On November 3rd, the Libraries’ Social Sciences Team conducted its first Graduate Research Showcase, which featured twenty posters with a wide array of topics ranging from the economic impacts of state immigration reform to the role of paternal warmth and maternal stress in child-rearing to sport as part of Great Britain’s colonial enterprise in India. In total, the twenty graduate students came from fifteen different departments across campus, sparking interdisciplinary dialogue, collaboration, and scholarly engagement.
The showcase elevated the library as a platform. It provided an opportunity for the students to explain their research in a low-stress environment replete with refreshments as they received constructive criticism on their work. Students welcomed the idea to practice talking about their research. Katie Bradford, a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies noted that “the event was a great opportunity to receive feedback. I was able to take notes and came away with ways to further develop my project.” Similarly, Department of Curriculum & Instruction doctoral student Hye Ryung Won appreciated the cross-department possibilities: “I got a lot of feedback from people and could make some connections with peers from other departments.” The enthusiasm found in these statements resonated throughout the day.
Moreover, one lucky student won the vote for best poster: Briana Barber, a doctoral student in the Department of Radio-Television-Film put forth stimulating research on African American voices in podcasts. Titled, “‘The Conversations that Black People Have When White People Aren’t in the Room’: The Podcast as Public Sphere,” the presentation focused on how African Americans continue to carve out spaces in a medium previously dominated by white voices. The best poster contest may have been just for fun, but it had a real impact on Barber, who remarked that “winning the poster competition was just the motivation I needed to know that the work I’m doing is interesting, important and necessary.”
The Social Sciences Team organized the event at the Perry-Castañeda Library’s Scholars Commons, a newly designed space for UTL to foster research initiatives and exhibit space. By all accounts, the Showcase represented a successful shift in the Library’s involvement with research: it attracted over 100 students, staff, and community members while students have called for another poster session to be held the following semester. Indeed, Assistant Director of Digital Scholarship Jenifer Flaxbart commented that “the Scholars Commons has never buzzed and hummed with the cadence of so many voices discussing interesting, broad-ranging research as it did today.” Stay tuned for future events!
Carolyn is a Texan, born and raised, and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Science in Information Studies from UT Austin. After graduation, she served stints at St. Edward’s University, and UT San Antonio, before returning to UT Austin to work as the Social Sciences Liaison Librarian for Human Development & Family Sciences, Kinesiology & Health Education, Psychology, Social Work, and Sociology.
Research topics are driven not only by access to resources, but quality resources, walk us through how you develop new and curate existing resources for the social sciences.
Carolyn Cunningham: Social scientists use a little bit of everything in their research, from statistical data gathered from research articles and government agencies, books, to qualitative interviews. Some of this information is freely available, but a large portion is only available through our library subscriptions. We try to stay on top of developments in the field so our researchers will have access to the latest journal articles. With publication prices going up and budgets staying the same or shrinking, we have to prioritize carefully to serve the many different types of experts in our fields.
Many social science students go on to work outside of academia after graduation, so they lose access to the library resources they had while they were in school. It is just as important for them to have access to the latest research while working as practitioners as when they are students. Social work students are a great example. The agencies and organizations they work for after graduation sometimes have affiliations that allow research access, but often they are on their own. I try to squeeze in lessons about how to find open access material, how to request material through the public library, and other access points while they are still on campus.
How many patrons do you service on the Forty Acres?
CC: In my role as subject liaison, I serve folks in the following departments, across multiple colleges: Human Development & Family Sciences, Kinesiology & Health Education, Psychology, Social Work, and Sociology. I serve over 4,000 patrons, which includes 316 faculty and instructors, 700 masters and doctoral students, and 3,000 undergraduate students.
I also work unofficially with programs that don’t fit within one department, and I serve the campus at large when I answer questions through the Ask a Librarian chat and at the PCL Research Help desk.
Day to day, we see you in front of classrooms alongside professors teaching students how to access research information or with individuals who have an idea for research but are not sure how to get started. What happens in those sessions?
