Those words of Thomas Edison are representative of a sentiment that is increasingly reflected in the way that libraries are evolving to meet modern needs. In a departure from the traditional notion as a place where people go to simply gather information, the modern library is becoming a vibrant space where knowledge is partnered with tools that allow users to immediately synthesize ideas into creative output.
The University of Texas Libraries have, in recent years, been working with campus partners and administrators to reimagine spaces to meet these new expectations, and the results have been worth noting. The opening of the Learning Commons on the entry level of the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) provides students with onsite support for writing projects through a partnership with the University Writing Center, and a substantial new Media Lab offers users the opportunity to create the kind of dynamic multimedia projects that are gradually replacing project papers as a measure of student understanding. The Scholars Commons — opened earlier this spring, also in PCL — provides a space for both isolated study and cross-discipline collaboration, and includes a Data Lab for greater capacity for complex data visualization, making synthesis of information possible within arm’s reach of essential resources.
With the launch of the new undergraduate major in the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET) announced in February by the College of Fine Arts (COFA), the Libraries are partnering with the college to develop a new kind of creative space in the Fine Arts Library (FAL) to support the specialized needs of students in the new program. “The Foundry” will occupy space in the main level of the FAL, and will consist of a series of interconnected studios designed to support audio recording, video production, fabrication, 3D printing, animatronics, game design and fiber arts where students can gather to create independently or collaboratively, and where they’ll have immediate access to traditional library resources and services to augment their work. Although it was developed primarily to support CAET, The Foundry is open to every student at the university.
The focus of the space redevelopment is to provide advanced technological systems for all aspects of performance, game development, music production, digital visual arts, and other forms of digital entertainment. The project is funded by the Office of the Provost, the Libraries, the College of Fine Arts and by a generous grant from the Hearst Foundations.
It’s not quite Menlo Park (yet), but libraries are finding ways to become a larger part of the creative process by providing the materials and tools that allow ideas the potential to be realized at the point of conception. Edison might even be impressed.
Construction on The Foundry began with the close of the spring semester and is slated to open in time for the students’ return in the fall. Check back for progress reports on the renovation throughout the summer.
Any time that the university acquires a new archive or artwork, or announces new research discoveries or innovations, the Libraries take it as a responsibility to provide the resources necessary to understand and provide context for such accomplishments.
When James Turrell’s Skyspace opened at the Student Activity Center in a October 2013, his profile among the campus community was elevated, and so it was up to bibliographers at the UT Libraries to work with relevant constituencies determine what materials would be needed to support inquiry into the artist’s work and career.
One of the items that came of acquisitional considerations in the wake of Turrell’s arrival on campus is the bookJames Turrell / comisaria de la exposicion y del catalogo by Ana Maria Torres (IVAM, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, 2004), a catalog of an exhibition held at IVAM, Dec. 14, 2004-Feb. 27, 2005, which includes an interview with the artist.
Given budgetary realities, librarians and bibliographers have to make strategic collection decisions, and often that requires delaying the purchase of materials that may be both desirable and essential in order to meet other resource needs. Specialized texts, especially in the field of fine arts, can often be somewhat inflated, and the cost of this volume was evidence. At $2000, the Turrell text was one that was obliged to be set aside until additional monies were present.
The Libraries development office has worked with bibliographers to target materials that similarly fall into this category, constructing a Wish List of items that would be of great purpose for Libraries users, but for which funding isn’t currently available. The Turrell book was selected to be added to the Wish List, and almost immediately found benefactor in the person of Libraries advisory council member Margery Lindsey.
There’s no doubt that the embrace of digitization by museums and libraries has significant benefit for the devotees of art history. The preservation of the cultural record from the degrading effects of time is the most utilitarian benefit of the practice, but archival digitization also allows for non-linear consideration of creative works in its ability to allow art to be partnered with other data, information, critical context, etc. Digitization is, though, limited by the sheer volume of historical works that exist and by that which continues to be created. Sometimes, the only sure way for art to be preserved digitally, is for a specific need to arise.
Such is the case with the work of Sandow Birk, a visual artist in southern California, whose art contemplates modern American society with a nod to past masters.
Earlier this year, UT College of Fine Arts Ph.D. candidate Rose G. Salseda began research for her dissertation by interviewing several artists who created artworks in response to five days of civil unrest caused by a jury’s acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers who had been charged with the videotaped beating of Rodney King, a black motorist.
