Former Dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences Dr. Sharon Mosher announced in December the creation of a new endowment fund honoring longtime Geology Librarian Dennis Trombatore.
The Dennis Trombatore Excellence Fund for the Walter Geology Library was established with the support of alumnus Dr. Carlotta Chernoff (’92 BS, ’95 MA) in honor of Trombatore as additional funding for urgent needs at the discretion of the Jackson School of Geosciences (JSG) Dean with input from the librarian at the Walter Geology Library.
The endowment recognizes Trombatore’s
career at The University of Texas at Austin in building one of the great
geosciences collections in the nation, as well as his work supporting the
research, teaching and learning of those in pursuit of understanding of the
earth sciences at the university.
“He has carefully amassed invaluable
collections, developed state-of-the art services and built a sense of community
for the Jackson School family,” said Mosher. “Dennis Trombatore’s tireless
efforts have touched the lives of every student, research scientist, faculty,
and staff member who has had the pleasure of knowing him. The Jackson School
wouldn’t be what it is without Dennis’s commendable efforts, for which I am
Trombatore received his B.A. (’75) and MLS (’77) from Louisiana State University, and joined the University of Texas Libraries in 1985 after working in librarian positions at Loyola University and The University of Georgia at Athens. He has served as head librarian at the Walter Geology Library for over three decades, and has participated on numerous committees and at conferences in a variety of capacities. Trombatore has also been recognized for his ongoing contributions to the university, including with the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of Geological Sciences (1997), the University of Texas Staff Excellence Award (2001), the Jackson School of Geosciences Staff Excellence Award (2006), the William B. Heroy Award for Distinguished Service to the American Geosciences Institute (AGI, 2012) and the Jackson School of Geosciences Joseph C. Walter Jr. Excellence Award (2018). He is a member of GSA and the Geoscience Information Society, and is past president of the Austin Geological Society.
In fall of last year, the Libraries welcomed the first class of The Consuelo Artaza and Dr. Carlos Castañeda Diversity Alliance Residency Program who arrived for a 2-year term. Residents Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill spent the last year+ in rotations with various units for an immersive experience in librarianship, and though their terms haven’t yet expired, both earned the sort of attention that generated interest from other institutions wanting to lure them to professional opportunity. While we’re sad to see them leave, we’re extremely proud of the work they put in during their time at UT, and for the extensive contributions they made to what we do.
Hill and Tadena sat with me to reflect on their experience during their residencies, and to share their impressions of the program and the knowledge they gained.
Tex Libris: What is the
main value or biggest takeaway you have from participating in the program?
Laura Tadena: I
think for me it was learning about all the resources that we have access to or
that are available for the state, and really wanting to share that information
with others. Coming into this, I wasn’t familiar with the Texas State Library.
I also didn’t realize how many libraries are open and free to the public,
especially academic and college libraries. So, I think the most valuable thing
for me was learning that and really refining my information literacy skills.
Now I feel equipped to really find information in a way that I wasn’t before,
especially research and reference skills. I did chat, which was part of
learning UT’s system, and then we ended up doing a lot of presentations
together, which required a lot of research that recalled the knowledge I learned
in school and put it into practice in a professional setting. And seeing how
some of the other librarians in action, how they do their jobs, and being like,
“Wow…that’s how you get information.”
Natalie Hill: My
big takeaway is knowing how the library works at multiple levels, and how
information is communicated. Rotating between the different areas and being on
all of the listservs, even after I’ve left an area, has been really interesting
to see when people find things out about what’s going on. The experience has
really encouraged me to go into leadership, which isn’t something I had
strongly considered before. Now I want to do that.
TL: Do you feel like you
gained some confidence from your time here?
NH: For sure.
TL: That’s a huge
value, if you can walk into a place feeling like a visitor, and walk away
thinking, “I can do this.”
NH: I think
meeting directly with (Libraries’ Director) Lorraine Haricombe a few times was
really valuable, and having her provide encouragement…when she says you can
do something, you think, “Yeah, I can, if she thinks I can.” So it was a big confidence boost.
