In the spring of 2019,LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections partnered with the Urban Teachers Program at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education to develop and provide free, online access to high school lesson plans. The goal was to bring together the historical perspectives of underrepresented groups, current scholarship, and digitized holdings of the Benson Latin American Collection and Latin American partners. Thanks to a Department of Education Title VI grant, LLILAS Benson was able to create a portal via UT Libraries’ open-access repositories to make these resources widely available to teachers.
For the past two years, College of Education graduate students have been creating World History and World Geography units for use in high school classrooms. The underlying principle for these teaching materials is that students are able to understand, and then subvert, dominant historical narratives in Latin American, U.S. Latinx, and African Diaspora history given the marginalized perspectives the lesson plans highlight. Using the Benson’s digital collections, they have focused on a variety of topics, including women in colonial Latin America, the Mexican Revolution, and the Cold War in Central and South America (publication in process).
The collaboration and site has since broadened to include other disciplines, audiences, and learning objectives. LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship staff has been partnering with faculty and graduate students in Latin American Studies, Art and Art History, Spanish and Portuguese, Mexican American Studies, and History to design Digital Humanities–focused lesson plans and assignments for undergraduate teaching. Work is also ongoing to publish technical capacity-building teaching and learning resources for graduate students, digital humanists, and archival professionals at UT Austin and beyond.
The site also helps instructors and students find and browse through LLILAS Benson’s digital resources. It consolidates under its Primary Sources section all existing LLILAS Benson digital scholarship projects, digitized collections, and exhibitions. Visitors can filter these resources by grade level, date range, course subject, and country to find relevant primary and secondary sources on their research and teaching focus.
Explore the site through http://curriculum.llilasbenson.utexas.edu/. The interdisciplinary collaborations and site’s development were generously funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI Program and LLILAS Benson’s Excellence Fund for Technology and Development in Latin America. This resource was conceived, designed, and launched by:
Lindsey Engleman, Public Engagement Coordinator (2014–2019), LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
Tiffany Guridy, Public Engagement Coordinator, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
Delandrea S. Hall, Doctoral Candidate, Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education
Rodrigo Leal, Website Designer and Student Technician(Spring 2019), LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
Casz McCarthy, Public Engagement Graduate Research Assistant, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
Albert A. Palacios, Digital Scholarship Coordinator, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
Cinthia S. Salinas, Professor and Chair, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education
UT Libraries Digital Stewardship (Anna Lamphear and Brittany Centeno)
Ada Lovelace was a pioneering computer scientist
and mathematician of the 19th century. Since 2009, on the second Tuesday in
October individuals around the country and globe gather to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day by commemorating her life and raising the profile of women and
LGBTQ+ persons in the STEM fields. To honor her legacy, a group of librarians
at UT planned and facilitated a daylong Wikipedia Edit-a-thon scheduled for
October 8, 2019.
Beginning in earnest in mid-August, four
librarians including Gina Bastone, Roxanne Bogucka, Lydia Fletcher, and myself
sat together at a table in the Physics, Math and Astronomy Library to
brainstorm ideas and organize what would turn out to be an amazing experience
and very meaningful event. The event drew more than 45 participants from across
campus to learn about the Wikipedia editing process and get inaugural edits
under their belts.
To organize a successful Edit-a-thon event
requires considerable planning in addition to forethought and purpose. Some of
the initial goals were to improve the visibility of women in STEM fields, to
teach first-time editors the quirks of Wikipedia editing, and to democratize
the process of editing Wikipedia, which itself is largely contributed to by cis
white men. Creating an accessible and drop-in event where folks could learn
something, grab some food, and edit in between classes was also a priority.
Starting the research process, identifying useful Wikipedia-friendly sources on
top of creating content was a high order to meet in addition to orienting
participants to the editing process. Reflecting on our cumulative past
experience it was agreed that structuring the event to be largely self-guided
was the best approach. Recognizing that the average participant may spend about
an hour between classes at the Edit-a-thon, librarians identified pages that
required editing and organizing sources ahead of time, focusing specifically on
local women in STEM. We reached out to campus groups such as Women in Physics,
Gender & Sexuality Center, and CNS-Q, who proved helpful by
enthusiastically providing support in word of mouth and extra sustenance on the
day of the Edit-a-thon.
