“How does one become a writer, and how does she go about building a body of creative work?”* These are questions that author Irma López seeks to answer in her latest publication, a biography of the late Mexican writer María Luisa Puga (1944–2004) titled Extraño no-amor el tuyo: María Luisa Puga, historia de una pasión.
This is the second book on Puga by López, a professor of Spanish and interim dean at Western Michigan University. For this volume, López relied heavily on a collection of 327 diaries kept by the award-winning writer between 1972 and 2004. The diaries make up the bulk of the María Luisa Puga Papers at the Benson Latin American Collection. They are “an existential logbook of body and identity” writes former Benson librarian José Montelongo in a Spanish-language essay about Puga’s diaries. It was López who originally brought the collection of diaries to the attention of the Benson; the writer’s sister, Patricia Puga, donated them to the collection in 2017.
In Extraño no-amor, López builds on her previous work on Puga and, with the aid of the diaries, probes deeply into the writer’s life in order to better understand her work. The resulting biography is a portrait of Puga that lays bare her strengths and weaknesses, her artistic and existential struggles, similar to the way in which Puga relentlessly examined herself on the pages of her diary.
Katy Tuck is a graduate student at the School of Information and currently serves as an Ask A Librarian Graduate Research Assistant at the Perry-Castañeda Library.
One defining hallmark of the science fiction genre is its atmospheric world-building. Against the backdrop of a fictitious future, past, or present, set in realities distinct from, yet eerily similar to our own, Sci-Fi plots grapple with the big ideas pressing humanity. Though the setting or the characters may be unfamiliar to us, the underlying exploration of political and social themes in Sci-Fi are universally apropos and fitting for a strange time such as the current moment. While we continue to work and study from home, contemplating the uncertainties and possibilities of the future, now is an opportune time to be transported to these other worlds and dimensions through the PCL’s robust and ever-expanding Sci-Fi collection.
Former UT Library Director Harold W. Billings had a penchant for the Sci-Fi genre and amassed a sizable personal collection over the years. He generously donated this collection to the UT Libraries some time ago, and many of these volumes are still in circulation. In keeping with his mission to expand the Sci-Fi holdings of the PCL, librarians have continued curating and developing this collection over the years. Notably, Humanities Librarian Gina Bastone has expanded the collection to further reflect the diversity of authors and themes across the genre and recently added multiple ebooks to the PCL Sci-Fi Collection.
If you are looking for a place to delve into this reading, I recommend you check out the Science Fiction Library Guide, created by former Ask a Librarian GRAs Adriana Casarez and Victoria Pena in 2018 under the guidance of Gina Bastone, and updated in 2020 to include a fantastic list of Sci-Fi titles now available as ebooks. Included in this ecollection are several complete series to keep you engaged and transfixed by literature all summer. If you enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale, I recommend Margaret Atwood’s relevant MaddAddam Trilogy, which includes the Oryx and Crake (1st in series), The Year of the Flood (2nd in series), and MaddAddam (3rd in series) books. After a pandemic sweeps the earth, dramatically altering known reality, survivors must band together and relearn how to navigate life.
I also recommend award-winning author Octavia Butler’s Earthseed: The Complete Series, which explores themes related to social inequality, adaptability, and survival in a dystopian future. The series includes her works Parable of the Sower (1st in series) and Parable of the Talents (2nd in series). Butler was the recipient of several Hugo and Nebula Awards for her writing.
From Proto-Sci-Fi to Cli-Fi (climate fiction) to Afro-Futurism to Cyberpunk, there is something for everyone, all accessible from the comfort of home (or beyond!) until we can resume our normal library activities. We welcome any suggested purchases to help us build our collection–just fill out this Suggest a Purchase form. Happy reading everyone.
Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love— In this series, librarians from UTL’s Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship.
Working as a book conservator back in the days in Tel Aviv, I was always intrigued by the notes and scribbles found on flyleaves, covers, and pages of centuries-old books. It seemed that this text, which supposedly was not related to the actual content of the book in hand, had its own story to tell – about places, people, and events. Now this data is playing the main role in Footprints; these pieces of information could be interlinked, and show us a new spatial landscape of Jewish texts through generations.
