Category Archives: Resources

Into the Next Normal

Hard to believe it’s been two years since the sudden closure of these Libraries upended our work and forced us to rethink how we continue to operate in a world that has the potential to throw such wild curveballs. A lot of the work we did before will likely return much as it was before we left the Forty Acres and adjusted to the boxed in screen of video interactions that would become the workspace for much of our library work for an extended period.

But much of the change required to keep the Libraries running through the remote period and into the initial reopening of spaces and return to in-person activity will remain in place as we enter the next normal. The paradigm of normal has shifted irrevocably thanks to a health crisis that has cost over 5 million lives, upended social practices and impacted the way we behave in so many ways, positive and negative. There was a normal before we knew of COVID-19, and there is a different normal as we proceed. To address that next normal, there are changes that won’t disappear, even when the pandemic eventually does.

So, what are the sustainable, smart changes that the Libraries will continue going forward?

Accessibility to Online Resources. The primacy of digital access was clear immediately upon the arrival of COVID. Without a robust online presence, academic enterprise and research innovation would have been greatly hindered, but through quick negotiation affected by a shared interest in continuity with providers, staff were able to ensure the best possible resources were available through emergency accommodations by the publishers, and favorable decisions about access to resources in HathiTrust. That experience provides a blueprint for continued access to resources and can inform future negotiations with publishers and content partners.

IDEA and Collections. One byproduct of the crisis was our captivity to a constant stream of news, and the effect of social upheaval on our strategic practices. The racial reckoning provided an opportunity to reflect on collections strategy and recalibrate our orientation. A project to diversify the collections is already well underway and will be a permanent part of our thinking going forward. And new digital applications like Spotlight will allow for the curation and highlighting of materials that reflect the breadth and diversity of our user community’s interests.

“Our time away from campus was not limited to the suffering brought on by the pandemic,” explains Head of Information Literacy Services Elise Nacca. “The murder of George Floyd prompted vital conversations on our campus, including interrogating whose story gets told at this University and what responsibility do we have to seek out diverse viewpoints? Critical pedagogy asks us to interrogate how power shapes the creation of and access to information. I worked to address in my classroom the gaps and silences in scholarship and how students can use our resources at the Libraries to seek out perspectives missing from the conversation.”

Promoting Legacy Content. The launch of the Libraries’ Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) in 2019 couldn’t have been more fortuitous, providing a framework and processes for sharing extant digital content with a community that was abruptly cut off from physical access to primary resources. Innovative thinking aligned with open access principles to realize opportunities for leveraging the DAMS for collaborative work. One such example is work on the David Reichard Williams Collection at the Alexander Architectural Archive, where staff enlisted a larger group of formal and citizen scholars to build out metadata for the collection through a crowdsourcing effort. This novel approach can be applied with equal effect even during a period that doesn’t require distance between contributors.

“We made a big push to provide more digital access to library resources,” explains Sean O’Bryan, Assistant Director of Access. “Along with exponentially increasing identification, description and ingest of content into the DAMS, we also took advantage of HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) making these digital surrogates easily discoverable in Primo (the Libraries’ content discovery system). This immediate benefit of providing a ‘virtual library’ during the pandemic has informed our exploration of controlled digital lending in order to advance that potential post-pandemic.”

The Dawn of the Virtual Session. Perhaps one of the most important evolutions of the pandemic was the development of collaborative meeting platforms like Zoom and Teams, allowing the adaptation of in-person services and expertise in a virtual environment. Research consultations, workshops and meetings all migrated to these platforms out of necessity during the pandemic, and now they have become a regular, and likely permanent fixture in how we interface with our constituents.

“One of the biggest changes made after the start of the pandemic was a switch from exclusively in-person workshops to completely virtual Zoom webinar-based workshops,” says Geospatial Data Coordinator Michael Shensky. “It wasn’t initially clear whether patrons would show up in the same numbers we had come to expect for in-person workshops, but we found that attendance for virtual workshops was actually significantly higher than for in-person workshops on similar topics that were organized during semesters prior to the pandemic.”

Having access to expert librarians for reference support is a core function at academic research institutions, and so the sudden impact of closures on research consultations – a service that was mostly an in-person exercise – could have been detrimental. Once again, Zoom provided a ready solution for an unexpected challenge. “It’s a great format for this type of work and allows people to meet with us from wherever they are,” says Jenifer Flaxbart, Assistant Director of Research Support and Digital Initiatives.

“Zoom was a godsend, for many reasons, and it’s now a staple in all facets of our work,” continues Flaxbart. “These virtual learning tools and platforms can be used both synchronously and asynchronously, and they permit global-level engagement, 24/7.”

Collaborating in the Digital Space. Teaching and learning online is not so easy to navigate successfully, and not every tool is equal, but what did work was using online whiteboards such as Padlet and Google Jam Boards during instruction sessions. These tools allow students to post ideas and responses quickly and teachers can see the posts in real time to facilitate discussion. Students can see what their colleagues are posting as well, and can participate anonymously. These tools will continue to find a space as in-person teaching and learning continues to ramp up with the gradual return to campus.

Where’s the Community? One of the greatest losses of the departure from campus at the arrival of the pandemic was the bustle and din of activity in Libraries’ spaces. When students returned in a limited capacity, the hesitancy created by risk factors made for a slow return to formerly beloved student congregation areas. Amplifying the challenge of providing a communal and collaborative workspace is the disparate experience of latter career students and those whose academic life began in a remote environment. Navigating the adapted needs of users in the physical space is a hard road of work ahead, but with the earnest return to campus, we’re seeing increasing traffic in spaces, and an expansion of in-person services, though not at pre-pandemic levels, yet.