We organized the day through a system of Google Drive links and physical sticky notes to ensure that only one person would be editing one article at a time, while retaining the ability to have more than one contributor to each article on the day. Using this system of sticky notes to identify topics for editing, each person would grab a note with a unique scientist’s name off the board, hold on to it while editing that topic and then return it to the board if the entry still needed further edits. The Google Drive folder contained supporting material for our selected topics in addition to a wealth of curated training documents. Many of these training documents were reused and can be reused again in the future. These tools allowed us to plan and coordinate an event without having a required time for a formal demonstration.
The Edit-a-thon was wildly successful and drew
participation from many first-time editors in the College of Natural Sciences.
While the turnout was better than we had expected, the true success was in the
feedback. All of the respondents to our survey agreed that they had learned
about editing Wikipedia and the construction of articles at the event, and 87%
said that they plan to continue editing into the future. The goals of the
planning group had been met and exceeded, encouraging us to run further events
teaching the ins and outs of contributing to Wikipedia.
White, heterosexual men have long dominated archival records. However, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection has a new archival exhibition that indicates the times are changing.
The Benson Collection is pleased to commemorate the acquisition of the Alicia Gaspar de Alba Papers in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room on Thursday, May 2, at 4 p.m., with a visit from the author herself. During the presentation, Gaspar de Alba will read from her published creative writings as well as participate in a discussion with Mexican American and Latina/o Studies faculty member and community activist Lilia Rosas. Additionally, a selection of the Alicia Gaspar de Alba papers will be on view in an exhibition titled “This is about resistance”: The Feminist Revisions of Alicia Gaspar de Alba. The Benson acquired these papers in fall of 2017 through a generous donation from the notable Chicana feminist scholar, professor, and author.
The exhibit highlights the intersections of Gaspar de Alba’s scholarly and creative endeavors. Early poetry, essays on identity as a queer Chicana feminist, journal entries, research notes for novels and scholarly work like Desert Blood (2005) and Making a Killing (2010), correspondence with UT Press, novel manuscripts, and photographs will all be on display for visitors.
Gaspar de Alba is a native of El Paso/Ciudad Juárez, but has lived for over twenty-five years in Los Angeles, where she is a founding faculty member and former chair of the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies. She is currently the Chair of the LGBT Studies Program and has affiliate status with the English Department. A celebrated writer and scholar, she has won various awards, including the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery Novel (Desert Blood) and the American Association of Higher Education Book Award for [Un]framing the “Bad Woman” (2015).
This event is co-hosted by the University of Texas Libraries and LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, who gratefully acknowledge the following co-sponsors: the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.
About the Benson Latin American Collection
The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection is one of the foremost collections of library materials on Latin America worldwide. Established in 1921 as the Latin American Library, the Benson is approaching its centennial. Through its partnership established with the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies in 2011, the Benson continues to be at the forefront of Latin American and U.S. Latina/o librarianship through its collections and digital initiatives.
Small children running around the PCL’s UFCU Room is not a normal sight on a Tuesday morning. Neither is a drag queen dressed up in a gown and full make-up. But on November 27, the Perry-Castañeda Library brought them together for a special story time event. Tatiana Cholula read picture books to a crowd of about 20 small children and their parents. UT faculty, staff, and students joined in and took a seat on the floor to hear Miss Tatiana’s stories.
Drag Queen Story Time is a national phenomenon, and it is exactly as the name suggests – drag performers read picture books aloud to groups of small children, their parents, and adult drag fans. It has been a huge hit at public libraries across the country, and when our friends at Austin Public Library hosted their own Drag Queen Story Time event, they had to turn folks away because their room was at capacity!
While Drag Queen Story Time is not a typical event hosted by an academic library, we thought it sounded like so much fun that we had to give it a try. The PCL has an extensive Youth Collection, including a lovely selection of new and notable picture books. Faculty and students use the Youth Collection for research in education, cultural history, and art, and many faculty and staff with children check out these books for leisure reading. Because November is National Picture Book Month, it was the perfect time to hold this event.
