Category Archives: Libraries

Collections and Connections: Dennis Trombatore, Geology Librarian Extraordinaire

Thirty five years ago, Dennis Trombatore arrived at the UT Austin campus, and from the start he was highly conscious of the long legacy of the Geology Library and that of the formidable librarians who had preceded him in the charge of that major collection. Despite feeling the strong gaze of Thelma Guion (https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/geo/about), the singular personality who ruled over the geology information sphere as librarian between 1940 and the early 1970s, Dennis jumped in, immersed himself, and never looked back. 

A self-described “professional generalist,” Dennis was formally educated in philosophy, but quickly developed a natural affinity and deep appreciation for the esoterica of geosciences information:  geological survey reports, rocks, gems and fossils, maps and field trip guides.  He loved working closely with and learning from faculty and students in the Jackson School of Geosciences. 

“A good library is a place to go, and a person to talk to, who understands what you’re doing, who sympathizes with your worldview, who talks your language, and who is looking out for you in the world of information all the time.” 

Ever-curious and always ready to help, his definition of what a library, and a librarian, should be, epitomized Dennis’s approach to his work in the Walter Geology Library.

Several defining objectives consistently guided his efforts to amass and share a wealth of information about all of the things of interest to his faculty and students, community experts and generalists like himself. Those were collection-building, access to collections, and the relationships that served as the fuel for the continuously-enhanced cycle of learning and sharing that positioned Dennis as an information hub within the Jackson School for more than three decades.

Dennis’ collection-building, through relentless painstaking searches and world-wide acquisition efforts, coordination of gifts, and tracking of UT research output, was always front and center in his activities. Maps were an integral part of that work, and Dennis curated a truly exceptional collection of map materials in support of teaching and research in the geosciences, the Tobin International Geological Map Collection (https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/geo/tobin-maps). He led the effort to build on UT’s existing map collections, through the acquisition of geospatial data sets, GIS technology, and the expertise to fully utilize the details therein. And he was a tireless advocate for and user of the UT Libraries renowned PCL Map Collection (https://texlibris.lib.utexas.edu/2015/05/22/you-are-everywhere-the-pcl-map-collection/). His understanding of the power and value of maps was evident not just in his efforts to build the Libraries collections, but even in references to maps in his own creative output (https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/82153) which in turn was shared openly with the world using the Libraries’ repository infrastructure.

Ensuring access to what he curated was key for Dennis. His strong desire to make the rich, multi-faceted fruits of his collection-building work discoverable prompted his early interest in web-based tools to ensure the discoverability and preservation of his efforts, including Texas ScholarWorks (TSW), our digital repository, our Texas Data Repository (TDR), and our nascent Texas GeoData portal.

Our Head of Scholarly Communications, Colleen Lyon, recalls that, “Dennis was instrumental in so many collections in TSW – he was one of the most active liaisons in referring users to us.” Several stand-out examples of unique submissions for Colleen include:

  • The Dr. Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel Letters. Decades of Tertiary stratigraphy and non-vertebrate paleontology-focused work captured in a collection of over 6,000 letters to and from Dr. Stenzel. It was Dennis who initially put Colleen and TSW in touch with the curators of the Stenzel Letters collection. An earlier TexLibris post details background on this collection (https://texlibris.lib.utexas.edu/2018/12/20/collections-highlight-the-digitized-letters-of-dr-henryk-bronislaw-stenzel/), and the letters are available in TSW at: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/47262
  • Memoirs on the Extinct Wingless Birds of New Zealand. It may have existed as HTML on the Walter Geology Library website, but she remembers, “Dennis wanted it to have a more permanent home and one that was easier to cite. He didn’t want to lose all the functionality that comes with having something as a website, so we uploaded all the pages/images and then created an image index that allows you to jump around to the different images (plates) within the work. This work has the most amazing drawings in it! That plate index has had over 1100 downloads.” You can see this in TSW at: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16251
  • The Virtual Landscapes Collection. This collection of Dumble Survey reports and many other documents was Dennis’ labor of love over many years. The content was migrated from the UT Libraries legacy website to TSW earlier this year, bringing all of the related documents together in a single location. Read more at: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/69304

Another project that Dennis coordinated was the digitization of theses and dissertations. He sought out alumni to grant permission to digitize their master’s and doctoral theses and make them available through TSW. Thanks to his efforts, there are hundreds of geology theses in the repository, about half of which pre-date its launch in 2008 (https://texlibris.lib.utexas.edu/2018/09/26/happy-10th-birthday-texas-scholarworks/). Rather fittingly, quite a few of the theses and dissertations available in TSW include Dennis’s name in their acknowledgements sections, along with their authors’ heartfelt expressions of gratitude and appreciation for the guidance and assistance he had provided. One such acknowledgement aptly describes Dennis as someone “whose work and efforts are immeasurable and irreplaceable” – a statement which accurately captures the value of his contributions and the strength of the impression he left on others. 

Dennis delighted in telling stories and connecting people via the relationships he fostered, all of which enriched his contributions to UT’s research ecosystem. Mentoring students, both those doing research and those who were employees, was an ongoing part of who Dennis was, the role he played in the Jackson School, and how he remained in contact with so many graduates over the years. He was the type of person who would be proactive in reaching out to someone new on campus to welcome them, who would find a way to rearrange his schedule so that he could travel across town to attend a colleague’s presentation. His sincere enthusiasm for sharing knowledge and building real connections with others across the university community and beyond, was clearly evident in both his actions and words.

