On November 3, friends and family gathered in the Main Building to honor a storied figure in the Libraries recent history.
Marking her 95th birthday, the Libraries recognized the contributions of retired librarian and administrator Virginia Phillips, who served the General Libraries from 1975 -1998 in various capacities throughout the organization, most notably as assistant director for Branch Services.
During the event Phillips’s impact was cataloged by a series of former colleagues, all of whom noted her direct influence within their own professional experiences.
To honor her legacy with the Libraries, associates recognized Phillips with a permanent naming in her honor of a bookcase in the Hall of Noble Words in the Life Science Library, housed within one of the university’s most distinguishing landmarks and symbols of academic excellence.
The indelible mark Phillips left on the University of Texas Libraries is extraordinary. Her oversight of branch libraries, recruitment of talent and philanthropic support through endowments forged a path for building strong and meaningful relationships that extend far into the future.
The Libraries has witnessed the loss of a luminary leader with the passing of former Director Harold W. Billings.
Harold spent the better part of his life dedicated to the cause of libraries and librarianship. His tenure straddled a period of transition for libraries, with the development of the internet and the evolution of digital technologies impacting the way that users accessed library collections. Billings oversaw the implementation of computerized systems to manage, control and provide access to academic resources while also improving sharing processes for other materials throughout the nation and world.
Harold stands as the longest-serving director of libraries at the university, piloting one of the nation’s largest academic library systems for 25 years. In recognition of that accomplishment, we recently commended him as Emeritus Director at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Perry-Castañeda Library, at which Billings was the inaugural director.
I’m glad to have known Harold as a person, and I’m honored to stand on the shoulders of such a leader. I hope that you’ll join me in remembering his contributions, and follow his example in your advocacy for the noble enterprise to which he dedicated his life.
The staff of the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America unveiled its new self-deposit tool at the first AILLA Archive-a-thon, a two-part event that was held on Friday, October 27, and Sunday, October 29, in conjunction with the eighth Conference on Indigenous Languages of Latin America (CILLA VIII).* The Archive-a-thon was led by Susan Kung and Ryan Sullivant, AILLA’s manager and curator, respectively, and it was attended by a group of language documentation researchers made up of 25 professors and graduate students from the US, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Argentina, Switzerland, and France.
These researchers work to document some of the 800 or so indigenous languages spoken in Latin America, from the US–Mexico borderlands to Tierra del Fuego in the southern tip of South America. Language documentation and conservation is a field that has emerged in the last 25 years in response to the worldwide language endangerment crisis that began in the late 19th century and became evident in the later part of the 20th century.
Language documentation researchers work alone or in teams to collect and preserve audio, video, textual, and photographic records about endangered, understudied, and under-resourced languages and their related cultures. Most language documentation projects seek to record as many different speech genres as possible (e.g., conversation, oral history, myths and traditional stories, prayers, recipes, jokes and riddles, speeches and other oratory events, etc.), while other projects target very specific aspects of language (e.g., how location and direction are expressed in a language). Some language documentation projects include a language revitalization component, in which the data that are collected are used to further support the transmission of the language from one generation to the next through language learning programs for both children and adults; these programs might include classroom education, summer camps, mentor-mentee partnerships, or language nests. Language documentation work is often done under critical time constraints as many of these languages are highly endangered, having only a few elderly speakers left (and in some cases only one or two), and children are no longer learning them in either the home, community, or school environments.
Ask A Librarian GRA Mitch Cota curated an exciting exhibit for the PCL Scholars Commons and Poetry Center called “Lone Star ImPRESSions: A History of Small Press in Texas.” This exhibit is the fruit of many months’ labor and the culmination of Mitch’s iSchool Capstone project, and features books published by small presses in Austin, Houston and San Antonio.
When I began my degree in information studies, one of the many reasons that drove my decision was the tension between libraries and the corporate publishing and copyright model. I do not believe that anyone really enjoys having materials chosen for them or having materials withheld from them while pursuing research and education. While literature has its own unique set of complications between authors rights and non-traditional content, it too is affected by this tension. My project to examine small press was an exploration into the individuals who are fighting for the right to publish content they view as valuable and different. Texas small press is born out of a denial by large publishing houses to acknowledge underrepresented voices and content that defies easy categorization.
We are getting ahead of ourselves though. Small press is a term that often inspires a multitude of definitions in everyone’s mind. For the exhibit, small press was defined as a press that is truly home grown. Some of these presses began in Texas, while others started somewhere else and now call Texas home. There are presses in the exhibit with a more historical presence and others that have begun in the last five years. They all share one core goal, to publish content that is different and voices they believe deserve to be heard.
