All posts by Travis Willmann

Peering through the stacks into the renovated 5th floor of PCL.

Upgrading the Fives

“They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.”

So said Confucius.

We take that sentiment and the suggestions of our users to heart – for the sake of happiness and wisdom, among other things – especially over the summer break when there’s time and space to do so. Such was the case again this summer, and now later this fall, there will be a unveiling celebrations to mark the changes to pair of library spaces.

The less prominent of the two renovation projects occurred in the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL), and is the extension to an earlier project that took place on the library’s most popular floor. The Collaborative Commons is the bustling hub of late hours study and community on the fifth level of the building that is designated for noise and activity that isn’t traditionally associated with the pastoral atmosphere of a library.

In 2013, a section spanning the length of the window wall on the fifth floor overlooking the heart of campus was renovated to include open-area technology access, additional power outlets, a forest of mobile whiteboards and comfortable, flexible furniture. What was formerly a dull and dank monotony became the Collaborative Commons and has remained a popular gathering area for PCL denizens. The current project connects the original renovation to an even larger area on the opposite side of the building to further expand technology and utility access, and to replace the ancient monolithic furniture of a bygone era and carpet so aged and experienced that it bears no further mention in good company.

The second space refresh came out of a renewed affection for libraries that was manifested as a student and faculty protest about the removal of books from the Fine Arts Library (FAL). Surfaced during the discussions of how best to serve the community of the College of Fine Arts and users of the FAL were critiques of the current state of the fifth floor of that library where the physical collections are housed. That input and some extensive discussions with CoFA community stakeholders resulted in a punch list of improvements that would make it a more productive and usable space. Now, visitors to the fifth floor at FAL have space for (and eventual access to) additional physical materials, enhanced Wi-Fi performance, more access to power outlets, better furniture, new carrels and the fresher feel that results from new paint and the removal of 40-year-old carpeting.

Judging from the initial reactions to the changes, we’ve met the first criterion of the Confucian aphorism. Only time will tell if we manage the second.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the updated spaces yet, there will be a couple of opportunities to see them as part of upcoming housewarming events hosted by the Libraries with Provost Maurie McInnis, who’s office helped to fund the efforts. Join us Tuesday, October 23, to fête the Fine Arts Library refresh, and Wednesday, November 14, for a party on fifth floor of the PCL.

 

Happy (Academic) New Year!

Vice Provost and Director Lorraine J Haricombe.
Vice Provost and Director Lorraine J Haricombe.

Welcome to UT, new and returning Longhorns!

We hope you had a good summer in advance of another school year. While you were away (hopefully recharging or preparing for an exciting new phase in your life), we’ve been busy improving the resources, spaces and services that you rely on throughout your career at the university.

You’ll immediately notice a few changes in familiar spaces at the Perry-Castañeda Library and the Fine Arts Library. PCL sports an expansion of the popular Collaborative Commons on the 5th floor, with new furniture, more power outlets and a refreshed look, and the 5th Floor of FAL received a major facelift, as well, to support additional physical materials (at the request of students and faculty), improved wireless access and new furniture and carpet, as well as some other infrastructure improvements for a better library experience.

We also used the summer to enhance the library retrieval service in order to get those items that are stored offsite at the Pickle campus back into your hands as quickly as possible (learn more about the Library Storage Facility from an article published this summer at Tex Libris). We now have a dedicated transport specialist making two trips from north Austin each day, and we’ll be upgrading the inventory system this fall to speed the process up even more. And once the items get back to campus, we’ll soon have a new way of getting them to the location of your choice even faster. Keep an eye out for an interesting new delivery vehicle when you’re out walking between classes….

As always, the improvements we make to spaces, services and resources are the direct result of feedback from you, our users, so keep the ideas coming.

We had some notable additions to staff expertise over the break, as well. We welcomed new GIS and Geospatial Data Coordinator Michael Shensky to help develop ways of connecting data and location in coordination with research on campus. We’ve also welcomed the first class of The Consuelo Artaza and Dr. Carlos Castañeda Diversity Alliance Residency Program who have arrived for a 2-year term; Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill are already interviewing staff and quickly getting acclimated to their new environs, and we’re excited for the contribution their perspective will provide. We’re also happy to announce the arrival of our Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) fellowship recipients: Jennifer Isasi will help with data curation at the Benson, and will be a valuable help in getting the new digital asset management system we’ve been building up and running, as well as with developing digital scholarship initiatives at LLILAS Benson; and Emily Beagle will be interfacing with the university’s Energy Institute to work on strategies for transforming and expanding the curation of research data with a particular focus on large multi-component datasets about energy use in the state of Texas.

