will support all students.

Happy Holidays,


Class of 2017

Please consider making an end-of-year gift to the University of Texas Libraries in support of students like Rosa Muñoz.