TL: You have both done a
lot of presentations in your time here, and that comes along with the
territory, being in the residency program, but not all of the presentations
were required as a component of your positions as resident; they were elective.
Was that interest in presenting something you brought to your work here, or was
it a byproduct of the confidence you’ve talked about gaining in your time at
NH: I think it
was after we got here. Presentations were what I was least looking forward to.
And now I’m like, “These are easy.”
LT: I think that
one of the things that kind of started it was when we had a window into the
hiring process, and saw what the CVs, resumés and cover letters looked like. We
realized that we needed to get that sort of activity into our CV to be able to
compete in the market. And so we put a bunch of submissions out thinking we
weren’t going to get accepted…
NH: We thought it
would be harder to get accepted…
LT: We also
recognized a higher value in presenting papers or being included in panels as
opposed to other forms of presentation.
TL: Did the experience
meet your expectations?
NH: I didn’t
fully know what I wanted to do when I started, but I felt it would have
something to do with open education. So being able to call myself the open
education librarian, and write my own job was great. So, in that way the
experience exceeded my expectations — especially with the development work
behind open education going on simultaneously, to see it becoming a real
strategic initiative within the organization and to be part of it as that was
LT: I think
coming into this, I initially thought I was going to be doing more outreach and
connecting with the student body, so learning how academic libraries work was
what exceeded my expectations. And the access we had to professional
development was incredible. We had opportunities to go to professional
conferences, and I got practice in applying for scholarships. I came in here
wanting to find ways to serve Texas, and I think I leave here now with a better
foundation for doing that.
NH: I think one
thing I didn’t expect was being known in the field. And I feel like now people
know us – probably as a pair, not necessarily as individuals – but, still
that’s bizarre. It’s kind of strange to be familiar to people in positions of
TL: This is a nascent
program that didn’t have a lot of predetermined direction when you came in, and
you’ve had a chance to steer it in a way.
LT: We didn’t
expect to start a Slack space for various diversity residents across the
country, but there are ACRL liaisons contacting us about the development of
that. We’re being brought on as mentors for other residents. So it’s rewarding
to be able to give back to the profession.
NH: Laura met
with the iSchool to try to set up presentation opportunities for students.
LT: I also met
with the dean of my alma mater who’s been recruiting me to teach there. I
didn’t realize that as library schools are moving more towards an information
science orientation, there is a shortage of public school librarians, resulting
in a shortage of people who can teach about school librarianship. Someone told
me – I think it was Portia (Vaughn, previous science liaison) – that every
opportunity should lead to another opportunity, and I’ve found that it does
tend to happen if you are open to talking with people and seeing if you can
meet each other’s needs and trying to think ahead.
TL: What was the benefit
of getting to work with professionals in librarianship?
NH: I worked with
Colleen Lyon (Head of Scholarly Communications) most of the time that I’ve been
here, and that’s been really beneficial because she really knows what she’s
LT: I think that working with Porcia (Vaughn, former Liaison Librarian for Biosciences) and Carolyn (Cunningham, Head of Teaching and Learning Engagement Team), they have a way of communicating with you and teaching you – the had a way of teaching you how to do things, including the decisions behind their methods; it was extremely helpful and not something that everyone naturally does. Carolyn was really helpful in navigating internal and institutional frameworks, and Porcia helped with the external opportunities, like connecting with other STEM librarians, introducing me to other networks to get involved in of which I was unaware. And through our residence space, we learned about what was happening at other libraries.
TL: What was something
you didn’t know about libraries before that you know now?
NH: I didn’t know
anything about instructional design, and now I’m going to be an instructional
designer. At the time we came in, job postings in the field suggested that
people were looking for assessment and instructional design experience, and I
was like, “I don’t really care about either of those things.” But,
working in open education, I realized that I was drifting away from
affordability arguments, and toward student engagement and being able to adapt
materials to better serve users, and those are really just instructional design
principles. So, open pedagogy is what I want to do now.
LT: I really
didn’t understand how academic libraries operated, big picture stuff. I think
one of the biggest things I learned was how we provide services to our
community. And what, as librarians, we’re able to do. I didn’t know that there
was a state library that did just professional development. And I didn’t know
about AMIGOS which does professional development support for all libraries.
