An exciting aspect of my role as VP and Director of UT Libraries is the opportunity to meet and discuss academic libraries’ roles in an age of networked information. The rapid rate of change in technology is a key driver but not the only one. The first generation of the twenty-first century has arrived on our campuses with very different expectations of discovering and accessing information and learning styles.
In higher education the internet has enabled new modes of research and communication, new knowledge products. And libraries are stepping up to embed librarians in that life-cycle. Simply put, libraries are at the heart of today’s digital transformation in research and scholarly communication, and UT Libraries is no exception.
Our commitment is to embrace the core values of our profession to select and acquire, describe, make accessible and preserve valuable resources to support UT’s mission. Our goal is to remain both relevant and strategic as we continue to assess our services, programs and expertise to leverage very limited resources efficiently. We do so by engaging our users to understand their needs to position UT Libraries as a significant node in a rapidly changing higher education ecosystem.
The Provost’s new Task Force on “The Future of the UT Libraries” is well-timed to have that conversation with our primary stakeholders. I look forward to an opportunity to listen, understand and share the amazing stories of faculty and students who are impacted by work that happens at UT Libraries every day.
Welcome back! I hope the spring semester will be productive and successful for you.
While you were away we have worked quickly to launch UT Libraries’ new website. Check it out at https://www.lib.utexas.edu/ It is our hope that you will find the new website easy to navigate and to learn more about UTL’s News and Featured events. There is a helpful 404 error page in place to redirect users who might be trying to reach legacy content. All of the content on the legacy site will remain intact for the foreseeable future as we continue to migrate to the new site. Please use the new feature on the site to send us your feedback.
We are also excited to announce the opening of the McKinney Engineering Library in the brand new Engineering Education and Research Center on January 16. The engineering library exemplifies our continuing efforts to rethink what libraries need offer to meet user expectations in a digital environment. We have moved a highly curated collection from the engineering collection on PCL’s 6th floor to the new library. Beyond books you will find enhanced space and technology — 3000 square feet of new space, including consultation and seminar rooms, 24 new workstations and power outlets aplenty, as well as new printers, scanners and self-checkout.
We also made a change at the end of the fall semester that may have gone unnoticed, but will be of great interest for our undergraduate patrons. Beginning December 1, the Libraries extended loan duration for materials from 28 days to a semester-long period, allowing students greater time to focus on learning and less on managing access to resources.
Our core mission is to support the university’s core mission of research and teaching and to help our students to be successful graduates. We are here to serve you please let us know how we can help you!
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Lorraine Haricombe says states need to follow New York’s lead and advance OER initiatives.
Tucked away in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement to make tuition free to eligible students at two state university systems was additional important news – a budget of $8 million had been earmarked to promote and distribute open educational resources, or online education materials that are free to access and customize for students. The two university systems have been urged to use this money to focus on high-enrollment courses, with the goal of minimizing or eliminating textbook costs for those courses. This is a very positive step toward college affordability and is exactly what we need in more states and on a national scale.
It’s no secret that the high cost of textbooks places an enormous burden on students. Textbook costs increased by an astonishing 82 percent from 2002 to 2012, a pace that is triple the rate of inflation. Open educational resources are a promising way to address issues related to both costs and education.
Advancing the use of open educational resources means upending a decades-old system, and it has the potential for pushback from institutions, bookstores, publishers and even faculty members, as there isn’t much of an incentive to transition to open educational resources versus traditional textbooks.
But it’s worth it because it is a viable solution to increasing student success. And it starts with open textbooks, which are a collection of open educational resources aggregated in a manner that resembles a traditional textbook.
As a longtime advocate of “open access,” I know that open textbooks are not the only solution to the higher education affordability problem. However, they can save students significant money not only individually, but collectively in high-enrollment classes where the combined savings are potentially large. Take, for example, OpenStax at Rice University, which offers free peer-reviewed open textbooks. It has saved students $155 million since 2012 by offering textbooks for the highest-enrollment college courses across the country. Simply stated, the advantages of using open educational resources offer students greater potential for broader access to information and education in New York, Texas or any state in between.
Open materials can also empower faculty members to change the way they teach and give them the academic freedom to tailor their course content to their students’ needs. What that exactly means for student learning and the motivations that encourage faculty to use open educational resources in their work as researchers and instructors offers an important opportunity to positively impact higher education as a whole.