In other news, the University of Texas Press has published a lovely book on the outstanding Benson Latin American Collection. The 229-page volume features dozens of beautiful color images and plates of the unique holdings paired with essays and reflections by distinguished scholars of Latin American and Latinx studies. The volume is available now for purchase from the UT Press site and many bookstores.

"A Library for the Americas," the book of the Benson Latin American Collection.
“A Library for the Americas,” the book of the Benson Latin American Collection.

Looking forward, we see many exciting new opportunities for expanding the reach of the libraries across campus through partnerships and unique strategic approaches. Very soon, Provost Maurie McInnis will formally announce the Provost’s Task Force on the Future of UT Libraries. This group, which I will co-chair along with a member of the faculty, will consider the strategic role of the Libraries at the university and make recommendations to the Provost at the end of the spring semester. I look forward to engaging with our faculty in a thorough review of the current role of libraries on campus and working collectively to create a collective vision for their path in the coming years. As you set forth this semester, get your bearings on campus, and establish your routine for a successful academic career, make the Libraries the starting point for your academic journey — it is the best guide and resource for your exploration in a universe of ideas.

 

 

Genaro Garcia Collection stamp

Collections Highlight: Historia Verdadera

Bernal Díaz del Castillo Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva-España Madrid: Imprenta del Reyno 1632 In 1920 regent Henry J. Lutcher Stark donated to the university Díaz del Castillo’s eyewitness report on the conquest of Mexico in 1519. His gift laid the foundation for what has become the Benson Latin American Collection.
Bernal Díaz del Castillo, “Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva-España,” Madrid: Imprenta del Reyno, 1632

In 1920, Regent H. J. Lutcher Stark and Historian Charles Wilson Hackett, representatives of The University of Texas attending President Álvaro Obregón’s inauguration in Mexico City, were transfixed by the sight of the first edition in Spanish of Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s True History of the Conquest of New Spain (1632). There, in a bookstore window, was the eyewitness account by a conquistador of the early Spanish adventures in Mexico. That single purchase led to the eventual acquisition in 1921 of the Genaro García library, an exquisite collection of print, manuscript, and photographic materials for the study of Mexico, the Americas, the West Indies, and Spain. García was regarded during his life as one of the Mexico’s foremost educators, historians, editors, and bibliophiles, whose 25,000-volume library was widely used by researchers seeking information on Mexico’s past.

Upon its arrival in Austin, the García Library was immediately made available to the university’s students and faculty under the able administration of Lota May Spell, noted historian, educator, and musician. The expanding role of Spanish language and culture in U.S. higher education by the 1920s, moreover, helped advance the idea of developing a library at The University of Texas whose mission would encompass all of Central and South America. The end of Dr. Spell’s tenure as curator of the García Library coincided with the University Library’s proposal to create a Latin American Collection in 1926 headed by Carlos E. Castañeda. After his arrival on campus in 1927, the library grew through purchase; assiduous gifts and exchange programs with many Latin American governments, academic societies, and cultural organizations; and the receipt and purchase of specialized research libraries and manuscript collections.

To discover more of the Benson’s treasures, purchase the new book, “A Library for the Americas,” now available through UT Press.

The Library Storage Facility

A Space Solution in the Distance

Texas may pride itself in being big, but as anyone around the Forty Acres these days knows, that “bigness” is finite.

Back in the early 1990s, as Austin was hitting its stride in terms of growth with the arrival of tech industry and the nascent popularity of the city as a destination, forward-thinking minds at the University of Texas Libraries recognized that the ever-expanding physical collections — which at the time had reached in excess of 6 million books — couldn’t forever be contained on a rapidly growing campus.

To avoid what they saw as a future crisis for the preservation and accessibility of the collections, the Libraries sought and received approval and funding to construct a library facility based on the Harvard Depository — a preservation facility that had been developed at Harvard University in 1986. The goal was to relocate low circulation items into a highly controlled environment with optimal preservation conditions, coupled with a retrieval process to get items back into the hands of users should they be needed.