“The collection is an important component of what it is that we do in libraries, but it is the social network that the library represents that is the most significant, to me, aspect of librarianship. Three or four good people can do a lot more than an empty roomful of books in terms of helping people to advance their research.”

Some of his stories were about former Geology Librarian Thelma Guion’s stern demeanor and soft spot for the many student employees whom she supervised. (https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/geo/about) The irony there is the similarity between Thelma and Dennis: while he suffered no fools, Dennis was always open to teaching his students about things and providing them with resources that would help them both with their research and in life. Establishing the Guion award fund for Geology Library employees was one of Dennis’ proudest achievements. 

Ms. Guion’s close relationship to many faculty helped to expand and deepen the library’s collection in ways that would simply not have been possible with regular budgets, and Dennis modeled his collection philosophy after hers. Those relationships paid off in major gifts of unique and valuable materials for many years.

One such recent gift was from a prominent member of the local caving community, Bill Mixon — former book review editor for the National Speleological Society and friend of the Walter Library — who donated his unique collection of over 1000 books and more than 1000 periodical issues related to cave and karst research, literature, and culture, enhancing the Geology Library’s notable existing holdings (https://texlibris.lib.utexas.edu/2019/02/21/area-spelunker-donates-cave-collection/). 

Over the years, gifts of materials included items from major oil company libraries, UNOCAL maps, materials from the American Geosciences Institute, Bureau of Economic Geology and Institute for Geophysics, and the Edwards Aquifer Authority in San Antonio, to name a few. All donations of materials required careful review and curation, as Dennis only retained items to augment areas of focus within the Walter Geology Library and research interest at UT Austin.

The symbiotic, reciprocal relationship between collections and the people who use, learn from and contribute to them often needs a catalyst, someone to prompt attention, encourage exploration and entice action at just the right moment. Dennis was that energetic, compelling force that spurred the dynamic flow of information to nurture productivity throughout the Jackson School, and that will continue to pulse through electronic arteries for decades to come.

Remembering Dennis Trombatore

Long-time Geology librarian and revered Libraries’ icon Dennis Trombatore passed away this weekend after an extended illness.

His 35-year tenure as the fifth Geology Librarian at the university is remembered as a period of prosperity for the library and the Jackson School of Geosciences, and Trombatore’s contribution to those successes are recognized by faculty, researchers, students and colleagues alike.

“Dennis was not just our librarian, he was the scout,” says Mark Cloos, Getty Oil Company Centennial Chair in Geological Sciences. “In more than a few cases, he found resources for areas I’ve been interested in, which I probably wouldn’t have found on my own for months, if not years, and in some cases, probably never.”

“He contributed to every student that I’ve ever had, and he contributed to me personally, ” continues Cloos. “We had the good fortune that he worked in the library at the University of Texas for 35 years. That’s more than a third of a century that he enriched the entire scientific enterprise here.”

Born in Fort Hood and raised in Baton Rouge, Trombatore joined the Libraries in 1985 after receiving his B.A. (’75) and MLS (’77) from Louisiana State University and working in librarian positions at Loyola University and The University of Georgia at Athens. Trombatore’s lengthy career equaled in duration that of the university’s storied original Geology Librarian Thelma Lynn Guion, and spanned a transformational period for libraries which witnessed the advent of the internet and the proliferation of digital resources.

Trombatore was recognized for his lasting contributions to the university and its research with honors such as the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of Geological Sciences (1997), the University of Texas Staff Excellence Award (2001), the Jackson School of Geosciences Staff Excellence Award (2006), the William B. Heroy Award for Distinguished Service to the American Geosciences Institute (AGI, 2012) and the Jackson School of Geosciences Joseph C. Walter Jr. Excellence Award (2018). He was a member of Geological Society of America and the Geoscience Information Society, and past president of the Austin Geological Society.

His energies extended to professional pursuits that related to his role at the Libraries, as well, with numerous publications, reviews, field activities, committee participation, teaching and serving as a goodwill ambassador to visiting researchers, alumni and UT students alike.

“Dennis was more than a librarian,” says Vice Provost and UT Libraries Director Lorraine Haricombe. “He was a geologist in his own right, an explorer whose constant focus was on digging for resources – information, relationships and funding included – to build a library that would secure the university a leader in the field of geosciences. He was a librarian extraordinaire and will be sorely missed as a member of the Libraries’ family.”

Former Dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences Dr. Sharon Mosher announced last December the creation of a new endowment fund honoring Trombatore’s contributions to the college and the university. 

The Dennis Trombatore Excellence Fund for the Walter Geology Library was established with the support of alumnus Dr. Carlotta Chernoff  (’92 BS, ’95 MA) in honor of Trombatore as additional funding for urgent needs at the discretion of the Jackson School of Geosciences (JSG) Dean with input from the librarian at the Walter Geology Library.

The endowment recognizes Trombatore’s career at The University of Texas at Austin in building one of the great geosciences collections in the nation, as well as his work supporting the research, teaching and learning of those in pursuit of understanding of the earth sciences at the university.

“He carefully amassed invaluable collections, developed state-of-the art services and built a sense of community for the Jackson School family,” said Mosher. “Dennis Trombatore’s tireless efforts touched the lives of every student, research scientist, faculty, and staff member who had the pleasure of knowing him. The Jackson School wouldn’t be what it is without Dennis’s commendable efforts, for which I am profoundly thankful.”

