Category Archives: Commentary

Collections and Connections: Dennis Trombatore, Geology Librarian Extraordinaire

Thirty five years ago, Dennis Trombatore arrived at the UT Austin campus, and from the start he was highly conscious of the long legacy of the Geology Library and that of the formidable librarians who had preceded him in the charge of that major collection. Despite feeling the strong gaze of Thelma Guion (https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/geo/about), the singular personality who ruled over the geology information sphere as librarian between 1940 and the early 1970s, Dennis jumped in, immersed himself, and never looked back. 

A self-described “professional generalist,” Dennis was formally educated in philosophy, but quickly developed a natural affinity and deep appreciation for the esoterica of geosciences information:  geological survey reports, rocks, gems and fossils, maps and field trip guides.  He loved working closely with and learning from faculty and students in the Jackson School of Geosciences. 

“A good library is a place to go, and a person to talk to, who understands what you’re doing, who sympathizes with your worldview, who talks your language, and who is looking out for you in the world of information all the time.” 

Ever-curious and always ready to help, his definition of what a library, and a librarian, should be, epitomized Dennis’s approach to his work in the Walter Geology Library.

Several defining objectives consistently guided his efforts to amass and share a wealth of information about all of the things of interest to his faculty and students, community experts and generalists like himself. Those were collection-building, access to collections, and the relationships that served as the fuel for the continuously-enhanced cycle of learning and sharing that positioned Dennis as an information hub within the Jackson School for more than three decades.

Dennis’ collection-building, through relentless painstaking searches and world-wide acquisition efforts, coordination of gifts, and tracking of UT research output, was always front and center in his activities. Maps were an integral part of that work, and Dennis curated a truly exceptional collection of map materials in support of teaching and research in the geosciences, the Tobin International Geological Map Collection (https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/geo/tobin-maps). He led the effort to build on UT’s existing map collections, through the acquisition of geospatial data sets, GIS technology, and the expertise to fully utilize the details therein. And he was a tireless advocate for and user of the UT Libraries renowned PCL Map Collection (https://texlibris.lib.utexas.edu/2015/05/22/you-are-everywhere-the-pcl-map-collection/). His understanding of the power and value of maps was evident not just in his efforts to build the Libraries collections, but even in references to maps in his own creative output (https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/82153) which in turn was shared openly with the world using the Libraries’ repository infrastructure.

Ensuring access to what he curated was key for Dennis. His strong desire to make the rich, multi-faceted fruits of his collection-building work discoverable prompted his early interest in web-based tools to ensure the discoverability and preservation of his efforts, including Texas ScholarWorks (TSW), our digital repository, our Texas Data Repository (TDR), and our nascent Texas GeoData portal.

Our Head of Scholarly Communications, Colleen Lyon, recalls that, “Dennis was instrumental in so many collections in TSW – he was one of the most active liaisons in referring users to us.” Several stand-out examples of unique submissions for Colleen include:

  • The Dr. Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel Letters. Decades of Tertiary stratigraphy and non-vertebrate paleontology-focused work captured in a collection of over 6,000 letters to and from Dr. Stenzel. It was Dennis who initially put Colleen and TSW in touch with the curators of the Stenzel Letters collection. An earlier TexLibris post details background on this collection (https://texlibris.lib.utexas.edu/2018/12/20/collections-highlight-the-digitized-letters-of-dr-henryk-bronislaw-stenzel/), and the letters are available in TSW at: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/47262
  • Memoirs on the Extinct Wingless Birds of New Zealand. It may have existed as HTML on the Walter Geology Library website, but she remembers, “Dennis wanted it to have a more permanent home and one that was easier to cite. He didn’t want to lose all the functionality that comes with having something as a website, so we uploaded all the pages/images and then created an image index that allows you to jump around to the different images (plates) within the work. This work has the most amazing drawings in it! That plate index has had over 1100 downloads.” You can see this in TSW at: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16251
  • The Virtual Landscapes Collection. This collection of Dumble Survey reports and many other documents was Dennis’ labor of love over many years. The content was migrated from the UT Libraries legacy website to TSW earlier this year, bringing all of the related documents together in a single location. Read more at: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/69304

