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.

 

 

Detail of 1935 map of Austin redlines.

Read, Hot and Digitized: New Website Maps Discriminatory Redlining Practices

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this new series, librarians from UTL’s Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship.  Our hope is that these monthly reviews will inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America lets users visualize the maps of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) on a scale that is unprecedented. The HOLC was created in 1933 to help citizens refinance home mortgages to prevent foreclosures. Directed by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the HOLC surveyed 239 cities and produced “residential security maps” that color-coded neighborhoods and metropolitan areas by credit worthiness and risk. These maps and the discriminatory practice they exemplified and enabled later came to be known as redlining.

Los Angeles redline map

If you zoom to Los Angeles, CA in Mapping Inequality (I recommend taking a moment to read the short introduction and how to) you will see the historic redline maps overlaid on a web-based map, a color-coded legend that describes areas from Best to Hazardous, and an information panel where you can immediately explore an overview and download raw data. Zoom in further, click a red section of the map, and the “area description” will load in the information panel. The initial view is curated and gives you an immediate impression of how these maps and accompanying documents perpetuated and institutionalized discrimination. You can also view the full demographic data and a scan of the original paperwork.

I encourage you to look at cities you are familiar with, it’s startling how the effects of these maps are apparent today. This is a work in progress so not every city surveyed by the HOLC is represented or complete.  Unfortunately, the accompanying documents for Austin are not available, but you can view the entire 1935 Austin map on the PCL Map Collection website. (You can also find a digitized reprint of the notorious Austin city plan from the 1920s at Texas ScholarWorks.)

1935 map of Austin, Texas, with redline demarcations.
1935 map of Austin, Texas, with redline demarcations.

I chose to highlight this mapping project because redlining maps are a critical example of the power of maps and this interface was beautifully constructed to illustrate their impact.

Mapping Inequality is part of American Panorama: An Atlas of United States History. While American Panorama is a project by the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond, Mapping Inequality is a product of many collaborations. Participants from universities across the country worked on many aspects of the data collection and transcription and the Panorama toolkit, open source software used to create these maps, was developed by Stamen Design. I also recommend exploring the latest map added to American Panorama, Renewing Inequity: Urban Renewal, Family Displacements, and Race 1955-1966.

 

 

Dongpo chan xi ji. Text.

Taiwan Studies Gets Attention from Conference, Books

The North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA) Annual conference was held at UT on May 24-26, 2018, the third time in Austin since its inauguration in 1994 (previously 1998/2009/2018), reflecting the strong interest in Taiwan Studies at the University of Texas in Austin.

This year, the theme of the conference was “Beyond an Island: Taiwan in Comparative Perspective.” Thirty invited scholars, sixty presenters and thirty NATSA staff gathered on campus to discuss their research on Taiwan. Despite the tight schedule, a number of the international participants were able to join Meng-fen Su, East Asian Studies Liaison Librarian, for a library tour of PCL, during which they shared their admiration for the library’s rich collection and innovative use of spaces.

As one of the funding sponsors, many of TECO Houston (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston which functions like Taiwan’s consulate Office in Houston) officers also attended the conference. Meng-fen Su was contacted early in the planning so that TECO could donate a collection of books to the University of Texas Libraries and so that a book donation ceremony could be held during the NATSA Conference Welcome Ceremony. Five librarians from UT Libraries attended the ceremony and Catherine Hamer, Director of Academic Engagement, received the books on behalf of the library.

 

Catherine Hamer received a representative pack of donated books from Peter Chen, Director General of TECO, Houston.
Catherine Hamer received a representative pack of donated books from Peter Chen, Director General of TECO, Houston.

 

UTL librarians with TECO representatives, including Ms. Sophie Chou, Director of Education Division (right 2nd), Mr. Peter Chen, Director General (right 4) and Mr. Yintso Lin, Deputy Director General (left 2).
UTL librarians with TECO representatives, including Ms. Sophie Chou, Director of Education Division (right 2nd), Mr. Peter Chen, Director General (right 4) and Mr. Yintso Lin, Deputy Director General (left 2).