Sensibly referred to as the “Harvard Model” — which has become a standard for materials preservation — the building layout for the Library Storage Facility (or LSF as it’s known within the Libraries lexicon) is an interconnected structure of generational  units situated on the lonely south side of the university’s satellite Pickle Research Campus on a close-cropped berm of desiccated weeds in far north Austin with downtown only barely visible in the distance. The vertically-oriented concrete panel edifice is stark and brutalist, an almost unwitting tribute to its campus counterpart, the Perry-Castañeda Library, a likewise imposing monolith and arrival hub for most of the materials that are retrieved from storage.

The storage structure itself is actually a series of separate construction projects that spanned several years. The first unit was opened in 1993, the second in 2009 and the third, LSF 3, opened late in 2017 and is currently being filled with library materials.

The plaque designating the opening of LSF 2.
The plaque designating the opening of LSF 2.

Each section of the building accommodates 30-ft tall shelving units in a series of aisles and each shelf section (called a “ladder”) is a designated height to fit volumes of like format and size — an almost profane violation of standard library organizational protocols — thereby ensuring the most efficient application of available space. Shelves are accessed via a “picker,” a specially-designed forklift that can be controlled from a spanning basket that can reach the very highest level of the structure.

Everything in the facility is systematically barcoded — the item, the storage tray in which it sits, the shelf on which the tray sits — and that information is stored and managed in an inventory control systems that allows staff to quickly and easily locate any of the 2 million items stored at LSF.

The Library Storage Facility is managed by the Libraries, but additionally serves as preservation storage for collections from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, the Harry Ransom Center and the Tarlton Law Library. LSF 2 was even built in part with support from our siblings and rivals down the road at College Station, and as a result, the A&M Libraries have a dedicated aisle of space for materials mingling with the resources of the Longhorn Nation.

Another similar project at A&M’s Riverside campus — the Joint Library Facility — was  constructed as a collaboration between the Texas A&M System and the University of Texas System allowing for the storage of widely-held, but infrequently used, items materials across Texas academic institutions. The nature of this facility offers participating libraries the opportunity to pare down some of their materials to a single copy that is then collaboratively stored and served from this shared facility.

Collectively these storage facilities have facilitated substantial growth in Libraries holdings — which now stands at more than 10 million items — by allowing for the transferral of low-use items from overstretched campus locations to the high-density facility at the Pickle Research Campus. We still spend over $1.5 million per  year on traditional physical resources – even as the Libraries moves to incorporate the ever growing array of electronic information resources – and we expect this practice to continue for the foreseeable future.

Professional stewardship of library materials is a key part of UTL’s institutional mission.  The conditions at LSF are closely controlled to create the best environment for the long-term preservation of materials, with efforts to maintain a temperature of 55°F and relative humidity at 35%. These conditions significantly slow the deterioration of paper, inhibit the growth of mold, and reduce the likelihood of insect infestations. “With the conditions maintained at the facility, you could basically put an item into storage and come back 240 years later to find it in a stable state,” says Ben Rodriguez, who manages the library storage facility. Rodriguez oversees a team of library specialists who help to develop processes and run the day-to-day operations of LSF with the assistance of ten student workers.

Perspective from atop the order picker.
Perspective from atop the order picker.

“The stability of conditions at LSF reduces the mechanical wear-and-tear that would otherwise occur as paper and leather expand and contract with the changes to humidity levels in a library environment,” says Wendy Martin, assistant director of stewardship. Martin oversees the preservation efforts — both physical and digital — for the Libraries. “Library materials stored in ideal conditions will have a much longer lifespan than materials stored in open stacks space designed for human comfort.”

Beyond the space-saving functionality of library storage facilities like these, 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.

Off-site storage has also allowed the Libraries to respond to changing the changing needs of faculty and students by redesigning some of our library spaces to accommodate collaborative study and new technology resources that help to better prepare library users for transition to a 21st Century economy. As the library evolves from a storehouse for information into a platform for innovation and creating new knowledge, having the option to reimagine spaces to meet the changing expectations of the public enhances the library’s relevancy.