Another project that Dennis coordinated was the digitization of theses and dissertations. He sought out alumni to grant permission to digitize their master’s and doctoral theses and make them available through TSW. Thanks to his efforts, there are hundreds of geology theses in the repository, about half of which pre-date its launch in 2008 (https://texlibris.lib.utexas.edu/2018/09/26/happy-10th-birthday-texas-scholarworks/). Rather fittingly, quite a few of the theses and dissertations available in TSW include Dennis’s name in their acknowledgements sections, along with their authors’ heartfelt expressions of gratitude and appreciation for the guidance and assistance he had provided. One such acknowledgement aptly describes Dennis as someone “whose work and efforts are immeasurable and irreplaceable” – a statement which accurately captures the value of his contributions and the strength of the impression he left on others. 

Dennis delighted in telling stories and connecting people via the relationships he fostered, all of which enriched his contributions to UT’s research ecosystem. Mentoring students, both those doing research and those who were employees, was an ongoing part of who Dennis was, the role he played in the Jackson School, and how he remained in contact with so many graduates over the years. He was the type of person who would be proactive in reaching out to someone new on campus to welcome them, who would find a way to rearrange his schedule so that he could travel across town to attend a colleague’s presentation. His sincere enthusiasm for sharing knowledge and building real connections with others across the university community and beyond, was clearly evident in both his actions and words.

“The collection is an important component of what it is that we do in libraries, but it is the social network that the library represents that is the most significant, to me, aspect of librarianship. Three or four good people can do a lot more than an empty roomful of books in terms of helping people to advance their research.”

Some of his stories were about former Geology Librarian Thelma Guion’s stern demeanor and soft spot for the many student employees whom she supervised. (https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/geo/about) The irony there is the similarity between Thelma and Dennis: while he suffered no fools, Dennis was always open to teaching his students about things and providing them with resources that would help them both with their research and in life. Establishing the Guion award fund for Geology Library employees was one of Dennis’ proudest achievements. 

Ms. Guion’s close relationship to many faculty helped to expand and deepen the library’s collection in ways that would simply not have been possible with regular budgets, and Dennis modeled his collection philosophy after hers. Those relationships paid off in major gifts of unique and valuable materials for many years.

One such recent gift was from a prominent member of the local caving community, Bill Mixon — former book review editor for the National Speleological Society and friend of the Walter Library — who donated his unique collection of over 1000 books and more than 1000 periodical issues related to cave and karst research, literature, and culture, enhancing the Geology Library’s notable existing holdings (https://texlibris.lib.utexas.edu/2019/02/21/area-spelunker-donates-cave-collection/). 

Over the years, gifts of materials included items from major oil company libraries, UNOCAL maps, materials from the American Geosciences Institute, Bureau of Economic Geology and Institute for Geophysics, and the Edwards Aquifer Authority in San Antonio, to name a few. All donations of materials required careful review and curation, as Dennis only retained items to augment areas of focus within the Walter Geology Library and research interest at UT Austin.

The symbiotic, reciprocal relationship between collections and the people who use, learn from and contribute to them often needs a catalyst, someone to prompt attention, encourage exploration and entice action at just the right moment. Dennis was that energetic, compelling force that spurred the dynamic flow of information to nurture productivity throughout the Jackson School, and that will continue to pulse through electronic arteries for decades to come.

Fall 2018 Rewind

Maybe it’s the shorter days, but the fall semester seemed to fly by. Despite the fact that an entire term goes by in a blink, progress doesn’t stall here at the Libraries.

Lorraine Haricombe, Enrique Acevedo and Benson Director Melissa Guy at "An Evening of Discovery."
Lorraine Haricombe, Enrique Acevedo and Benson Director Melissa Guy at “An Evening of Discovery.”

