All posts by fheath

The Libraries Afield: Launching the Guatemalan National Police Archives Website

Documents at the Guatemalan National Police Archive (AHPN). Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

University of Texas Libraries Director Fred Heath traveled to Guatemala in December 2011 to participate in the launch of a joint project between the Guatemalan National Police Archive (AHPN) and The University of Texas at Austin. Together, AHPN and the Libraries would provide public access via the web to records of human rights violations by government agents that were discovered in a military munitions dump in 2004.

This is Dr. Heath’s travelogue of his trip.

Our flight to Guatemala City, 5,000 feet up in the Central American highlands took two and a half hours.  Our destination was the National Police Archives, where on Friday we would celebrate with our colleagues, the recent opening of the AHPN website.  I had yet to write my brief remarks.

In the cramped rear coach seat of the Boeing 737, I held my laptop in my lap, with the screen tilted slightly forward to accommodate the encroaching seatback of the traveler in front of me, and edited my three-minute talk.  I was working from the draft I delivered the week before, when we first opened the web site of the Guatemalan National Police Archive.

Our next day — Friday, December 9 — would be International Human Rights Day, and AHPN director Gustavo Meoño had shrewdly decided to reciprocate the previous week’s events with a ceremony in Guatemala City celebrating the partnership between AHPN, administratively housed within the Ministry of Culture, and the University of Texas.

At 35,000 feet, I was not sure what to expect.  I did know that Christian Kelleher (program coordinator for the Human Rights Documentation Initiative), Karen Engle (director of the Rapaport Center for Human Rights and Justice) and Daniel Brinks (professor and co-director of Rapaport) would all address the audience at AHPN, projected to be some 200 in number, but I knew little about the attendees.  I also knew that all three of my colleagues would deliver their remarks in Spanish; so I was determined to keep my Anglo remarks brief.   As I wrote, I wanted to answer the question of why democracies elect to archive and preserve even the dark chapters of their histories, rather than deny or erase them.  I chose to use the example of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum, whose holdings allow researchers to address the issues of the transfer of presidential power in the aftermath of the assassination of John Kennedy, to study an epochal period in our own tumultuous civil rights movement, and to inquire into the dark chapter that was the war in Vietnam.  My hope was that in my brief remarks I could remind our Guatemalan audience that in a democracy it is necessary to study all parts of our past, in order to learn from our accomplishments, and avoid the recurrences of our missteps. Continue reading

Plus ça change, plus c’est la caneck, caneck….

The Last Lonestar Showdown

On Thursday of last week, college football fans around Texas and many from around the nation gathered around the flat screen to watch the final episode in the third longest running rivalry in college football.  After this season, the two teams are unlikely to encounter each other again in the regular season as the Aggies head toward the Southeastern Conference and the Longhorns lock up annually with their heartland foes.

But even as the sports scene in Texas changes fundamentally, so much remains the same.   The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University remain the two flagship institutions of our state, and when it comes to teaching, learning and research, the two schools remain ever so closely aligned.

And our libraries are united in their determination to advance the core educational missions of the two universities.  The University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System have united to fund and operate a common storage facility on property owned by Texas A&M.  There all the universities in both systems will be able to preserve their print copies in a shared resources in common facility that will ensure the preservation of the “long tail” of scholarly research while freeing up valuable central library space on every campus.  Full sets of journals now accessed electronically—such as JSTOR—will have their archive print instantiation in Bryan, Texas.

At the same time, the two flagships continue to work together to harness the power of digital technologies in support of research.  Combining their own powerful (but separate distinct) holdings of first century books from Mexico with other examples from Mexican partners, Spain, Brown University, Tulane, Harvard and elsewhere, the Los Primeros Libros project will eventually  enable scholars around the globe to access and study all of the 200+ surviving examples of printing in the Western Hemisphere.

So, as both schools rewrite the lyrics to their fight songs, where each disparages the other in the early stanzas, the librarians will resume the collaboration that makes their combined collections one of the state’s most important assets.