Historically, presses like Wings, Thorp Springs, and Slough were created in an effort to publish content that each saw as pushing against the large publishing house model. Many of the materials utilized in the research of the exhibit are located right here on campus. The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History has a portion of the archival collection of Joanne Whitebird, the original owner of Wings press. The Harry Ransom Center has the entire archival collection of Thorp Springs press. While Slough and Wings are still currently publishing work, Thorp Springs has now gone defunct with the loss of their original creator and editor John Paul Foreman. Each of these presses were created in order to publish specific work, whether that be female authors, Southwest/Texas authors, or authors of color. The small presses of today have broadened their approach to include voices from queer and trans authors. Without someone focusing on producing this type of content, there would be far less work to represent these different communities.
The PCL collections serve to preserve these materials for generations to come. One of the largest hurdles small publishing faces are financial constraints. In conducting interviews and combing through archives, I found that many of the papers and materials from different presses were never preserved. Work was lost in time. The University of Texas Poetry Center and the general collection here at the PCL now serve as a medium to protect these small presses from fading into history. Not only do these materials represent unique voices, they also serve our students in critical theory research in literature. Whether they are looking through a historic, feminist, racial, or queer lens, these collections here at the PCL serve to not only preserve the presses, but provide examples for beliefs and ideologies of the times in which they are situated.
The exhibit — Lone Star imPRESSions: A History of Small Press in Texas — also examines different authors situated throughout the history of small press. One of these authors, a poet actually, worked right here at the PCL and has work that speaks to his time while employed here. Some voices like Jim Trainer and Andrew Hilbert represent fresh voices from today who refuse to play by the rules. A few of these authors own their own small presses while publishing their work through other small presses. The content produced by authors and presses alike includes multiple different genres, mediums, and formats. Many of the items are handcrafted with hand sewn bindings. When you purchase an item from a small press, you are getting an item that is one of a kind.
So, come visit! The exhibit has been extended into January, and we have items in both the Scholars Commons and University of Texas Poetry Center.
Besides what is on display, there are items in the PCL collection to read and check out. I have also taken the liberty of producing an exhibit catalog that has a more extensive examination of each press and author. One of the other great services this exhibit provides is a link in the catalog to each small press that is accepting open submissions. Students and faculty looking to publish work can review each press and see which one would best suit the content they have to offer.
Texas small press is home grown from the sweat and tears of the hard-working editors that believed in the content they were producing. Come visit the PCL and see the fruits of their hard work, support small press but furthermore support the idea that large publishing houses do not have the right to choose content for everyone.
The Austin Public Library recently opened its spectacular facility with much fanfare to respond to a diversity of needs in the Austin community. Transformed from a traditional library filled with books and other sources of information including media, the new open design sets itself apart as a new standard to address user needs in the 21st century. The timing of the opening of the new Austin Pubic Library is a perfect opportunity to highlight the resurgence of the central role of libraries in their respective communities, whether public, academic or school libraries, as they rethink their relevance amidst fast-paced changes.
In an information society like ours, libraries are critical to fill equity gaps in society by democratizing access to information, education, skills training and job placement. Simply put, the Austin Public Library epitomizes how libraries elsewhere can be improved to better serve their populations.
The strength of libraries is, after all, their relationship to their communities, whether public or academic. They are centers of learning, social gathering and creativity usually in central spaces, a premium in most communities and on university campuses. The Austin Public Library has not disappointed. In some respects, it is the library of the future and will meet a multitude of needs including shared learning spaces, the technology petting zoo, the innovation lounge, the children’s creative commons and the reading porches.
In a nutshell, libraries must rebrand themselves as technology-rich learning centers. The rapid rate of technological changes, coupled with new user expectations, have accelerated libraries’ transition from mediated services to unmediated services. From online catalogs, to self-checkout machines, to room reservations and laptop checkouts, users can now independently use and reserve library resources that extend well beyond books. And, the old rules don’t work in the new environment. For instance, food and drink, cafes and gift shops have become normal features in libraries.
Notwithstanding the difference in the primary communities they serve, different types of libraries have implemented changes that are consistent with new needs and expectations. At its opening, Austin Mayor Steve Adler described the Austin Public Library as the “cathedral of Austin.”
A national conference called “Re-think it: Libraries for a New Age” will soon bring together academic, public and K-12 librarians, administrators, technologists, architects, designers, furniture manufacturers and educators to the University of Texas. Together, they will collectively rethink the increasingly important role libraries play in the communities they serve.
In some ways, rethinking libraries will mean collapsing old paradigms and sacrificing some of the nostalgia that we may have for paper and silence. If libraries are to realize a future potential, they’ll need to play a significantly more active role in creativity and productivity processes. The library is no longer a place to worship books; rather, a library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, is the delivery room for the birth of ideas.
Austin isn’t the first city in recent years to invest in new library construction. Structures in Seattle and Minneapolis are notable recent examples of significant public reinvestment in libraries as an integral part of the community. The 21st century offers a renaissance period for libraries and library professionals to imagine the possibilities for the future. The Austin Public Library exemplifies a pioneering model in Texas for other municipalities to position their libraries as instruments of social empowerment. The time is now.