All posts by Travis Willmann

wind turbines and modern solar panels in the country side in the evening

CLIR Fellow Contributing to Renewable Roadsides

If you’ve spent much time in the past decade or so traveling in Texas, you might have noticed the increasing ubiquity of wind farms cropping up along spartan stretches of highway across the state. If a new project involving a fellowship recipient in residence at the Libraries holds any promise, you might soon see more solar panels along your travels, as well.

Emily Beagle.
Emily Beagle.

Last August, the university welcomed a new Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) fellow, Emily Beagle, who spent the fall splitting time between the Research Support & Digital Initiatives at the Libraries and the Webber Energy Group in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Beagle was one of a group of four cohorts in a Data Curation for Energy Economics track for CLIR who are working at various energy institutes and libraries across the country. Beagle’s specific project work throughout the fall related to a renewable energy project funded through The Ray (at The Ray C. Anderson Foundation in Georgia) — one that could potentially bring solar power generation to those long stretches of Texas highway.

The Ray began as a project specific to an 18-mile stretch of I-85 southwest of Atlanta as an exploration of ways “to create a regenerative highway ecosystem” through a reconsideration of the land and communities surrounding our collective highway system. The Ray has already deployed several pilot technology projects along the route including solar-powered vehicle charging, a tire safety check station and solar-paved highways, and the component of the project tasked to the Webber Group was to investigate the placement of solar photovoltaic panels along the right-of-ways nationwide to provide additional energy to the power grid. To do so, the group had to consider the over 45,000 miles of roadways that make up the U.S. interstate network.

Interchange types.
Interchange types.

Narrowing the scope down to a manageable sampling required the research group to come up with some exclusionary criteria, removing swaths from consideration like protected areas (e.g. National Parks and Forests), and focusing on locations close to existing transmission lines, adjacent spaces that are large enough to accommodate development, and locations near exits to make them easy for maintenance access. This allowed them to use existing environmental data for the available space to determine where voltaic clusters would be most efficient and effective.

The Webber Group’s work on The Ray project began in March before Beagle arrived, but that worked out well for her contribution to the project, which involved the development of a data management plan, prepping data for sharing and preservation in repositories like Texas ScholarWorks, and validating reproducibility in findings. She has worked closely with Libraries colleagues to develop and implement  the data plans for the group, while also providing ongoing assessment of the process and the effectiveness of Libraries’ tools and resources as an embedded member of the project team.

Solar Potential Map developed by the Webber Energy Group.
Solar Potential Map developed by the Webber Energy Group.

Working throughout the fall, the group was able to create a report for the foundation in December, and develop an online tool — the Solar Potential Map — that shows the best options for locating panel installations along roadways across the U.S. With the potential for a significant national infrastructure investment under discussion, components conceptualized through a project like The Ray could eventually become a reality. The Ray has already piloted one cluster of solar panels along I-85, and now they have the data to support an expansion of the idea on a much larger scale.

Beagle will continue her stint as a CLIR fellow through the spring, coordinating with her peers in Mechanical Engineering to supervise graduate student work on data-intensive research projects and use that interface to inform and develop data management resources and services at the Libraries. She’ll also using the knowledge she’s gained from the fellowship residence to co-teach workshops for other researchers on campus.

She isn’t the first CLIR fellow the Libraries have hosted — there are currently two Postdoctoral Fellows for Data Curation in Latin American and Latina/o Studies at the Benson Latin American Collection: Edward Shore (continuing from 2017) is overseeing a project to preserve and digitize rare historical documentation on quilombos, communities organized by fugitive slaves in colonial Brazil, and Jennifer Isasi (2018) is working with Benson Digital Scholarship Coordinator Albert A. Palacios to contribute to collections as data efforts, educational resources and digital scholarship initiatives at LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections. And 2017 fellow at the Benson, Hannah Alpert-Abrams, recently completed her term working to develop the repository and interface for the digital Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, a collection of records relating to the national police of Guatemala. 2013 CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow for Data Curation in Medieval Studies Ece Turnator took part in a collaborative bid between the Libraries, the English Department and research units on campus — including the Texas Advanced Computing Center — to create a global gateway to all the digital resources currently available on the Middle Ages, the Global Middle Ages Project (G-MAP).