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be directed to The Dennis Trombatore Excellence Fund for the Walter Geology Library or to the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. 

Digital Stewardship Prevents Permanent Loss of Archives

Vea abajo para versión en español / Veja em baixo para versão em português

In honor of World Digital Preservation Day, members of the University of Texas Libraries’ Digital Preservation team have written a series of blog posts to highlight preservation activities at UT Austin, and to explain why the stakes are so high in our ever-changing digital and technological landscape. This post is the final installment in a series of five. Read part onepart two, part three, and part four.

BY ASHLEY ADAIR, Head of Preservation and Digital Stewardship, University of Texas Libraries

The UT Libraries’ Digital Stewardship unit supports digital preservation work across the University of Texas Libraries. When Libraries repositories, such as the Alexander Architectural Archives, LLILAS Benson, or the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America begin new digital projects, the Digital Stewardship unit often helps develop initial processing plans. Unit staff install tools and provide training to recover data from older media such as floppy disks and Zip disks, or for acquiring files produced by partner organizations and depositing researchers. Processing of these materials must be planned and undertaken very carefully since data may be at risk of permanent loss due to obsolete formats and media, or because of political or physical issues in local environments.

Floppy disk from a UT Libraries archival collection

Taking a life-cycle approach, the unit also coordinates long-term safekeeping of these valuable and sometimes vulnerable files. Digital Stewardship developed file organizing, naming, and description practices for uniformly storing all of UT Libraries’ diverse preservation data in keeping with international standards. When repository staff complete processing, the Digital Stewardship unit takes in copies of data to be preserved, vaults them to long-term storage, maintains detailed centralized records, and manages off-site backup copies. The unit collaborates with UT Libraries repositories continuously over time to enhance organization-wide digital preservation practices, adapting to new developments and the growing scale of data to be preserved.

Still from Sustainable File Types video, visible at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JCpg6ICr8M&feature=youtu.be.

Administración digital

Traducido por Jennifer Isasi, PhD (@jenniferisve)

La unidad de Administración Digital de las Bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas (UT) apoya el trabajo de preservación digital en el conjunto de bibliotecas de la universidad. Cuando repositorios como el Archivo de Arquitectura Alexander, LLILAS Benson o el Archivo de Lenguas Indígenas de Latinoamérica comienzan nuevos proyectos digitales, la unidad de administración digital ayuda a desarrollar planes de procesamiento. El personal de la unidad instala herramientas y provee entrenamiento para recuperar datos de medios antiguos como disquetes o discos Zip, o para la adquisición de archivos producidos por organizaciones colaboradoras e investigadores que depositan sus archivos en los repositorios. El procesado de estos materiales debe ser planeado y realizado con mucho cuidado puesto que los datos pueden estar en peligro de borrado permanente debido a formatos o medios obsoletos, o por cuestiones políticas y de tipo medioambiental.

Disquete de una coleção archival de las Bibliotecas de UT

Con un enfoque de ciclo de vida de los datos, la unidad también coordina la custodia a largo plazo de estos archivos valiosos y a veces vulnerables. La administración digital desarrolló prácticas de organización, denominación y descripción de archivos para almacenar de manera uniforme todos los diversos datos de preservación de las bibliotecas de UT de acuerdo con los estándares internacionales. Cuando el personal del repositorio completa el procesamiento, la unidad de Administración Digital toma copias de los datos para preservarlos, los guarda en un almacenamiento a largo plazo, mantiene registros centralizados detallados y administra copias de seguridad en otras localizaciones. La unidad colabora con los repositorios de las bibliotecas UT continuamente a lo largo del tiempo para mejorar las prácticas de preservación digital de toda la organización, adaptándose a los nuevos desarrollos y la creciente escala de datos a preservar.

Niels Fock con dos hombres cañari en Tacu Pitina, Ecuador, 1974. Archivo de las Lenguas Indígenas de Latinoamérica https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:259355 Foto © Eva Krener

Gestão digital

Traduzido por Tereza Braga

A unidade de Gestão Digital da UT Libraries apoia o trabalho de preservação digital de todas as bibliotecas do sistema. Quando um dos repositórios das Bibliotecas, seja o Alexander Architectural Archives, a LLILAS Benson ou o Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America, inicia um projeto digital novo, a unidade de Gestão Digital geralmente auxilia a criar os planos iniciais de processamento. Os profissionais da unidade instalam ferramentas e dão treinamento para recuperar dados de mídias mais antigas como floppy disks e discos Zip ou para adquirir arquivos produzidos por organizações parceiras e pesquisadores com trabalhos depositados. O processamento desses materiais deve ser planejado e empreendido com muito cuidado, pois os dados podem estar expostos ao risco de perda permanente causado por formatos e mídia obsoletos ou por problemas políticos ou físicos em ambientes locais.

Disquete de uma coleção arquival das bibliotecas UT Libraries

Utilizando uma abordagem de ciclo de vida, a unidade também coordena a guarda a longo prazo desses arquivos valiosos e às vezes vulneráveis. A Gestão Digital desenvolve práticas para organizar, dar nomes e descrever os arquivos visando a armazenagem uniforme de todos os diversos dados de preservação da UT Libraries em conformidade com as normas internacionais. Quando os funcionários de repositórios concluem seu processamento, a unidade de Gestão Digital providencia cópias dos dados a serem preservados, armazena-os em sistema de armazenagem segura de longo prazo, mantém registros centralizados detalhados e providencia cópias de reserva em local externo. A unidade colabora de modo contínuo com os repositórios da UT Libraries ao longo do tempo para aprimorar as práticas de preservação digital em toda a organização, sempre se adaptando aos novos avanços e ao aumento em escala do universo de dados a serem preservados.