CC: Teaching in the classroom and meeting with folks one-on-one are some of the best parts of my job. When a faculty member invites me to talk about the art of doing research and exposing the students to the available tools, it can be tough to narrow down the talking points to fit the time allotted. It’s easy for me to go on and on, knowing all the tools we offer. Usually my classroom sessions happen when the students are writing research papers and they need to cite scholarly sources. With undergraduates, I show them how to pick a database and choose keywords in order to find research articles. We spend time during the class thinking about who is writing about their topics, whose expertise is considered authoritative, and what things are appropriate to cite (for example, scholarly articles versus news articles, or cutting edge research versus well-established theory). With graduate students, their projects often require deep interaction with the research in their areas, so we talk about finding works by major authors, methodology, and the process of publishing research articles. I recently worked with a class in which several students wanted to design surveys and questionnaires to measure social behaviors and attitudes about gender bias in the workplace. I showed them how to use the databases to find examples of previous studies that utilize surveys and questionnaires to use as models.
In one-on-one consultations, the meeting is molded by the where the researcher is in their project, and by their comfort level doing research. Undergraduates in the social sciences are often learning about their topics for the first time, and are shaping personal interests into something they can tackle in their coursework. Immigration, access to healthcare, LBGTQ issues; if there is a news story about it, we can usually find scholarly literature to lay the foundation for a research project. In these cases, I spend a good amount of the meeting introducing them to tools beyond Google or Google Scholar, and showing them how to produce a good pool of results. Graduate students and researchers are typically more experienced with the main tools in their fields, so we talk through the best keywords to search, the kinds of things published on their topic, and how to make sure they are not missing any key research in their fields. But this is just the beginning. It can go off in all kinds of crazy directions, sending us deep into the stacks, or deep down an Internet rabbit hole. This is a nerdy example, but I once helped a student dig through pages from the Wayback Machine in the Internet Archive to find a research abstract that was written in Italian. The original website had been taken down, but we had a partial citation. He had Italian language skills, so while I navigated and searched, he translated what we were seeing. It was the epitome of a wild goose chase, but we eventually found the full citation and were able to request the article through our interlibrary loan service.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
CC: Talking to researchers one-on-one in consultations is incredibly gratifying. I learn something new almost every time. There are many great parts about these meetings, but learning about the issues researchers are interested in is so cool. UT has many movers and shakers on campus, and our faculty often get interviewed by NPR and other media outlets. It’s cool to hear a faculty member on the radio who just invited me to work with their classes.
I had no idea about that part of the job when I went to library school. I toyed with the thought of going into museum studies or preservation, and those specialties remain interests of mine. But I knew academic librarianship was for me early in my time as a student worker in the Geology library, and later as an intern at PCL. Dissecting people’s research questions and connecting them to information somehow works really well with my curiosity and people-orientation. I also love the cross-section of folks on campus: undergrads who are grinding through the college experience so they can go out and do other things in the world, and folks who stay in academia and build expertise in their areas (among many others, of course).
Is there a particularly rewarding or transformational interaction you had during a consultation with a patron?
CC: Transformation is one of the highest goals of pedagogy, and those moments are awesome. Sometimes, I see small transformations of people’s understandings of their topic. I have been working with a graduate student for the past few months who is investigating how college athletes identify as students. Just to give a very specific example of something I consult on regularly, we were searching for articles about college athletes and their student identity, but were not getting good results. I did a little playing around with our search, and we found that the research more commonly refers to “learner identity” or “academic identity.” Once we tweaked the search terms, the databases cracked open and gave us much better results. This student will use what she learns to make recommendations about how to advise and support student athletes in their academic achievement. It’s a great project with very tangible applications.
Other times, the transformation is more apparent in the classroom. I’ve gotten thank you notes from instructors saying their students’ papers are higher quality after a library session. Or they will redesign assignments after having me visit their classes.
Once, a patron high-fived me at the reference desk for finding a book they needed. That was awesome.
Anything you can teach us that will help us in our personal life?