The start of the semester was heavily influenced by milestones related to the Benson Latin American Collection. The Benson got its own book in early August (published by UT Press) documenting the institution’s storied collections and history, and ended the month with “An Evening of Discovery,” an event to launch a fundraising campaign for the Benson’s 100th anniversary (in 2021) featuring noted journalist Enrique Acevedo (Univision, Fusion) speaking on  the currency of Latin American culture, with additional remarks by former UT President Larry Faulkner and Dr. Adriana Pacheco Roldán. The event generated almost $100,000 for the Dr. Fernando Macías and Dr. Adriana Pacheco Benson Centennial Endowment.

The Libraries welcomed the first class of The Consuelo Artaza and Dr. Carlos Castañeda Diversity Alliance Residency Program for the inaugural 2-year term. Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill quickly acclimated to the new program, interviewing staff and getting a lay of the land; their perspective should offer a valuable contribution to the Libraries going forward.

Lorraine Haricombe with the Longhorn Singers at the 2018 Libraries' tailgate.
Lorraine Haricombe with the Longhorn Singers at the 2018 Libraries’ tailgate.

The Libraries hosted its annual tailgate in early September for the Longhorn victory over Tulsa with a family-friendly recharge space that hosted over 300 visitors. Special thanks to partners at the Blanton Museum of Art, Center for Mexican American Studies and LLILAS Benson, and supporters Austin’s Pizza, Austin Eastciders, Dripping Springs Vodka, KIND, Republic Tequila and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Dr. Edmund W. Gordon with friends and family.
Dr. Edmund W. Gordon with friends and family.

The Benson welcomed Edmund W. Gordon, the renowned psychologist, professor, researcher and expert in education access for historically disadvantaged populations, for the opening of his archive and an exhibit on his career and contributions. The event — “Life, Leadership, and Learning: From the Archive of Edmund W. Gordon” — was hosted by Black Diaspora Archivist Rachel Winston with friends, family and students present for testimonials of Gordon’s impact and a moving speech by Gordon himself.

Provost McInnis presents remarks at the open house for the 5th floor renovations at the Fine Arts Library.
Provost McInnis presents remarks at the open house for the 5th floor renovations at the Fine Arts Library.

A couple of open house events later in the month served to launch space enhancements promised to our patrons in the previous year. The first, at the Fine Arts Library, made good on a commitment to improve the research experience for users in the College of Fine Arts with an array of changes to the location’s fifth floor. A collections area was cleared to make room for additional stacks space to accommodate additional books, and along with furniture and aesthetic upgrades, the underperforming wifi was brought up to standards. Provost Maurie McInnis joined appreciative members of the CoFA community and representatives from the Libraries to christen the space in early October.

Provost Maurie McInnis at the open house for the Collaborative Commons renovations at PCL.
Provost Maurie McInnis at the open house for the Collaborative Commons renovations at PCL.

A second opening — also presented with the help of Provost McInnis — highlighted the expansion of the PCL’s most popular community study area. The Collaborative Commons on the library’s 5th floor doubled in size to provide students with a vast improvement over the anachronism they’d been thus subjected to: new modular furniture, carpet and color schemes from this century and enough outlets to accommodate backpacks full of personal devices.

James Hilton (University of Michigan), Lorraine Haricombe, Anne Kenney (Cornell) and Michelle Addington (School of Architecture) at the townhall on the future of libraries.
James Hilton (University of Michigan), Lorraine Haricombe, Anne Kenney (Cornell) and Michelle Addington (School of Architecture) at the townhall on the future of libraries.

In mid-October, Provost McInnis announced the Task Force on the Future of the UT Libraries, a strategic outcome of campus dialogue which had been in development since last spring. The task force will collect input and hold ongoing conversations with stakeholders in order to develop a shared vision for the future of libraries on the Forty Acres. The launch of the task force was followed shortly by a town hall featuring the co-chairs Dean Michelle Addington of the School of Architecture and Vice Provost and Director of UT Libraries Lorraine J. Haricombe, along with guests James Hilton, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan, and Anne Kenney, former University Librarian at Cornell University and consultant to the task force.