“These riots were the first in history to be heavily documented through live news coverage, film, video, and photographs,” says Salseda. “Yet, past scholarship has failed to recognize the potential encompassed within art to speak to the history of the riots.”
“My dissertation seeks to unearth a missing visual narrative. Moreover, it reveals the capacity of art to unhinge and complicate polarizing histories of the 1992 LA Riots.”
Along with Birk, Salseda had interviewed sculptor Seth Kaufman and graffiti artist Man One, only to discover that virtually none of the artists’ work from the 1980s-90s had been digitally preserved.
“It really alarmed me,” says Salseda, “because, since most of these artworks were in private collections or in unprotected public spaces, no one would have the opportunity to see them again.”
In working with the Birk, Kaufman and Man One, Salseda was able to gain access to slides, photos and ephemera directly from the artists themselves.
“Birk was the first of the three artists that I met. He shared slides of his work with me and I was surprised that only a few had ever been digitized,” recalls Salseda. “I knew that if the documentation of the work was not updated, it may continue to be overlooked by scholars, teachers, and others.”
Salseda remembered from previous work with staff at the Visual Resources Collection (VRC) at UT that a library might be able to help her capture the imagery, thus ensuring that it would be preserved for both her use, as well as the use of future researchers. But she needed to find someone close by in Southern California that would be willing and able to assist.
“I contacted the head art librarian at Cal State Long Beach — the university closest to Birk’s studio. She then directed me to Jeffrey Ryan, the CSULB Visual Resource Center staff,” recounts Salseda. “I spoke with Ryan and he volunteered to digitize Birk’s images, as well as that of other artists whose work has not been digitized. Thus far, he has digitized several hundred slides for me and the artists I work with — all of which are now available to CSULB students, faculty and staff.”
Salseda then followed up with Sydney Kilgore, media coordinator for the UT’s VRC — an actively growing collection of some 80,000 digital images of art and architecture located at the university’s Fine Arts Library — to see if it would be possible to ingest a selection of Birk’s work into the university’s digital media repository, the DASE (Digital Archive SErvices) Collection, for the benefit of students, faculty and researchers at UT.
“When Ms. Salseda approached us with the Birk project we knew it would be another win/win situation,” says Kilgore. “In this case, the VRC additions resulted with Rose Salseda wanting to share her research, and artist Sandow Birk being willing to personally choose and share 30 images of his art which he felt were representative of his career.”
Salseda is currently working with Kaufman and Man One to secure digital images of their work for inclusion in the VRC, as well, which are expected to arrive next year.
She believes that there is a larger history to be told by the art that was created in the wake of the unrest, but because of a lack of documentation, the story of the period has an incomplete context.
“Due to the numerous artworks the riots inspired and the surprisingly scant scholarly and curatorial consideration of this work, I am positive there are many more artworks out there that have not been properly digitized and archived,” Salseda says. “In general, the lack of art history on the riots and the unbalanced focus on a small pool of artists means that other artist contributions to this important episode in LA and US history are forgotten or go untold.”
It’s this personal, practical experience that Salseda had in the process of her own research that prompted some realizations about the temporality of art and the necessity of digital preservation.
“I have come to realize even more the importance of digitizing images. These images are essential when original artworks are lost, reside in private collections, and/or are irregularly exhibited,” she says.
“It is also important for artists to update the format of their image archives to ensure that future generations have the potential to access images of their art when viewing equipment for older formats become scarce or defunct,” says Salseda. “However, taking on such tasks are out-of-reach for many artists: the equipment is expensive, as is hiring private companies to do such work, and it can take an extraordinary amount of time if one does not have the proper equipment or assistance.”
“Resources like UT’s VRC and CSULB’s Visual Resource Center are invaluable. From personal inquiries to professional ones, like documenting my exhibitions or archiving images related to my dissertation, I knew I could rely on these resources. I hope more students and faculty realize the important indispensable services they offer.”
An exhibition featuring Sandow Birk’s “American Qur’an” is currently on view at the Orange County Museum of Art.
Sydney Kilgore, Rose Salseda and Thao Votang contributed to this article.
Wow, summer’s gone and the fall semester has arrived on the Forty Acres!
Just wanted to reach out and share an update on the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio.
Things are moving forward. We have been meeting throughout the summer to select equipment and design the space. The Libraries Facilities Manager is working with staff from UT’s Project Management and Construction Services to create a design that meets the requisite standards for building codes and aesthetics.
