Category Archives: From the Director

Lorraine Haricombe on UT Libraries in the Pandemic

When Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries Lorraine Haricombe began her tenure as president of the Association of Research Libraries last August, she couldn’t have imagined that she would be facing the closure of the libraries at UT and the subsequent near-immediate conversion of library services and resources to meet the needs of a campus-wide transition to online teaching and learning.

So when the current health crisis ended any plans for a normal conclusion to the spring semester, Haricombe was not only dealing with a major leadership challenge on her own campus, but was the head of an organization that represents over 120 major research institutions across North America, many of which galvanized their research energies in support of global efforts to address the various facets of the pandemic. When The University of Texas at Austin shifted to remote operations in late March, Haricombe’s focus was on the Libraries conversion from a richly analog experience for campus users to serving a distant base of users through digital resources and support functions for research. At the same time, she was a lead participant in crafting the coordinated position and messaging of peer institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

Now that the libraries and institutions of higher education in the U.S. have forded the spring semester and begun to establish a local and national rhythm, Haricombe took some time to answer a few questions about her experience during this extraordinary time, and where she thinks the libraries can find silver linings among the clouds.


When did you realize that the Libraries would need to suspend operations? What was going through your mind about how this would impact our ability to serve the university?

Lorraine J. Haricombe: A confluence of several events on Friday, March 13 pointed to the seriousness of the pandemic in Austin and at UT. First, the early morning news about two cases in Travis County; second, the immediate closing of UT on that day and third, President Fenves’ announcement later that day that his wife had tested positive and that they would need to be quarantined for 14 days. I felt confident that UT Libraries was in a good position to respond to this crisis. Libraries had been working online for more than two decades. UT Libraries developed a roadmap towards a digital shift in summer 2019 which helped to transition essential services online in instruction, research support and learning. The COVID-19 accelerated the pace of implementation. 

This is a global crisis unlike any we’ve dealt with in the last 100 years. When did you realize its magnitude, and how did that affect your decision-making process in the response?

LJH: The death rate elsewhere in the world followed by the crisis in New York quickly clarified the magnitude of the pandemic. In turn, Travis County, the City of Austin and the University of Texas influenced my response to make employee safety and health concerns a high priority. Despite the critical role of UT Libraries, I requested approval from UT administration to allow UTL employees to work from home “out of respect for their health and safety.” 

When Fenves announced the transition to online classes, what were your initial thoughts about the Libraries’ role in supporting campus?

LJH: I appreciated the significant work of UTL’s collective Leadership Team in summer 2019 to position the Libraries for a digital ecosystem. This meant that UTL’s 2020-2021 roadmap was ready to be operationalized and that our workforce was quickly able to pivot to provide the most critical services and expertise necessary to support UT faculty online.

How do you utilize staff that are normally tasked with processing/preserving/transferring physical materials?

LJH: All our staff are equipped with devices to continue to work remotely. Many are being trained to do evolving projects and others that have been on the back burner.   

How do you support traditionalist library users/patrons that are accustomed to in-person research or stacks browsing?

LJH: UT Libraries has access to many more online resources thanks to publishers and vendors opening up on a temporary basis online resources to students and faculty in higher education across the world. One key example is HathiTrust, a database that covers more than 40% of UT’s physical collection, digitally. Our librarians have provided LibGuides and resource pages to help identify critical and relevant resources.  

Will this affect the long-term manner in which libraries are used or operate? If so, how?

LJH: Yes. Digital resources, their discoverability and access will be essential in an online environment where users now expect to have user-friendly access to their resources, anytime, anywhere. Libraries will require more flexible/agile structures to respond to different needs quickly that will necessitate a holistic approach to services, staff and space.    

What are the challenges this exceptional historical moment present for libraries? What are the opportunities?

LJH: Among the key challenges is to change the perception of “what” libraries do (and can do).  It will also be challenging to advance new models of service, skills, tools (e.g. AI) in a predominantly non-digital organizational structure. Despite a significant shift libraries are still challenged to create a compelling digital presence that corresponds to their successful physical learning space.  

Opportunities: As long as universities exist there will be libraries; they will continue to have a physical presence but maybe fewer in number. Their focus will shift from a collections focus to user services with more embedded partnerships than transactional services.  