And in November, the Libraries paid tribute to the legacy of former director Harold Billings in the form of an exhibit detailing his career work in bringing the institution into the digital age. An intimate reception was hosted for family and friends, and graduate research assistants Virginia Barnes and Rachael Zipperer (School of Information) discussed their experience in developing the exhibit and it’s accompanying online timeline, “The Tomorrow Librarian: Harold Billings’s Legacy, 1978-2003.”

Now we take a much-deserved break to recuperate for the next semester of work, and hope you’ll do the same. Best wishes for your holidays from the University of Texas Libraries!

 

 

 

 

What Summer Break?

Summer on the Forty Acres is in contrast with the rest of the academic calendar in some pretty noticeable ways: herds of parentless campers crisscrossing campus in a clockwork dance; roving bands of noisy Boys State gangs meandering about on a break from their future leadership training opportunity at the Capitol; summer school denizens either rushing to finish out their college careers or putting in the extra work to secure enrollment for the fall semester; facilities workers renewing spaces around campus to extend the life of buildings after another semester of age and wear by an active community; and there’s way less traffic.

We’ve mentioned it before and this year is no different — the summer is when the Libraries work hard through three months of relative calm to push through projects and initiatives that are too disrupting for the long semester, or need to be ready when the full body returns to campus.

A robust semester of discussion about the Fine Arts Library generated approval in late spring for a renovation project to improve the fifth floor of the library to support the needs of students, faculty and researchers in the College of Fine Arts. The project is in its early stages, but will result in, among other things, enhanced and expanded shelving, improved technology support and updated furnishings and carpet. The refresh should be completed by the beginning of the fall semester. Keep up with the changes throughout the project at the Future of the Fine Arts Library page on our website.

Moving from the newest of the library locations to one of the most historic, we received some exciting news about the Life Science Library, too. The Hall of Texas — the west side twin to the east side Hall of Noble Words reading room — has been returned to the care of the Libraries, and work has begun to return it to its former glory. Empty shelves that were partitioned off to provide a home for the Herbarium will soon be repopulated, and the room will provide a companion reflective space for student study and community in one of UT’s most iconic buildings.

The habitants of PCL’s fifth floor will be happy to return in the fall to a development of the Collaborative Commons that exists on the north end of that level. A pilot refresh occurred several years ago to upgrade the aging furniture carpets and technology support, and additional improvements will expand the enhancement of the study and collaborative space into a section on the opposite side of the area.

More information on these projects to come throughout the summer.

 

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.

 

 

 

The library of the future starts with infrastructure

This commentary appeared in the Houston Chronicle, August 26, 2017.

Ask what the campus library does and many will say, “It provides access to books.” Looking toward the future, if libraries are to succeed, they will need to increase investment in services that extend beyond such user assumptions. Libraries should invest in virtual spaces that complement existing technology, unique collections, and content expertise, and library space as a concept will need to be redefined to accommodate work in new arenas.

In a 2015 AACU survey employers reported that they believe only 27 percent of recent graduates are proficient at written communication and even fewer are “innovative/creative”. When thinking about this in concert with student impressions of campus technology in a 2016 ECAR study, the library must contribute to both creative and deepened use of technology in the classroom. Leading students into virtual environments to create research products, utilizing classrooms designed with multiple screens for active small group work, and helping students manage work with the use of project management tools all present opportunities for rich collaborative teaching partnerships between librarians and faculty.

It’s also important for libraries to invest in infrastructure to support web publishing platforms, virtual reality, makerspaces, and large visualization walls that complement existing university resources. Integrating these technologies into the classroom experience will challenge us all to think in new ways about where and how learning occurs. Libraries can provide support to students and teachers as they engage with, critically examine, and build community in and around these spaces. But in order for this to occur, a shift in the way people conceptualize library spaces and services has to occur. By working in new environments, libraries can help students improve communication and develop critical thinking and digital literacy skills that will serve them in all areas of their lives.

