All posts by lorraine j haricombe

As we Return…

Welcome and welcome back, Longhorns!

We hope you had an exciting and/or restful summer reprieve, with time to reflect on your successes so far, and to look ahead to the coming academic year.

We’re feeling optimistic about the ongoing reset after our experiences with the health crisis, and the work of UT Libraries is returning to a sense of normalcy and stability that begins to recall its former state.

We have learned much in the past few years, and now that we are feeling more confident in the outlook, we’ve begun to apply that knowledge to our planning for the future. Much of this work revolves around the different ways in which people learned to use libraries during the pandemic when operations moved to remote then hybrid environments, and the residual practices that users developed out of that experience. But a key area to which we have committed our efforts is one that found currency during the crisis and was motivated by social upheavals and the subsequent reflective period that occurred as a result.

The concept of Inclusion/Diversity/Equity/Accessibility – IDEA in our work, but recognizable elsewhere as components of DEI – has become a priority for the Libraries. Our staff committed extraordinary effort and time to reviewing our systems and developing an IDEA implementation plan for beginning the ongoing work of integrating IDEA concepts into the normal operations and systems of this institution. We felt this work was such an imperative that we began work before we could feel the ground settle beneath our feet, and we know that moving forward, our recovered stability will help to advance at a greater pace to address inequities that have gone too long overlooked.

This work cannot be ours alone, though. As always, we can only succeed in partnership with our users, advocates and friends. We need praise and recognition when we are making progress, but also criticism and accountability when we fall short. This long journey has begun, and we ask that you accompany us and help navigate these Libraries towards its best future.

We wish you the best for the coming year, and brighter days ahead.

Reflecting on our Pandemic Year

Friends, colleagues and supporters,

Here we are, a year later.

It’s hard to conceive that we’ve just passed the anniversary marking the closure of our libraries in response to a health crisis unprecedented in our lifetimes.

Last year’s halt to classes and the closure of campus came suddenly despite indications that a global crisis was emerging. Students and staff were preparing for leisure time away with family and friends, but we were all acutely aware of looming clouds on the horizon. When word came of the university’s plans to move classes online and shutter the Forty Acres, the Libraries were already considering strategies for maintaining the services and resources that campus needed to operate in the changed environment. When we needed to act, we quickly proved to ourselves that we had an agility that doesn’t normally align with archetypes of traditional libraries. And staff were resilient despite the challenges, stepping up with new ideas and bootstrapping where necessary to keep the Libraries running despite the cloud of uncertainty that surrounded us.

There have been plenty of opportunities since those early days to recognize with great pride the work that has been undertaken by this group of people to hold ourselves accountable to our mission and to persevere despite so many obstacles. But we must not ignore the loss of the past year. We have all experienced costs both individually and collectively, some of which is irrecoverable and will require time and introspection. There has been an overwhelming human toll which has touched most of us in some way or another. There has been a cost to assuming our personal roles in following the recommendations of health authorities in order to help protect our neighbors and communities, and to get the crisis under control. We have forgone opportunities to see family and friends, and we’ve had to sacrifice experiences that we’d hoped would enrich our lives.

Now it appears that we are moving toward a recovery phase in this struggle, too. But the outlines of certainty are still blurred. We must continue to be vigilant in our work and to remain open to change in order to continue to adapt to whatever the future holds. We must continue to adhere to guidance from health officials and scientists. We all long for a return to the relative comfort of normalcy, but with all that has occurred in the past year – the health crisis, social and political upheaval, impassioned debates on cultural issues, historic weather events – the assumptions we had about ourselves and our community a year ago will likely not return in the same form.

And once we have reestablished relative order in our lives, it won’t be with the same view of the world we parted with a year ago. We know more intimately about hazards that seemed at a distance before, so there will be ongoing work to prepare contingencies for whatever may arise, and to further strengthen the work we have done in navigating the challenges of the current environment.

As activity around campus is beginning to heighten, and the beautiful season is upon us in Central Texas, I want to acknowledge my gratitude for all of the effort and perseverance of our community, and the ongoing encouragement of our supporters throughout the last year. So much of our success is attributable to shared values and empathy. I greatly appreciate the part each person played in transcending these precarious times and look forward with you to better times ahead.

Welcome (back) from the University of Texas Libraries!

The beginning of the academic year in the Fall is my favorite time on the 40 acres when UT transforms into a small city of approximately 75,000 people within the vibrant city of Austin. Despite the August heat, the excitement of new students, staff and faculty is palpable as they navigate and explore the campus, the opportunities and the resources available to them. This is exactly where UT Libraries is a significant resource for you!  Please check out our website to learn more about our library materials, services, spaces and our librarians and staff who are ready to assist you at every step of the way.  