Initially, we thought the studio would be located in the Fine Arts Library on the fourth floor of the Doty Fine Arts Building, but after consulting with Ken Dickensheets, a top acoustical consultant and media designer, it was decided that the studio should be on third floor, the entrance level of the Fine Arts Library, in a room currently used for group study.
Equipment has been ordered but things are taking a little longer than we had anticipated. An official open date has not yet been set, but we do plan on having some type of kick-off party to welcome everyone in the space. More details to come! We will end up with a studio that is larger and more sophisticated than initially planned, thanks in large measure to the generosity of all our donors.
Mark Goodwin is a project assistant for HeadsUpGuys and student librarian in the Music, Art and Architecture Library at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He undertook a practicum with Music Librarian David Hunter of the Fine Arts Library at UT this spring. He has graciously provided the following reflections on his time in Austin.
For my two-week practicum, I was extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to work under Music Librarian and Musicologist Dr. David Hunter at the Fine Arts Library at the University of Texas in Austin. My time there resulted in profound growth on both a professional and personal level.
Dr. Hunter was an outstanding mentor. He has a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge relating to the profession and was more than willing to share this wealth of experience with me. He was also exceptionally kind and constantly made sure I was getting the most out of my time, even going above an beyond my role in the library to inform me of events occurring throughout the city. In terms of my role, Dr. Hunter had me take on an assistant-type position in which I shadowed him and helped with his daily duties. This was key to making the experience an invaluable one for me, and I am extremely grateful to Dr. Hunter for giving me this role. Continue reading →
HornRaiser campaign to build the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio in numbers:
8 matching gifts totaling $4,350
158% of our original goal
We are very excited that this campaign not only exceeded our original goal of raising $10,000, but also exceeded our stretch-goal of raising $15,000.
We are very thankful for those who contributed and helped us broadcast our message throughout the campaign.
So what’s next?
A preliminary meeting has been scheduled to start brainstorming and planning for the actual construction of the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio. We hope to have everything ready for the fall 2015 semester.
As I have mentioned before, this project is a smaller piece of a larger project called the Creativity Commons. We are still fundraising for the other studios in the Creativity Commons:
Video Production Studio, $50,000
Game Developer Studio, $35,000
Maker Workshop, $25,000
3D Design Workspace, $15,000
Recording Studio (funded!)
While these tools are available in other areas on campus, they are restricted to students or a certain major. The Creativity Commons will be fully accessible to all current UT students, faculty, and staff.
To give a gift to support the Creativity Commons, click here, or click here to read a previous post with more detailed funding opportunities for individuals or corporations.
“Zines are not a new idea. They have been around under different names (ChapBooks, Pamphlets, Flyers). People with independent ideas have been getting their word out since there were printing presses.” ― Mark Todd, Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?
As institutions traditionally charged with gathering and providing access to the broadest range of information, libraries have in large part transitioned their focus from the physical to the digital realm of resources. But there are pockets of attention that remain fixed on collecting those materials that hold significantly greater value in a corporeal state.
In 2010, Fine Arts Library (FAL) Head Librarian Laura Schwartz joined a fledgling movement of librarians across the country in establishing a collection of DIY pamphlets, popularly known as “zines.”
Zines — short for “fanzines” — take a variety of forms, but are generally self-published and noncommercial, homemade or online publications often devoted to specialized or unconventional subject matter. Traditionally, zines have been published in small runs — less than 1000 copies — and most are produced on photocopiers or by other, more economical means.
At a time when virtually anyone with access to the web can reach an audience, the idea that your local Kinko’s still has the patronage of a subculture of the most indie of independent publishers seems almost absurd.
Schwartz is determined about her motivation to build the collection. “This is a form of art,” she says. “Museums or galleries do not typically collect this format, so it is incumbent upon libraries to do so.”
“Libraries have a history of collecting ephemeral and personal materials,” says Schwartz. “That is the essence of archives. Libraries are capturing a slice of history and culture of a particular time period by collecting zines.”
The FAL’s zine collection currently maintains over 200 items of state, regional and national origin, and recent donations will potentially double the size of the resource. The content of the materials covers a range of subjects including art, photography, music, skateboarding and Texas culture.
Schwartz was fortunate at the time of the collection’s inception to have a ready resource for development in the form of the manager of a specialized local bookstore, Russell Etchen of Domy Books. Being an artist and autodidact in zine history — as well as a curator/manager for the shop/gallery — Etchen had an informed perspective on the significance of the genre, and offered his insights as a service to preserving the form.