Archive Highlights Religious Practices, Traditional Knowledge of Baniwa in the Amazon

The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) is pleased to announce the opening of the Baniwa of the Aiary and Içana Collection of Robin M. Wright. The materials in this collection cover research Wright conducted from 1976 to the present among the Baniwa, a northern Arawak–speaking people who live both in villages in the Northwest Amazon and in urban contexts. The digitization was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Curing ceremony in São Gabriel da Cachoeira. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:273093

During his career as an academic researcher and activist in Brazil and the United States, Wright has focused on the history of the Baniwa people and their religious practices, including shamanism, prophet movements, and evangelization within the region, publishing several books on these subjects.

The collection is multimedia, consisting of over 81 hours of audio, 16 hours of video, and 2,300 scanned pages, and includes a large amount of analog material that has been digitized and made accessible to indigenous communities and researchers. “The Baniwa have anxiously waited for this material to become available, and it certainly has acquired even more importance given the Baniwa cultural ‘revitalization’ that has been taking place over the last few decades,” said Wright.

Manuel da Silva (l) and Robin Wright. Da Silva is a Baniwa shaman and one of Wright’s longtime collaborators. Wright wrote a long biography of him in one of his monographs. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:273071

According to the collection guide, the materials in the collection correspond to two major periods. “The first corresponds to Wright’s field trips to Baniwa communities during 1976 and 1977. The second is a longer span covering the period from 1990 to 2010, when Wright was working on projects including the creation of the Waferinaipe Ianheke collection of Baniwa myths, collaborative research projects on traditional Baniwa knowledge surrounding diseases and their treatments, and collaborative projects with shamanic knowledge and sacred sites.”

José Felipe working on the Waferinaipe Ianheke manuscript (a volume of translated Baniwa stories and myths). https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:273074

Bringing the Collection to AILLA

AILLA manager Susan Kung initially met with Wright at his University of Florida office in June 2018 to discuss the process of organizing, digitizing, and archiving his collection. Kung says “we discussed the potentially sensitive nature of his materials and what was appropriate for AILLA’s different access levels, as well as the types of metadata that we would need for the final arrangement.”

A look inside one of the boxes of Wright’s physical materials that arrived at AILLA (photo by Ryan Sullivant)

In June 2019, AILLA Language Data Curator Ryan Sullivant traveled to Gainesville, FL, with Linguistics Professor Patience Epps, a specialist in Amazonian indigenous languages and co-PI on the grant, to review Wright’s materials, work on describing them, and determine what to include in AILLA’s digital collection. Also discussed were “how to arrange the materials, and how to handle materials that are worth preserving and distributing through AILLA, but whose access must be controlled,” Sullivant said. “This last part is important because one of the main themes of Wright’s work, and the collection, are Baniwa healers’ stories and blessings, which are sacred knowledge and should not be accessed by just anyone.” In the end, only some of the contents were restricted and most of the material was made public.

Capela (chapel), Itacoatiara-Mirim, São Gabriel, Amazonas, Brazil. Robin Wright’s research included both Indigenous religious practices as well as the effects of Protestant evangelization in Baniwa communities. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:273376

Digitization Services at the Perry-Castañeda Library digitized microcassettes and AILLA staff digitized standard-sized audio cassettes, scanned thousands of manuscript pages, and handled many already digitized and born-digital files. Sullivant worked closely, albeit remotely, with Wright during the arrangement and description of the materials, and wrote the collection guide, which he translated into Spanish and Portuguese. This is the first AILLA collection to have a Portuguese collection guide.

View the Collection Guides

English: http://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:274686

Español: http://ailla.utexas.org/es/islandora/object/ailla:274688

Português: http://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:274687

Robin Wright is director of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program at the University of Florida, where he is also affiliated faculty in Anthropology and Latin American Studies. The curation of this collection was made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is part of an NEH-funded project to bring together and preserve a number of important Indigenous language collections from South America.

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.

New Collections Highlighted in Updated Latin American Digital Initiatives Repository

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BY DAVID A. BLISS

More than 60 thousand scanned images from seven archival collections throughout Latin America are now available online in the updated Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI) repository (ladi.lib.utexas.edu). The site was developed over the course of two years by the LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives team and University of Texas Libraries software developers, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A previous version of the site, featuring four archival collections, launched in 2015.