CC: Sure, I can show you a few tips so you can Google like a librarian. Searching within a website can be really useful. If you know certain information lives on a site, but you can’t remember how to get there, you can search that whole site for the page you want. For instance, to find the UT calendar, enter this into the Google search bar:
Or you can easily limit your results to certain website domains. This may be helpful if you want to learn about a topic, but not see every type of result related to it. Let’s say you want find research about coconut oil. If you do a regular Google search for “coconut oil,” you get a lot of varied results, including news, social media, and products for sale. But if you scope to .edu websites, you get useful stuff right up front. Enter this into the search bar:
Each fall, a fresh-faced bunch of newlings comes to campus with dreams of independence and future prospects dancing about their heads, a world of opportunity and exciting new experiences presented at every corner. And at the end of each successive spring, harried and exhausted, the same students trudge about PCL all hours in a fog of dread and worry, struggling to meet project deadlines and prepare for finals.
In recent years, staff have attempted to ease attending anxieties by different means, from art therapy on the whiteboards throughout the library to partnering with campus units for healthy snacks and massage chairs to the recurring presence of therapy pets from local agencies, all of which efforts have been met with great appreciation from library users,
Being on the front line, our circulation staff have the most frequent contact with students in the throes of finals pressures, so they also tend to be the most attuned to the stress cycles, and are great at imagining ways to overcome or at least temporarily alleviate them.
This semester, staff wanted to try something new, something fun and goofy that would shake the doldrums and reinvigorate the weary denizens of PCL with a jolt of the unexpected. By now, most people have come across some version of the ubiquitous T-Rex costume that’s been a major currency of YouTube videos; that buzzy novelty is what created the spark of an idea for the eventual decision by staff to create their own costume persona that could serve as the embodiment of silliness and distraction for overtaxed students in need of a break.
Staff settled on creating the albino squirrel.
For the uninitiated, the albino squirrel* has become a bit of a folk hero around the Forty Acres. The squirrel (or squirrels — who knows?) is told in lore to be a harbinger of good fortune to anyone who spots the animal. Students are known to actively seek out the tree-dweller for particularly worrisome exams, so it made perfect sense for staff to conjure the animal for the benefit of students, especially at this particular time of the semester.
Being that staff had an idea and some spanking new tools with which to act upon it — in the form of the new Foundry makerspace in the Fine Arts Library — they only lacked volunteers to set about the task. From among their ranks they discovered that they had the requisite skill sets to create the form for the creature.
Early in the spring, senior library specialist Janeice Connors and Tré Miles, a student associate from the Kuehne Physics-Mathematics-Astronomy Library and Textiles major, began intermittent work on designing and creating a man-size version of the bushy-tailed talisman in the Fabric Arts Lab at the Foundry. By late April, the Connors and Miles had logged dozens of hours cutting, fitting, sewing and stuffing, and the suit was finally ready for its debut.
On Wednesday, May 10, accompanied by Libraries Director Lorraine Haricombe and Austin’s Pizza owner J.D. Torian, the albino squirrel stepped off the elevator on the 6th floor of PCL, and began a whirlwind tour of the library, spreading joy and smiles (And pizza. And KIND bars.) to appreciative students who got a much deserved break from their studies and a hopefully a little luck from their friends at the Libraries.
Postscript: Tré Miles graduated in May, and parlayed his experience building a squirrel (not really) to land a spot at Michael Kors in NYC. Congratulations, Tré!
*Yes, yes, Mr. Smartypants…we’re well aware that it’s not really an albino, just a rodent with a recessive gene.
The Libraries held a Kick-off event on September 16 to share design renderings of a new academic work space in the Perry-Castaneda Library called the Scholars Commons that will be piloted on entry level starting early next year.
My colleagues and I had the great opportunity to welcome attendees into an empty room behind yellow paper-covered windows to share a “before” glimpse of what the UT Libraries hopes will become a favorite place on campus for graduate students and scholars.
Scheduled to open in January 2016, this “third space” for serious study is a pilot project to test services and different types of spaces.
The Scholars Commons initiative is comprised of 3 main areas:
silent study space,
a Data Lab, and
a Graduate Landing Spot, with reservable media-equipped rooms, a lounge and a break room.