 

The books donated by TECO are primarily books by or about Su Shi (or Su Shih in Wade-Giles romanization, 蘇軾 / 苏轼 in traditional / simplified Chinese scripts, 1037-1101) who is better known by his literary name: Su Dongpo  (or Su Tung-p’o in Wade-Giles romanization, 蘇東坡/苏东坡), who was “unquestionably one of the most extraordinary men ever to grace the world of Chinese arts and letters.” (from Beata Grant’s Prologue to her Mount Lu Revisited: Buddhism in the life and writings of Su Shih). Su Dongpo was also a major political figure of his time, not to mention a painter, calligrapher, Buddhist, philosopher, classicist and connoisseur of the arts. The TECO donation includes 93 Taiwan publications of contemporary writings about Su Dongpo and 31 facsimiles of rare fine editions of books related to Su Dongpo, produced from the collection of National Central Library (Taiwan).

Link to UTL’s catalog of books by Su Dongpo

Link to UTL’s catalog of books about Su Dongpo

Two of the facsimiles titles UT received from TECO Houston:

 

A translation of one of Su Dongpo’s most famous song lyric (ci) from Word, Image and Deed in the Life of Su Shi 

To the tune “Recalling Her Charms” Cherishing the Past at Red Cliff. 念奴嬌: 赤壁懷古.

The great river flows east,

Its waves scouring away

The dashing heroes of a thousand ages.

West of the abandoned fortifications,

People says, is

Master Zhou’s Red Cliff of the Three Kingdoms,

Crags and boulders poke through the sky,

Frightening waves pound the bank,

Enveloping a thousand piles of snow.

The river and mountains are like a painting,

How many brave warriors were here!

 

Dimly I picture Gongjin then:

He had just married Little Qiao,

Valor shone everywhere in his bearing

His fan of plumes, kerchief of silk—

As he chatted and laughed,

Masts and hulls became flying ashes and smoke.

My soul wanders the ancient realm,

So full of feeling, other will laugh at me,

My hair turns grey prematurely.

Life is like a dream,

Let me pour a libation to the river moon.

Scan from the Flora of Forfarshire collection.

Happy 10th Birthday, Texas ScholarWorks!

Texas ScholarWorks (formerly the University of Texas Digital Repository) went into production in September 2008. Texas ScholarWorks (TSW) was created to provide open, online access to the products of the University’s research and scholarship, preserve these works for future generations, promote new models of scholarly communication and deepen community understanding of the value of higher education. In honor of our first 10 years, we’d like to share some samples of the kinds of important work being shared in TSW.

  • A wearable technology costume from the Sharir Collection (photo by Mark Doroba)
    A wearable technology costume from the Sharir Collection (photo by Mark Doroba)

    Dance professor, Yacov Sharir, has donated his archive of videos and documents related to performances, rehearsals, workshops and events that span his four decade career at UT. UT Libraries digitized the contents of this collection and worked with Dr. Sharir, Beth Kerr, and Katie Van Winkle to describe the materials. The resulting collection in TSW is a treasure trove of information about the dance community in Austin.

  • UT Communications professor, Robert Hopper (1945-1998), recorded thousands of hours of everyday conversations between people over the phone, in recorded messages, and in person. Approximately 200 hours of those recordings, and their associated transcripts, are available in TSW. This is a unique collection for those who study spoken language.
  • The Center for Electromechanics (CEM) has chosen to share their conference proceedings, publications, and reports via Texas ScholarWorks. CEM is a leading applied research unit on campus and their researchers are recognized experts in advanced energy storage and power generation rotating machines for both intermittent and continuous duty applications.
  • Waller Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, goes through the UT campus and is a focus of research for people at UT and in the Austin community. In an effort to improve the efficiency of finding information about Waller Creek, researchers have chosen to use Texas ScholarWorks as an archive for the publications, data, maps, images and class projects about the creek.
  • Perhaps the most unique materials any university collects is their collection of theses and dissertations. UT Austin has over 60,000 theses and dissertations, and almost 23,000 of them are available in TSW. In fact, one of our most downloaded items in TSW is a masters report by Andrew Dapprich about starting up a gym.
  • Before his death in 2006, club owner and Austin music scene icon Clifford Antone brought his vast knowledge of music — more specifically the blues and rock and roll — to the Forty Acres for a lecture series hosted by the Department of Sociology called “The History of the Blues According to Clifford Antone.” The  series of lectures was recorded and resides both in the collection of the Fine Arts Library and online at Texas ScholarWorks.

Photograph from the Sharir Collection taken between 1980-1996.
Photograph from the Sharir Collection taken between 1980-1996.

The process of making content available in TSW is a team project and has been from the start. The launch of TSW was the work of Project Institutional Repository Implementation (IRI) which started in early 2008. Over the course of approximately one year, the Project IRI team contributed 4,505 hours of work towards the launch and promotion of TSW. At the conclusion of the project in January 2009 there were 5,961 items in TSW. Today we have over 58,000 items. You can find documentation from Project IRI in TSW.