¡Alto a la represión del sindicalismo! From the Colección Conflicto Armado, Afiches, collection of the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen in San Salvador, El Salvador: https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/mupi01
¡Alto a la represión del sindicalismo! [Stop the repression of unionism!] From the Colección Conflicto Armado, Afiches, collection, Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, San Salvador, El Salvador. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/mupi01

The digitized images in the LADI repository were created by archive-holding organizations in Latin America in partnership with LLILAS Benson. Partnering organizations produced high-quality scans and detailed metadata about their collections, while LLILAS Benson staff offered equipment, on-site training, and technical consultation under a post-custodial archival framework. The online repository is intended for use by researchers, teachers, and activists, as well as the communities to which the materials belong. The site can be navigated in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Manifestaciones reclamando la reglamentación del artículo transitorio 55 [Protests demanding the establishment of Artículo Transitorio 55]. From the Colección Dinámicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia, Proceso de Comunidades Negras, Buenaventura, Colombia. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/pcn01

The collections found in LADI span the sixteenth through the twenty-first centuries, and were created by project staff at the following partnering organizations: Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla (Mexico), BICU-CIDCA (Nicaragua), Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica (CIRMA, Guatemala), Equipe de Articulação e Assessoria às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira (EAACONE, Brazil), Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (MUPI, El Salvador), and Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, Colombia). The variety of materials found in these collections reflects the ethnic and social diversity of Latin America. At the same time, the collections speak to common struggles that reach across temporal and geographic boundaries. The particular thematic strengths of the collections in the repository include Afro-Latinx and Indigenous rights, environmental justice, and Cold War–era internal armed conflicts. The collections are:

  • Archivo de Inforpress Centroamericana (CIRMA, Guatemala)
  • Colección Conflicto Armado. Afiches. (MUPI, El Salvador)
  • Colección Conflicto Armado. Publicaciones. (MUPI, El Salvador)
  • Colección Digital del Periódico “La Información” (BICU-CIDCA, Nicaragua)
  • Colección Digital Fondo Real de Cholula (Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla, Mexico)
  • Colección Dinámicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia (PCN, Colombia)
  • Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR (EAACONE, Brazil)
MOAB - A saga de um Povo. From the Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR collection of the Equipe de Articulação e Assessorias às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira in Eldorado, Brazil:

MOAB – A Saga de um Povo [MOAB – The Saga of a People]. From the Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR collection, Equipe de Articulação e Assessorias às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira, Eldorado, Brazil. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/eaacone01

About the Site Update

The new version of the site was built from the ground up using an open-source technology stack consisting of Fedora 5, Islandora 8, and Drupal 8, based on the Resource Description Framework (RDF) for linked data. The updated repository infrastructure greatly improves the site’s multilingual capabilities and provides more connections between objects to improve cross-searching and discoverability. The site was developed using a combination of standard Islandora features and custom code, which was contributed back to the Islandora community.

Avalúo de los bienes de Manuel Romero [Appraisal of the assets of Manuel Romero]. Colección Digital Fondo Real de Cholula, Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla: https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/frc01
Avalúo de los bienes de Manuel Romero [Appraisal of the assets of Manuel Romero]. Colección Digital Fondo Real de Cholula, Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/frc01

The core project team consisted of David Bliss, Itza Carbajal, Minnie Rangel, Brandon Stennett, and Theresa Polk. The LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives team would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the many others who supported this project, including the project staff and leadership at each partner organization; scholar liaisons Dr. Anthony Dest, Dr. Lidia Gómez García, Dr. Kelly McDonough, and Dr. Edward Shore; translators Tereza Braga, Jennifer Isasi, Joshua Ortiz Baco, and Albert Palacios; UT Libraries IT services; the UT Libraries Digital Stewardship team; LLILAS Benson Grants Manager Megan Scarborough; the UT Libraries and LLILAS Benson leadership teams; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Islandora development community; and the graduate research assistants who contributed to the project—Alejandra Martinez, Joshua Ortiz Baco and Elizabeth Peattie.


David A. Bliss is the digital processing archivist for LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, The University of Texas at Austin.

Recién actualizado, repositorio digital destaca nuevas colecciones latinoamericanas

POR DAVID A. BLISS / TRADUCIDO POR SUSANNA SHARPE

Read in English / Ler em português

Más de 60 mil imágenes escaneadas, que pertenecen a siete colecciones de archivos digitales, ya se hicieron disponibles en el repositorio Iniciativas Digitales Latinoamericanas (LADI), (ladi.lib.utexas.edu). Recientemente actualizada, la página web fue desarrollada a lo largo de dos años por el equipo de Iniciativas Digitales LLILAS Benson y el equipo de informática de las Bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas, con el apoyo de la Fundación Andrew W. Mellon. Una versión previa del website fue lanzada en el 2015 y presentó cuatro colecciones de archivos.

¡Alto a la represión del sindicalismo! De la Colección Conflicto Armado, Afiches, Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, San Salvador, El Salvador. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/es/mupi01

Las imágenes digitalizadas que se encuentran en el repositorio LADI fueron creadas por las organizaciones latinoamericanas que son dueños de los archivos, un trabajo que se realizó a través de una colaboración con LLILAS Benson Colecciones y Estudios Latinoamericanos de la Universidad de Texas en Austin. Las organizaciones colaboradoras produjeron escaneos de alta calidad y metadatos detallados sobre sus colecciones, mientras el personal de LLILAS Benson ofreció equipamiento, entrenamiento en-sitio y consulta técnica, todo dentro de un marco pos-custodial. El propósito del repositorio online es que esté disponible para investigadores, maestros y activistas, tanto como las comunidades a quienes pertenecen los materiales archivados. El sitio puede ser navegado en inglés, español y portugués.