Design development for the space was informed by input from graduate student and faculty focus groups and a survey with over 1,200 respondents conducted last spring. Additional insights came from the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), the Graduate Student Writing Group and Graduate Student Services within OGS. The design was created by Harmony Edwards-Canfield of E+MID (Edwards + Mulhausen Interior Design), also responsible for several successful recently completed PCL projects.
Situated opposite the new glass-walled Media Lab, in what was formerly the Periodicals Room and the adjacent office suites that housed the Research and Information Services department, the Scholars Commons is tangible, visible evidence of support for serious students and scholars.
The materials in that space were relocated elsewhere within PCL, and the staff relocated to a UT Libraries office suite in the new Learning Commons, next to the University Writing Center. As with space used to create the Learning Commons, the Scholars Commons project represents intentional repurposing of staff space for student use.
The office suite closest to the PCL lobby will host speech center services provided by the Sanger Learning Center and research consultations in media-equipped meeting rooms with UT Libraries librarians. When not reserved for consultations, the rooms will be available for group study use by students.
Subject specialist librarians, or liaison librarians, already work one-to-one or in small groups with students and faculty to advise on literature reviews, research paper resources, data needs and other aspects of the research process and lifecycle, including publishing. These refreshed rooms will expand existing consultation space.
The large room that once housed the current periodicals and reference materials will become silent study space. And the office suite in the back of that room will be a dedicated Graduate Landing Spot for group study and informal community building.
The Scholars Commons will also offer programming, including salon events with featured speakers, research presentations and exhibit space. In brief, the pilot focuses on real-life needs, real-world challenges, research and relationships.
Kick-off participants enjoyed locally-sourced refreshments and live music by Maxwell’s Daemons, a celebratory nod to the soon-to-be-silent zone for scholarly endeavor.
Brianna Frey, an Architecture graduate student in attendance, expressed that the quality and amenities of a study area are important because productivity stems from the ability to focus. “Additionally, it is important, especially because my field has a lot of group work, to have collaborative spaces in study areas” Frey told the Daily Texan. The pilot will offer both options.
Monitor this blog and UT Libraries social media outlets for more details as the January reveal approaches.
Last week, the Texas Exes Dallas Chapter hosted a reception featuring Dr. Lorraine Haricombe, Vice Provost and Director of University of Texas Libraries.
Lorraine shared her highest priorities to:
Strengthen UT Libraries core mission to support UT’s mission of teaching, research and learning in new and creative ways.
Fill key positions to align with new roles for libraries in teaching, learning and in the digital environment and to expand collaborative partnerships on campus (and beyond) and re-purpose prime real estate in our libraries to meet the expectations of 21st century learners.
Position UT Libraries to help transform teaching, learning and research at the University through open access to ensure that the ground breaking research conducted at our University will reach beyond the Forty Acres, nationally and globally.
To close, Lorraine reminded everyone, “supporting the Libraries has the potential to touch the lives of every student, staff and faculty member to ensure that what starts here really does change the world.”
Looking forward, UT Libraries plans to partner with Texas Exes Chapters across the country to host similar events that showcase the work being done at UT. If you are interested in hosting a similar event, please contact Gregory Perrin.
Again this year, the Libraries took measures to help our hardworking students survive the end of another (or for some, a first) academic school year by providing some de-stressors during the weeks leading up to finals.
As papers and projects came due and the looming shadow of finals all but enveloped the collective population of the campus, we were again fortunate to have a ready partner in Austin Dog Alliance who was willing to provide a much-needed visit by their four-legged staff members, and whose mere presence can be diversion enough to lighten the mood and reorient Longhorns in the throes of all-nighters and marathon cram sessions.
Along with pups, facilities project manager Frank Meaker amassed a new collection of whiteboard drawings from throughout the PCL over the spring semester, and we gathered those on our Flickr account to document this season of the spontaneous art therapy that provides yet another momentary escape from the serious rigor that occurs in service of developing the next generation of leaders at the UT campus. (More about the whiteboards at the UT Tumblr.)
