Category Archives: Commentary

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!

 

 

 

 

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.

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

On the Front Lines – Dr. E.L. Koschmieder

"The Inca Kingdom," by E. L. Koschmieder

Susan Ardis, head librarian at the McKinney Engineering Library, reflects on the relationship between librarian and scholar.

Thinking…really thinking…about problems sums up Dr. E.L. Koschmieder.

Dr. Koschmieder received his from Ph.D. from the University Of Bonn in 1963 and came to the University of Texas after having post docs at Harvard and the University of Chicago. He is now an emeritus faculty member in the  Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering. While at UT,  his technical interests included convection, hydrodynamic instability and turbulence. He is also well known for his fluid mechanics photographs—so well known that even after he retired we got questions about how to contact him for permission to use one of his photographs. I note that he always gave permission.

What has always set Lothar apart from others is not only his abiding interest in fluid mechanics but is his interests  in culture, photography, political science and education. Lothar is from the old school—an educated man who believes in education and is always trying to solve what he calls “my little problems.” Once he retired, he did not stop thinking of nor stop trying to solve his little problems. These “little problems” could be found anywhere but one in particular he discovered when he and his wife Kate traveled to Peru, Ecuador and specifically the Machu Picchu area, where he took literally thousands of photographs.

This  physicist/engineer was fascinated by the building techniques used and he wanted to know more. He examined and thought about the knobs or bosses on the stones found in walls at Cuzco—what purpose did they serve? So began another of his research projects. He borrowed books from all over the world, particularly those with early descriptions, drawings and photographs of Inca buildings, art and textiles.  He talked with experts and he read, read, read. The result of all of this effort and thought is a truly remarkable book  The Inca Kingdom (Xlibris, 2012).

As always when a librarian is acknowledged for her help—I was tickled pink to be honored for my help in his book.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la caneck, caneck….

The Last Lonestar Showdown

On Thursday of last week, college football fans around Texas and many from around the nation gathered around the flat screen to watch the final episode in the third longest running rivalry in college football.  After this season, the two teams are unlikely to encounter each other again in the regular season as the Aggies head toward the Southeastern Conference and the Longhorns lock up annually with their heartland foes.

But even as the sports scene in Texas changes fundamentally, so much remains the same.   The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University remain the two flagship institutions of our state, and when it comes to teaching, learning and research, the two schools remain ever so closely aligned.

And our libraries are united in their determination to advance the core educational missions of the two universities.  The University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System have united to fund and operate a common storage facility on property owned by Texas A&M.  There all the universities in both systems will be able to preserve their print copies in a shared resources in common facility that will ensure the preservation of the “long tail” of scholarly research while freeing up valuable central library space on every campus.  Full sets of journals now accessed electronically—such as JSTOR—will have their archive print instantiation in Bryan, Texas.

At the same time, the two flagships continue to work together to harness the power of digital technologies in support of research.  Combining their own powerful (but separate distinct) holdings of first century books from Mexico with other examples from Mexican partners, Spain, Brown University, Tulane, Harvard and elsewhere, the Los Primeros Libros project will eventually  enable scholars around the globe to access and study all of the 200+ surviving examples of printing in the Western Hemisphere.

So, as both schools rewrite the lyrics to their fight songs, where each disparages the other in the early stanzas, the librarians will resume the collaboration that makes their combined collections one of the state’s most important assets.

Hook ‘em /  Gig ‘em

 

Grasping at Strawmen

New Hampshire ILL: The sole survivor?

Most library supporters are willing to have a rational discussion about the viability of library services at a time when there are increasing budgetary constraints and amidst the changing nature of libraries in the digital age. But then you have the case of New Hampshire Rep. Steven Vaillancourt, who believes that the effectiveness of his state’s inter-library loan program indicates that it is too well-funded by the taxpayers of his state.

Apparently even when confronted with the fact that the program was run with federal monies and was only composed of four vans traversing the state, this was Vaillancourt’s response:

 He’d be happier to wait longer and save money by reducing the number of vans, (Vaillancourt) said.

“The state does not need a gold-plated service,” he said.

Reasoned debate should be, and for the most part is, the currency of discourse, but occasionally you get a partisan crusader who is either unwilling to recognize personal fallibility, or has otherwise created a controversy out of whole cloth for the purpose of political brinksmanship. In this case, it seems Vaillancourt has stumbled into both categories equally.

For a more complete takedown of this utter nonsense, the Annoyed Librarian weighs in.