That area of the profession is very interesting to me because of my instruction
background, and so I’m excited to be able to take that forward and support all
types of libraries.
NH: I don’t think
I knew about how professional associations work before this, and having the ARL
president here (Haricombe), I now know what the ARL does, which has been really
valuable, because you can see where broader initiatives start then trickle out
to the rest of field in succeeding years.
LT: And how
committees operate, because we’re getting practical experience.
TL: What advice would you
give to someone who was considering applying to a residency program like this?
NH: Know that the
program is for you, so if there’s not going to be a lot of flexibility or
freedom, maybe consider another option. I think that we’ve been really
fortunate here in that coming in as the first class of residents, it was pretty
unstructured, and people were pretty willing to say yes to ideas. We’ve seen
where other residency programs have a set job description and I don’t think
something like that would be anywhere near as valuable an experience.
LT: My suggestion
would be to connect with other residents — to learn about what they are doing
and use that to help support what you are doing or to create your own agency,
and advocate for your own benefit within the program. Because being part of it is
about learning, and I think we’ve seen a lot of residents in positions where
they don’t know they can ask for more, or they aren’t aware that they have some
control over their experience and what they gain from it. We’ve been fortunate
to have the opportunity – as long as it ties to our growth and development – to
help shape our own experience.
TL: What do you think can
be done to improve the experience for future residents?
LT: Cohort models
are nice. I don’t know that this program would have been as beneficial for us
if there was just one of us. It was a great experience to be able to have
someone to go to talk with about the shared experience, to have someone that
you’re constantly able to check in with. And, then again, to have someone available
to bounce ideas off of was helpful, especially since the program is a safe
space. Moving forward, I would recommend that there are at least two residents
at the same level, or at least in a cohort model that is closer together.
Having a buddy is good. And having great mentors.
NH: Maybe there
could be a refresher for staff on what the program intent is. Because it’s up
to the individual resident what interest within the organization they choose to
pursue, they could end up in any area, even one that may have not had previous
experience with a resident. We stayed in pretty public-facing academic
engagement roles, but maybe someone else would be really interested in
technical services. So just a reminder that it could go any way. And keeping
the door open so that residents can go anywhere within the library that appeals
to them, because that is what makes this program unique from other ones.
TL: What’s next for each
LT: I will be the
inclusive services consultant at the Texas State Library and Archives
Commission, and I’ll be working for the first year with public libraries,
helping to train staff and ensure that they have adequate resources to provide
inclusive services. My future supervisor has said that the hope is to expand
the role and potentially bring my work into both school and college/academic
libraries. I’m looking forward to the type of work that I’m going to do. It’s
another job that I don’t really know what I’m getting into, but I’m excited
because of the great things I’ve heard about the State Library. And I’ll be
NH: I will be an
instructional designer with the University of New England in Portland, Maine,
and I will be on a team of instructional designers within the College of
Graduate and Professional Studies, which is made of fully online graduate programs.
So, I will be working with faculty and subject matter experts to develop new
online courses and provide quality assurance and redesigns for existing courses.
I think that my specialty on the team will be promoting open educational
resources and moving those to the forefront in the course creation process.
LT: Outside of
our future roles, we’re also going to be working on a book chapter with (new diversity
resident) Adriana Casarez on the residency program, and we’ll be presenting at
TLA together, on a panel about residencies in Texas.
hopefully, the goal is to come up with an ACRL proposal so that we can do that
TL: Congratulations on be
the first class and being first class.
Antonio Bertolini (1775-1869) was a Italian botanist and
professor of botany at Bologna who wrote predominantly on Italian botany. He
also collected notable samples of Central American flora.
Joaquin Velasco, a Mexican physician, came to Italy in 1836, as part of the Mexican papal delegation, and brought with him numerous dried plants and seeds from Guatemala which he presented to Bertolini. Most of them were new or rare species, and their description and classification was compiled and published by Bertolini as Florula guatimalensis sistens plantas nonnullas in Guatimala sponte nascentes. One of the 28 copies available at libraries worldwide resides in the Benson Latin American Collection.