Challenges offer exciting opportunities for workforce development (upskill, reskill, leadership development) to enhance physical-based services online or introduce new services, understand the new tools (and their biases), provide closer collaboration to help shape curriculum with information schools and partner with other professionals. This pandemic has elevated the central role of “what” libraries can do. Now we need to leverage the opportunity to constantly refresh our message to resonate with stakeholders and funders, e.g. how do we increase online research productivity and impact; how do library spaces facilitate innovative research and creative thinking; how does the library contribute to equitable student outcomes and inclusive learning environments?  

What has it been like serving in your role as president of the Association of Research Libraries during the crisis? How did it affect your leadership, and what efforts has ARL undertaken to coordinate its efforts with member institutions?

LJH: ARL is strong and healthy. Despite the challenges higher education faced to move online, research libraries across North America have rapidly responded to the shifting needs of their communities and worked collectively to adapt, alongside public health officials, university administrators, and city officials, as well as research communities. In our favor, technological advancements have made information more easily accessible than ever before, and global collaboration is already part of everyday research. This crisis has surfaced exciting new opportunities for research libraries to have a leadership role, offer new services and collaborate/partner locally, nationally and globally. 

At ARL, we continue to observe and share libraries’/campus responses that are consistent with the situation in which they find themselves. These (Zoom) peer-to-peer sessions have proved invaluable as we enter into different phases of crisis management and planning. Recently, I launched the new Plan Ahead Task Force to develop an Action Plan for the next 1-3 years anchored in the priorities ARL leaders have identified in a membership survey in April.

What sort of impact will this have on libraries’ relationship with the publishers? Are there implications for open access (esp. OERs)?

LJH: The COVID-19 pandemic has supercharged discussions around open access across the continuum from budgetary concerns for high priced journal subscriptions to transformative contracts that facilitate open access to scholarship. Many commercial publishers have made texts and other materials available as OERs however, this will likely cease once the semester ends. Libraries are well positioned to be catalytic leaders in developing OERs on their campuses, and at scale as consortia. 

Hypothetically, assuming the health crisis runs its course (by time, therapies or a vaccine), where do you picture the Libraries in two years? How will they be the same? How will they be different? (as a byproduct of the crisis or just as a matter of strategic development)

LJH: I think libraries will continue to exist as central physical spaces. Our spaces are connectors of people and collaborators. Our services will (in part) be driven by user expectations. For example, do we return to a model of closed stacks until a vaccine is discovered to protect employees and satisfy user concerns of safety? How do we deploy data evidence decision-making to reinvest our resources where user data lead us. How can libraries collaborate at scale to find solutions in the “Digital Shift” (e.g. copyright, requirements for open information in licensing/procurement).   

The digital shift will continue: we need to think holistically about our resources, services, skills, spaces and find new partnerships/collaborators to create a digital presence that corresponds to our successful physical learning environment. I see the changes as transitions through accelerated timeframes rather as “sudden stop/starts.” The future is here; we need to be in the moment.

Welcome (back) from the University of Texas Libraries!

The beginning of the academic year in the Fall is my favorite time on the 40 acres when UT transforms into a small city of approximately 75,000 people within the vibrant city of Austin. Despite the August heat, the excitement of new students, staff and faculty is palpable as they navigate and explore the campus, the opportunities and the resources available to them. This is exactly where UT Libraries is a significant resource for you!  Please check out our website to learn more about our library materials, services, spaces and our librarians and staff who are ready to assist you at every step of the way.  

The Perry Castañeda Library has the largest circulating collection on campus with more spaces for collaborative work, group study rooms, tutoring and technology-rich learning laboratories. The University’s Writing Center is located here.  There are several other disciplinary libraries around the 40 acres to suit your needs; learn more about the various library locations across campus.

Our goal at UT Libraries is to facilitate knowledge creation whether you are a student, an instructor, faculty or researcher. While this mission has remained unchanged throughout the centuries, the way libraries deliver it has constantly evolved. This evolution is also visible at UT Libraries where we have constantly engaged our users to learn more about their needs. And it will continue as new and emerging technologies impact our services and spaces while policies in higher education will drive how researchers share their research. In all of these scenarios

UT librarians and staff are ready to assist you. Everybody is welcome here!

My words of wisdom to you: Make a librarian your best friend (forever); you will not regret it!

I hope you have a successful and a productive year.