Of course, none of this storage would mean very much, though, if the Libraries weren’t also constantly working to improve both the efficiency of access to materials that are selected for housing at LSF, and the selection process itself. Recently, with support from Provost Maurie McInnis, an additional full-time driver and transport vehicle were added for the sole purpose of improving turnaround times for material requested from LSF. Beginning in the fall this driver will make a second daily transportation run between LSF and the main campus. This means patrons can expect to receive email notification of an item being ready for pickup within one business day of their initial request. With the Provost’s support we were also able to hire an additional staff member at LSF, providing the necessary staffing capacity to pull materials for delivery twice daily.

Libraries’ subject liaisons work on a daily basis with university faculty and researchers to build collections that support the University’s teaching, learning, and research mission, in both core and emerging disciplines. The undulations of academic and research focus at UT are the subject of constant analysis by library professionals that, combined with specific requests from our users and a robust set of circulation data, help the Libraries make decisions regarding the placement of collections on campus. This is all to say that when decisions are made to take materials from the shelves, it’s not done lightly or without careful consideration. In light of recent concerns about how decisions are made regarding the transfer of materials to storage, the Libraries has redoubled its effort by tasking a cross-functional team with reviewing and improving the decision-making process for relocating resources.

The ultimate goal of having library storage facilities is to continue to grow our collections resources while adapting the way libraries function to meet the needs of modern users. First and foremost, we want students and our other users to be productive. But productivity can be measured in different ways. It comes not only from the opportunity of discovering a book on the shelf run that wasn’t the object of your search, but it can also result in the form of the serendipitous discovery that happens when diverse groups of students get together and share ideas. We want to create conditions that will allow different types of learning and discovery to occur.

Plans are already underway for the next module at LSF, which will not only feature more high- density storage, but will also provide some new kinds of spaces for improved preservation and better access to materials stored at the facility. The new construction — to be called the Collections Preservation and Research Complex —will provide storage for three-dimensional objects and ephemera, additional cold storage (40°F) for film, a proper reading room for onsite research, new processing space and a quarantine room.

The Libraries has been building the magnificent collections we have today for over 130 years, and, with a little effort and care, we can continue to not only grow them, but to make sure that they’re here for many, many more years to come.

 

Cover of "Library for the Americas."

The Benson Gets a Book

The University of Texas Press has published the first encyclopedic examination of the renowned Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection (Benson), providing a window into the rich Latin American resources for research and study at The University of Texas at Austin.

Showcasing the incredible depth, diversity and history of the Benson Collection, “A Library for the Americas” presents rare books and manuscripts, maps, photographs, music, oral histories, art and objects dating from around 1500 to the present.

Founded in 1921, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin has become one of the world’s great libraries for the study of Latin America, as well as the largest university library collection of Latin American materials in the United States. Encompassing all areas of the Western Hemisphere that were ever part of the Spanish or Portuguese empires, the Benson Collection documents Latin American history and culture from the first European contacts to the current activities of Latina/os in the United States. The Benson is partner in an innovative collaboration with the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies — collectively called LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections — that attracts top students, scholars and researchers from around the world.

The Benson collections represent one of the most extensive compilations of materials related to Latin American culture and history in the world, housing approximately 1 million volumes, 4,000 linear feet of manuscripts over 400,000 slides and photographs and an additional 50,000 other items of ephemera and media, representing North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.

The 229-page volume features color images and plates of the unique holdings paired with essays and reflections by distinguished scholars of Latin American and Latina/o studies, who describe the role that the Benson Collection has played in the research and intellectual contributions that have defined their careers.

Benson Librarian and Director Melissa Guy is elated by the book’s publication.

“’A Library for the Americas’ is unique in that it is both a beautiful representation of the Benson’s holdings, as well as a selection of thought-provoking essays from researchers who have used the Benson’s vast holdings to do their work,” says Guy. “Both the seasoned Benson user and the casual observer will find it fascinating.”

“A Library for the Americas” was edited by Julianne Gilland and José Montelongo, and includes contributions from faculty, researchers and historians of Latin American from across the hemisphere. The book features analysis of the overall collections with special focus on collections of distinction like the Relaciones Geográficas, the Gloria Anzaldúa papers, the Ricardo and Harriet Romo print collection and the Borderlands archive, with accompanying full-color imagery.