Many thanks to the Project IRI team, current UT Libraries staff working on TSW, and our partners at Texas Digital Library.

 

 

 

OpenStax science textbooks: OpenStax has been creating openly licensed college textbooks since 2012.

Starting the Conversation About OERs

If you follow open access initiatives in the news or #OA on Twitter, chances are you have heard about open educational resources (OER). From a $5 million federal grant to fund an open textbook pilot program, to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s recent announcement of twenty OER grants statewide in Texas, it’s clear that OER are here to stay.

But is UT ready?

What is OER?

As defined by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), “Open Education encompasses resources, tools and practices that are free of legal, financial and technical barriers and can be fully used, shared and adapted in the digital environment.” Open Education Resources are free to use and access, but the logistics of acquiring, managing, implementing access to, and defining OER is challenging for academic libraries. UT Libraries, along with our campus partners, are working to meet that challenge.

In response to a UT Libraries survey of potential scholarly communication projects for 2018, an OER Outreach Working Group was formed to create tools, resources, and training to help subject liaison librarians engage with OER issues.

What does the OER Outreach Working Group do?

The OER Outreach Working Group is comprised of librarians and professional staff from across campus. We meet monthly, and develop projects that seek to achieve the following:

  • Determine gaps in understanding or confidence
  • Look at peer institutions and/or best practices in OER education
  • Decide on resources to help address deficiencies
  • Plan for any informational workshops or the creation of resources
  • Get feedback on effectiveness of created resources
  • Make suggestions or plans for outreach about OER

Getting started: OER workshop for UT librarians, faculty, and staff

UT Libraries and the OER Working Group hosted 30 participants from departments across campus at a half-day workshop on July 24. The purpose of the workshop was to help campus partners define OER; introduce Creative Commons licensing; learn how to describe OER characteristics and benefits to faculty members and students; and be able to locate OER relevant to their discipline.

Two UT Austin faculty members shared their experience using and adopting OER for their courses. Dr. Jocelly Meiners, Lecturer in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, uses OER lesson plans and exercises to teach her courses for Heritage Spanish learners. She articulated the need for OER among language faculty and their students, as many specialized courses do not have teaching materials commercially available. Dr. Amanda Hager, Lecturer in the  Department of Mathematics, shared her commitment to using OER to help lower financial costs for students and discussed faculty’s challenges to creating, using, and adopting OER. In post-workshop survey responses, many participants noted that hearing from faculty provided the meaningful insights about OER adoption, creation, and use – and would like to hear more from faculty at future workshops.

What’s next for OER at UT?

UT campus partners are ready to learn more about OER. Starting in Fall 2018, OER will be promoted at the new faculty expo and the Working Group will begin updating select LibGuides to incorporate more OERs for student and faculty use. The OER Working Group plans to re-invest in future workshops geared toward specific groups and/or projects, and if you are interested in learning more about OERs please contact UT Libraries Scholarly Communications Librarian, Colleen Lyon at c.lyon@austin.utexas.edu.

Infographic from UT’s Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL)
Infographic from UT’s Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL)

Download the PDF   

Who is the OER Outreach Working Group?

The OER Outreach Working Group is made up of eight members comprised of three organizations:

Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL)

Nathalie Steinfeld Childre (Publications Manager), Sarah Sweeney (Project Coordinator)

Texas Digital Library (TDL)

Lea DeForest (Communications Strategist)

UT Libraries

Gina Bastone (Humanities Librarian for English Literature & Women’s and Gender Studies), Sarah Brandt (Librarian for First Year Programs), Carolyn Cunningham (Social Sciences Liaison Librarian), Lydia Fletcher (STEM Liaison Librarian for Physical & Mathematical Sciences), Colleen Lyon (Scholarly Communications Librarian

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.

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.

 

Catalina Delgado-Trunk

Benson Collection Acquires the Catalina Delgado-Trunk Papers

BY DANIEL ARBINO

The Benson Latin American Collection is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Catalina Delgado-Trunk Papers. Delgado-Trunk is a Mexican-born artist known for her work in the intricate papel picado art form. The contents of the papers include correspondence, program materials, press releases, news clippings, exhibit slides, and files. Undoubtedly, the true gems of the acquisition are the approximately 250 sketches, drawings, and drafts that Delgado-Trunk created to document her process as an artist.

