Category Archives: Commentary

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.

 

 

Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.

Message/Mensagem: Brazil’s National Museum / Museu Nacional, Brasil

Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.
Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.

Message from Melissa Guy, director, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection

We are deeply saddened by the destruction of the National Museum of Brazil, in which so many irreplaceable treasures were lost. We stand in solidarity with the museum’s employees, the people of Rio de Janeiro, and the people of Brazil as they mourn the loss not only of a collection of immeasurable value, but also of a splendid historic building. As we consider this devastating event, we are grateful that there was no loss of life in the fire. As a collection committed to preserving and sharing knowledge about Latin America, we will seek ways to support the scholars, curators, and other museum employees who have acted as stewards of these precious materials and have used them to teach others.

Mensagem de Melissa Guy, diretora, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection

Estamos profundamente consternadxs com a destruição do Museu Nacional no Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, e com ela a perda de riquezas e patrimônios irreparáveis. Manifestamos total solidariedade com xs funcionárixs do museu, com a população do Rio de Janeiro e do Brasil, em luto pela perda não só de coleções de valores incomensuráveis, mas também de seu esplêndido prédio histórico. Ao ponderarmos sobre este acontecimento devastador, conforta-nos saber que nenhuma vida foi perdida no incêndio. Enquanto coleção comprometida em preservar e dividir conhecimentos a respeito da América Latina, buscaremos maneiras de apoiar acadêmicxs, curadores, e demais funcionárixs do museu, que agiram como guardiões de tais materiais preciosos, usando-os para ensiná-los a outrxs.

 

McKinney Engineering Library

Welcome Back to Campus

Director Lorraine J. HaricombeWelcome 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!

Best wishes for a successful semester.

Harold Billings.

In Memoriam: Harold W. Billings

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.

Sincerely,

Harold W. Billings, 1931-2017

Click here to make a tribute in memory of Harold W. Billings to the UT Libraries.

 

 

Austin Central Library

Why Austin’s new Central Library is a vision for the future

This commentary originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Wednesday, December 06, 2017.

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.

Opening of the Austin Central Library

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.

Makerspace at the Austin Central Library.

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.

Austin Central Library.

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.

 

 

 

infrastructure

The library of the future starts with infrastructure

This commentary appeared in the Houston Chronicle, August 26, 2017.

Ask what the campus library does and many will say, “It provides access to books.” Looking toward the future, if libraries are to succeed, they will need to increase investment in services that extend beyond such user assumptions. Libraries should invest in virtual spaces that complement existing technology, unique collections, and content expertise, and library space as a concept will need to be redefined to accommodate work in new arenas.

In a 2015 AACU survey employers reported that they believe only 27 percent of recent graduates are proficient at written communication and even fewer are “innovative/creative”. When thinking about this in concert with student impressions of campus technology in a 2016 ECAR study, the library must contribute to both creative and deepened use of technology in the classroom. Leading students into virtual environments to create research products, utilizing classrooms designed with multiple screens for active small group work, and helping students manage work with the use of project management tools all present opportunities for rich collaborative teaching partnerships between librarians and faculty.

It’s also important for libraries to invest in infrastructure to support web publishing platforms, virtual reality, makerspaces, and large visualization walls that complement existing university resources. Integrating these technologies into the classroom experience will challenge us all to think in new ways about where and how learning occurs. Libraries can provide support to students and teachers as they engage with, critically examine, and build community in and around these spaces. But in order for this to occur, a shift in the way people conceptualize library spaces and services has to occur. By working in new environments, libraries can help students improve communication and develop critical thinking and digital literacy skills that will serve them in all areas of their lives.

In order for us to be successful, campus level administrators have to provide a seat at the executive table for library leadership. Increasing the visibility of challenges being faced by libraries sheds light on the complexity of our current operating environments. Sharing information about the value of library services, and about staffing and IT infrastructure needs, provides an opportunity for those that are invested in the library to ask questions about future directions and provide input on anticipated needs.

Libraries are increasingly becoming key testing grounds for innovative classes and research projects that take advantage of emerging technologies. Administration can demonstrate support for these innovative faculty-library collaborations by providing financial, administrative, and moral support for departments that are attempting to reinvigorate the curriculum. Libraries are not operating in the same way that they were five years ago, and it is imperative that administrators see and fully understand the ways in which our services are evolving, and the ways in which our services provide pathways for new ways of teaching and learning.

Library leaders, similarly, need to fully understand the challenges faced by library staff as they revise organizational and operational models to accommodate new working environments. By providing services in hybrid environments, libraries are demonstrating their capacity to play a key partner role in the teaching and learning process in higher education. This role can advance the critical inquiry and discourse skills of our students, and can contribute to student success post-graduation.

So much of what we think about when we think about our students after graduation is focused on success in the workplace, but at a higher level, many in academic communities are concerned with the development and evolution of civil society. As we expand library services more and more into virtual spaces, we will increasingly ask our communities to redefine their understanding and expectations of our role in developing capacity to engage in dialogue. By investing in the changing landscape of libraries, we are also inviting them to adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of communication and civic engagement.

Amber Welch is the head of technology enhanced learning for The University of Texas Libraries.

 

 

 

Architectural rendering of PCL.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Though most of the current denizens of the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) are too young to appreciate it, the campus’s flagship library turns 40 this year, which is significant in the life of a modern library given the change that the institution has experienced in the last couple of decades.

When PCL was conceived, it was believed that the new building would accommodate the growth in physical collections for the foreseeable future; little did our 20th century forebears imagine the impact digital technologies and a global information network would have on the preservation, storage and distribution of knowledge.