In order for us to be successful, campus level administrators have to provide a seat at the executive table for library leadership. Increasing the visibility of challenges being faced by libraries sheds light on the complexity of our current operating environments. Sharing information about the value of library services, and about staffing and IT infrastructure needs, provides an opportunity for those that are invested in the library to ask questions about future directions and provide input on anticipated needs.

Libraries are increasingly becoming key testing grounds for innovative classes and research projects that take advantage of emerging technologies. Administration can demonstrate support for these innovative faculty-library collaborations by providing financial, administrative, and moral support for departments that are attempting to reinvigorate the curriculum. Libraries are not operating in the same way that they were five years ago, and it is imperative that administrators see and fully understand the ways in which our services are evolving, and the ways in which our services provide pathways for new ways of teaching and learning.

Library leaders, similarly, need to fully understand the challenges faced by library staff as they revise organizational and operational models to accommodate new working environments. By providing services in hybrid environments, libraries are demonstrating their capacity to play a key partner role in the teaching and learning process in higher education. This role can advance the critical inquiry and discourse skills of our students, and can contribute to student success post-graduation.

So much of what we think about when we think about our students after graduation is focused on success in the workplace, but at a higher level, many in academic communities are concerned with the development and evolution of civil society. As we expand library services more and more into virtual spaces, we will increasingly ask our communities to redefine their understanding and expectations of our role in developing capacity to engage in dialogue. By investing in the changing landscape of libraries, we are also inviting them to adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of communication and civic engagement.

Amber Welch is the head of technology enhanced learning for The University of Texas Libraries.

 

 

 

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Though most of the current denizens of the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) are too young to appreciate it, the campus’s flagship library turns 40 this year, which is significant in the life of a modern library given the change that the institution has experienced in the last couple of decades.

When PCL was conceived, it was believed that the new building would accommodate the growth in physical collections for the foreseeable future; little did our 20th century forebears imagine the impact digital technologies and a global information network would have on the preservation, storage and distribution of knowledge.

With the upcoming celebration of the Perry-Castañeda Library’s 40th anniversary on the horizon, let’s take a moment to look back at what else was happening back in 1977…

  • Biochemist Lorene Rogers is president of The University of Texas at Austin, and Harold Billings is director of the university’s General Libraries, and enrollment at UT is 41,660.

UT President Lorene Rogers at the dedication ceremony for PCL.

 

  • Dolph Briscoe is the governor of Texas, Austin has a population of 321,900 (now 947,890), and Texas has 13.19 million (now 27.86 million).
  • Median income: $13,572. Average cost of: a house — $54,200; a car — ~$4,300; a gallon of gas — $0.62; annual tuition, room & board — $2,411.
  • Apple Computer is incorporated, and later in the year, the first Apple II series computers go on sale.

Apple II.

 

  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough is the best-selling fiction of the year.
  • Laverne & Shirley is the top rated TV show.
  • The critically-acclaimed television miniseries adaption of Alex Haley’s Roots airs.

ABC's miniseries adaptation of Alex Haley's "Roots."

 

  • The punk band The Clash’s debut album The Clash is released on CBS Records.
  • Optical fiber is first used to carry live telephone traffic.

Fiber optic installation. Chicago, 1977.

  • The first Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre opens in San Jose, California.
  • George Lucas’s Star Wars opens in cinemas and becomes the highest-grossing film of its time. Woody Allen’s Annie Hall wins the Oscar for Best Picture. Also released: Close Encounters of the Third KindEraserhead, and Smokey and the Bandit.

Star Wars movie poster.

 

  • Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” is Billboard’s Top Hot 100 single for the year, and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors is the top-selling album.
  • Elvis Presley, the “king of rock and roll”, dies in his home in Graceland at age 42.
  • Jimmy Carter signs legislation creating the United States Department of Energy.
  • NASA launches the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

Artist's concept of Voyager in flight.

 

  • British punk band Sex Pistols release Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols on the Virgin Records label.
  • San Francisco elects City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official of any large city in the U.S.