Several of the plants Velasco provided to Bertolini were successfully grown in the Bologna Botanical Gardens.
Friend of the University of Texas Libraries and Art History Professor Eddie Chambers has curated a collection of publications for a display in the reading room at the Fine Arts Library.
Chambers’ exhibit — “Recognizing the History of Black Magazine Publishing in the US” — features selections from his personal collection that represent the burgeoning of an independent press which spoke to the experience of African Americans in the late 20th Century, and includes examples from the period of the publications Ebony, Ebony Jr!, Jet, Black World, Negro Digest and Freedomways.
Professor, Art History: I have over the years collected, for research
purposes, various magazines and journals, going back a number of decades. These
magazines and journals have particular relevance to African American history,
culture, politics, identity, and so on. Some of these I’ve assembled for the
current FAL display. I am always attracted to vintage, archival items such as
these as they enable us to get a direct feel, not only of the graphics and
aesthetics of the times during which they were published, but in reading their
texts, we get a direct sense of arguments, reportage and opinions, again,
from the respective times.
As with so many things that carry an ‘African American’
prefix, we can perhaps trace the establishment of the Black press to a
reluctance by the white-dominated media to pay proper and respectful attention
to the agendas of African Americans. Magazines such as Ebony were
important for a wide range of reasons including the readership’s ability to
keep apprised of the ins and outs of Black celebrity lives, the ins and outs of
the struggle for civil rights, going back many a decade, and the ins and outs
of stories and issues that lay at the heart of African American existence. With
the spectacular growth of the internet, the publishing media is in general, in
various levels of retreat. This applies also to the Black press and the display
points to the ways in which magazines published weekly or monthly were such an
important and necessary means by which African Americans gleaned a wide range
of information. And in Ebony magazine, the adverts are as
entertaining as can be! It’s not hard for us to be inclined to the view that
contemporary issues are different from those people thought about and acted on
in decades gone by. Seeing magazines such as these, we might think, or realize,
that issues we are concerned with or interested in at the present time, go back
years, and decades.
Where are the materials from?
EC: I have collected the materials over the course of a number of years. Most of the material relates to some or other aspect of my research. For example, I recently acquired a copy of an Ebony issue that trailed on its front cover a feature on the quest for a Black Christ. Sourcing this came about because I am editing a volume – the Routledge Companion to African American Art History – which contains a text by a scholar, looking at visualizations of Christ and Christianity by African American artists. I wanted to double-check quotations by her, from this Ebony issue, in her essay. Material such as these magazines and journals are not frequently available to researchers and scholars, without considerable effort, so I find myself constantly sourcing such material. Having acquired items, I am always keen to share the material, which is why I periodically undertake displays such as this, in the Fine Arts Library (FAL). Right now, I have different archival material loaned out for exhibits that are currently on view at both the Blanton Museum and the Christian Green Gallery, here at UT Austin.
What do you see as the major impacts of the selected publications?
EC: The types of
materials on view represent some of the sources African Americans had to turn
to, in order to read stories that reflected themselves. Television was of
course very poor at offering anything that was not considered of primarily
mainstream (i.e. white) interest. Black publishing — and the adverts it carried
— offered a vital route through which African Americans could source hair care
products or, more generally, see adverts that featured people who looked like
them. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
These magazines were also an environment that stimulated and
gave work to Black journalists at a time when the mainstream media was
frequently reluctant to. Photographers, typesetters, journalists, sub editors,
layout artists, etc., all professionally benefitted from the Black press. We
might think that in the modern age, people’s attention spans might be somewhat
skewed or compressed, but the stories presented in some of these Black
magazines enabled substantial, engaged, complex stories to be told, as well as
the lives, loves, and ups and downs of Black celebrity life, to be digested. Of
course, a pocket-sized magazine such as Jet offered its
readers information in decidedly bite-sized chunks.
The perpetual, systemic framing of African Americans within
the white dominated media was one of them as being ‘problems’. African
Americans tended to realize that the framing of them as having problems
was but a short hop skip and jump away from them being problems.