Reviewing Our Pathways and Looking Ahead

Vice Provost and Director Lorraine J Haricombe.During the first four years of my tenure at the university my focus was squarely on positioning the Libraries for new directions where we would do things differently and/or do very different things.  We chose four purposeful pathways as our focus and developed roadmaps to advance them: Collaboration, Digital Scholarship, Distinctive Collections and Spaces. I am deeply indebted to my colleagues who have contributed to these accomplishments and who moved the needle with a deep commitment to excellence in both new and core foundational responsibilities.

As I enter my fifth year as Vice Provost and Director of UT Libraries, we will continue this trend. With the help of the Provost’s Task Force on The Future of the UT Libraries, I am also keenly interested in learning more about the community’s awareness of what they need from the Libraries. More specifically, what library services, expertise, spaces, information resources and opportunities for broader partnership do they expect? How can we position UT Libraries more centrally as a core resource to stimulate student learning in order to advance President Fenves’ priority to unlock their potential? In what ways can librarians and professional experts add value to the research life-cycle that will net more grant funding, or inspire the creation of knowledge by connecting students, faculty, scholars and researchers to dynamic data and specialized or distinctive information resources? And how do we maintain our traditional strength in collection building while ensuring that those collections are appropriately preserved for use by future generations of scholars and students?

As one of the largest research universities in the country, UT must be equipped to support the highest level of research activity. Digital scholarship plays a key role in setting the stage for our continued momentum in investigation and innovation. It facilitates sharing of new knowledge across disciplines. What library facilities could be transformed to position the Libraries as the hub of collaboration, digital innovation and scholarly endeavor on the Forty Acres?

These are opportunities we should pursue and advance to align with and anchor ourselves to the university’s mission in a rapidly changing higher education environment. We are a core node in that environment with high potential to catalyze new forms of scholarship, reshape scholarly communication, energize teaching and seek new campus partners (and beyond) to leverage that potential.

Organizational agility and flexibility to respond to new opportunities will be a necessary component of our work in such an environment. I am very pleased with the progress we have made to date to create structures that will facilitate flexibility and to provide exciting professional growth opportunities through new skills training, projects, research and more.

Together we are poised to take the University of Texas Libraries to new heights and to honor the expectation and pride of our users to maintain a library of the first class that is dynamic, relevant and ready for future possibilities at The University of Texas at Austin.

 

 

 

 

 

Musings from LJH…

Vice Provost and Director Lorraine J Haricombe.An exciting aspect of my role as VP and Director of UT Libraries is the opportunity to meet and discuss academic libraries’ roles in an age of networked information. The rapid rate of change in technology is a key driver but not the only one. The first generation of the twenty-first century has arrived on our campuses with very different expectations of discovering and accessing information and learning styles.

In higher education the internet has enabled new modes of research and communication, new knowledge products. And libraries are stepping up to embed librarians in that life-cycle. Simply put, libraries are at the heart of today’s digital transformation in research and scholarly communication, and  UT Libraries is no exception.

Our commitment is to embrace the core values of our profession to select and acquire, describe, make accessible and preserve valuable resources to support UT’s mission.  Our goal is to remain both relevant and strategic as we continue to assess our services, programs and expertise to leverage very limited resources efficiently.  We do so by engaging our users to understand their needs to position UT Libraries as a significant node in a rapidly changing higher education ecosystem.

The Provost’s new Task Force on “The Future of the UT Libraries is well-timed to have that conversation with our primary stakeholders.  I look forward to an opportunity to listen, understand and share the amazing stories of faculty and students who are impacted by work that happens at UT Libraries every day.

Happy (Academic) New Year!

Vice Provost and Director Lorraine J Haricombe.
Vice Provost and Director Lorraine J Haricombe.

Welcome to UT, new and returning Longhorns!

We hope you had a good summer in advance of another school year. While you were away (hopefully recharging or preparing for an exciting new phase in your life), we’ve been busy improving the resources, spaces and services that you rely on throughout your career at the university.

You’ll immediately notice a few changes in familiar spaces at the Perry-Castañeda Library and the Fine Arts Library. PCL sports an expansion of the popular Collaborative Commons on the 5th floor, with new furniture, more power outlets and a refreshed look, and the 5th Floor of FAL received a major facelift, as well, to support additional physical materials (at the request of students and faculty), improved wireless access and new furniture and carpet, as well as some other infrastructure improvements for a better library experience.