We partnered with UT’s Gender & Sexuality Center to find a drag performer, and they directed us to Tatiana Cholula, a former UT student, who is popular in the local Austin drag scene. Miss Tatiana immediately was enthusiastic about the event, and she picked out three picture books from the PCL’s Youth Collection that featured LGBTQ+ characters and characters of color.
We are proud to have brought visibility to gender diversity and the joy and fun of drag performance to the library. The event also encouraged young children to be themselves, no matter their gender, and showed them a glamorous, queer role model. We received enthusiastic feedback from parents and students who asked us to host the event again, and Miss Tatiana said, “Showing my art to a much younger audience made my heart so full.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Earlier this year, the UT Libraries hosted a panel discussion called, Can I Use That?: Remix and Creativity. The event was the brainchild of Juliana Castro, a graduate student in the School of Design & Creative Technologies. She worked with librarians Becca Pad, Gina Bastone and Colleen Lyon to plan a panel event that dove into issues around rules of copyright and reuse as they relate to creative fields of inquiry.
The panelists for the event included: Dr. Carma Gorman, Design; Dr. Philip Doty, School of Information; Dr. Carol MacKay, English; and Gina Bastone, UT Libraries. The question and answer session of the panel was particularly lively as participants engaged with our experienced panel on a variety of reuse issues.
The capstone of the event was an opportunity to bind a Cita Press public domain book, The Yellow Wall-Paper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. UT Libraries is pleased to work with scholars like Juliana Castro who are interested in exploring new ways to freely share information, and is excited to help her introduce Cita Press.
Public domain is a legal term used to refer to visual or written works without intellectual property rights. Works enter the public domain for different reasons, including expiration of the rights, forfeiture, waiver, or inapplicability, as in the case of pieces created before an existing legal framework. At the end of the eighteenth century, copyrights lasted only 14 years in the USA, with an option of renewing for another 14 years. However, copyright terms have expanded dramatically over the course of the twentieth century in the USA.
Since the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1998, most copyrighted works do not re-enter the public domain until 70 years after the death of the author. These extensions are created to benefit creators’ interests, but not only do they oftentimes fail to do so, but can stifle creativity, free speech, and the democratic exchange of ideas.
In the last three centuries, women have gradually made their way into the publishing industry as active writers, often exploring topics considered inappropriate or even immoral for women to address. The printing press was developed by Johannes Gutenberg c.1439. By 1500, printing presses were operating all throughout Europe; by 1539 Spanish colonists were printing in Mexico; and by 1638 English colonists were printing in New England. However, until the early nineteenth century, writing was still a suspect occupation for women. Because often times writing was viewed as unfeminine, the few women who had the educational background to write works of public interest would often publish anonymously, using masculine pseudonyms to avoid jeopardizing their social status.
Art and literature have been sexist arenas, and as Joanna Russ points, for centuries women have had to fight outright prohibitions, social disapproval, lack of role models, isolation, and other forms of suppression in order to get their work published and recognized. Most of the nineteenth century’s feminist literature is now in the public domain, but many of these writings are not being republished by commercial publishers. When publishers do reprint public-domain texts, they rarely do so in open-access book formats. Because commercial publishers invest in curating and marketing well-designed collections of reprints, they frequently commission original annotations or introductions from scholars, which in turn enables them to copyright and profit from their new editions.
In contrast, Internet-based archives such as Google Books, HathiTrust, and Archive.org make an enormous corpus of public-domain books available for free online, but do so as scans or in poorly designed digital formats. Moreover, internet archives usually do not make their collections particularly navigable or appealing to non-scholarly audiences, nor do they make it properly designed and easy to print.
Cita’s purpose is to celebrate and make accessible the work of female authors, and inspire people to explore open publishing formats. In the future, I plan to extend Cita’s reach as an active open-source editing platform that is committed to intersectionality and that welcomes diverse voices and backgrounds by republishing new works, especially in Spanish, including those of living authors who are willing to open-license their works.