The Perry Castañeda Library has the largest circulating collection on campus with more spaces for collaborative work, group study rooms, tutoring and technology-rich learning laboratories. The University’s Writing Center is located here.  There are several other disciplinary libraries around the 40 acres to suit your needs; learn more about the various library locations across campus.

Our goal at UT Libraries is to facilitate knowledge creation whether you are a student, an instructor, faculty or researcher. While this mission has remained unchanged throughout the centuries, the way libraries deliver it has constantly evolved. This evolution is also visible at UT Libraries where we have constantly engaged our users to learn more about their needs. And it will continue as new and emerging technologies impact our services and spaces while policies in higher education will drive how researchers share their research. In all of these scenarios

UT librarians and staff are ready to assist you. Everybody is welcome here!

My words of wisdom to you: Make a librarian your best friend (forever); you will not regret it!

I hope you have a successful and a productive year.

Reviewing Our Pathways and Looking Ahead

Vice Provost and Director Lorraine J Haricombe.During the first four years of my tenure at the university my focus was squarely on positioning the Libraries for new directions where we would do things differently and/or do very different things.  We chose four purposeful pathways as our focus and developed roadmaps to advance them: Collaboration, Digital Scholarship, Distinctive Collections and Spaces. I am deeply indebted to my colleagues who have contributed to these accomplishments and who moved the needle with a deep commitment to excellence in both new and core foundational responsibilities.

As I enter my fifth year as Vice Provost and Director of UT Libraries, we will continue this trend. With the help of the Provost’s Task Force on The Future of the UT Libraries, I am also keenly interested in learning more about the community’s awareness of what they need from the Libraries. More specifically, what library services, expertise, spaces, information resources and opportunities for broader partnership do they expect? How can we position UT Libraries more centrally as a core resource to stimulate student learning in order to advance President Fenves’ priority to unlock their potential? In what ways can librarians and professional experts add value to the research life-cycle that will net more grant funding, or inspire the creation of knowledge by connecting students, faculty, scholars and researchers to dynamic data and specialized or distinctive information resources? And how do we maintain our traditional strength in collection building while ensuring that those collections are appropriately preserved for use by future generations of scholars and students?

As one of the largest research universities in the country, UT must be equipped to support the highest level of research activity. Digital scholarship plays a key role in setting the stage for our continued momentum in investigation and innovation. It facilitates sharing of new knowledge across disciplines. What library facilities could be transformed to position the Libraries as the hub of collaboration, digital innovation and scholarly endeavor on the Forty Acres?

These are opportunities we should pursue and advance to align with and anchor ourselves to the university’s mission in a rapidly changing higher education environment. We are a core node in that environment with high potential to catalyze new forms of scholarship, reshape scholarly communication, energize teaching and seek new campus partners (and beyond) to leverage that potential.

Organizational agility and flexibility to respond to new opportunities will be a necessary component of our work in such an environment. I am very pleased with the progress we have made to date to create structures that will facilitate flexibility and to provide exciting professional growth opportunities through new skills training, projects, research and more.

Together we are poised to take the University of Texas Libraries to new heights and to honor the expectation and pride of our users to maintain a library of the first class that is dynamic, relevant and ready for future possibilities at The University of Texas at Austin.

 

 

 

 

 

Musings from LJH…

Vice Provost and Director Lorraine J Haricombe.An exciting aspect of my role as VP and Director of UT Libraries is the opportunity to meet and discuss academic libraries’ roles in an age of networked information. The rapid rate of change in technology is a key driver but not the only one. The first generation of the twenty-first century has arrived on our campuses with very different expectations of discovering and accessing information and learning styles.

In higher education the internet has enabled new modes of research and communication, new knowledge products. And libraries are stepping up to embed librarians in that life-cycle. Simply put, libraries are at the heart of today’s digital transformation in research and scholarly communication, and  UT Libraries is no exception.

Our commitment is to embrace the core values of our profession to select and acquire, describe, make accessible and preserve valuable resources to support UT’s mission.  Our goal is to remain both relevant and strategic as we continue to assess our services, programs and expertise to leverage very limited resources efficiently.  We do so by engaging our users to understand their needs to position UT Libraries as a significant node in a rapidly changing higher education ecosystem.

The Provost’s new Task Force on “The Future of the UT Libraries is well-timed to have that conversation with our primary stakeholders.  I look forward to an opportunity to listen, understand and share the amazing stories of faculty and students who are impacted by work that happens at UT Libraries every day.

Welcome Back to Campus

Director Lorraine J. HaricombeWelcome back!  I hope the spring semester will be productive and successful for you.

While you were away we have worked quickly to launch UT Libraries’ new website. Check it out at https://www.lib.utexas.edu/  It is our hope that you will find the new website easy to navigate and to learn more about UTL’s News and Featured events. There is a helpful 404 error page in place to redirect users who might be trying to reach legacy content. All of the content on the legacy site will remain intact for the foreseeable future as we continue to migrate to the new site.  Please use the new feature on the site to send us your feedback.