A stretch-goal? That would imply that we would cross the finish line before our campaign was over!
Thankfully, we took their advice because this week we surged past our original goal of $10,000!
Since we about two weeks left, we have announced our stretch-goal: $15,000. That’s just $4,445 in the next 14 days. The extra funds will enable us to build an even better Fine Arts Library Recording Studio with better sound-proofing, software, and hopefully new carpet and furniture.
We’ve come so far, so please help us go even further by broadcasting our message through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, E-mail, or word of mouth, and consider making a contribution if you haven’t already.*
We’ve started planning an end-of-campaign show at Tom’s Tabooley on the last day of our campaign, Friday, May 1, so save the date! More details to come!
If you haven’t already, make sure and check out our most recent video featuring some images of what the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio might look like.
* If you or your company are interested in contributing a matching gift during the campaign, don’t worry, there is still time! Please contact Gregory Perrin for more information.
As you may recall from my last post, UT Libraries has launched our very first HornRaiser (crowd-funding) campaign to raise $10,000 for the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio. The campaign has been active for just over a week now and 29 donors have helps us raise $2,400! That is 24% of our goal! Special thanks to Tom + Regina Nichols for generously matching $500 during the campaign. * Every dollar counts as we make our way closer and closer toward our goal. Are you a social media ninja? Help us spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Keep an eye out! We will have special contests throughout the campaign! Reactions from current UT students who can’t wait to start using the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio:
Justin LaVergne Theatre, fourth year student with two more years to go
Recording studio would benefit me by being able to create voice overs for theatrical productions. As well as record songs to send out as demos to help me pay for school.
Ian Price Theatre and Dance and Radio & Television, and Film, junior
As an aspiring Voice-Over Actor, I myself have my own Mic that I use for recording lines for audio-dramas, audiobooks, online-cartoons, ect. However, I also live with 3 other roommates, in an apartment that, well, isn’t soundproof. Whenever someone is simply watching TV in the living room, I cannot record. And don’t even get me started about recording lines that require yelling. Basically, a recording studio, open and free to students would not only clear up those types of problems, but could also give good startups for the next ‘Welcome to Night Vale’, or Beyonce. There are many here who have talent but just don’t have the money, or the space to record in their home or in a private recording studio. As a college who prides itself on changing the world, its only right for us to have the resources to get started.
Hi. I’m Natalie Moore, the development specialist for the Libraries.
Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a grassroots effort to crowd-fundraise for the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio here at UT. At first mention, this seemed like a really great idea for a really unorthodox place. Don’t get me wrong, I love working in the Libraries, but it seemed like an unlikely place for a recording studio. As I started to identify students, faculty, and other staff members to help with this cause, it became apparent that the Fine Arts Library is the most appropriate place for a recording studio on UT’s campus. While this technology exists on campus, it is locked up, and saved for individuals in certain departments and colleges. Students, faculty, and even my fellow staff members’ eyes lit up as they learned that, “yes, the FAL Recording studio will be open to all current faculty, students, and staff,” and, “no, this isn’t just for musicians.”
I am excited about the Fine Arts Library hosting this incubator for creativity. I can only imagine what types of work will surface as a product of this great initiative.
UT Libraries HornRaiser site will become live Wednesday, March 18. Interested in getting involved? Email me at email@example.com
As we gear up for our HornRaiser campaign, I want to share some reactions from current UT students. Here is the first one:
Music Production, Sophomore
“Well, I work in my shoddy home studio everyday. It’s very low key with the ultimate level of ‘just the essentials.’ Having a place to have access to more equipment, like 2 mics, different kind of mics, instruments, workstations, really awesome sound monitors, would make the biggest difference in the world. Having a professional area adds a level beyond hanging up egg cartons and stuffed animals to help reduce room noise. The possibilities are endless.”
UT Libraries is about to embark on a HornRaiser (crowd-funding) campaign to equip a recording studio in the Fine Arts Library. You can check out our funding page here: https://hornraiser.utexas.edu/createut