Luckily some states are getting the message. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed Senate Bill 810 into law supporting the adoption of open educational resources similar to the Affordable Learning Georgia program out of the University System of Georgia, which has saved students more than $16 million through expanding the use of free and open course materials. Other states such as Florida, California, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington have enacted legislation that has expanded or stabilized open educational resources.
The momentum is also gaining traction in non-legislative initiatives. Seven of Rhode Island’s state colleges started using open-license textbooks this year in hopes of saving students at least $5 million in the next five years. And open educational resources libraries have been created at the system and/or institutional levels in Arizona, Minnesota, NewYork and Virginia without legislation. Some publishers are even trying to get into the mix.
But we need more. Moving forward, we need to convince more lawmakers in more states – and ultimately taxpayers – of the savings accrued to students and improved academic success rates for students using open educational resources versus traditional textbooks. And we need recurring appropriations to provide sustainable support for promoting and growing open educational resources in teaching and learning. With New York and several large university systems and legislative initiatives setting the example, it’s up to the rest of us to catch up and build on it.
In April, the Libraries hosted “Beyond Barriers: The Community’s Role in Sustaining Diversity,” a panel featuring state and local civic, education and library leaders for an evening of dialogue. Our goal was simple: provide a platform for discussing how these institutions can work together to foster and sustain equity in a diverse society. I was pleased to moderate this conversation which included the university’s Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, as well as my professional colleagues American Library Association President Julie Todaro and Texas Library Association President Ling Hwey Jeng. The discussion was broad-ranging and vigorous, addressing both personal experiences with race and participant perspectives on social issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Mayor Adler’s efforts in launching a framework to address institutional racism in the city of Austin provided the catalyst for this event, but libraries — by virtue of their mission and nature — have long served as a neutral space for community discussions of diversity. Libraries serve diverse communities. Libraries offer information without bias to opinion. Libraries provide resources and services to those without access elsewhere.
Libraries, though, haven’t necessarily highlighted their contributions to social equality and inclusion, because it’s simply part of what they do to serve the public. We hope that the platform provided by this event will be a first step toward embedding the UT Libraries as a participant in larger efforts to build more equitable systems for the community.
Engaging in the conversation is a good first step, but we need to consider playing a larger role to underscore our value as contributors to solutions. While libraries may not be able to stand alone to fix the problems we share as a community, we can certainly be partner agents of change for a better, more equitable Austin.
March 7, 1884. This is the date of the first documented book loan. It took place in the Old Main Building library the day after the appointment of an assistant librarian had been confirmed by the faculty.
UT Libraries has changed to serve the Forty Acres needs over the course of 133 years. It is because of your generosity we are able to adapt. The result from our 40 for Forty campaign is an astonishing $41,473 from 204 gifts. I am proud to report that we doubled our donations compared to last year.
Support flowed in to foster innovation and technology within UT Libraries, to build and digitize our collection materials so they may be shared with the world, to support scholarships for our student workers and train the next generation of librarians.
Building the 21st century library takes time and investment. We are grateful to have friends of the library so we can take risks and answer campus needs. Thanks to you, we can write UT Libraries next chapter. I cannot wait to show you.
Welcome to our incoming class and welcome back to our returning students!
It is with much excitement that I invite you into the many UT Libraries facilities across campus and also online. While you were gone, we have updated our spaces, hired several new colleagues, installed new technologies to help orient you about our spaces, events and collections in the Perry-Castañeda Library, the largest library on campus. At UT Libraries’ nine facilities you will find professionals with distinctive expertise committed to assist you in your scholarly work. In the PCL you will find state of the art technology rich classrooms, gender neutral bathrooms, the University Writing Center, Stem Study spaces and the Scholars Commons for quiet study. Just steps away from the new and vibrant pedestrian walkway on Speedway, the PCL is already open 24/5 starting on this first day of class.
In the Doty Fine Arts Building, the new 3900 sq. ft. Foundry in the Fine Arts Library will officially open on September 7. In the meantime you are invited to check out the video wall, the 3D printers, sound recording studio and more to support hands-on learning for the entire UT community.
Great libraries make great universities, and we will continually strive to make ourselves and our university greater, because all that starts here, changes the world — one student, one faculty member, one researcher, one mind at a time.