The goal of the project, a collaborative initiative by the Jewish Theological Seminary, Columbia University, University of Pittsburgh, and Stony Brook University, is to create a “database to track the circulation of printed ‘Jewish books’ (in Hebrew, other Jewish languages, and books in Latin and non-Jewish vernaculars with Judaica contents).” Those notes, scribbles, and ‘marginal’ pieces of information are scattered in many forms. Footprints lists many types of evidence while documenting the movement of books, and presents visualizations of mobility, including mapping. Some types of evidence include owners’ signatures and bookplates; handwritten notations of sales; estate inventories; references to exchanges of books in correspondence of scholars or merchants; unpublished booklists copied in flyleaves; printers’ colophons; subscription lists, and lists of approbations indicating backers or patrons of the books who presumably received a copy of the product.
Take for example the literary work titled ʻAḳedat Yitsḥaḳ (“the Binding of Isaac”) – a collection of philosophical homilies and commentaries on the Torah by Isaac ben Moses Arama (1420-1494).
This text is represented by five different imprints. Each imprint is represented by various unique copies, and each copy has between one to nine ‘footprints.’ For example, the imprint published in 1547 in Venice, Italy, has five unique ‘holdings’ in the database. One of these copies is traced through six different ‘time stamps’, owners, and locations, from 1599 (Modena, Italy) through 1986 (New York, NY). Another fascinating example is the journey of a copy of Masekhet Nedarim (a Talmudic tractate) printed in Venice in 1523. In 1663 it was bought (and sold) in Yemen. Between 1842 to 1894 it was owned by Alexander Kohut in New York, and since 1915 this particular copy has been owned by Yale University, New Haven, CT.
Librarians and researches from Europe, Israel, and Unites States are constantly adding new information and validating accuracy of current entries. The database currently includes 7638 unique footprints, and is searchable by keywords, footprint year, and publication year. Here in Austin, The Harry Ransom Center is also collaborating with Footprints; data gleaned from the Center’s early Hebrew books holdings, mainly those dated pre-1800, will be uploaded soon to the database.
Footprints is an open-source and open-access tool; it uses a PostgresSQL, an object-relational database system, which is available on Github. As such, it is both a digital humanities project and a global collaborative project. The digital platform makes public the very process of scholarship performed by trusted crowd sourcing. The collaborative platform invites immediate feedback, editing, and revision. The project owners anticipate future uses to include inferential statistical analysis and network visualization. They anticipate that “cultural historians and statisticians would leverage their mutual areas of expertise to offer a statistical analysis that takes into account social, cultural, political, and economic contexts.” In addition, they plan to visualize networks of book movement showing connections between places, and networks connecting individuals to each other or to other places.
Footprints brings to mind Bakhtin’s Chronotope, where time and place are merging into one meaningful experience. A physical printed book travels through times and places; created, owned, and used by various individuals, carrying with it ideas and intellectual meaning. A Chronotope of the Jewish book, Footprints is a multidimensional bibliography, which highlights and makes use of previously unknown resources in a way that re-imagines the practice of Jewish book history.
Further reading (all available at Perry-Castañeda Library)
Caves and karst (eroded limestone terrains) are tied to the whole of human history – as shelters, as sources of water, as places of mystery and worship, and as research topics in geology, biology, hydrology and engineering. The Walter Geology Library as a respected research library in earth sciences, has a strong collection in caves and karst research, particularly since Central Texas has many caves and karst features, and the region has long hosted an avid caving community.
One member of that local caving community, Bill Mixon — former book review editor for the National Speleological Society and friend of the Walter Library — recently donated his unique collection of over 1000 books and more than 1000 periodical issues related to cave and karst research, literature, and culture. Remarkably, this entire collection is all material new to the UT Libraries, significantly broadening and enhancing our existing collections.
The collection is largely international in scope, and among the items included, almost 1/3 of the books are not only new to UT, but not held otherwise in any US libraries, or not held anywhere at all. Another 20+% of the materials are held in fewer than 5 North American collections.
The literature of caving is largely produced by specialists for specialists, and much of it is only shared among informal networks, or is only available locally or regionally — not the kind of stuff you can buy on Amazon. For this reason, this gift of personally-curated material from around the world is a tremendous asset, representing years of effort on the part of the donor to amass such a significant cross section of the world’s cave publications.
We are grateful for the gift, as it adds significantly to our existing strengths, and will give future researchers the benefit of having guides, exploration reports, and research on most of the world’s major cave and karst systems all in one place.
Why Caves Matter.
Hidden time machines and an historical record of previous natural and human activity
Essential filtration tools and sources for water
Home to unique critters and life forms, including bats, spiders, microbes
Great sources of fossils of all kinds
Key to the study of climate
Important areas of earth science research
Home to early man, later man, hiding man, man at war
“You girls and guys are outstanding, and I pray that you all continue to believe in expanding the minds of us easily forgotten because sometimes it’s books that begin new journeys or just plain, old relief from the journey we chose to walk.” –testimonial from Daniel, an Inside Books Project recipient (via KUT.org)
For those who’ve lost their freedom, the seemingly small act of reading a book can be a lifeline to hope from inside prison.