As is the case with most successful open-source projects, Cita needs user-contributor engagement in order to grow. The existing collaborative community is likely to extend their work towards creating new material, and potential new contributors will be encouraged to join in at different levels of the book-creating process, including cleaning texts, reformatting HTML, designing covers, laying out texts, marketing the site, etc. I plan to apply for small grants that can cover certain parts of the book making process, such as formatting and free distribution of printed copies. But Cita’s success will ultimately rely on the efforts of those who are interested in celebrating and making women’s art and literature more accessible.
Most people think of SXSW as a giant party. But a for a group of us from the UT Libraries this year, SXSW presented an opportunity to make Wikipedia a more welcoming and representative place for LGBTQ+-identified people.
It started with an idea from some great folks at WNYC Studios, a public radio station in New York, to host an LGBTQ+ Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon during SXSW. WNYC produces the acclaimed podcast Nancy that covers modern queer identity. Hosts Kathy Tu and Tobin Low were at the festival to present on diversity in podcasting and wanted to do more in their off-time while in Austin. They noticed that many queer and trans topics don’t have robust Wikipedia pages, if they had pages at all, so they decided to tackle these significant information gaps.
I linked up with them in January, when they had the wisdom to reach out to librarians in Austin to assist with this event, Keep Wikipedia Queer. Event planning is more than one-person job, and I was able to partner with some graduate students from iSchool Pride, a group from the School of Information.
As we began planning, we realized that many people from UT might not be in town during SXSW. To encourage as much UT participation as possible, we decided to host Queering the Record, a pre edit-a-thon research event at the PCL during the week before Spring Break. Queering the Record provided structured time, space, and snacks for librarians, students, faculty, and staff to use library resources to identify topics that need Wikipedia pages and collect a list of sources that could be used and cited by edit-a-thon participants. More than 35 people attended Queering the Record, and by the end, we created a 23-page Google doc that we were able to share and work from at Nancy’s Edit-A-Thon.
Speaking of Nancy’s event – it was a lot of fun! During the 4-hour event held downtown, we met people from around Austin and around the country, all of whom are passionate about LGBTQ+ representation. Seven folks from UT attended, including some PCL Graduate Research Assistants, and we connected with a librarian from the City University of New York system. As a group, we edited more than 70 Wikipedia pages on topics as wide-ranging as comedian/blogger Samantha Irby, LGBTQ+ rights in Syria, Austin’s QueerBomb celebration, and the children’s book series Frog and Toad.
The response to both of these events from students and staff was so positive that we hope to hold more LGBTQ+ Wikipedia edit-a-thons in the future!
Special thanks to iSchool student and PCL GRA Elle Covington for her contributions to these events!
Excessive Noise is an occasional concert series hosted by the Fine Arts Library. Organized by Russell Podgorsek — who earned his doctorate at the Butler School of Music and is an employee of the Fine Arts Library — the series provides students with an opportunity to perform chamber and solo works beyond those required by their degree programs. It also provides an opportunity for the premier of original works beyond the classroom. While generally in the classical vein, Excessive Noise features work from a variety of traditions and perspectives.
The newest installment of “Excessive Noise: Not Just the Notes” takes place this Friday, March 8 in the Fine Arts Library, just in time to warm up for SXSW. The show is free and starts at 6 p.m.
Podgorsek and his co-curator for the concert, Jessy Eubanks, took a moment to answer a few questions about the series and Not Just the Notes.
So, how did you come up with the concept for Excessive Noise, and what were your goals for the program?
Russell Podgorsek: I started Excessive Noise back when I was a doctoral student in music and a GRA at the Fine Arts Library (FAL). Recently retired music librarian David Hunter mentioned that they’d previously had a concert series there and strongly suggested I start it up again. At first, it was just a nice vehicle to have some other performance opportunities for student performers and composers, and capitalize on the surprisingly good acoustic in the FAL, but as the semesters went on we had more alumni, Austin music community members, and even a few guests from out of town perform. We’ve had programs with speakers from Asian Studies, a feature with the Maps Collection, and more recently featured ensembles like invoke and Hear No Evil, allowing them to program the entire event. In other words, I think it’s come to be more a celebration of the library as a community hub, as a place where you come to share and explore ideas. I should add that UT Libraries has been consistently supportive of the series and not only do we appreciate it, but patrons also tell me after every concert what a nice tradition it’s become for them.