We also used the summer to enhance the library retrieval service in order to get those items that are stored offsite at the Pickle campus back into your hands as quickly as possible (learn more about the Library Storage Facility from an article published this summer at Tex Libris). We now have a dedicated transport specialist making two trips from north Austin each day, and we’ll be upgrading the inventory system this fall to speed the process up even more. And once the items get back to campus, we’ll soon have a new way of getting them to the location of your choice even faster. Keep an eye out for an interesting new delivery vehicle when you’re out walking between classes….

As always, the improvements we make to spaces, services and resources are the direct result of feedback from you, our users, so keep the ideas coming.

We had some notable additions to staff expertise over the break, as well. We welcomed new GIS and Geospatial Data Coordinator Michael Shensky to help develop ways of connecting data and location in coordination with research on campus. We’ve also welcomed the first class of The Consuelo Artaza and Dr. Carlos Castañeda Diversity Alliance Residency Program who have arrived for a 2-year term; Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill are already interviewing staff and quickly getting acclimated to their new environs, and we’re excited for the contribution their perspective will provide. We’re also happy to announce the arrival of our Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) fellowship recipients: Jennifer Isasi will help with data curation at the Benson, and will be a valuable help in getting the new digital asset management system we’ve been building up and running, as well as with developing digital scholarship initiatives at LLILAS Benson; and Emily Beagle will be interfacing with the university’s Energy Institute to work on strategies for transforming and expanding the curation of research data with a particular focus on large multi-component datasets about energy use in the state of Texas.

In other news, the University of Texas Press has published a lovely book on the outstanding Benson Latin American Collection. The 229-page volume features dozens of beautiful color images and plates of the unique holdings paired with essays and reflections by distinguished scholars of Latin American and Latinx studies. The volume is available now for purchase from the UT Press site and many bookstores.

"A Library for the Americas," the book of the Benson Latin American Collection.
“A Library for the Americas,” the book of the Benson Latin American Collection.

Looking forward, we see many exciting new opportunities for expanding the reach of the libraries across campus through partnerships and unique strategic approaches. Very soon, Provost Maurie McInnis will formally announce the Provost’s Task Force on the Future of UT Libraries. This group, which I will co-chair along with a member of the faculty, will consider the strategic role of the Libraries at the university and make recommendations to the Provost at the end of the spring semester. I look forward to engaging with our faculty in a thorough review of the current role of libraries on campus and working collectively to create a collective vision for their path in the coming years. As you set forth this semester, get your bearings on campus, and establish your routine for a successful academic career, make the Libraries the starting point for your academic journey — it is the best guide and resource for your exploration in a universe of ideas.

 

 

Message/Mensagem: Brazil’s National Museum / Museu Nacional, Brasil

Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.
Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.

Message from Melissa Guy, director, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection

We are deeply saddened by the destruction of the National Museum of Brazil, in which so many irreplaceable treasures were lost. We stand in solidarity with the museum’s employees, the people of Rio de Janeiro, and the people of Brazil as they mourn the loss not only of a collection of immeasurable value, but also of a splendid historic building. As we consider this devastating event, we are grateful that there was no loss of life in the fire. As a collection committed to preserving and sharing knowledge about Latin America, we will seek ways to support the scholars, curators, and other museum employees who have acted as stewards of these precious materials and have used them to teach others.

Mensagem de Melissa Guy, diretora, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection

Estamos profundamente consternadxs com a destruição do Museu Nacional no Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, e com ela a perda de riquezas e patrimônios irreparáveis. Manifestamos total solidariedade com xs funcionárixs do museu, com a população do Rio de Janeiro e do Brasil, em luto pela perda não só de coleções de valores incomensuráveis, mas também de seu esplêndido prédio histórico. Ao ponderarmos sobre este acontecimento devastador, conforta-nos saber que nenhuma vida foi perdida no incêndio. Enquanto coleção comprometida em preservar e dividir conhecimentos a respeito da América Latina, buscaremos maneiras de apoiar acadêmicxs, curadores, e demais funcionárixs do museu, que agiram como guardiões de tais materiais preciosos, usando-os para ensiná-los a outrxs.