A new exhibit in the Scholars Commons at the Perry-Castañeda Library examines the work of a local nonprofit and the positive impact that work is having on the lives of incarcerated individuals.
The Inside Books Project (IBP) is books-to-prisons collective founded in Austin in 1998. People incarcerated throughout Texas send requests to IBP for free literature, and volunteers respond with a package of books and personalized letter. In exchange, many recipients have sent art, poetry, prose and other narrative materials testifying to their experiences in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. This ever-growing archive of materials is held at the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) and a digital collection is in progress at insidebooksproject.omeka.net
The IBP Archive Project is coordinated by aems emswiler, a student in the dual Information School (MSIS) and Women’s and Gender Studies (MA) programs at UT. aems has worked with IBP since 2012 and as an Archival Fellow at the Texas After Violence Project since 2017.
The exhibit was installed by UT Information School students and Society of American Archivists (UT-SAA) members aems emswiler and Alyssa Anderson, and long-term preservation of the collection is supported by a UT Student Government Excellence Fund Grant. It will be on view in the Perry-Castañeda Library during regular hours through February 22.
Interested in learning more about the archive project or possibly being involved? contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. There are volunteer and internship opportunities for iSchool studies, in particular SAA-UT members, archives track students, and students who are invested in diversity, inclusion, and social justice in archives.
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.
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).
The University of Texas Press has published the first encyclopedic examination of the renowned Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection (Benson), providing a window into the rich Latin American resources for research and study at The University of Texas at Austin.
Showcasing the incredible depth, diversity and history of the Benson Collection, “A Library for the Americas” presents rare books and manuscripts, maps, photographs, music, oral histories, art and objects dating from around 1500 to the present.
Founded in 1921, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin has become one of the world’s great libraries for the study of Latin America, as well as the largest university library collection of Latin American materials in the United States. Encompassing all areas of the Western Hemisphere that were ever part of the Spanish or Portuguese empires, the Benson Collection documents Latin American history and culture from the first European contacts to the current activities of Latina/os in the United States. The Benson is partner in an innovative collaboration with the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies — collectively called LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections — that attracts top students, scholars and researchers from around the world.
The Benson collections represent one of the most extensive compilations of materials related to Latin American culture and history in the world, housing approximately 1 million volumes, 4,000 linear feet of manuscripts over 400,000 slides and photographs and an additional 50,000 other items of ephemera and media, representing North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.
The 229-page volume features color images and plates of the unique holdings paired with essays and reflections by distinguished scholars of Latin American and Latina/o studies, who describe the role that the Benson Collection has played in the research and intellectual contributions that have defined their careers.
Benson Librarian and Director Melissa Guy is elated by the book’s publication.
“’A Library for the Americas’ is unique in that it is both a beautiful representation of the Benson’s holdings, as well as a selection of thought-provoking essays from researchers who have used the Benson’s vast holdings to do their work,” says Guy. “Both the seasoned Benson user and the casual observer will find it fascinating.”
“A Library for the Americas” was edited by Julianne Gilland and José Montelongo, and includes contributions from faculty, researchers and historians of Latin American from across the hemisphere. The book features analysis of the overall collections with special focus on collections of distinction like the Relaciones Geográficas, the Gloria Anzaldúa papers, the Ricardo and Harriet Romo print collection and the Borderlands archive, with accompanying full-color imagery.
The Libraries will host a preview and benefit dinner on September 6 in preparation for the upcoming centennial (2021) of the acquisition of the Genaro García Collection, which served as the foundation of the Benson Latin American Collection. Attendees to the event will receive a copy of the book with their tax-deductible contribution. For more information on attending the event, contact Natalie Hester at 512-495-4349 or email@example.com.
“A Library for the Americas” is available for purchase through the University of Texas Press at utpress.utexas.edu.
Gravitation is a seminal work familiar to all advanced physics students, but the Kuehne Physics Mathematics Astronomy Library (PMA) has an uncommon copy of the book.
Co-author John Wheeler presented this copy with his inscription to a former engineering professor at UT, who donated the book to the PMA Library.
A time later, co-author Kip Thorne gave a lecture at UT and a Physics undergrad asked if he would add his inscription. Finally, co-author Charles Misner visited campus for a lecture and he, too, added his inscription to the volume, completing the trio.
