Category Archives: Commentary

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.