Manifestaciones reclamando la reglamentación del artículo transitorio 55. De Colección Dinámicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia, Proceso de Comunidades Negras, Buenaventura, Colombia. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/es/pcn01

Las colecciones en LADI abarcan los siglos XVI hasta XXI. Fueron creadas por personal de las siguientes organizaciones socias: Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla (México), BICU-CIDCA (Nicaragua), Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica (CIRMA, Guatemala), Equipe de Articulação e Assessorias às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira (EAACONE, Brasil), Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (MUPI, El Salvador) y Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, Colombia). La variedad de materiales encontradas en estas colecciones refleja la diversidad étnica y social de Latinoamérica. A la vez, las colecciones manifiestan temas y luchas comunes que atraviesan las fronteras temporales y geográficas. Las áreas de destaque común de las colecciones incluyen los derechos afro-latinx e indígenas; la justicia ambiental; y los conflictos armados internos de la época de la Guerra Fría.

Las colecciones

  • Archivo de Inforpress Centroamericana (CIRMA, Guatemala)
  • Colección Conflicto Armado. Afiches. (MUPI, El Salvador)
  • Colección Conflicto Armado. Publicaciones. (MUPI, El Salvador)
  • Colección Digital del Periódico “La Información” (BICU-CIDCA, Nicaragua)
  • Colección Digital Fondo Real de Cholula (Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla, México)
  • Colección Dinamicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia (PCN, Colombia)
  • Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR (EAACONE, Brasil)
MOAB – A saga de um Povo [MOAB – La saga de un Pueblo]. De la colección Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR, Equipe de Articulação e Assessorias às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira, Eldorado, Brasil. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/es/eaacone01

Detalles de la versión actualizada

La nueva versión del sitio fue construida desde cero con el uso de tecnología de acceso abierto que consiste en Fedora 5, Islandora 8 y Drupal 8, basado en el Marco de Descripción de Recursos (Resource Description Framework, o RDF) para datos enlazados. La infraestructura del repositorio actualizado representa un gran mejoramiento en la capacidad multilingüe el sitio, y provee mayores conexiones entre objetos, para mejorar las búsquedas avanzadas y la visibilidad. El sitio fue desarrollado utilizando una combinación de herramientas estándar de Islandora y código especialmente diseñado, el cual ha sido donado a la comunidad Islandora.

Avalúo de los bienes de Manuel Romero. Colección Digital Fondo Real de Cholula, Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/es/frc01

Los miembros del equipo central del proyecto son David Bliss, Itza Carbajal, Minnie Rangel, Brandon Stennett y Theresa Polk. El equipo de Iniciativas Digitales de LLILAS Benson también quisiera reconocer las contribuciones de muchos colegas y entidades que apoyaron este proyecto, como el personal y el liderazgo en las organizaciones colaboradoras; los/las investigadores Dr. Anthony Dest, Dra. Lidia Gómez García, Dra. Kelly McDonough y Dr. Edward Shore; los/las traductores Tereza Braga, Jennifer Isasi, Joshua Ortiz Baco y Albert Palacios; servicios IT de Bibliotecas UT; el equipo de Administración Digital de las Bibliotecas UT; la administradora de subvenciones de LLILAS Benson Megan Scarborough; el liderazgo de las Bibliotecas de UT y de LLILAS Benson; los asistentes posgraduados que contribuyeron a este proyecto—Alejandra Martínez, Joshua Ortiz Baco y Elizabeth Peattie.


David A. Bliss es archivista de procesamiento digital en LLILAS Benson Colecciones y Estudios Latinoamericanos, La Universidad de Texas en Austin.

Destaque para novas coleções do Repositório Digital Latino-Americano Atualizado

POR DAVID A. BLISS / TRADUZIDO POR TEREZA BRAGA

Read in English / Leer en español

Mais de 60 mil imagens escaneadas de sete coleções de arquivo espalhadas pela América Latina estão agora disponíveis virtualmente no repositório atualizado da Iniciativas Digitais Latino-Americanas (em inglês, LADI) (ladi.lib.utexas.edu). O site foi desenvolvido durante um período de dois anos pela equipe Iniciativas Digitais da LLILAS Benson e por desenvolvedores de software das Bibliotecas da Universidade do Texas, com o apoio da Fundação Andrew W. Mellon. Uma versão anterior do site, com quatro coleções de arquivos, foi lançada em 2015.

¡Alto a la represión del sindicalismo! [Pare à repressão ao sindicalismo]. Da coleção Colección Conflicto Armado, Afiches, Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, San Salvador, El Salvador. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/pt-br/mupi01

As imagens digitalizadas do repositório LADI foram criadas por organizações proprietárias de arquivos na América Latina, em parceria com a LLILAS Benson. As organizações parceiras produziram digitalizações de alta qualidade e metadados detalhados sobre suas coleções, enquanto que os profissionais da LLILAS Benson proporcionaram equipamentos, capacitação local e consulta técnica para um ordenamento arquivístico pós-custodial. O repositório virtual foi criado para utilização por pesquisadores, professores e ativistas, assim como pelas comunidades a quem pertencem as peças. O site pode ser navegado em inglês, espanhol e português.