The Libraries will host a preview and benefit dinner on September 6 in preparation for the upcoming centennial (2021) of the acquisition of the Genaro García Collection, which served as the foundation of the Benson Latin American Collection. Attendees to the event will receive a copy of the book with their tax-deductible contribution. For more information on attending the event, contact Natalie Hester at 512-495-4349 or nataliehester@austin.utexas.edu.

“A Library for the Americas” is available for purchase through the University of Texas Press at utpress.utexas.edu.

 

A flag from astronaut Alan Bean's lunar mission.

Collection Highlight: Lunar Flag from Alan Bean

Alumnus and NASA astronaut Alan Bean recently passed away, but a piece of his legacy as a lunar visitor resides in the new McKinney Engineering Library.

A small flag that Bean carried with him on a trip to the moon hangs in the library today.

Bean donated the flag-that-went-to-the-moon that is framed and on display at the Engineering Library, with his signature and a small plaque noting Bean’s affiliation with the university.  He received his B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering in 1955 and was named as a Distinguished Graduate of the College of Engineering in 1970.

Signature and plaque for Alan Bean lunar flag.

Born in the Panhandle town of Wheeler (pop. 1,592) in 1933, Bean graduated from high school in Fort Worth and attended The University of Texas at Austin where he was in the Naval ROTC. He became a fighter pilot in the Navy, and later attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School where he was instructed by his future Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad. Conrad personally selected Bean for the Apollo 12 mission to replace astronaut Clifton Williams, who was killed in an air crash.

Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean holds a special environmental sample container which holds soil collected during the second moonwalk EVA. Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad had just put a soil sample in the tube with a shovel. The picture was taken in the vicinity of Sharp Crater. Conrad took the photograph and can be seen in the reflection in Bean's visor. (Apollo 12, AS12-H-49-7278).
Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean holds a special environmental sample container which holds soil collected during the second moonwalk EVA. Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad had just put a soil sample in the tube with a shovel. The picture was taken in the vicinity of Sharp Crater. Conrad took the photograph and can be seen in the reflection in Bean’s visor. (Apollo 12, AS12-H-49-7278).

Bean was the lunar module pilot for the Apollo 12 mission in November, 1969, which had some anxious moments shortly after launch when an electrical surge caused by a lightning strike created a telemetry problem for the vehicle. Bean was responsible for executing the command that circumvented the problem and prevented the mission from being aborted. Bean and the crew landed on the moon on November 19, and returned safely to Earth on November 24.

Emeritus Engineering Librarian Susan Ardis noticed at one point that that the original signature was faded, and colleagues in the College of Engineering (now Cockrell School of Engineering) contacted  Bean, on Susan’s behalf, about a replacement. He graciously sent his signature in a few different sizes so that the best one — the best match for the artistic design of the framing — could be selected.

The flag remained with Engineering Library staff during the construction of the new Engineering Education and Research Center, and now hangs in the new Engineering Library.

Alan Bean lunar flag hanging in the Engineering Library.

Robotics campers.

What Summer Break?

Summer on the Forty Acres is in contrast with the rest of the academic calendar in some pretty noticeable ways: herds of parentless campers crisscrossing campus in a clockwork dance; roving bands of noisy Boys State gangs meandering about on a break from their future leadership training opportunity at the Capitol; summer school denizens either rushing to finish out their college careers or putting in the extra work to secure enrollment for the fall semester; facilities workers renewing spaces around campus to extend the life of buildings after another semester of age and wear by an active community; and there’s way less traffic.

We’ve mentioned it before and this year is no different — the summer is when the Libraries work hard through three months of relative calm to push through projects and initiatives that are too disrupting for the long semester, or need to be ready when the full body returns to campus.

A robust semester of discussion about the Fine Arts Library generated approval in late spring for a renovation project to improve the fifth floor of the library to support the needs of students, faculty and researchers in the College of Fine Arts. The project is in its early stages, but will result in, among other things, enhanced and expanded shelving, improved technology support and updated furnishings and carpet. The refresh should be completed by the beginning of the fall semester. Keep up with the changes throughout the project at the Future of the Fine Arts Library page on our website.

