Category Archives: Walter Geology Library

Volume from the Bill Mixon cave collection.

Area Spelunker Donates Cave Collection

Caves and karst (eroded limestone terrains) are tied to the whole of human history – as shelters, as sources of water, as places of mystery and worship, and as research topics in geology, biology, hydrology and engineering. The Walter Geology Library as a respected research library in earth sciences, has a strong collection in caves and karst research, particularly since Central Texas has many caves and karst features, and the region has long hosted an avid caving community.

Volume from the Bill Mixon cave collection.
Volume from the Bill Mixon cave collection.

One member of that local caving community, Bill Mixon — former book review editor for the National Speleological Society and friend of the Walter Library — recently donated his unique collection of over 1000 books and more than 1000 periodical issues related to cave and karst research, literature, and culture. Remarkably, this entire collection is all material new to the UT Libraries, significantly broadening and enhancing our existing collections.

The collection is largely international in scope, and among the items included, almost 1/3 of the books are not only new to UT, but not held otherwise in any US libraries, or not held anywhere at all. Another 20+% of the materials are held in fewer than 5 North American collections.

The literature of caving is largely produced by specialists for specialists, and much of it is only shared among informal networks, or is only available locally or regionally — not the kind of stuff you can buy on Amazon. For this reason, this gift of personally-curated material from around the world is a tremendous asset, representing years of effort on the part of the donor to amass such a significant cross section of the world’s cave publications.

We are grateful for the gift, as it adds significantly to our existing strengths, and will give future researchers the benefit of having guides, exploration reports, and research on most of the world’s major cave and karst systems all in one place.

Why Caves Matter. 

Caves are:

  • Hidden time machines and an historical record of previous natural and human activity
  • Essential filtration tools and sources for water
  • Home to unique critters and life forms, including bats, spiders, microbes
  • Great sources of fossils of all kinds
  • Key to the study of climate
  • Important areas of earth science research
  • Home to early man, later man, hiding man, man at war
  • Repositories of early human art
  • Important risk factors in construction
  • Irresistible explorers’ temptation

Who cares?

  • biologists
  • geologists
  • hydrologists
  • engineers
  • military
  • historians
  • explorers

Collections Highlight: The (Digitized) Letters of Dr. Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel

Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel. From a photograph in Ferguson, 1981, courtesy BEG.
Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel. From a photograph in Ferguson, 1981, courtesy BEG.

In a project to capture a discrete collection at one of the university’s CSUs, faculty and staff from the Jackson School of Geosciences and the College of Natural Sciences worked with UT Libraries staff to get a collection of over 6000 letters added to Texas ScholarWorks, the university’s digital repository.

The letters are to and from Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel, a faculty member in the Department of Geology from 1948-54 who was a notable authority in the field of Tertiary stratigraphy and paleontology, representing a partial record of a career that spanned over 50 years.

The letters cover subject matter both professional and personal, and provide insight into Stenzel’s methodology, specific projects and relationships with his peers both here and abroad.

Stenzel was born in Poland in 1899, and attended Schlesische Freidrich Wilhelms University in Breslau beginning in 1918, where he majored in paleontology and geology with a minor in physics and mathematics. He received his doctorate in 1922, with a concentration on petrofabrics under the supervision of noted German geologist Hans Cloos.

Letter to H.B. Stenzel from Hans E. Cloos on 1921-09-12.
Letter to H.B. Stenzel from Hans E. Cloos on 1921-09-12.

Stenzel emigrated to the U.S. in 1925, and after being denied a position in petrology at Texas A&M, changed his specialization to Tertiary stratigraphy and paleontology to secure a second opening at the university. He taught there until 1934, when he joined the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, a research unit at the University of Texas at Austin, and took his faculty position at UT in 1948.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Stenzel had 92 works published on petrology, paleontology and stratigraphy of the Lower Tertiary of the Gulf Coast. His most well known publications include the 1949 work Successful speciation in paleontology: The case of the oysters of the Sellaeformis stock (adaptations of species) and the 1971 work: Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (Oysters).

Letter to H.B. Stenzel from S.J. Olsen on 1961-10-16.
Letter to H.B. Stenzel from S.J. Olsen on 1961-10-16.

Stenzel’s collection of letters includes correspondence with a number of recognized authorities in paleontology, including Preston Cloud, Leslie Reginald Cox, Myra Keen, Stanley John Olsen, Katherine Van Winkle Palmer, and Remington Kellogg. Stenzel corresponded with many people across his profession, as well as students and those he mentored.

His collection of letters and exchanges have been digitized and stored for viewing on Texas ScholarWorks. Each file has a PDF view of the original letter as well as metadata, including keywords and dates of the original correspondence, if noted.

This effort was advanced by the late Ann Molineux, a curator for the Texas Natural History Collections, who developed much of the metadata for this project, and Gilbert Borrego, who provided support and guidance for the technical processes.

 

 

Book preservationist Joey Marez repairing a volume.

To Protect and Preserve

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

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

Flood abatement at the Geology Library.

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

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

Books drying.

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

Staff treating materials in the preservation lab.

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

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

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

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

 

 

Collections Highlight: The Tobin International Geological Map Collection

Detail of map from the Tobin Collection.
Detail of map from the Tobin Collection.

The Tobin International Geological Map Collection provides map materials in support of teaching and research within the Jackson School of Geosciences, its programs and related disciplines. As graphic summaries of earth and planetary data, maps are an integral part of geologic and geographic study as well as an important information source in various aspects of research in such fields as energy,  engineering, land use planning, oceanography, physical and space sciences, environmental studies and the life sciences. To serve these disciplines, geologic, tectonic, stratigraphic, physiographic, geodetic, seismographic, outline, topical (such as soil and water survey), geophysical, structural, cross section, and index maps are required.

Located in the Walter Geology Library, the collection contains more than 50,000 maps and map texts that are arranged geographically. It functions as a working research collection that is more concerned with the utility of its maps for research rather than with their rarity as objects.

Tobin Surveys, Inc. of San Antonio endowed the Tobin collection in 1980 when it established the Tobin International Geological Library Fund to enable cartographic acquisitions. The collection aims for worldwide coverage of maps on geology and related subjects, but it is particularly dense in maps of Texas and select U.S. and foreign areas of geologic interest. The resources provide thorough coverage for North America (especially Texas and the Southwest), Mexico, Britain, Italy, Australia, Brazil and Turkey, with moderate coverage for the rest of the world.

The geologic map collection portrays surface and subsurface features, ages, and rock types at a variety of scales. Such maps are used for research in hydrocarbon and mineral exploration, hydrology, geomorphology and paleontology, archeology, and some engineering and architectural applications. The collection also includes some topographic or surface feature maps. Geologic and topographic maps largely are produced by and for governments around the world; however, some commercial maps are included in the collection.

The Tobin collection, in partnership with the Perry-Castañeda collection, serves as a federal depository for the maps of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Through that arrangement, the collection maintains an almost complete set of the map series published by the USGS, including maps of various scales that provide users the ability to examine a continent, country, or more local geographic regions.

A large collection of geological maps of Greece and Italy, which are of special interest to archaeology and classics researchers, also are held in the collection. Overall, the resources of the Tobin Map Collection serve not only researchers within the geology, architecture, classics, archaeology, engineering, and geography departments, but also the general public.


Includes excerpts from The Collections, now available digitally and in print.