Manifestaciones reclamando la reglamentación del artículo transitorio 55 [Manifestações que demandam a reglamentação do Artigo Transitório ]. Da coleção Colección Dinámicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia, Proceso de Comunidades Negras, Buenaventura, Colombia. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/pt-br/pcn01

As coleções encontradas na LADI abrangem um período que vai do século XVI ao século XX e foram criadas por profissionais do projeto trabalhando nas instalações das seguintes entidades parceiras: Arquivo Judicial do Estado de Puebla (México), BICU-CIDCA (Nicarágua), Centro de Pesquisas  Regionais da Mesoamérica (CIRMA, Guatemala), Equipe de Articulação e Assessorias às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira (EAACONE, Brasil), Museu da Palavra e da Imagem (MUPI, El Salvador), e Processo de Comunidades Negras (PCN, Colômbia). A variedade de materiais encontrada nessas coleções reflete a diversidade étnica e social da América Latina. Ao mesmo tempo, as coleções tratam de lutas que são comuns a vários povos e transpõem limites temporais e geográficos. Os destaques temáticos específicos das coleções do repositório são direitos afro-latinx e indígenas, justiça ambiental e conflitos armados internos da era da Guerra Fria. As coleções são as seguintes:

  • Archivo de Inforpress Centroamericana (CIRMA, Guatemala)
  • Colección Conflicto Armado. Afiches. (MUPI, El Salvador)
  • Colección Conflicto Armado. Publicaciones. (MUPI, El Salvador)
  • Colección Digital del Periódico “La Información” (BICU-CIDCA, Nicaragua)
  • Colección Digital Fondo Real de Cholula (Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla, México)
  • Colección Dinamicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia (PCN, Colombia)
  • Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR (EAACONE, Brasil)
MOAB – A Saga de um Povo. Da coleção Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR, Equipe de Articulação e Assessorias às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira, Eldorado, Brasil. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/pt-br/eaacone01

Detalhes do site atualizado

A nova versão do site foi criada do zero com a utilização de uma pilha tecnológica de fonte aberta constituída de Fedora 5, Islandora 8 e Drupal 8, com base no Quadro de Descrições de Recursos (RDF) para dados ligados. A infra-estrutura de repositório atualizada permite aprimorar significativamente o caráter multilíngue do site e disponibiliza mais conexões entre objetos para facilitar buscas cruzadas e descobertas. O site foi desenvolvido com a ajuda de uma combinação de funções Islandora padrão e código personalizado que volta para a comunidade Islandora em forma de contribuições.

Avalúo de los bienes de Manuel Romero [Avaliação dos bens de Manuel Romero]. De Colección Digital Fondo Real de Cholula, Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/pt-br/frc01

A equipe núcleo do projeto consistiu de David Bliss, Itza Carbajal, Minnie Rangel, Brandon Stennett, e Theresa Polk. A equipe da Iniciativas Digitais LLILAS Benson gostaria também de agradecer as contribuições de outras pessoas que apoiaram esse projeto, inclusive os profissionais e gestores de cada organização parceira; os articuladores acadêmicos Dr. Anthony Dest, Dra. Lidia Gómez García, Dr. Kelly McDonough, e Dr. Edward Shore; os tradutores Tereza Braga, Jennifer Isasi, Joshua Ortiz Baco e Albert Palacios; os serviços de IT das Bibliotecas UT; a equipe de Administração Digital das Bibliotecas UT; Megan Scarborough, Gerente de Grants da LLILAS Benson; as equipes gestoras das Bibliotecas UT e LLILAS Benson; a Fundação Andrew W. Mellon; a comunidade de desenvolvedores do Islandora; e os pós-graduandos assistentes de pesquisa que contribuíram para esse projeto: Alejandra Martinez, Joshua Ortiz Baco e Elizabeth Peattie.


David A. Bliss é arquivista de processamento digital de LLILAS Benson Coleções e Estudos Latino-Americanos, da Universidade de Texas em Austin.

Students Use Digital Tools to reveal “Hidden” Collection of Pre-Colonial Objects

Nasca bowl with birds

Students in Astrid Runggaldier’s Art and Archaeology of Ancient Peru class were tasked with an intriguing project this spring: take a collection of pre-colonial objects that is, for all intents and purposes, invisible, and make it visible using digital tools. Their efforts have come to fruition with a first-of-its-kind online exhibition titled Ancient Coastal Cultures of Peru: People and Animals at the Edge of the Pacific Ocean.

The objects in question are part of the Art and Art History Collection (AAHC) at The University of Texas at Austin, a collection associated with the Mesoamerica Center and the Department of Art and Art History. Consisting of ancient artifacts, ethnographic materials, and historical objects primarily from the Americas, the collection, curated by Runggaldier, spans approximately 5,000 invaluable objects for research and studious exploration. These rare pieces do not have their own dedicated exhibition space, although since 2017, select objects rotate through the Ancient Americas gallery at the Blanton Museum of Art (see “Mesoamerican Artifacts Highlight Makeover at UT’s Blanton”).

Chimu spout-and-handle vessel with human effigy

Long focused on the need for a virtual museum to showcase the AAHC collection, Runggaldier looked to the field of digital humanities to devise a project with a few objectives in mind. “Approaching this project from a digital humanities perspective could simultaneously serve in the stewardship of the collection, create an educational resource at UT and beyond, and provide an opportunity for students to become involved in learning goals and tools of digital scholarship, as well as museum studies approaches to collection management and curation,” she said.

Nasca vase with trophy head

Enter the LLILAS Benson Digital Humanities Curriculum Redesign Award. The award provides UT faculty and graduate student instructors with dedicated staff support by LLILAS Benson digital scholarship staff along with a grant of up to $250 to cover expenses incurred in the design or redesign of a course with Latin American, U.S. Latinx, and/or African Diaspora Studies content. Runggaldier applied and received the award, which she used to redesign the Ancient Peru class. For this endeavor, she has worked with Albert Palacios, LLILAS Benson digital scholarship coordinator.