Example of invitation for a Delgado-Trunk exhibit
Example of invitation for a Delgado-Trunk exhibit

Delgado-Trunk is no stranger to The University of Texas at Austin. She earned her BA in French with a focus on literature here in 1965, and the city holds a special place in her heart, for it is in Austin that she met her husband Jim, then a student at St. Edward’s University. After graduating, Delgado-Trunk pursued a career in teaching French and ballet while raising two children at home. However, her decision to reenroll in a visual arts program at the age of 49 is what set her on a path of artistic self-discovery that would reconnect her to her childhood in Mexico City.

Catalina Delgado-Trunk
Catalina Delgado-Trunk

Since then, the artist has become world-renowned for her expertise in papel picado, the rich Mexican tradition of elaborate and decorative paper cutting with roots in the Aztec use of a rough paper called amatl. The art form took off with the introduction of a thin tissue paper from the Philippines that arrived during the colonial era.

The process of creating high-end papel picado is painstaking and intense. Delgado-Trunk employs a strict routine that consists of researching the Mesoamerican subject matter through countless books, sketching rough drafts on graph or clear print paper, copying the final drawing onto an architectural copy machine, stapling the copy-paper drawing to a final sheet, and then using an x-acto knife to cut out the negative space. The x-acto knife portion alone can last 10 to 40 hours. Finally, she glues the cutout work to an acid-free fine art paper background.

This draft helps demonstrate Delgado-Trunk’s process in creating papel picado
This draft helps demonstrate Delgado-Trunk’s process in creating papel picado

Papel picado interests Delgado-Trunk for its cultural synthesis. Asian, indigenous, Iberian, and African influences all worked together to foster the art form through goods, trade routes, and subject matter. Delgado-Trunk, who grew up in Mexico during the 1940s and 1950s, an era marked by the promotion of cultural syncretism as found in the artwork of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, pays homage to this period through her pieces. For two decades now, the artist has made works that blend pre-Columbian stories and images with subjects from the contemporary world, such as Mexican Catholic iconography. Camino al Mictlán and Las Tres Catrinas are two examples of her fascination with indigeneity in Mexico, while Mestizaje highlights the cultural syncretism between indigenous and European groups.

Final draft of Mestizaje (photo by Blue Tube Studio)
Final draft of Mestizaje (photo by Blue Tube Studio)

Aside from her own pieces, Delgado-Trunk has been instrumental in passing on her knowledge to younger generations through workshops and classroom visits, particularly in New Mexico, where she now resides. Her papers include many thank-you cards from students and teachers whose lives she has affected. Her impact has been noticed: among her many awards are the 2015 Annual New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, a 2013 Acknowledgment and Recognition by the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners in New Mexico, and a 2005 Award of Excellence from the New Mexico Committee of Women in the Arts. She has also exhibited her works in places as prestigious as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.

Letter from Helen R. Lucero of the National Hispanic Cultural Center to Catalina Delgado-Trunk congratulating her on a successful exhibit
Letter from Helen R. Lucero of the National Hispanic Cultural Center to Catalina Delgado-Trunk congratulating her on a successful exhibit

The Catalina Delgado-Trunk Papers will make for a wonderful addition to the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, which houses strong archival collections related to art, such as the Carmen Lomas Garza Papers and Artworks, the Marta Sanchez Papers and the Romo Collection of Mexican American Art Prints. In particular, this new collection promises to be of interest to scholars focused on art and Mexican and Mexican American cultural studies.


Daniel Arbino is Librarian for US Latina/o Studies at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.

Héctor Sánchez Sánchez of Tribunal Superior de Justicia, Puebla, and Virginia Garrard, director, LLILAS Benson, with the newly signed agreement

LLILAS Benson Partnership with Puebla Archive to Yield Rich Results

Four Centuries of Rare Documents Will Be Digitized

August 8, 2018, was an auspicious day for students of Mexican history. An agreement signed between LLILAS Benson and the Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Estado de Puebla marks the official start of a project to digitize a large collection of archival materials from the Fondo Real de Cholula. Funding for the project comes from a Mellon Foundation grant obtained by LLILAS Benson.

The archives in question, which originate in the Mexican town of Cholula, Puebla State, consist of approximately 200 boxes and span some four centuries, from the 1500s to the late nineteenth century. Once digitized, they will be made available to researchers on an open-access platform by the Benson Latin American Collection and the University of Texas Libraries. The materials document, among other things, how Indigenous residents of Cholula navigated colonial judicial structures unique to their special juridical status.

Professor Kelly McDonough (second from left), LLILAS Benson director Virginia Garrard (third from left) , Lidia Gómez García (second from right) and members of the Puebla team celebrate the agreement
Professor Kelly McDonough (second from left), LLILAS Benson director Virginia Garrard (third from left) , Lidia Gómez García (second from right) and members of the Puebla team celebrate the agreement

A Rich Trove of Information

The materials will provide a rich trove of information about the colonial period, referred to in Mexico as la época novohispana. Cholula was one of only nine locations to be designated a ciudad de indios (in contrast, there were 21 ciudades de españoles). Ciudades de indios had a different justice system than others. Indigenous people paid their tribute directly to the king instead of to a colonial intermediary; they enjoyed certain privileges, and they maintained a fully functioning Indigenous cabildo, or council, which ruled alongside the Spanish one. “This allowed for a degree of Indigenous autonomy and exercise of special privileges in the new colonial context,” explains Professor Kelly McDonough of the UT Austin Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

LLILAS Benson might never have known about the collection in question had it not been for McDonough, who identified the collection as a good candidate for digitization. She emphasizes that the digitization of ciudad de indios documents has immense historical significance: “It’s the first time we will be able to understand what Indigenous justice meant in place with a very specific juridical designation and relationship with the king of Spain. We believe that the other eight judicial archives from ciudades de indios burned in the Mexican Revolution.”

“The chronological range of the collection will allow scholars to study how Indigenous practices adapted to Spanish rule, how new practices developed over the course of the early-modern period, and how both Indigenous and Spanish practices further adapted to modern political and legal structures in the nineteenth century,” adds LLILAS Benson digital processing archivist David Bliss.

Benson Collection archivists Dylan Joy (l) and David Bliss conducted a digitization training in Puebla earlier this year
Benson Collection archivists Dylan Joy (l) and David Bliss conducted a digitization training in Puebla earlier this year

The Digitization Process

A team of three historians from Puebla and Cholula will work in Puebla to digitize the collection, creating two digital copies—one to remain in Puebla and the other to be sent to Austin for preservation and online publication. In addition, all of the digitized materials will be extensively described using a metadata template developed by LLILAS Benson and its Puebla partners. The historians involved in the project are experts in sixteenth-through-nineteenth-century Cholula.

Dra. Lidia Gómez García of Facultad de Filosofía y Letras at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) was instrumental in keeping interest in the project going amid inevitable delays. Together, she and McDonough helped choose the personnel to carry out the important work of digitization and creating of metadata for the collection. LLILAS Benson Director Virginia Garrard relates that the team working with the archives in Puebla feels a deep and personal connection with the material; the fact that they are rescuing their own patrimony from decay is immensely meaningful to them.

A member of the digitization team shows examples of the decayed state of some of the Cholula archives
A member of the digitization team shows examples of the decayed state of some of the Cholula archives

Last June 2018, Bliss and LLILAS Benson archivist Dylan Joy conducted a training workshop in Puebla for the digitization team. The team will carry out the project using a DSLR camera and two laptops, as well as the digital photography program Adobe Lightroom. The equipment, purchased by LLILAS Benson with Mellon grant funds, will be donated to the Puebla archive at the conclusion of the project, which is set for early May 2019. Bliss estimates that the project will digitize some 45,000 pages of documents.

The final, digitized documents will be ingested into the Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI) platform, allowing researchers to form connections between the Fondo Real de Cholula documents and other collections on the platform.

A Groundbreaking Collaboration

Director Garrard, herself a historian, hails this project for bringing to light lesser-known historical actors. “This collaboration represents the lives and voices of groups traditionally omitted from the historical record,” she said. “The signing event highlighted the power of close and horizontal relationships between our two institutions, so clearly evident in the presentations of the young Mexican technical specialists and students who described for us their work with the documents, both as material artifacts and as historical sources.”

Sánchez and Garrard sign the historic agreement between Puebla High Court (TSJ) and LLILAS Benson
Sánchez and Garrard sign the historic agreement between Puebla High Court (TSJ) and LLILAS Benson

Quoted in Puebla’s El Popular, Héctor Sánchez Sánchez, presiding magistrate of the Tribunal Superior de Justicia, noted Puebla’s pride in the collaboration: the digitization of Fondo Real de Cholula is the first digitization project at an institution in the Mexican justice system. “Even more so for those of us who are part of this institution,” said Sánchez, “[the rescue of] this archive can achieve a change in the way we understand history.”

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.