Category Archives: Outreach

Reaching Out to Make New Connections

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The University of Texas Libraries reached out in new ways this past semester to actively engage patrons through initiatives demonstrating how the UT Libraries is evolving, changing in ways that might be unexpected, and honing services that are more relevant than ever before.

This fall the UT Libraries participated in a nationwide “Outside the Lines” initiative, in its nascent year, by showcasing services, hosting activities and highlighting treasures, and then expanded its “Crunch Time” initiative, now in its seventh year, to insert the Libraries collections, resources and experts into the flow of academic endeavor that culminates as midterms approached.

Concentrated within one week in mid-September, our incarnation of “Outside the Lines” (OTL) consisted of a Perry-Castaneda Library (PCL) Media Lab-sponsored activity enabling participants to make music with a robot or animate a cartoon, an open house for Chinese-speaking students, a slam poetry performance by Spitshine at the UT Poetry Center, an event co-sponsored by the departments of English, Middle Eastern Studies, Molecular Biology and Spanish and Portuguese, and the 5th Annual LLILAS Benson Student Photo Exhibition featuring photographs taken by students highlighting research, fieldwork and volunteer activities related to Latin America and U.S. Latino communities.

The culminating OTL activity, DJs spinning music from the Fine Art Library’s recently acquired KUT CD collection, was postponed due to rain but successfully paired with a subsequent Hearts of Texas State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) event on the PCL Plaza for a truly “Outside the Lines” mash up of music and philanthropic momentum.

“Crunch Time 2014” was sponsored by these seven UT Libraries in mid-October: Architecture and Planning, LLILAS Benson, Chemistry, Fine Arts, Life Science, PCL and Physics Mathematics Astronomy.  Each location featured Crunch Time handouts, mini-Nestle Crunch bars, and opportunities for students to get help with assignments, schedule a research consultation session with a subject specialist, and check out collections and places to study.

These exciting efforts yielded vital means for the UT Libraries to connect with a diverse array of UT students, library users, authors and members of the broader Austin community. Planning and execution of each of these events was achieved through cross-Libraries and campus-wide collaboration, as well as the talent, knowledge, and expertise of Libraries staff, presenters and the participants themselves.  These successful connections of people, resources, and spaces provided further evidence that the UT Libraries serve as nourishing places for learning, discovery and inspiration.

Rallying the Next Generation of African Leaders

YALI participants on-site at PCL.

As the Business Librarian at UT Libraries I frequently work with entrepreneurs from the McCombs School of Business and sometimes from the Cockrell School of Engineering. For the first time this summer I had the honor of working with a group of young entrepreneurs from Africa.

The 25 attendees here at UT Austin were part of the 500 Mandela Washington Fellows for Young African Leaders Institute (YALI) selected from over 40,000 applications for this prestigious program. President Obama invited the group to the U.S. from Sub-Saharan Africa as part of his signature effort to invest in the next generation of global leaders. Twenty universities were selected to host the fellows. UT Austin chose the theme of Business & Entrepreneurship for its institute.

The UT Austin YALI Fellows are creating and/or growing businesses back home. Their interests are broad; women’s and children’s health initiatives, farming, training computer scientists, and translation services. One of the most inspirational companies is one that trains women incarcerated for prostitution to become fashion designers and tailors. The fashion company hires these women upon their release thereby improving the women’s situations and helping them stay out of prison.

Just like I would for students on our campus, I provided a business research workshop to the YALI group and coordinated with the UT Austin International Office to develop a course guide and a hands-on research workshop for these entrepreneurs. In the workshop we practiced search strategies and I introduced them to resources containing market research, economic, and demographic data.

At the end of their UT visit, the Fellows participated in a pitch competition in front of a three-judge panel of successful Austin entrepreneurs. I saw first-hand how they incorporated their research into their pitch for future funding. The judges asked tough questions about growth and sustainability. The Fellows handled the inquiry with aplomb and you could see the passion they all had for their projects.

To cap off the 6-week event all 500 Fellows attended a summit in Washington, D.C. where they met with Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama. At the summit President Obama announced the program was to be renamed the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders to honor Nelson Mandela. Not only is the program going to continue next year, but the President has also committed to double the number of participants to 1000 for the summer of 2016.

I hope that the University of Texas will be hosting again next year and that I have the opportunity and privilege to work with these global entrepreneurs as they go out and change the world!


A Bird in the Hand

Over the summer, we had the good fortune of a particular inquiry that made its way to our Ask A Librarian service from a person looking for some answers that they deemed only a librarian might be able to provide.

That inquiry came from noted author and UT alum Sarah Bird, who while not penning her next novel, or writing a column for Texas Monthly, or contributing to any number of other publications, or even writing a screenplay…still has time to be a strong public voice for libraries in general, and the University of Texas Libraries specifically.

At the time, Bird was working on an article for Alcalde — the Texas Exes alumni publication — in which she was to detail the significance of the collections at UT to her work. She came to us looking for some examples to use in the article, and we did our best to assist with her needs.