We are also excited to announce the opening of the McKinney Engineering Library in the brand new Engineering Education and Research Center on January 16. The engineering library exemplifies our continuing efforts to rethink what libraries need offer to meet user expectations in a digital environment. We have moved a highly curated collection from the engineering collection on PCL’s 6th floor to the new library.  Beyond books you will find enhanced space and technology — 3000 square feet of new space, including consultation and seminar rooms, 24 new workstations and power outlets aplenty, as well as new printers, scanners and self-checkout.

We also made a change at the end of the fall semester that may have gone unnoticed, but will be of great interest for our undergraduate patrons. Beginning December 1, the Libraries extended loan duration for materials from 28 days to a semester-long period, allowing students greater time to focus on learning and less on managing access to resources.

Our core mission is to support the university’s core mission of research and teaching and to help our students to be successful graduates.  We are here to serve you please let us know how we can help you!

Best wishes for a successful semester.

In Memoriam: Harold W. Billings

The Libraries has witnessed the loss of a luminary leader with the passing of former Director Harold W. Billings.

Harold spent the better part of his life dedicated to the cause of libraries and librarianship. His tenure straddled a period of transition for libraries, with the development of the internet and the evolution of digital technologies impacting the way that users accessed library collections. Billings oversaw the implementation of computerized systems to manage, control and provide access to academic resources while also improving sharing processes for other materials throughout the nation and world.

Harold stands as the longest-serving director of libraries at the university, piloting one of the nation’s largest academic library systems for 25 years. In recognition of that accomplishment, we recently commended him as Emeritus Director at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Perry-Castañeda Library, at which Billings was the inaugural director.

I’m glad to have known Harold as a person, and I’m honored to stand on the shoulders of such a leader. I hope that you’ll join me in remembering his contributions, and follow his example in your advocacy for the noble enterprise to which he dedicated his life.

Sincerely,

Harold W. Billings, 1931-2017

Click here to make a tribute in memory of Harold W. Billings to the UT Libraries.

 

 

Why Austin’s new Central Library is a vision for the future

This commentary originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Wednesday, December 06, 2017.

The Austin Public Library recently opened its spectacular facility with much fanfare to respond to a diversity of needs in the Austin community. Transformed from a traditional library filled with books and other sources of information including media, the new open design sets itself apart as a new standard to address user needs in the 21st century. The timing of the opening of the new Austin Pubic Library is a perfect opportunity to highlight the resurgence of the central role of libraries in their respective communities, whether public, academic or school libraries, as they rethink their relevance amidst fast-paced changes.

Opening of the Austin Central Library

In an information society like ours, libraries are critical to fill equity gaps in society by democratizing access to information, education, skills training and job placement. Simply put, the Austin Public Library epitomizes how libraries elsewhere can be improved to better serve their populations.

The strength of libraries is, after all, their relationship to their communities, whether public or academic. They are centers of learning, social gathering and creativity usually in central spaces, a premium in most communities and on university campuses. The Austin Public Library has not disappointed. In some respects, it is the library of the future and will meet a multitude of needs including shared learning spaces, the technology petting zoo, the innovation lounge, the children’s creative commons and the reading porches.

In a nutshell, libraries must rebrand themselves as technology-rich learning centers. The rapid rate of technological changes, coupled with new user expectations, have accelerated libraries’ transition from mediated services to unmediated services. From online catalogs, to self-checkout machines, to room reservations and laptop checkouts, users can now independently use and reserve library resources that extend well beyond books. And, the old rules don’t work in the new environment. For instance, food and drink, cafes and gift shops have become normal features in libraries.

Makerspace at the Austin Central Library.

Notwithstanding the difference in the primary communities they serve, different types of libraries have implemented changes that are consistent with new needs and expectations. At its opening, Austin Mayor Steve Adler described the Austin Public Library as the “cathedral of Austin.”

A national conference called “Re-think it: Libraries for a New Age” will soon bring together academic, public and K-12 librarians, administrators, technologists, architects, designers, furniture manufacturers and educators to the University of Texas. Together, they will collectively rethink the increasingly important role libraries play in the communities they serve.

Austin Central Library.

In some ways, rethinking libraries will mean collapsing old paradigms and sacrificing some of the nostalgia that we may have for paper and silence. If libraries are to realize a future potential, they’ll need to play a significantly more active role in creativity and productivity processes. The library is no longer a place to worship books; rather, a library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, is the delivery room for the birth of ideas.