Hook ‘em /  Gig ‘em

 

On Litigating Fair Use

From Duke University Libraries:

When the Association of Research Libraries wrote a letter to the CCC expressing disappointment over the decision to help underwrite the lawsuit, CCC’s reply emphasized that no damages were being sought and maintained that their participation had the simple goal of “clarifying” fair use. This strikes me as disingenuous. There are more efficient ways to clarify fair use than litigation, and the CCC has a definite financial interest in the case even absent any request for damages. CCC’s aim here is not to clarify fair use but to narrow it dramatically, to their direct and immediate profit.

The argument developed here by Kevin Smith places the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) in a harsh light – subvening copyright violation litigation in order to further restrict access options to intellectual property, thus securing its own role in the publishing community while attempting to prop up that foundering industry a little longer.  As Paul Courant observes elsewhere (and thanks to Paul for the pointer to this article) it forces a reluctant higher education community to seek alternatives to its own and commercial presses – an outcome potentially fatal to the industry.

Choosing a Path Forward

Recently, The University of Texas at Austin has found itself at the center of a debate over the structure of modern research universities. Questions have been raised about the value of research to the academic mission of higher education, and in light of the state’s current budget situation, whether state institutions can afford to be so heavily invested in the research enterprise. There is a belief in some quarters that the commitment to research excellence that characterizes top-tier research universities is unavoidably detrimental to the University’s teaching mission.

President Bill Powers presented his case last week in a speech that effectively made the argument that teaching and research are inextricably linked at the level of excellence the University pursues. In fact, his examples demonstrated that the interplay between teaching and research has resulted in the sort of collaboration and innovation invoked by the notion that what starts here changes the world. President Powers noted that our ability to sustain this level of excellence requires a continued commitment to the tradition of ongoing institutional introspection and transformation that have made The University of Texas at Austin a model of efficiency and excellence.

If you’ve yet to do so, you can view the speech in its entirety or read the transcript.

Michigan says goodbye to an old friend

card_catalogThis article on the departure of the legacy catalog at the University of Michigan recalls the renovations in Life Sciences Library here at the University of Texas, where card catalogs were removed to create space for new seminar rooms for the Undergraduate experience, as well as the removal of a large bank of card catalogs from the Perry-Castañeda Library almost three years ago.

The Michigan move also presages a similar development for those remaining catalog records at the PCL as the library responds to growing demands for student spaces.

Perhaps, though, we’ll follow our colleague Paul Courant’s lead and retain as an artifact a solitary catalog over which the students of tomorrow can ponder a more austere time.

Heath signature2

Time to get FORO on your calendar

utlibs_foro_logo_final_030210FORO, the Transborder Library Forum, is a volunteer organization that cultivates a venue for the cooperative exchange of ideas, and the discussion of experiences and efforts concerning the provision of library services in the border regions between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

FORO objectives include:

  • Strengthening links among information professionals concerned with building information bridges across international borders;
  • Planning and implement cooperative projects between libraries across geographic borders;
  • Facilitating the development of resource networks;
  • Introducing librarians to current commercial library products and services;
  • Sharing our cultural heritage while promoting literacy and library services.

The 2011 FORO will be held for the first time in Austin, Texas, July 21-23, 2011. Continue reading

Google, completa

texlibris_google_blacWe can officially celebrate the completion of the Benson component of our partnership in the Google Books project.  This from our colleagues at Google recently:

Since we launched our partnership with the University of Texas at Austin in 2007, we have been working hard to make their unique Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection accessible to readers online. The collection is one of the largest Latin American collections in the world, and is renowned for the scope and breadth of its materials covering Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean island nations, South America, and the Latino presence in the United States. Continue reading

Studies on the future of scholarly communication

scholarly_communicationTwo recent publications cap lengthy inquiries into the impact of Web 2.0 upon scholarly communication practices, and each merits review by library administrators and planners everywhere.

The Mellon-funded study by the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) at UC Berkeley, Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication:  An Exploration of Faculty Values and Needs in Seven Disciplines assesses the views of 160 researchers at some 45 research institutions. Continue reading