The formidable perception, framed and maintained by the white controlled media,
of America having first, Negro, then Afro American, then African American problems was
more than enough to persuade African Americans of the need to maintain, for
their own sense of self, a Black press that respected the multi-dimensionality
of their selfhood. The Black press enabled African Americans to see themselves
not as cardboard cutout problems, but as complex human beings who existed in
Of course, it must be added that African Americans relied on
the Black press to carry nuanced, informed analyses of the problems they had. In
this sense, a profound manifestation of empathy existed between the Black press
and its clientele.
How did this era of the Black press influence the representation of African Americans in modern media?
EC: Modern media
is of course vastly different from publishing in decades gone by. One of the
biggest influences is perhaps the ways in which white-controlled media has
diversified, to an extent, its content. Quite rightly, we expect the New
Yorker, the New York Times, and a slew of other media to
carry stories that speak to the country’s diversity, including of course, that
of the African American demographic. Diversified media content has in its own
way perhaps worked to lessen the impact and importance of a distinctly African
American branch of publishing.
There is of course still huge amounts of work to be done,
but at the present time, the wholesale exclusion of African Americans from
mainstream media, as was the case in decades gone by, is arguably less of an
issue at the present time.
In the same way that the internet and digitization have created new ways to make books more discoverable and facilitated new ways of exploring text, so, too, have they opened avenues for a greater exploration of maps and their underlying data.
As what has been a deliberative process, the UT Libraries have tended toward later adoption of new currents in libraries and librarianship in order to take advantage of the trial and error mechanics that so often are part of embracing untested technologies and frameworks. Geographic information systems (GIS) technology has been in the ascendant for several years now as a burgeoning area of expertise in libraries, and with the expansive cartographic resources we have at UT and the evolution in the growth of local datasets, it was time for the Libraries to embrace GIS as part of its overall strategic expertise.
Geospatial data identifies data that has a geographic component to it…any data that includes locational information – such as coordinates (latitudes and longitudes), addresses, cities, zip codes, etc. – and can be applied to some position on the Earth. We rely on geospatial data to track weather, find the best route to a destination, manage air traffic, make decisions about where to invest in infrastructure projects and to determine how best to deploy marketing resources. And all of these data forms can be mapped. GIS helps to organize and visualize that data in ways that make it eminently more useful.
The Libraries finally entered the landscape of GIS last year with the hiring of Geospatial Data Coordinator Michael Shensky, and a major undertaking in his short tenure has been to spearhead the development of an interface that will facilitate discovery of the cartographic resources and geospatial datasets in our collections by researchers, faculty and other university constituents.
The Texas GeoData Portal uses an open source geospatial discovery application – GeoBlacklight – to power a web portal that gives users the ability to search, browse, preview, and download geospatial datasets. Visitors to the website will be able to search through a variety of geospatial datasets, including georeferenced scanned map images from the PCL Maps Collection and vector datasets developed from items in other special collections like the Benson Latin American Collection and Alexander Architectural Archives.
The portal will allow users to download data in several different standard geospatial formats so that they can easily be loaded into GIS software for advanced visualization and analysis.
Coordinated use of GeoBlacklight software and collaboration through the OpenGeoMetadata project has created a community among partner institutions for the sharing and standardization of data and metadata, expanding the opportunities for discovery and creating a robust search functionality among a large corpus of resources. Users can filter search results based on various dataset characteristics including geographic extent, subject matter, institution, data type, and format.
“I’m really excited to be a part of this project because I know this portal has the potential to benefit everyone in the campus community regardless of their role and area of specialization,” says Shensky. “Faculty can use the portal to find data for developing instructional materials, students can find data to use in research projects, and visitors will have access to a variety of unique maps and datasets that they can explore.”
The Texas GeoData Portal is in the closing stages of development with a full launch expected later in the fall, at which point users will be able to access the new resource through the Libraries’ website. Already discussions are underway regarding future functionality, which could include UT single sign on authentication for viewing license-restricted data, integration with the unified search on the Libraries’ website and integration with the Texas Data Repository and the Collections portal (more information to come on this project).