It was a short time after the publication of that article — “My Life in the Stacks” — in the September/October issue of Alcalde that we were contacted by a producer from the Longhorn Network with a request to provide a spokesperson for the Libraries to be interviewed for a piece they were filming on Sarah Bird to take place in our very own Life Science Library. This was to be a segment on the recently launched LHN program “The Alcalde”…a half-hour television complement to the print publication.

As a result, the LHN expanded their segment on Sarah Bird to include the Libraries as a major component of the show.

It’s amazing what sort of impact a single happy patron can make.

Who Are You?

 

Pennebaker on pronouns

The Libraries wraps its successful first semester run of the lunchtime Research + Pizza talk series with noted author, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology James Pennebaker speaking about how the words we use can expose hidden meanings about our feelings, intentions and personality traits.

Pennebaker’s latest book The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us hones in on the words that he calls “keys to the soul,” and what the most routine of descriptors of self reveal about our state of mind.

The talk takes place at noon on Wednesday, November 2 in the Perry-Castañeda Library, room 2.500.

Free Pizza (while it lasts) generously provided by program supporter Austin’s Pizza.

All’s Fair for Research Week

Next week, anyone needing to see the value of research at the university need only to step foot on campus.

Beginning on Monday, April 11, and continuing through Friday, April 15, the hard work of students gets a bit more visibility as part of Research Week 2011, this year’s installment of the annual campus-wide celebration of undergraduate research and creative activity featuring a combination of existing programs plus events and activities, and highlighting the many research opportunities available to students.

As a part of our central role on campus to provide the informational foundation for research at the university, the Libraries will host our third annual All Libraries Fair on the Plaza at the Perry-Castañeda Library on Wednesday, April 13, from 11:30am-1:30pm. Representatives from each of the ten campus branch libraries will be on hand with games, activities and information related to the Libraries and their resources.

There will be juggling, contests, prizes and cotton candy, so come join the fun, learn a little and see the significance of research at your university.

(Special thanks to Mayank Aranke – Biochemistry, Social Work – who appears at 1:36 in the following video and makes a case for your libraries.)

Tip Jars in the Library?

We all know the cliche, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so in age of YouTube and TwitterLibrary Instruction Services decided that collapsing our text-heavy web pages into succinct and visually stimulating comics and videos would help bridge new media, instruction-on-demand, and quick reference for our time-strapped undergraduates.

The idea for these short light-hearted videos evolved over time to incorporate comics instead of actor librarians; we’re slightly camera shy here and creating comic alto-egos mean we’ll never have a bad hair day. Staff in Library Instruction Services scripted the vignettes, and our Library Assistant and resident-artist Elise Nacca and Graduate Research Assistant Krystal Wyatt-Baxter used a free version of Bitstrips to create characters and dialogue incorporating the scripted scenarios.

Since their release in September 2010, the Tip Jar posts have covered topics such as how to use Google Scholar, narrowing a topic and placing it in context , finding E-Books and more.

Creating this digital content means that it’s easily distributed and re-purposed depending on student and staff needs. For instance, Tip Jar instructional videos are integrated with a collection of videos created by students from our 2009 Library Video Contest to be used in the Undergraduate Studies First-year Interest Group program as a way to introduce the students to library services in a fun and flexible way. We’ve also included these videos within our online research guides for course-integrated instruction or during a reference exchange over our Ask A Librarian chat service.

The posts run every other Monday on our News For Undergraduates Blog, which also incorporates events, resources, and items of interest for the University of Texas undergrad community. Stop by and get a tip from us!

Cindy Fisher is the First-year Experience Librarian, Library Instruction Services.


Surviving the Crunch

The days get shorter in more ways than you can imagine this time of the year, especially around the university campus as the final push of the semester evinces itself in the form of projects, papers and tests.

The Libraries does its part to help minimize the stress with a program meant to promote those resources and services that make the tasks at hand a tad less imposing.

This year’s Crunch Time outreach initiative highlighted library services and resources for students at The University of Texas at Austin between the hours of 11am-3pm on November 9, 10 &11. The program purpose is to promote the availability of in-person, drop-by assistance, subject librarian consultations, and the UT Libraries Ask a Librarian IM and email services.

During Crunch Time students are provided with Ask a Librarian contact cards attached to mini-Nestle Crunch bars, a series of time saving handouts and increased staffing at service points.  A brief survey to determine awareness of service options is made available from UT Libraries computer workstations across the campus, and students who participate are entered in a prize drawing.

First introduced by the Reference and Information Services department at UT’s Perry-Castaneda Library in 2008, Crunch Time has become an annual event and three additional UT Libraries locations participated this year, increasing its reach.

Statistics indicate that students took advantage of the program and more of them were connected with the information they wanted, at point of need, as a result. Of the three locations reporting, there were 536 queries, with a large number of those (199) occurring on Wednesday, November 10, at the Perry-Castañeda (105) and Fine Arts (94) Libraries. There were also 193 participants in the services web survey.

Jenifer Flaxbart is Head of Reference & Information Services for the University of Texas Libraries.

See more images from Crunch Time programs here.