You’ve really engaged the community with the series by presenting programming that might otherwise be familiar almost exclusively to people associated with the Butler School or the College of Fine Arts. Can you explain how you settle on themes for the individual events? Is that your own conceptualization, or are you co-curating with the performers?
RP: At first there were no themes really; I was just asking whoever was around and interested in playing to play, and of course I programmed one of my own pieces on each concert. But once the series was had been around for a year or two and the old reference stacks were replaced with shorter, newer ones, the place attracted more interested performers. In some cases, like with the collaboration with the Maps Collection back in 2014, the materials we wanted to showcase dictated the “theme”. For that concert we even had five pieces newly written based on maps of Chicago from the collection. The Orient-Occident performance was a more generalized “East meets West” theme that came out of my own interaction with Japanese culture. We had a DMA composer at that point from China and several grad students from Pakistan at BSOM so the pieces just fell into place. More recently, I’ve had ensembles provide their own programs, although the last concert was a joint programming venture with Hear No Evil (we did two of my pieces with them and they supplied the rest). So, I guess the short answer is we’ve done it almost every way one could. This time around I’ve handed the programming off to the not just the notes collective. The director is one of my students and the co-directors former students of mine, so I’m more of an advisor for the time being.
What’s the story with Not Just the Notes? This seems like an extension of the ensemble programming, but perhaps in a new way.
Jessy Eubanks: Not Just The Notes is more of a concert series than an ensemble. We program new music written by UT composers, and focus on non-musical themes and collaboration. For example, this concert program consists of pieces about how humans interact with the environment, and current environmental issues. We needed a venue for our first concert, and Russell was very kind in letting us use the Excessive Noise series as a host.
One of the great things about the Excessive Noise series is that it gives campus composers the chance to share new material and to experiment in a performance space. Not Just the Notes seems to be a great fit for the series because of that. Can you talk a little about the nature of collaboration in the program, and maybe offer a peak into what folks can expect from the performances?
JE: Our first collaboration will include the Campus Environmental Center. We’ve worked with by inviting them to our event, and they’ll have a table set up at the concert to answer questions and share some about the work they do around UT. It’s been really cool to make that connection. As for the performances themselves, each piece deals with a different aspect of how people are interacting with nature and the environment, things like that, and some send very strong messages about current issues such as deforestation or over-consumption.
The program is titled “Green Paw.” Can you talk about that and who will be performing?
JE: All of the performers are UT students, but a number of pieces have no performers at all- they are solely electronic or fixed media. Other pieces are a combination and feature live players with electronics.
The title Green Paw is a reference to the environmental theme of the concert, we thought it sounded cool and wanted a way to differentiate between this concert and (hopefully) future concerts.
What are you planning for the future programming of Not Just the Notes? And what can we expect in the future from the Excessive Noise series?
JE: For Not Just the Notes, one area we’re hoping to explore is working with other students in the arts, such as dance or visual arts. There’s already so much potential in the College of Fine Arts alone, but we don’t want to limit ourselves. For example, there are also many music students involved in computer science, and it’d be very interesting to work creatively with them. There’s tons of options, and we’re also open to anyone coming to us with ideas for collaboration!
RP: I’ve got a couple of potential programs in mind for the future of Excessive Noise: a revival of a really successful project called “Sehr Flash” that we mounted back in 2016 at BSOM and the Texas Book Festival in conjunction with lit-mag NANOFiction, and a “new common practice” concert for which we’ll have several new pieces written all with the same stylistic constraints (the OULIPO groups does this kind of thing in the world of literature). Also, depending on how things shape up in terms of scheduling soloists, we may have a steel drum feature sometime soon.
On November 3rd, the Libraries’ Social Sciences Team conducted its first Graduate Research Showcase, which featured twenty posters with a wide array of topics ranging from the economic impacts of state immigration reform to the role of paternal warmth and maternal stress in child-rearing to sport as part of Great Britain’s colonial enterprise in India. In total, the twenty graduate students came from fifteen different departments across campus, sparking interdisciplinary dialogue, collaboration, and scholarly engagement.