“Art is long, life short, judgment difficult, opportunity transient. To act is easy, to think is hard; to act according to our thought is troublesome. Every beginning is cheerful: the threshold is the place of expectation.”
from Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship by J.W. von Goethe, 1795-96
Goethe’s sentiment borrowed from Hippocrates and distilled in his novel of personal discovery as a charge to the protagonist Wilhelm Meister could equally represent a characterization of the experience of visiting a library — equal parts joy and labor, with the promise of new knowledge as a provocation to learn.
It’s also appropriate, then, that the passage comes from the first ever volume borrowed from a library at The University of Texas at Austin, which occurred just over 134 years ago on March 7, 1884 — a small act of history committed by a person who created a notable history of his own.
John H. Cobb was a member of the inaugural class at this university back in 1883, when the Forty Acres was composed of the original Main Building in its Victorian Gothic splendor and more open land than is imaginable by a modern-day visitor to campus. He studied law, but even beyond the serendipity of being the first library borrower, seems to have had some predisposition toward pioneering. Cobb used his legal training to help draft the constitution for the Ex-Students’ Association, placing him as one of the co-founders to the Texas Exes.
Much like Goethe’s Meister, Cobb wasn’t content, either, to remain comfortably in the confines of his home state of Texas after earning his degree. He traveled to the relative wilds of what was then the District of Alaska in 1897 and by 1899 he had formed a law partnership with John F. Malony in Juneau.
He was active in the formative political and governmental structures in the fledgling District, and when the region was reorganized and renamed the Territory of Alaska in 1912, Cobb was appointed the first Territorial Counsel by the Governor John Franklin Alexander Strong in 1913. He served in that role until 1915 when the 2nd Alaska Territorial Legislature created the Office of the Attorney General, and a successor was appointed.
Cobb argued and won one of his most high-profile cases, Tuppela v. Chichagoff Mining Co., before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1920, reversing a fraudulent land grab by the mining company and returning several valuable gold mines to private citizen and rightful owner John Tuppela.
Shortly after settlement of the suit, Cobb and his family resettled in Santa Barbara, California, where he died on December 23, 1925.
The details of that tome first borrowed by Cobb is in question, though it could be a volume flagged as “missing” in 2013 and now superseded by a digital version in the Libraries’ catalog. The title’s long history on the Forty Acres, however — both in the hands of the first borrower, and with subsequent generations of Longhorns — attests to the idea that the Libraries, too, play an integral part in the belief that “What starts here changes the world.”
On February 15, LLILAS Benson celebrated the opening of the literary archive of Mexican author María Luisa Puga (1944–2004). This unusual archive is replete with the author’s voice and vision, consisting in large part of some 327 diaries that span the years 1972 through 2004. In honor of the occasion, Irma López of Western Michigan University delivered a lecture titled “Escritura y autofiguración el los diarios de María Luisa Puga.”
A novelist and short-story writer, Puga was the winner of numerous prestigious literary awards and highly esteemed by her peers, yet she largely eschewed the limelight. Her complex attitude about her identity as a writer is on display in the diaries, which Mexican Studies Librarian José Montelongo refers to as “a truly remarkable document of struggles both personal and artistic.” Puga’s diaries were donated to the Benson Latin American Collection by her sister, Patricia Puga, who attended the opening lecture and reception along with her husband, son, and other family members.
Written in a beautiful hand, with occasional doodle-like illustrations, the notebooks contain the entire trajectory of Puga’s celebrated literary works and thus are of enormous research value. The pages also carry within them a poignant emotional charge: the author was someone for whom putting pen to paper was a vital activity in her art and thought, and her diaries are an almost visceral expression of her self.
If the collection of diaries itself is remarkable, the lecture by literary scholar Irma López was similarly compelling. She spoke with both erudition and affection about Puga, her writing, and the intimate access afforded by the diaries to a writer for whom self-examination was essential. López concluded her talk speaking directly to the members of the author’s family, reading to them from a tender diary passage by the late author. (López, a leading authority on Puga, is author of Historia, escritura e identidad: La novelística de María Luisa Puga.)
During their visit, the Puga family was able to see five display cases containing select materials from the archive in the Benson’s main reading room. This exhibition, on display through April 2, 2018, and titled María Luisa Puga: A Life in Diaries, was curated by graduate research assistant Emma Whittington. Read José Montelongo’s Spanish-language article on Puga, “Una vida en 327 cuadernos.”