Category Archives: From the Director

Choosing a Path Forward

Recently, The University of Texas at Austin has found itself at the center of a debate over the structure of modern research universities. Questions have been raised about the value of research to the academic mission of higher education, and in light of the state’s current budget situation, whether state institutions can afford to be so heavily invested in the research enterprise. There is a belief in some quarters that the commitment to research excellence that characterizes top-tier research universities is unavoidably detrimental to the University’s teaching mission.

President Bill Powers presented his case last week in a speech that effectively made the argument that teaching and research are inextricably linked at the level of excellence the University pursues. In fact, his examples demonstrated that the interplay between teaching and research has resulted in the sort of collaboration and innovation invoked by the notion that what starts here changes the world. President Powers noted that our ability to sustain this level of excellence requires a continued commitment to the tradition of ongoing institutional introspection and transformation that have made The University of Texas at Austin a model of efficiency and excellence.

If you’ve yet to do so, you can view the speech in its entirety or read the transcript.

Heath Talks Assessment in Austere Times

 

Before Dr. Fred Heath joined the University of Texas Libraries as Vice Provost and Director, he had spent several years at Texas A&M with a team of faculty and research professionals developing and honing an assessment tool called LibQUAL+™. With a certain degree of prescience, his earlier work has given the Libraries a leg up in dealing with the economic downturn.

Dr. Heath took some time to discuss his experience and perspective on the vital role of assessment in building a library.

So, why do assessment?

Fred Heath: I think this pressure for accountability has always been part of the public sector where it’s really hard to measure bottom lines. If you’re going to succeed in advancing your program then you are going to have to have some structure that relates investments to outcomes, and there aren’t many tools to measure our “profits and losses” in the public sector. For several years we’d been searching and we found a tool called SERVQUAL that was used with great success in the private sector, and we also had a great relationship with the developers of that tool. We started noodling there, and it grew.

There were three young professors in the College of Business at Texas A&M – assistant professors at the time they started developing SERVQUAL – who needed a research protocol, and grew it into, perhaps, the most significant user satisfaction survey in that sector. It applied to everything from aircraft companies, to insurance, to restaurants. And one day we visited with the professor who was still there – the other two are now employed elsewhere around the world in higher education – and asked, “Do you think we can redirect SERVQUAL to the not-for-profit sector, specifically to education, and then even more specifically to libraries?” And we were really cautious, because it was a shameless emulation of what those three researchers were trying to do, but he was hugely supportive, open to the idea, and, in fact, all three of those developers have lent time to us over and again to help us build the tool that LibQUAL+™ became. Without them, without that beginning, I doubt we would’ve had the perspective and background ever to get it launched.

How important was it for the development of LibQUAL+™ to have faculty members as part of the development team?

FH: We could never have done this without the methodologists and the economists and the statisticians that we had on our side. And we, ourselves, were faculty in our own specialties, but not those skill sets. It was bringing all of those tools, all of that commitment, an emerging awareness of survey protocols in a nascent Web environment…we’d had no clue how we’d plan to do this on paper, and one of the methodologists said, “You know, I think we can do this on the Web pretty soon.” So, it took a village to build it; it took many different types of faculty to make it happen. Continue reading Heath Talks Assessment in Austere Times

Michigan says goodbye to an old friend

card_catalogThis article on the departure of the legacy catalog at the University of Michigan recalls the renovations in Life Sciences Library here at the University of Texas, where card catalogs were removed to create space for new seminar rooms for the Undergraduate experience, as well as the removal of a large bank of card catalogs from the Perry-Castañeda Library almost three years ago.

The Michigan move also presages a similar development for those remaining catalog records at the PCL as the library responds to growing demands for student spaces.

Perhaps, though, we’ll follow our colleague Paul Courant’s lead and retain as an artifact a solitary catalog over which the students of tomorrow can ponder a more austere time.

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Google, completa

texlibris_google_blacWe can officially celebrate the completion of the Benson component of our partnership in the Google Books project.  This from our colleagues at Google recently:

Since we launched our partnership with the University of Texas at Austin in 2007, we have been working hard to make their unique Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection accessible to readers online. The collection is one of the largest Latin American collections in the world, and is renowned for the scope and breadth of its materials covering Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean island nations, South America, and the Latino presence in the United States. Continue reading Google, completa

Studies on the future of scholarly communication

scholarly_communicationTwo recent publications cap lengthy inquiries into the impact of Web 2.0 upon scholarly communication practices, and each merits review by library administrators and planners everywhere.

The Mellon-funded study by the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) at UC Berkeley, Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication:  An Exploration of Faculty Values and Needs in Seven Disciplines assesses the views of 160 researchers at some 45 research institutions. Continue reading Studies on the future of scholarly communication

Welcome to Tex Libris

utlibs_heathIt seems to have been long in coming, this foray into the world of weblogs. We’ve been so busy bringing the Libraries into an era in which currents are dictated by technological advance, that there never seemed to be time to discuss the factors behind the decisions that are being made. So we now have a space in which that dialogue can occur. Continue reading Welcome to Tex Libris