The showcase elevated the library as a platform. It provided an opportunity for the students to explain their research in a low-stress environment replete with refreshments as they received constructive criticism on their work. Students welcomed the idea to practice talking about their research. Katie Bradford, a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies noted that “the event was a great opportunity to receive feedback. I was able to take notes and came away with ways to further develop my project.” Similarly, Department of Curriculum & Instruction doctoral student Hye Ryung Won appreciated the cross-department possibilities: “I got a lot of feedback from people and could make some connections with peers from other departments.” The enthusiasm found in these statements resonated throughout the day.
Moreover, one lucky student won the vote for best poster: Briana Barber, a doctoral student in the Department of Radio-Television-Film put forth stimulating research on African American voices in podcasts. Titled, “‘The Conversations that Black People Have When White People Aren’t in the Room’: The Podcast as Public Sphere,” the presentation focused on how African Americans continue to carve out spaces in a medium previously dominated by white voices. The best poster contest may have been just for fun, but it had a real impact on Barber, who remarked that “winning the poster competition was just the motivation I needed to know that the work I’m doing is interesting, important and necessary.”
The Social Sciences Team organized the event at the Perry-Castañeda Library’s Scholars Commons, a newly designed space for UTL to foster research initiatives and exhibit space. By all accounts, the Showcase represented a successful shift in the Library’s involvement with research: it attracted over 100 students, staff, and community members while students have called for another poster session to be held the following semester. Indeed, Assistant Director of Digital Scholarship Jenifer Flaxbart commented that “the Scholars Commons has never buzzed and hummed with the cadence of so many voices discussing interesting, broad-ranging research as it did today.” Stay tuned for future events!
Carolyn is a Texan, born and raised, and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Science in Information Studies from UT Austin. After graduation, she served stints at St. Edward’s University, and UT San Antonio, before returning to UT Austin to work as the Social Sciences Liaison Librarian for Human Development & Family Sciences, Kinesiology & Health Education, Psychology, Social Work, and Sociology.
Research topics are driven not only by access to resources, but quality resources, walk us through how you develop new and curate existing resources for the social sciences.
Carolyn Cunningham: Social scientists use a little bit of everything in their research, from statistical data gathered from research articles and government agencies, books, to qualitative interviews. Some of this information is freely available, but a large portion is only available through our library subscriptions. We try to stay on top of developments in the field so our researchers will have access to the latest journal articles. With publication prices going up and budgets staying the same or shrinking, we have to prioritize carefully to serve the many different types of experts in our fields.
Many social science students go on to work outside of academia after graduation, so they lose access to the library resources they had while they were in school. It is just as important for them to have access to the latest research while working as practitioners as when they are students. Social work students are a great example. The agencies and organizations they work for after graduation sometimes have affiliations that allow research access, but often they are on their own. I try to squeeze in lessons about how to find open access material, how to request material through the public library, and other access points while they are still on campus.
How many patrons do you service on the Forty Acres?
CC: In my role as subject liaison, I serve folks in the following departments, across multiple colleges: Human Development & Family Sciences, Kinesiology & Health Education, Psychology, Social Work, and Sociology. I serve over 4,000 patrons, which includes 316 faculty and instructors, 700 masters and doctoral students, and 3,000 undergraduate students.
I also work unofficially with programs that don’t fit within one department, and I serve the campus at large when I answer questions through the Ask a Librarian chat and at the PCL Research Help desk.
Day to day, we see you in front of classrooms alongside professors teaching students how to access research information or with individuals who have an idea for research but are not sure how to get started. What happens in those sessions?