Student’s final project, showing object comparisons

Palacios explains that the goal of the LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship Office is to “introduce digital humanities principles, methods, and special collections meaningfully and with a critical lens” in the redesign of undergraduate and graduate courses. “Through lectures, class activities, individual assignments and group projects, we aim to strike a balance in the knowledge we impart as co-instructors,” Palacios continues, “so that students leave the course with a well-rounded understanding of the subject matter and course content, as well as information literacy and research methods, basic and more advanced digital skills, and knowledge of ethical issues surrounding collection development and use.”

Chimu vessel

First-year student Miguel Belmonte, a neuroscience major, attests to the success of this aim: Before this course, “I had never used or even known about digital scholarship tools. It was a unique experience.”

Nasca objects depicting chile peppers; postcard showing twentieth-century vendor

Students were divided into teams of four for the final project. Each team had to research objects in the UT collection from two different pre-colonial Andean groups—the Chimu and the Nasca. They then had to compare the objects they chose to an object from another museum collection. To provide context for visualizing the environments of Peru, Runggaldier selected images from the Benson’s Hispanic Society of America Postcard Collection, which has been digitized, described, and mapped by School of Information graduate student Elizabeth Peattie, who is the LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship and Special Collections intern. Three other indispensable contributors to the success of this project were Brianna Crockett, collections assistant and Art and Art History undergrad, who assisted in the compilation and description of digital assets; Katy Parker, Humanities Liaison Librarian for Fine Arts, who provided research support for students throughout the semester; and Nicole Payntar, doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology, who designed assignment grading criteria and rubrics for research and digital project components.

Student slide featuring Chimu objects and thematic postcard

“I truly enjoy seeing the aha! moment in students’ eyes as they figure out how to use open-source digital tools to make their research more dynamic and interconnected,” says Palacios. “For many, the learning curve is steep, so the digital scholarship staff’s role is to help them overcome this. Luckily, we continue to hear that the in-depth and intense experience was worth the challenge!”

Runggaldier and Palacios had originally planned an in-person opening event to celebrate the going live of the online exhibition. Given the current closure of campus due to the covid-19 pandemic, this was not to be. We encourage readers to visit the online exhibition and to share their opinions on social media by tagging @llilasbenson and @UT_AAH and using the hashtag #digitalhumanities.

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More information: Contact Lauren Macknight, Art and Art History, or Susanna Sharpe, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections

The Possibilities of Other Worlds: the UT Libraries’ Science Fiction Ebook Collection

By Katy Tuck

Katy Tuck is a graduate student at the School of Information and currently serves as an Ask A Librarian Graduate Research Assistant at the Perry-Castañeda Library.

One defining hallmark of the science fiction genre is its atmospheric world-building. Against the backdrop of a fictitious future, past, or present, set in realities distinct from, yet eerily similar to our own, Sci-Fi plots grapple with the big ideas pressing humanity. Though the setting or the characters may be unfamiliar to us, the underlying exploration of political and social themes in Sci-Fi are universally apropos and fitting for a strange time such as the current moment. While we continue to work and study from home, contemplating the uncertainties and possibilities of the future, now is an opportune time to be transported to these other worlds and dimensions through the PCL’s robust and ever-expanding Sci-Fi collection.

Former UT Library Director Harold W. Billings had a penchant for the Sci-Fi genre and amassed a sizable personal collection over the years. He generously donated this collection to the UT Libraries some time ago, and many of these volumes are still in circulation. In keeping with his mission to expand the Sci-Fi holdings of the PCL, librarians have continued curating and developing this collection over the years. Notably, Humanities Librarian Gina Bastone has expanded the collection to further reflect the diversity of authors and themes across the genre and recently added multiple ebooks to the PCL Sci-Fi Collection. 

If you are looking for a place to  delve into this reading, I  recommend you check out the Science Fiction Library Guide, created by former Ask a Librarian GRAs Adriana Casarez and Victoria Pena in 2018 under the guidance of Gina Bastone, and updated in 2020 to include a fantastic list of Sci-Fi titles now available as ebooks. Included in this ecollection are several complete series to keep you engaged and transfixed by literature all summer. If you enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale, I recommend Margaret Atwood’s relevant MaddAddam Trilogy, which includes the Oryx and Crake (1st in series), The Year of the Flood (2nd in series), and MaddAddam (3rd in series) books. After a pandemic sweeps the earth, dramatically altering known reality, survivors must band together and relearn how to navigate life. 

Cover of Margaret Atwood’s speculative, dystopian novel MaddAddam.

I also recommend award-winning author Octavia Butler’s Earthseed: The Complete Series, which explores themes related to social inequality, adaptability, and survival in a dystopian future. The series includes her works Parable of the Sower (1st in series) and Parable of the Talents (2nd in series). Butler was the recipient of several Hugo and Nebula Awards for her writing.

Image of Octavia Butler’s landmark Earthseed series.

From Proto-Sci-Fi to Cli-Fi (climate fiction) to Afro-Futurism to Cyberpunk, there is something for everyone, all accessible from the comfort of home (or beyond!) until we can resume our normal library activities. We welcome any suggested purchases to help us build our collection–just fill out this Suggest a Purchase form. Happy reading everyone.

Find the full list of science fiction ebooks on the Science Fiction library guide.