Moving from the newest of the library locations to one of the most historic, we received some exciting news about the Life Science Library, too. The Hall of Texas — the west side twin to the east side Hall of Noble Words reading room — has been returned to the care of the Libraries, and work has begun to return it to its former glory. Empty shelves that were partitioned off to provide a home for the Herbarium will soon be repopulated, and the room will provide a companion reflective space for student study and community in one of UT’s most iconic buildings.

The habitants of PCL’s fifth floor will be happy to return in the fall to a development of the Collaborative Commons that exists on the north end of that level. A pilot refresh occurred several years ago to upgrade the aging furniture carpets and technology support, and additional improvements will expand the enhancement of the study and collaborative space into a section on the opposite side of the area.

More information on these projects to come throughout the summer.

 

Graduates

Graduated? Don’t Forget Your Libraries

You did it! (Or your graduate did.) Congratulations. After four years (more or less) of hard work and long nights in PCL, you’ve earned your degree and are looking toward the next phase of life as you head out into the world.

And though your time at UT has officially come to a close, you’ll still have some access to library resources on which you’ve come to rely through the summer.

Spring Graduates

Hold on to your student ID card, as you’ll retain privileges through the following summer. These privileges include:

  • regular student check-out privileges
  • access to interlibrary loan services
  • access to most UT Libraries electronic resources
  • use of study rooms, carrels. or lockers under the same guidelines that apply to enrolled students
  • online renewal

Your privileges will remain active until the 12th day of classes in the fall semester.

Courtesy Borrower Privileges

There are several options for getting a Courtesy Borrower card:

Join the Texas Exes

There are several alumni membership levels available–sign up quick, recent grads get special deals! After you’ve joined, bring a photo ID to Courtesy Borrower Services to apply for your card. You’ll also get remote access to three article databases, Academic Search Alumni Edition, Business Source Alumni Edition, and JSTOR Alumni Edition.

Get a TexShare card

The TexShare Library Card Program is a reciprocal borrowing program, coordinated by the Texas State Library, which provides access to materials from many Texas libraries. If you’re a patron in good standing at a participating public library, you can get a TexShare card from that library and bring it to Courtesy Borrower Services to apply for your UT Libraries courtesy card. While the card is free, each participating library has its own qualifications for eligibility. For example, Austin Public Library requires their patrons to be in good standing for a period of six months before qualifying for a TexShare card. Check with your local library for details.

Are you a Texas resident?

If you are a Texas resident, but you don’t qualify for a TexShare card, just bring proof of address, a photo ID, and $100 to Courtesy Borrower Services to apply for borrowing privileges at UT Libraries.

Courtesy borrowers can:

  • check out print and media materials from all UT library branches
  • access most electronic databases from onsite library workstations
  • access online renewal and recall services

Courtesy borrowers cannot:

  • access databases remotely
  • check out equipment
  • use interlibrary loan services
  • access Jamail Center for Legal Research, the Harry Ransom Research Center, or the Center for American History

For additional resources, bookmark the “Access the Library After Graduation” LibGuide.

 

 

Student in the 5th floor stacks at the Fine Arts Library.

The Fine Arts Library Lives On

Over the past several months, our Fine Arts Library has been the subject of debate as the College of Fine Arts considered space to serve as a home to the new School for Design and Creative Technologies (SDCT).

Interested faculty and students joined together last fall to protest any further changes to the library after the opening of the Foundry and the conversion of the 4th floor into classrooms for the SDCT, and in response the dean of the college, Douglas Dempster, called for the formation of two working groups to explore and address the future of spaces in the Fine Arts Library in Doty Fine Arts Building (DFA).

The first, under the leadership of the UT Libraries — the Fine Arts Library Task Force — was asked to explore and evaluate the alternatives to having the Fine Arts collection on the fifth floor of DFA — in part or whole — and explore the drawbacks and advantages of those alternatives.

The second — the School of Design and Creative Technologies Space Planning Task Force — considered a) what facilities our new programs need and b) what spaces in the College of Fine Arts, throughout all our buildings and facilities in every department and school, could accommodate these expanding programs.

The Fine Arts Library Task Force completed its work at the beginning of April and submitted its findings outlining a range of feasible scenarios for ensuring continued, ready access to the collections at the library to Dean Dempster and Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe. Dempster and Haricombe reviewed the documents and formed a set of recommendations which were conveyed to UT Provost Maurie McInnis for consideration. On April 6, McInnis accepted the recommendations to maintain and enhance the 5th floor of the Fine Arts Library to serve the stakeholders in the College of Fine Arts and the larger university community.

“The decision by the provost to accept the recommendations for the future of the Fine Arts Library will provide the best possible outcomes for all concerned members of the UT community,” says Haricombe. “The positive conclusions are the result of many months of productive, collaborative dialogue with stakeholders and a discovery process that examined the multiplicity of considerations for how best the library can serve its users. We look forward to continuing our work serving the needs of the College of Fine Arts and the entire campus at The University of Texas at Austin.”

All relevant documents related to the decision-making process for the Fine Arts Library can be found at the Future of the Fine Arts Library webpage.

For a thorough overview of the FAL matter, check out the following articles which appeared in the Austin Chronicle:

Changes at UT’s Fine Arts Library Cause a Rift in the College of Fine Arts

Update: Fate of UT’s Fine Arts Library

 

 

 

Book preservationist Joey Marez repairing a volume.

To Protect and Preserve

As we’re wrapping up Preservation Week 2018, it’s instructive to remember that at the core of the library mission, the act of preserving the vast collections of the University of Texas Libraries is one of the most important things we do. A lot of times this reality gets lost in issues of actual collection management or access issues, but this annual recognition established by the American Library Association provides an opportunity to highlight the exhausting and often overlooked work of preservation staff at libraries.

You may have seen an earlier story about the efforts of our intrepid staff’s foray into a storm disaster zone to recover items from the heavily damaged Marine Science Institute’s Marine Science Library at Port Arthur. It’s a great example of a dramatic response in service of emergency protection and preservation of important library resources. Almost every year, though, there are examples of less sensational acts of professional heroism that test the buoyancy of our incredible preservation staff. One such example occurred in the fall of 2017 — a short time after the Harvey rescue effort — when a  shortcoming in a renovation project at the Jackson School of Geology resulted in a construction failure that would’ve represented a loss of hundreds of volumes were it not for the expertise and dexterity of our preservationists and onsite staff.

Flood abatement at the Geology Library.

Over the summer of 2017, a lab renovation on the 5th floor of the Jackson Geology Building above the library took place. After hours on a Monday evening the following fall, a water line in the lab failed and water began to enter the ceiling over the stacks of the library, eventually leading to a collapse of ceiling tiles and what was described as water “gushing and pouring” onto the volumes below. Library staff followed protocols to involve emergency response staff and managed to get the water shut off, but by the time this had happened, almost 400 books had been directly damaged by the flow.

For many libraries across the country, this would represent a loss of resources, but the university is fortunate to have a library system that features a robust capacity for ensuring the long-term protection of the knowledge resources that have been built over its 130-plus year history.

Books drying.

Staff response included immediate assessment of the materials and fanning out the most heavily-affected items on tables and staging industrial dehumidifiers and air circulators to address the water damage as quickly as possible, and some of these needed to be interleaved with additional blotter paper to absorb the appreciable moisture. Of the 394 items that were directly impacted by the flood, 35 required additional preservation attention, including repair and rehousing, and an additional 1200 items were removed from the shelves as a precaution, a not insignificant number that would need sorting, ordering and re-shelving after the cleanup.

Staff treating materials in the preservation lab.

In the course of the emergency, staff spent 24 hours on the initial response, 40 hours on recovery efforts (including transport and triage), and 10 hours of additional effort on coping with the additional preservation work needed to save the most heavily damaged books. And this doesn’t even take into account the work needed to return the library and its collections to the previous state that was undertaken by the onsite staff and facilities crew.

Preservation Week was established by ALA to highlight the need to think about supporting a function of the library that often goes unnoticed or underappreciated. Some 630 million items in collecting institutions across the United States require immediate attention and care. 80% of these institutions have no paid staff assigned responsibility for collections care, and 22% have no collections care personnel at all, leaving some 2.6 billion items unprotected by an emergency plan.

We’re lucky to have a university that provides for the expertise necessary to protect an investment in knowledge built over its long history, that can, as a result, serve this generation and many to come.

The staff that protect and preserve library collections.
Some of the staff that protect and preserve library collections.