 

  • Saturday Night Fever is released, launching the careers of John Travolta and resulting in multiple hits for the Bee Gees.
  • Atari, Inc. releases the Atari 2600 game console in North America.

Atari Video Computer System (or Atari2600).

 

  • The first children’s cable channel The Pinwheel Network (later known as Nickelodeon), is launched.
  • The first ever event is hosted at the newly opened Frank Erwin Center on November 29 when the Longhorn men’s basketball team defeats Oklahoma, 83-76.
  • The Longhorn football team finishes the regular season with an 11–0 record, and running back Earl Campbell wins the Heisman Trophy, leading the nation in rushing with 1,744 yards.

What were you doing in 1977?

Message to States: Make OER a Priority

Lorraine Haricombe says states need to follow New York’s lead and advance OER initiatives.

Lorraine J. Haricombe, Vice Provost and Director, UT Libraries.
Lorraine J. Haricombe, Vice Provost and Director, UT Libraries.

Tucked away in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement to make tuition free to eligible students at two state university systems was additional important news – a budget of $8 million had been earmarked to promote and distribute open educational resources, or online education materials that are free to access and customize for students. The two university systems have been urged to use this money to focus on high-enrollment courses, with the goal of minimizing or eliminating textbook costs for those courses. This is a very positive step toward college affordability and is exactly what we need in more states and on a national scale.

It’s no secret that the high cost of textbooks places an enormous burden on students. Textbook costs increased by an astonishing 82 percent from 2002 to 2012, a pace that is triple the rate of inflation. Open educational resources are a promising way to address issues related to both costs and education.

Advancing the use of open educational resources means upending a decades-old system, and it has the potential for pushback from institutions, bookstores, publishers and even faculty members, as there isn’t much of an incentive to transition to open educational resources versus traditional textbooks.

But it’s worth it because it is a viable solution to increasing student success. And it starts with open textbooks, which are a collection of open educational resources aggregated in a manner that resembles a traditional textbook.

As a longtime advocate of “open access,” I know that open textbooks are not the only solution to the higher education affordability problem. However, they can save students significant money not only individually, but collectively in high-enrollment classes where the combined savings are potentially large. Take, for example, OpenStax at Rice University, which offers free peer-reviewed open textbooks. It has saved students $155 million since 2012 by offering textbooks for the highest-enrollment college courses across the country. Simply stated, the advantages of using open educational resources offer students greater potential for broader access to information and education in New York, Texas or any state in between.

Open materials can also empower faculty members to change the way they teach and give them the academic freedom to tailor their course content to their students’ needs. What that exactly means for student learning and the motivations that encourage faculty to use open educational resources in their work as researchers and instructors offers an important opportunity to positively impact higher education as a whole.

Luckily some states are getting the message. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed Senate Bill 810 into law supporting the adoption of open educational resources similar to the Affordable Learning Georgia program out of the University System of Georgia, which has saved students more than $16 million through expanding the use of free and open course materials. Other states such as Florida, California, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington have enacted legislation that has expanded or stabilized open educational resources.

The momentum is also gaining traction in non-legislative initiatives. Seven of Rhode Island’s state colleges started using open-license textbooks this year in hopes of saving students at least $5 million in the next five years. And open educational resources libraries have been created at the system and/or institutional levels in Arizona, Minnesota, NewYork and Virginia without legislation. Some publishers are even trying to get into the mix.

But we need more. Moving forward, we need to convince more lawmakers in more states – and ultimately taxpayers – of the savings accrued to students and improved academic success rates for students using open educational resources versus traditional textbooks. And we need recurring appropriations to provide sustainable support for promoting and growing open educational resources in teaching and learning. With New York and several large university systems and legislative initiatives setting the example, it’s up to the rest of us to catch up and build on it.

Looking Back

Looking back...

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.

Learning Commons opening. L-R: Randy Diehl, Gregory Fenves, Lorraine Haricombe.
Learning Commons opening. L-R: Randy Diehl, Gregory Fenves, Lorraine Haricombe.

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 Haricombe.
Lorraine Haricombe.

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.