CC: Teaching in the classroom and meeting with folks one-on-one are some of the best parts of my job. When a faculty member invites me to talk about the art of doing research and exposing the students to the available tools, it can be tough to narrow down the talking points to fit the time allotted. It’s easy for me to go on and on, knowing all the tools we offer. Usually my classroom sessions happen when the students are writing research papers and they need to cite scholarly sources. With undergraduates, I show them how to pick a database and choose keywords in order to find research articles. We spend time during the class thinking about who is writing about their topics, whose expertise is considered authoritative, and what things are appropriate to cite (for example, scholarly articles versus news articles, or cutting edge research versus well-established theory). With graduate students, their projects often require deep interaction with the research in their areas, so we talk about finding works by major authors, methodology, and the process of publishing research articles. I recently worked with a class in which several students wanted to design surveys and questionnaires to measure social behaviors and attitudes about gender bias in the workplace. I showed them how to use the databases to find examples of previous studies that utilize surveys and questionnaires to use as models.
In one-on-one consultations, the meeting is molded by the where the researcher is in their project, and by their comfort level doing research. Undergraduates in the social sciences are often learning about their topics for the first time, and are shaping personal interests into something they can tackle in their coursework. Immigration, access to healthcare, LBGTQ issues; if there is a news story about it, we can usually find scholarly literature to lay the foundation for a research project. In these cases, I spend a good amount of the meeting introducing them to tools beyond Google or Google Scholar, and showing them how to produce a good pool of results. Graduate students and researchers are typically more experienced with the main tools in their fields, so we talk through the best keywords to search, the kinds of things published on their topic, and how to make sure they are not missing any key research in their fields. But this is just the beginning. It can go off in all kinds of crazy directions, sending us deep into the stacks, or deep down an Internet rabbit hole. This is a nerdy example, but I once helped a student dig through pages from the Wayback Machine in the Internet Archive to find a research abstract that was written in Italian. The original website had been taken down, but we had a partial citation. He had Italian language skills, so while I navigated and searched, he translated what we were seeing. It was the epitome of a wild goose chase, but we eventually found the full citation and were able to request the article through our interlibrary loan service.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
CC: Talking to researchers one-on-one in consultations is incredibly gratifying. I learn something new almost every time. There are many great parts about these meetings, but learning about the issues researchers are interested in is so cool. UT has many movers and shakers on campus, and our faculty often get interviewed by NPR and other media outlets. It’s cool to hear a faculty member on the radio who just invited me to work with their classes.
I had no idea about that part of the job when I went to library school. I toyed with the thought of going into museum studies or preservation, and those specialties remain interests of mine. But I knew academic librarianship was for me early in my time as a student worker in the Geology library, and later as an intern at PCL. Dissecting people’s research questions and connecting them to information somehow works really well with my curiosity and people-orientation. I also love the cross-section of folks on campus: undergrads who are grinding through the college experience so they can go out and do other things in the world, and folks who stay in academia and build expertise in their areas (among many others, of course).
Is there a particularly rewarding or transformational interaction you had during a consultation with a patron?
CC: Transformation is one of the highest goals of pedagogy, and those moments are awesome. Sometimes, I see small transformations of people’s understandings of their topic. I have been working with a graduate student for the past few months who is investigating how college athletes identify as students. Just to give a very specific example of something I consult on regularly, we were searching for articles about college athletes and their student identity, but were not getting good results. I did a little playing around with our search, and we found that the research more commonly refers to “learner identity” or “academic identity.” Once we tweaked the search terms, the databases cracked open and gave us much better results. This student will use what she learns to make recommendations about how to advise and support student athletes in their academic achievement. It’s a great project with very tangible applications.
Other times, the transformation is more apparent in the classroom. I’ve gotten thank you notes from instructors saying their students’ papers are higher quality after a library session. Or they will redesign assignments after having me visit their classes.
Once, a patron high-fived me at the reference desk for finding a book they needed. That was awesome.
Anything you can teach us that will help us in our personal life?
CC: Sure, I can show you a few tips so you can Google like a librarian. Searching within a website can be really useful. If you know certain information lives on a site, but you can’t remember how to get there, you can search that whole site for the page you want. For instance, to find the UT calendar, enter this into the Google search bar:
Or you can easily limit your results to certain website domains. This may be helpful if you want to learn about a topic, but not see every type of result related to it. Let’s say you want find research about coconut oil. If you do a regular Google search for “coconut oil,” you get a lot of varied results, including news, social media, and products for sale. But if you scope to .edu websites, you get useful stuff right up front. Enter this into the search bar: