A happy convergence of circumstances at the beginning of the recent academic year resulted in a creative endeavor that highlights the Libraries, its users and the students who represent the quality of talent at The University of Texas at Austin.
Reia was a guitarist for Berkeley-area punk band The Criminals in the 1990s, active during a time when the city was spawning a pop-punk revival that manifested bands that would go on to garner broad attention, such as Rancid, The Offspring and Green Day. His connection to the punk music scene and the various players in a place where record stores are in abundance made it possible for Reia to build an exceptional collection of genre-specific gems.
Reia’s collection was donated to the FAL’s Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC) by Reia’s mother, Flora Salyers, and his wife, Tamara Schatz, with the hope that the music he had spent his life compiling would benefit future students, faculty and researchers who rely on the archive as a resource. Salyers delivered the collection herself, hauling the records in her car on a road trip from Little Rock, Arkansas, after a series of consultations with Hunter.
Reia’s lifetime of collecting — and his family’s decision to make the donation of materials — serves to fill a genre gap in the HMRC. Punk music was notably underrepresented as a focus within the archive, but the addition of such a range of items, many of which are uncommon or even obscure, has opened a new avenue of development for the collection.
This fall also saw the opening of the new Learning Commons in PCL, including the new expanded Media Lab on the ground level of the building. The lab is designed to provide students and other users access to the tools needed to build creative multimedia projects that are increasingly the currency of productivity in the higher ed learning environment. The lab is managed by Libraries Teaching and Learning professionals, but is staffed by students — Media Lab Assistants — from the University Leadership Network, a program of the UT Provost’s office designed to help undergraduate students from historically disadvantaged communities develop leadership skills while achieving academic success consistent with graduating in four years.
Lab assistants come from a range of different fields of study across campus, and work in tandem with their supervisors to develop expertise in the use of hardware/software in order to share their skills with fellow students who use the lab. Some of the assistants were chosen by the Media Lab managers for skills and knowledge they already had, such as Charisma Soriano, a junior Marketing and Radio-Television-Film major, who has experience with filmmaking and production. Charisma brought with her an understanding of that process which has been invaluable for Libraries staff.
To expand the opportunities for the ULN students in the Media Lab, as well as to fill a need for the Libraries, Charisma and her fellow lab assistants Lucia Aremu — junior Government major — and Jocelyn Mendoza — junior, Education — were approached by their supervisors to see if they would be interested in making a short film to highlight some aspect of the Libraries efforts; the subject matter was left completely to the students’ own interests. All three enthusiastically agreed to take on the project, and settled on the Reia punk collection as the focus for their effort.
Working in coordination with Media Lab Manager Andy Wilbur, the students toured the HMRC collection (located at the Collections Deposit Library) with David Hunter, conducted preliminary interviews with Hunter and Katherine Strickland — PCL Map Collection manager and punk music aficionado — then organized, shot, edited and produced a short documentary film on the collection, which is viewable below.
The Libraries relies on the generosity of donors and the talent of students and staff to make efforts such as this possible.
The preliminary estimate for processing the Reia Punk Collection is estimated at $8,000 — covering the cost of a graduate research assistant and cataloging. Consider donating to the Fine Arts Library to make this collection available for use by students, faculty, researchers and scholars.
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.
It’s been a year of change at UT and the University of Texas Libraries, with the arrival of new leadership and major transformations taking place across the campus.
As we prepare to close out the final page on the calendar, it’s worthwhile to take a look back at a year in which the Libraries and the university entered a period of renewal.
As staff eagerly anticipated the arrival of a new director after the departure of former Vice Provost Fred Heath, construction began on the Learning Commons at the Perry-Castañeda Library in January — a 20,000 square foot renovation that represented the largest transformation of space in the building’s history. The space opened at the beginning of the fall semester with an event featuring some 200 attendees including new UT President Gregory Fenves and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Randy Diehl. With the relocation of the University Writing Center to its new digs in the Learning Commons, the PCL is seeing more activity than at any time in recent memory.
Lorraine J. Haricombe arrived in February from her previous post at the University of Kansas to chart a new course for the Libraries, bringing with her fresh ideas and perspectives as well as a record of successes in the field of open access. After a short period of acclimatization during the spring, Haricombe enlisted staff to help her envision and begin to implement a new path for the organization, one that has grown in momentum to the current day.
Cultural advocates Theresa Lozano Long and Nettie Lee Benson were honored in a ceremony with leaders, family, friends and supporters at Sid Richardson Hall that saw the unveiling of twin plaques recognizing the great ladies’ contributions to the Latin American Studies at the university in March.
A pair ofNEH grants buttressed research support efforts by the Libraries as staff committed more energy to seek public funding for essential projects. And a grant from the Hearst Foundation provided a boost for the construction of a broad-ranging makerspace — The Foundry — at the FAL, which will support students across campus, but especially in the new Creative Arts, Entertainment and Technology program announced this year at UT.
Partnerships at home and abroad evidenced the way in which libraries can contribute to the preservation of and access to the historical record. A web-based medieval mapping project — MappaMundi — launched after a collaborative effort involving Libraries technology staff and faculty from the College of Liberal Arts, and partners in Kigali and Great Britain announced the launch of the expanded and updated Genocide Archive of Rwanda, marking the latest grand success of a years-long relationship.
And collections continued to grow, especially in areas of distinction, thanks to the hard work of staff who circumnavigate the globe in search of rare and niche materials — as Telugu pulp fiction acquired by a bibliographer in Hyderabad — and by donors, as well, who provide resources in new and underrepresented subjects to benefit current and future researchers — like the Freud Reia punk collection, now part of the Historical Music Recordings Collection.
Plenty of other gains were made this year, but it would be remiss not to talk about a few noteworthy losses the Libraries experienced, too. Along with the normal churn of staff that occurs over time in an organization, we saw a late-year spate of retirements by some of our foremost and long-serving librarians. Engineering Librarian Susan Ardis, Life Sciences Librarian Nancy Elder and Physics-Mathematics-Astronomy Librarian Molly White all contemplated careers of success and left behind their respective legacies for the next generation. Colleagues have honored their contributions with the career reflections offered below.
From Larayne Dallas
Susan used to tell us that she’d been around since dirt was a baby but actually she started work as Head, Engineering Library in 1979. She came to Austin after serving Galveston’s Rosenberg Library as Head of Reference. It was Michigan (and Wisconsin) before Texas. Susan’s B.A. (History) and A.M.L.S. (Library Science) are from the University of Michigan. She stayed on at Michigan to work in Cataloging, and then for six years was Head of the Natural Science Library.
During Susan’s time at the Engineering Library, valuable endowment funds were added; society publications and technical reports were brought into good order. Engineering was the first at UT to remove the card catalog, to add a CD-ROM index, and to offer computer-aided instruction. Also, Engineering was among the first to offer public computer printing and a computer lab. Engineering became a U.S. Patent and Trademark Depository Library. Susan oversaw the opening (and then the closing) of the Balcones Library Service Center. After Virginia Phillips’s retirement, Susan added responsibilities as Head, Science Libraries Division.
Susan wrote three books and numerous articles. She taught credit classes at UT and (online) at San Jose State. Additionally, she taught patent workshops for the Texas State Library and for SLA (Special Library Association). She won an innovation award from SLA. A particularly big adventure was a consulting job that took her to libraries in Viet Nam.
Colleagues remember Susan as full of energy and always ready with innovative ideas in support of providing better library service.
From Liz DeHart
I had the pleasure of working with Nancy for 16 great years and I cannot say enough what she has meant to me. As mentor, friend and colleague, she’s been an inspiration for all of us at UT Libraries.
One of the most memorable times with Nancy was during my interview for the position I hold now at the Marine Science Library. She, Virginia P. and I flew in a small state plane to Port Aransas to meet with MSI faculty and staff. My nerves were already scrambled just thinking about the interview and flying in that “puddle jumper” really added to my nervousness. I remember Nancy telling me, “it’ll be okay.”