Doug Benson and Teresa Lozano Long.
Doug Benson and Teresa Lozano Long.

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.

The Libraries’ propensity for fostering creativity manifested itself in a successful crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the construction of a recording studio at the Fine Arts Library (FAL), and in the continued pilot of the Media Lab at PCL that provided students a technology rich resource for work on modern multimedia projects.

A pair of NEH 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.

T-Kay Sangwand and Christian Kelleher meet with Rwandan officials.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.

The Libraries continued its popular run of programming, with entertaining and informative events in the form of Science Study Break, Research + Pizza, Films in Person, Excessive Noise concerts, the Distinguished Author Dinner, and exhibitions from the Benson Latin American Collection and the Architecture & Planning Library’s To Better Know a Building series.

Dale J. Correa, MES Librarian, and Mahjoub Zweiri, professor of history at QU.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.

 

Susan Ardis

From Larayne Dallas

Susan Ardis.
Susan Ardis.

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.

 

Nancy Elder

From Liz DeHart

Nancy Elder.
Nancy Elder.

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!

 

Molly White

From Dennis Trombatore

Molly White.
Molly White.

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.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Posthumous Contribution: An Icon of a City

Plans for the redevelopment of Olin Park in Madison, WI from Frank Lloyd Wright’s work on the Monona Basin Project.

While searching for all of the items in Karl Kamrath’s Collection last semester, I was directly exposed to the vast depth and diversity of a successful architect’s personal library. From Alden Dow to Katherine Morrow to Richard Neutra, Kamrath’s collection spanned decades and encompassed elements of major movements and achievements in the 20th century.

While his collection contains some quintessential readings that were quite prolific (such as Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats and Other WritingsHassan Fathy’s Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egyptand Frank Lloyd Wright’s The Future of Architecture), there are also some limited publications of several design projects that Kamrath and his firm were associated with. As I sifted through special collections to find these professional reports, one caught my eye before I even noticed the Kamrath Collection stamp on the cover: The Monona Basin Project.

My interest directly stems from the report’s subject: a schematic master plan for the city of Madison, Wisconsin. As a University of Wisconsin graduate who spent five years in Madison, I was immediately intrigued by the possibility of being able to compare my visual of Madison with a plan dating back to 1967.

For anyone that’s either been a resident of the greater Wisconsin-Illinois area or happens to be a Frank Lloyd Wright buff, you know that Wright’s career began in Madison as a student at the University of Wisconsin. Though he never completed his engineering degree, he went on to realize many significant projects in Madison and the surrounding area, including the Robert M. Lamp House, Unitarian Meeting House, and Taliesin in nearby Spring Green, one of his most famous projects. However, Monona Terrace likely possesses one of the most interesting timelines of all of Wright’s works – and I’m here to share that story with you all!

You can continue reading the rest of this article by Architecture & Planning Library GRA Stephanie Phillips over at the Battle Hall Highlights blog.

Ruminations on Copyright Reform

Image courtesy Horia Varlan's Flickr photostream under a Creative Commons license.

Thoughts by the University of Texas Libraries Scholary Communications Advisor and resident copyright expert Georgia Harper on Pam Samuelson’s article, “Reforming Copyright is Possible,” published in the July 9 edition of  The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Pam Samuelson is a visionary copyright scholar, winner of a MacArthur Grant, and an optimist. She believes that despite the dim prospects for badly needed comprehensive copyright reform, we can take small steps to make big improvements, both within and outside the legislative process. Several of her proposals for libraries’ independent action exhort us to rely more confidently on fair use, engage in concerted efforts to search for owners of out-of-commerce works and identify them so that people may use more freely those for whom owners cannot be found, and work together to bring our out-of-copyright works to digital life. For example, she applauds the efforts to create a Digital Public Library that would provide public access to public domain works. She is right. All of these ideas are good ones that deserve our attention and our action.

Her suggestions about how modest legislative efforts could improve the picture for public access to libraries’ holdings are more difficult to embrace. Continue reading Ruminations on Copyright Reform