 

Welcome Back to Campus

Director Lorraine J. HaricombeWelcome back!  I hope the spring semester will be productive and successful for you.

While you were away we have worked quickly to launch UT Libraries’ new website. Check it out at https://www.lib.utexas.edu/  It is our hope that you will find the new website easy to navigate and to learn more about UTL’s News and Featured events. There is a helpful 404 error page in place to redirect users who might be trying to reach legacy content. All of the content on the legacy site will remain intact for the foreseeable future as we continue to migrate to the new site.  Please use the new feature on the site to send us your feedback.

We are also excited to announce the opening of the McKinney Engineering Library in the brand new Engineering Education and Research Center on January 16. The engineering library exemplifies our continuing efforts to rethink what libraries need offer to meet user expectations in a digital environment. We have moved a highly curated collection from the engineering collection on PCL’s 6th floor to the new library.  Beyond books you will find enhanced space and technology — 3000 square feet of new space, including consultation and seminar rooms, 24 new workstations and power outlets aplenty, as well as new printers, scanners and self-checkout.

We also made a change at the end of the fall semester that may have gone unnoticed, but will be of great interest for our undergraduate patrons. Beginning December 1, the Libraries extended loan duration for materials from 28 days to a semester-long period, allowing students greater time to focus on learning and less on managing access to resources.

Our core mission is to support the university’s core mission of research and teaching and to help our students to be successful graduates.  We are here to serve you please let us know how we can help you!

Best wishes for a successful semester.

In Memoriam: Harold W. Billings

The Libraries has witnessed the loss of a luminary leader with the passing of former Director Harold W. Billings.

Harold spent the better part of his life dedicated to the cause of libraries and librarianship. His tenure straddled a period of transition for libraries, with the development of the internet and the evolution of digital technologies impacting the way that users accessed library collections. Billings oversaw the implementation of computerized systems to manage, control and provide access to academic resources while also improving sharing processes for other materials throughout the nation and world.

Harold stands as the longest-serving director of libraries at the university, piloting one of the nation’s largest academic library systems for 25 years. In recognition of that accomplishment, we recently commended him as Emeritus Director at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Perry-Castañeda Library, at which Billings was the inaugural director.

I’m glad to have known Harold as a person, and I’m honored to stand on the shoulders of such a leader. I hope that you’ll join me in remembering his contributions, and follow his example in your advocacy for the noble enterprise to which he dedicated his life.

Sincerely,

Harold W. Billings, 1931-2017

Click here to make a tribute in memory of Harold W. Billings to the UT 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.

 

 

 

Welcome Back

Welcome to the University of Texas Libraries!

Thank you for helping us launch into the Fall semester by celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Perry-Castañeda Library, one of our most highly trafficked facilities on the Forty Acres.  Drs.  Perry and Castañeda – whose portraits hang on the wall inside the entrance of PCL – were the first minorities appointed at the University of Texas in 1964 and in 1927, respectively.  We continue to honor their legacy and their contributions at The University of Texas at Austin.

Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe hands out cake to students for the PCL's 40th birthday celebration.
Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe hands out cake to students for the PCL’s 40th birthday celebration.

At UT Libraries, we invite the diverse communities of campus and the residents of the state of Texas to explore and utilize the rich depth of our resources, our collaborative and reflective spaces, high quality equipment and professional expertise in libraries across the campus. For a list of libraries, centers and museums please visit http://www.lib.utexas.edu/help/librarylist.html

Recently, President Fenves remarked that a UT education is about faculty and students learning how to create, build, probe, discover, and solve together, so that our students are prepared for life after they graduate. And there are many examples of this kind of learning and teaching taking place across campus, including at UT Libraries. We have invested in creating alternative learning environments in spacious collaborative study areas in PCL such as the Learning Commons, STEM tutoring spaces, Scholars Commons, the Graduate Landing Spot, the Media Lab, the Data Lab, the Foundry at the Fine Arts Library, and more. I hope you find your favorite spot and when you do, send us your feedback.  We value your suggestions as we continue to respond to your needs, it matters!

It is our goal to support you towards success at UT and beyond. If you need help or advice please do not hesitate to let us know. Remember, what starts here changes the world. Be bold, be audacious!

Have a productive and successful semester.

Hook ‘em Horns!

 

 

 

Vice Provost and Director of UT Libraries