The CLIR program has been of great value to the Libraries by allowing us access to trained scholars and researchers with perspectives informed by current trends in the interrelationship between libraries and community stakeholders,” says Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe. “Their presence provides an opportunity to bridge between unit-level research and scholarship and library resources and services, and to use that bridge to improve and elevate what we do.

The CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowship Program offers recent Ph.D. graduates the chance to help develop research tools, resources, and services while exploring new career opportunities. Host institutions benefit from fellows’ field-specific expertise by gaining insights into their collections’ potential uses and users, scholarly information behaviors and current teaching and learning practices within particular disciplines.

Beagle says the fellowship experience so far has played out as advertised, but in unexpected ways.

“Being split between Engineering and the Libraries, I was expecting that my duties for both would be very different and not have much overlap,” she says. “But I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I have been able to collaborate between the two groups and how much work in one area has informed a project in the other.”

“It has been very rewarding to work with the Webber Energy Group, UT Libraries and The Ray on a project with real world applicability. I hope to someday see solar panels along the interstate and be able to think ‘I was a part of that.’

 

Artwork by IBP recipient.

Exhibit Highlight: Inside Books Project

“You girls and guys are outstanding, and I pray that you all continue to believe in expanding the minds of us easily forgotten because sometimes it’s books that begin new journeys or just plain, old relief from the journey we chose to walk.” –testimonial from Daniel, an Inside Books Project recipient (via KUT.org)

For those who’ve lost their freedom, the seemingly small act of reading a book can be a lifeline to hope from inside prison.

A new exhibit in the Scholars Commons at the Perry-Castañeda Library examines the work of a local nonprofit and the positive impact that work is having on the lives of incarcerated individuals.

Origami by a death row inmate.
Origami by a death row inmate.

The Inside Books Project (IBP) is books-to-prisons collective founded in Austin in 1998. People incarcerated throughout Texas send requests to IBP for free literature, and volunteers respond with a package of books and personalized letter. In exchange, many recipients have sent art, poetry, prose and other narrative materials testifying to their experiences in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. This ever-growing archive of materials is held at the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) and a digital collection is in progress at insidebooksproject.omeka.net

The IBP Archive Project is coordinated by aems emswiler, a student in the dual Information School (MSIS) and Women’s and Gender Studies (MA) programs at UT. aems has worked with IBP since 2012 and as an Archival Fellow at the Texas After Violence Project since 2017.

The exhibit was installed by UT Information School students and Society of American Archivists (UT-SAA) members aems emswiler and Alyssa Anderson, and long-term preservation of the collection is supported by a UT Student Government Excellence Fund Grant. It will be on view in the Perry-Castañeda Library during regular hours through February 22.

Interested in learning more about the archive project or possibly being involved? contact: aems@texasafterviolence.org. There are volunteer and internship opportunities for iSchool studies, in particular SAA-UT members, archives track students, and students who are invested in diversity, inclusion, and social justice in archives.

 

 

 

Lorraine Haricombe with members of the Longhorn Marching Band, Thanks Day, 2018.

Fall 2018 Rewind

Maybe it’s the shorter days, but the fall semester seemed to fly by. Despite the fact that an entire term goes by in a blink, progress doesn’t stall here at the Libraries.

Lorraine Haricombe, Enrique Acevedo and Benson Director Melissa Guy at "An Evening of Discovery."
Lorraine Haricombe, Enrique Acevedo and Benson Director Melissa Guy at “An Evening of Discovery.”

The start of the semester was heavily influenced by milestones related to the Benson Latin American Collection. The Benson got its own book in early August (published by UT Press) documenting the institution’s storied collections and history, and ended the month with “An Evening of Discovery,” an event to launch a fundraising campaign for the Benson’s 100th anniversary (in 2021) featuring noted journalist Enrique Acevedo (Univision, Fusion) speaking on  the currency of Latin American culture, with additional remarks by former UT President Larry Faulkner and Dr. Adriana Pacheco Roldán. The event generated almost $100,000 for the Dr. Fernando Macías and Dr. Adriana Pacheco Benson Centennial Endowment.

The Libraries welcomed the first class of The Consuelo Artaza and Dr. Carlos Castañeda Diversity Alliance Residency Program for the inaugural 2-year term. Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill quickly acclimated to the new program, interviewing staff and getting a lay of the land; their perspective should offer a valuable contribution to the Libraries going forward.

Lorraine Haricombe with the Longhorn Singers at the 2018 Libraries' tailgate.
Lorraine Haricombe with the Longhorn Singers at the 2018 Libraries’ tailgate.

The Libraries hosted its annual tailgate in early September for the Longhorn victory over Tulsa with a family-friendly recharge space that hosted over 300 visitors. Special thanks to partners at the Blanton Museum of Art, Center for Mexican American Studies and LLILAS Benson, and supporters Austin’s Pizza, Austin Eastciders, Dripping Springs Vodka, KIND, Republic Tequila and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Dr. Edmund W. Gordon with friends and family.
Dr. Edmund W. Gordon with friends and family.

The Benson welcomed Edmund W. Gordon, the renowned psychologist, professor, researcher and expert in education access for historically disadvantaged populations, for the opening of his archive and an exhibit on his career and contributions. The event — “Life, Leadership, and Learning: From the Archive of Edmund W. Gordon” — was hosted by Black Diaspora Archivist Rachel Winston with friends, family and students present for testimonials of Gordon’s impact and a moving speech by Gordon himself.

Provost McInnis presents remarks at the open house for the 5th floor renovations at the Fine Arts Library.
Provost McInnis presents remarks at the open house for the 5th floor renovations at the Fine Arts Library.

A couple of open house events later in the month served to launch space enhancements promised to our patrons in the previous year. The first, at the Fine Arts Library, made good on a commitment to improve the research experience for users in the College of Fine Arts with an array of changes to the location’s fifth floor. A collections area was cleared to make room for additional stacks space to accommodate additional books, and along with furniture and aesthetic upgrades, the underperforming wifi was brought up to standards. Provost Maurie McInnis joined appreciative members of the CoFA community and representatives from the Libraries to christen the space in early October.

Provost Maurie McInnis at the open house for the Collaborative Commons renovations at PCL.
Provost Maurie McInnis at the open house for the Collaborative Commons renovations at PCL.

A second opening — also presented with the help of Provost McInnis — highlighted the expansion of the PCL’s most popular community study area. The Collaborative Commons on the library’s 5th floor doubled in size to provide students with a vast improvement over the anachronism they’d been thus subjected to: new modular furniture, carpet and color schemes from this century and enough outlets to accommodate backpacks full of personal devices.

James Hilton (University of Michigan), Lorraine Haricombe, Anne Kenney (Cornell) and Michelle Addington (School of Architecture) at the townhall on the future of libraries.
James Hilton (University of Michigan), Lorraine Haricombe, Anne Kenney (Cornell) and Michelle Addington (School of Architecture) at the townhall on the future of libraries.

In mid-October, Provost McInnis announced the Task Force on the Future of the UT Libraries, a strategic outcome of campus dialogue which had been in development since last spring. The task force will collect input and hold ongoing conversations with stakeholders in order to develop a shared vision for the future of libraries on the Forty Acres. The launch of the task force was followed shortly by a town hall featuring the co-chairs Dean Michelle Addington of the School of Architecture and Vice Provost and Director of UT Libraries Lorraine J. Haricombe, along with guests James Hilton, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan, and Anne Kenney, former University Librarian at Cornell University and consultant to the task force.

And in November, the Libraries paid tribute to the legacy of former director Harold Billings in the form of an exhibit detailing his career work in bringing the institution into the digital age. An intimate reception was hosted for family and friends, and graduate research assistants Virginia Barnes and Rachael Zipperer (School of Information) discussed their experience in developing the exhibit and it’s accompanying online timeline, “The Tomorrow Librarian: Harold Billings’s Legacy, 1978-2003.”

Now we take a much-deserved break to recuperate for the next semester of work, and hope you’ll do the same. Best wishes for your holidays from the University of Texas Libraries!

 

 

 

 

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.