Austin isn’t the first city in recent years to invest in new library construction. Structures in Seattle and Minneapolis are notable recent examples of significant public reinvestment in libraries as an integral part of the community. The 21st century offers a renaissance period for libraries and library professionals to imagine the possibilities for the future. The Austin Public Library exemplifies a pioneering model in Texas for other municipalities to position their libraries as instruments of social empowerment. The time is now.

 

 

 

Welcome Back

Welcome to the University of Texas Libraries!

Thank you for helping us launch into the Fall semester by celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Perry-Castañeda Library, one of our most highly trafficked facilities on the Forty Acres.  Drs.  Perry and Castañeda – whose portraits hang on the wall inside the entrance of PCL – were the first minorities appointed at the University of Texas in 1964 and in 1927, respectively.  We continue to honor their legacy and their contributions at The University of Texas at Austin.

Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe hands out cake to students for the PCL's 40th birthday celebration.
Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe hands out cake to students for the PCL’s 40th birthday celebration.

At UT Libraries, we invite the diverse communities of campus and the residents of the state of Texas to explore and utilize the rich depth of our resources, our collaborative and reflective spaces, high quality equipment and professional expertise in libraries across the campus. For a list of libraries, centers and museums please visit http://www.lib.utexas.edu/help/librarylist.html

Recently, President Fenves remarked that a UT education is about faculty and students learning how to create, build, probe, discover, and solve together, so that our students are prepared for life after they graduate. And there are many examples of this kind of learning and teaching taking place across campus, including at UT Libraries. We have invested in creating alternative learning environments in spacious collaborative study areas in PCL such as the Learning Commons, STEM tutoring spaces, Scholars Commons, the Graduate Landing Spot, the Media Lab, the Data Lab, the Foundry at the Fine Arts Library, and more. I hope you find your favorite spot and when you do, send us your feedback.  We value your suggestions as we continue to respond to your needs, it matters!

It is our goal to support you towards success at UT and beyond. If you need help or advice please do not hesitate to let us know. Remember, what starts here changes the world. Be bold, be audacious!

Have a productive and successful semester.

Hook ‘em Horns!

 

 

 

Vice Provost and Director of UT Libraries

Happy 40th, PCL!

Photo by Ryan Steans.
Photo by Ryan Steans.

Since the birth of The University of Texas at Austin in 1883, the history of the University of Texas Libraries has consisted, in large part, of the construction and habitation of a series of buildings designed to support a constantly expanding collection of resources for an ever-growing community of people. When the original library in Old Main quickly outgrew the meager space there, it was moved twice before finding a dedicated home in Battle Hall in 1911. Just a couple of decades later, the 27-story Tower was constructed with the express purpose of becoming the “permanent” home of the university’s library collections. But, if history has taught us anything, it’s that you can never have enough resources to satisfy the intellectual curiosity of this campus.

And so it was that in late August of 1977, the university threw open the doors of its most ambitious library structure to date — a massive 6-story monolith just southeast of the original Forty Acres with a capacity for more than 3 million books — and students flooded into the new Perry-Castañeda Library.

The PCL was originally proposed to support 15 years of collections growth — a relatively modest expectation given the investment, but one that probably recognized the potential for nascent technologies to effect how information would be stored and used. Little could our forebears have conceived, though, the present that now exists. The Libraries eventually exceeded the space needed to contain the whole of its physical collections, but the revolution in library transformation spawned by the internet and the rise of microcomputing technology has simultaneously created new opportunities and challenges for reimagining the concept of library space.

Vice Provost Haricombe cuts cake celebrating PCL's 40th anniversary.
Vice Provost Haricombe cuts cake celebrating PCL’s 40th anniversary.

As we celebrate the 40th birthday of this beloved building, we judge that history has served us well. The library played a critical role in the age dominated by physical materials — especially at the leading institutions of higher learning, where costs of materials and space have been the necessary sacrifices to bear in support of learning, innovation and discovery. Today, however, the environment is different. Users have different needs, and constantly shifting needs that track to technological innovation. And the library still plays a critical role — we are a bridge between the old sensibility and the new.

For years, the PCL was known mainly as the campus destination for finding the book. Today, it’s increasingly becoming something more…a place where the book still exists, but as a component in an ecosystem that has moved beyond that of passive provider of information, and toward that of an active partner in teaching, learning and research and in the creation and realization of ideas. The spaces that once served as holding areas for physical materials now increasingly accommodate services for writing support and tutoring, technologies for productivity and visualization and environments for interpersonal experience and collaboration.

How do we prepare for tomorrow given the pace of change today? The library has always been a place, a location, and the library’s evolving purpose will likely be similar, but also different. It will be enhanced and dynamic, where the various media of information will not sit idly on shelves, but will move in streams that can meet, expand and re-form almost instantaneously with a community of people from across the globe.

As we commemorate what the library — this library, in particular — has been and what it has become, let’s also look forward with great anticipation and hope to a vibrant and exciting future at UT, and well beyond.