Nancy was an instrumental part of the Science Team, sharing her wisdom and keen sense of wit. She always had this knack for providing great analogies when describing certain points, whether it was work-related or just part of daily life. Loved it! Nancy was open, honest and good-hearted and because of that, she entrusted me with the Marine Science Library. I respected that very much and could not have asked for a better working relationship.
With all that comes with retirement, I wish you a happy one, Nancy. It’s been a blessing to work with you and I shall miss you, as we all will.
~~ HAPPY QUILTING, m’friend!
From Dennis Trombatore
Molly White joined the Science Library crew in 1987. I had been here for two years, but Molly was already an old timer with a deep institutional memory. She had been an undergraduate and a Library School Master’s student at UT, and worked for the Libraries as early as 1968. She worked in the Tower when it was still the Main Library, she worked in a number of other units, and during that period she also took a long break and worked for Texas Pacific Film in Austin, so she has deep ‘old Austin’ cred. When she came to the science group, she was at the Balcones Service Center and at Life Sciences before she became the PMA Librarian in 1991.
Molly took on a formidable group of traditionalists in her disciplines, and despite a rough couple of years during our first wave of serious journal cancellations, she rose above it and developed strong working relationships with all three groups, working back and forth across the lines to develop new technologies and services while maintaining the core capabilities that her scientists required. She has also wrestled with the vagaries of her space, spearheading a number of improvements that made PMA a better and more user friendly library.
Molly took a keen interest in our organization, and has served on numerous projects, committees and task forces through the years, as well as in the profession, where she has been very active in the Physics Mathematics Astronomy Division of the Special Libraries Association and served on a number of science publishing advisory groups. Her colleagues know her as someone willing to ask difficult questions, and work with a team to find good solutions. Molly has been a real contributor, a good colleague, and a friend. I am grateful to have had her as a member of our team, and we will all miss her.
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.
You may remember me, my name is Rosa Muñoz and I am a junior majoring in Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. I previously wrote a blog post last December. I wanted to update you on the last year.
During my time here at UT I have realized that it takes a lot of effort and time management to be successful in your academic years as an undergraduate. I never imagined myself being capable of attending such a prestigious university, being involved in organizations, and working all at the same time. As you may remember, I was the first in my family to attend college, and I am happy to share that my sister is attending college as well. With family resources being tighter, I now have to be even more responsible than before in order to keep attending UT. Thankfully UT Libraries offered me a second position as a student associate. Words cannot express how grateful I am to have received work study this year in addition to my ULN internship. It has been a struggle trying to support myself and I am thankful that UT Libraries has helped me make ends meet.
As graduation gets closer, the pressure to do the best that I can gets even stronger. But since I’ve started working at the UT Libraries I have come to find it to be one of the best places to work. My supervisors and the library staff are very generous and understanding when I come to them for help or advice. I so appreciate it when I am able to study once I am done with my assignments at work. It really helps, because sometimes I get home pretty late from meetings with my extracurricular activities. Not to mention, all the things that I have learned at this internship. In the past year, I have learned new software like Excel and Adobe InDesign, I coordinated an event for graduating student workers, made thank you calls to donors, and communicated with UT Libraries supporters about events. I also helped advertise the Hornraiser campaign for the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio by organizing a photo booth. This work has helped me get out of my shell by promoting it on social media and handing out fliers to people. These are some of the many reasons I decided to continue working at the PCL. I did not want to lose the connections and relationships that I have created here at the libraries.
I plan to go to graduate school in order to get my masters in either clinical psychology or counseling. I’m still unsure of what path I want to pursue, but my dream is to have my own practice someday. I know it is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication, but that is one of the many things I have learned here at UT.
I’m trying to take full advantage of the resources at UT Libraries. They’ve gotten me pretty far and I know I’m not the only one. Our libraries offer study spaces, computer access, research and writing help, and almost endless information. Please consider making an end of year contribution to the UT Libraries to help support resources like these.
Be generous and give today. Thank you for making a gift that will support all students.