“Laura had an innate sense for what would and wouldn’t work when she started building the collection,” says Etchen. “We would walk through the store together a couple times a year, and I would share the works that I felt, at the time, were most deserving of preservation.”
“When it comes to the underground, there are no ‘right zines’,” says Etchen. “There is a very decentralized history behind self-publishing and generally we chose works that I felt had a unique history behind them or ahead of them.” Continue reading →
A stretch-goal? That would imply that we would cross the finish line before our campaign was over!
Thankfully, we took their advice because this week we surged past our original goal of $10,000!
Since we about two weeks left, we have announced our stretch-goal: $15,000. That’s just $4,445 in the next 14 days. The extra funds will enable us to build an even better Fine Arts Library Recording Studio with better sound-proofing, software, and hopefully new carpet and furniture.
We’ve come so far, so please help us go even further by broadcasting our message through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, E-mail, or word of mouth, and consider making a contribution if you haven’t already.*
We’ve started planning an end-of-campaign show at Tom’s Tabooley on the last day of our campaign, Friday, May 1, so save the date! More details to come!
If you haven’t already, make sure and check out our most recent video featuring some images of what the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio might look like.
* If you or your company are interested in contributing a matching gift during the campaign, don’t worry, there is still time! Please contact Gregory Perrin for more information.
Spring 2015 has been an exciting semester at the Fine Arts Library (FAL). We have hosted a record number of events — 13 to be exact. They’ve included exhibit receptions, lectures, book readings, concerts, and performances. The events for this week are particularly novel as we have opened our space to the Department of Theatre and Dance’s Cohen New Works Festival.
During the Fall semester, an exuberant student by the name of Mahalia Dinglasan approached Beth Kerr, Theatre/Dance Librarian and I about the possibility of setting a play that she was proposing at the Fine Arts Library. The story is set in a library and, thinking outside the box, she thought the Fine Arts Library would make a great venue. As I am eager to activate the Fine Arts Library spaces and engage with our audiences and patrons in new and innovative ways, I was excited for the Fine Arts Library to participate in the Festival.
A few weeks after we agreed to host the performance, Mahalia began working on casting her play. She asked Beth if she would be interested in playing Nan the librarian in the play. Beth declined as she is a theatre person but her role has always been behind the scenes. Mahalia then defaulted to me. I thought to myself that I have never been asked to do anything so unusual as a professional librarian and I may never be asked to do anything like it again. As I am one for new experiences, I was excited to say yes.
Monday evening was opening night of Emanation. What a fantastic journey I have been on over the last few months! The students in the company have taught me so much about acting, about confidence, about patience, about hard work, about respect, about community, about myself.
The show runs Tuesday 4/14 at 8:30pm, Wednesday 4/15 at 8:30pm, and Friday 4/17 at 7pm. Tickets are sold out but they are letting walk-ups attend as space is available. If you are interested in experiencing library space in a whole new way, I would recommend heading over to the Fine Arts Library for one of the performances. I don’t think you will be disappointed (unless you don’t get in!).
As you may recall from my last post, UT Libraries has launched our very first HornRaiser (crowd-funding) campaign to raise $10,000 for the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio. The campaign has been active for just over a week now and 29 donors have helps us raise $2,400! That is 24% of our goal! Special thanks to Tom + Regina Nichols for generously matching $500 during the campaign. * Every dollar counts as we make our way closer and closer toward our goal. Are you a social media ninja? Help us spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Keep an eye out! We will have special contests throughout the campaign! Reactions from current UT students who can’t wait to start using the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio:
Justin LaVergne Theatre, fourth year student with two more years to go
Recording studio would benefit me by being able to create voice overs for theatrical productions. As well as record songs to send out as demos to help me pay for school.
Ian Price Theatre and Dance and Radio & Television, and Film, junior
As an aspiring Voice-Over Actor, I myself have my own Mic that I use for recording lines for audio-dramas, audiobooks, online-cartoons, ect. However, I also live with 3 other roommates, in an apartment that, well, isn’t soundproof. Whenever someone is simply watching TV in the living room, I cannot record. And don’t even get me started about recording lines that require yelling. Basically, a recording studio, open and free to students would not only clear up those types of problems, but could also give good startups for the next ‘Welcome to Night Vale’, or Beyonce. There are many here who have talent but just don’t have the money, or the space to record in their home or in a private recording studio. As a college who prides itself on changing the world, its only right for us to have the resources to get started.