With the upcoming celebration of the Perry-Castañeda Library’s 40th anniversary on the horizon, let’s take a moment to look back at what else was happening back in 1977…

  • Biochemist Lorene Rogers is president of The University of Texas at Austin, and Harold Billings is director of the university’s General Libraries, and enrollment at UT is 41,660.

UT President Lorene Rogers at the dedication ceremony for PCL.

 

  • Dolph Briscoe is the governor of Texas, Austin has a population of 321,900 (now 947,890), and Texas has 13.19 million (now 27.86 million).
  • Median income: $13,572. Average cost of: a house — $54,200; a car — ~$4,300; a gallon of gas — $0.62; annual tuition, room & board — $2,411.
  • Apple Computer is incorporated, and later in the year, the first Apple II series computers go on sale.

Apple II.

 

  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough is the best-selling fiction of the year.
  • Laverne & Shirley is the top rated TV show.
  • The critically-acclaimed television miniseries adaption of Alex Haley’s Roots airs.

ABC's miniseries adaptation of Alex Haley's "Roots."

 

  • The punk band The Clash’s debut album The Clash is released on CBS Records.
  • Optical fiber is first used to carry live telephone traffic.

Fiber optic installation. Chicago, 1977.

  • The first Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre opens in San Jose, California.
  • George Lucas’s Star Wars opens in cinemas and becomes the highest-grossing film of its time. Woody Allen’s Annie Hall wins the Oscar for Best Picture. Also released: Close Encounters of the Third KindEraserhead, and Smokey and the Bandit.

Star Wars movie poster.

 

  • Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” is Billboard’s Top Hot 100 single for the year, and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors is the top-selling album.
  • Elvis Presley, the “king of rock and roll”, dies in his home in Graceland at age 42.
  • Jimmy Carter signs legislation creating the United States Department of Energy.
  • NASA launches the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

Artist's concept of Voyager in flight.

 

  • British punk band Sex Pistols release Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols on the Virgin Records label.
  • San Francisco elects City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official of any large city in the U.S.

 

  • Saturday Night Fever is released, launching the careers of John Travolta and resulting in multiple hits for the Bee Gees.
  • Atari, Inc. releases the Atari 2600 game console in North America.

Atari Video Computer System (or Atari2600).

 

  • The first children’s cable channel The Pinwheel Network (later known as Nickelodeon), is launched.
  • The first ever event is hosted at the newly opened Frank Erwin Center on November 29 when the Longhorn men’s basketball team defeats Oklahoma, 83-76.
  • The Longhorn football team finishes the regular season with an 11–0 record, and running back Earl Campbell wins the Heisman Trophy, leading the nation in rushing with 1,744 yards.

What were you doing in 1977?

Open educational resources.

Message to States: Make OER a Priority

Lorraine Haricombe says states need to follow New York’s lead and advance OER initiatives.
Lorraine J. Haricombe, Vice Provost and Director, UT Libraries.
Lorraine J. Haricombe, Vice Provost and Director, UT Libraries.

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.

Texas Exes Dallas Chapter Welcome Vice Provost

Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe with Libraries' Advisory Council member Ken Capps.

Last week, the Texas Exes Dallas Chapter hosted a reception featuring Dr. Lorraine Haricombe, Vice Provost and Director of University of Texas Libraries.

Lorraine shared her highest priorities to:

  • Strengthen UT Libraries core mission to support UT’s mission of teaching, research and learning in new and creative ways.
  • Fill key positions to align with new roles for libraries in teaching, learning and in the digital environment and to expand collaborative partnerships on campus (and beyond) and re-purpose prime real estate in our libraries to meet the expectations of 21st century learners.
  • Position UT Libraries to help transform teaching, learning and research at the University through open access to ensure that the ground breaking research conducted at our University will reach beyond the Forty Acres, nationally and globally.

She also expressed her excitement as UT Libraries is set to open 20,000 sq. ft. of repurposed space in the Perry-Castañeda Library, our main library, where we will partner with the University Writing Center, the Sanger center and others to provide a rich and energizing learning experience for our students.

To close, Lorraine reminded everyone, “supporting the Libraries has the potential to touch the lives of every student, staff and faculty member to ensure that what starts here really does change the world.”

Looking forward, UT Libraries plans to partner with Texas Exes Chapters across the country to host similar events that showcase the work being done at UT. If you are interested in hosting a similar event, please contact Gregory Perrin.

A Welcome from the New Vice Provost

Lorraine J. Haricombe Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries.
Lorraine J. Haricombe
Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries.

Welcome to the University of Texas Libraries!

As the new Vice Provost and Director of these great Libraries, I want to express my excitement to be here on the Forty Acres. I look forward to advancing the good work and building on the strong, effective leadership of my predecessor, Fred Heath, as we enter a period of renewal at The University of Texas at Austin.

It is my highest priority to meet the highly-talented staff of the Libraries and my colleagues on campus and around the state to gain a deep and full understanding of the rich culture and history of the state’s greatest public university and of its exceptional libraries that form the foundations of knowledge for this community.

We will be part of the transformative process for the next generation of leaders, welcoming students to be inspired and to relish the new and energizing learning experiences they will have during this phase of their life.

We will be critical partners in the advancement of innovation, discoveries and teaching with our world-class faculty and researchers and will reconfirm our unwavering commitment to lifelong learning for all.

And, we will aspire to live up to the vision of that grand idea at the University of Texas at Austin that “What Starts Here Changes the World.”

lorraine j haricombe
Vice Provost and Director
University of Texas Libraries

Read more about Haricombe in a recent interview with The Alcalde.