“Teaching first year students, you’re always aware of the challenges someone coming to our campus for the first time might face,” says Elise Nacca. “It’s big and overwhelming and it’s easy to get lost physically and mentally. Before the pandemic sent us all home, I don’t think I appreciated how much most students really love being on campus and how much many lost staying home. I saw a lot of sad faces in Zoom classrooms and a lot of silent black boxes staring back at me. I wondered more than ever how they were feeling.”

“This led us to include more inclusive teaching practices into our work. This could be something simple like using inclusive language and examples in search demos to more intensive work, such as providing multiple formats for engagement with course materials,” explains Nacca. “I included more videos and screenshots of my content because I felt like I could not check in with students as easily as I could in person in order to check if they understood a concept. A stressed-out student on a lousy internet connection could follow images of searches or watch a video on their phone if the Zoom session wasn’t easy to engage with.”

“Overall, Covid has pushed our users to embrace the ‘Platform’ even more,” says Jenifer Flaxbart. “It’s key that our staffing and services align with that and do not overemphasize Library-as-Place and in-person work needlessly, particularly with faculty and graduate students, who’ve shown they prefer remote work and virtual collaborations with librarians and related Libraries’ experts.”

Working Differently. There’s no question that the experience of almost two years in a pandemic that has separated people from a professional structure and shared space can stymie efficiencies that have been built for existing practices and processes, so in adjusting workflows to a radically different work environment, staff chanced certain operational discoveries that might’ve otherwise not been considered.

The Digital Stewardship staff took on a lot of additional work to help units across the Libraries provide access to materials that were no longer available in physical form, including support in scanning materials for ILS (interlibrary loan) requests. That workflow could have sunsetted as ILS staff came back onsite, but the experience opened the door to the idea of scanning materials for different kinds of workflows. “Now we are scanning materials for the Controlled Digital Lending pilot,” says Assistant Director of Stewardship Wendy Martin, “and will build out those workflows as needed if that becomes a service.”

Transitional projects, which are mostly one-time affairs, gained some added benefit from the peace of campus closure. The pandemic allowed Stewardship staff to approach a project to vacate Battle Hall for a renovation project (as well as some other collection moves) in a more deliberate way than might have otherwise been possible. “The Storage and Logistics team and Architecture team and Preservation team were able to work onsite while the Architecture Library was closed for the pandemic, instead of having to fit the move into an intersession period,” says Martin. “The library was closed, but staff could work onsite preparing materials, and remain socially-distant from each other as they carried out the work. Having that time and space to move that collection out of Battle was beneficial for the move out, and also informs how we will move it all back in.”

Mindset and Headspace. There’s no question that the experiences of the past two years  have affected attitudes and orientation about work/life balance. So in addition to the outward facing changes that directly impact our users, there have been efforts to take into consideration the challenges and varying experiences of Libraries’ staff. There’s a real concern that with a slew of changes like those mentioned here, burnout and exhaustion can loom behind the satisfaction of surviving such an unexpected series of challenges. Units within the Libraries are recognizing a role in making sure that the Libraries’ are taking care of its own, as well as its users.

“While new approaches to our work have been exciting and productive, they are simultaneously overwhelming,” says Jenifer Flaxbart. “Managerially, the Research Support & Digital Initiatives Engagement Team focused on communication, reassurance and ‘grace’ in acknowledging that the many stresses and moving parts and unpredictable, ever-changing conditions regarding physical, psychological and emotional health, living arrangements, family roles and obligations, financial impacts, loss and more. We aimed for those things before the pandemic and continue to give more pronounced focus to those things now.”


As these Libraries move towards certainty, we’ll bring with us lessons learned from the challenges of the last two years. Amid the experimentation – some efforts resulting in success, others not –  there is one perspective that holds both in the last normal and in the next one, stated nicely by Head of Scholarly Communications Colleen Lyon: 

“We are a really service-minded profession and organization. I knew we would do what we had to do to be responsive to our users’ sudden and very different access needs. And we did. I think we spend a lot of time asking what we could do better in this profession of perfectionists, but we need to celebrate our work, too.”


Human Rights Documentation Initiative Receives Major Web Upgrade to Improve Access and Functionality

By DAVID A. BLISS

The Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) is a collaborative archival project aimed at preserving and promoting the use of fragile human rights records from around the world, in order to support human rights advocates working for the defense of vulnerable communities and individuals. The HRDI was established at the University of Texas Libraries with a generous grant from the Bridgeway Foundation in 2008. Additionally, the Human Rights Documentation Initiative has partnered with the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice to identify key strategic issues for the initiative as well as provide relevant programming to the UT Austin community and beyond.

The HRDI preserves and provides access to paper-based collections, as well as digitized and born-digital audiovisual collections that are global in scope. Recognizing the importance of online human rights advocacy and the fragility of web content, the HRDI also maintains an archive of websites related to human rights issues, which is updated quarterly.

HRDI partners and collections page in Spanish. Many pages on the new site are available in both Spanish and English. This page lists all current members and their contributed collections.

A number of the collections found on this site have been preserved and made available through post-custodial archival collaborations between the HRDI and partner organizations and repositories. Post-custodialism is a collaborative approach to providing access to archival collections that preserves physical archives within their original contexts of creation while also creating digital copies for wider access. Through these collaborations, the HRDI aims to support the development of partners’ archival capacity, particularly in the areas of digitization, preservation, arrangement, description, and access.

View of the HRDI media player and metadata display. All videos published on the site are accompanied by subtitles and descriptive metadata. Source page.

About the New Platform

The new version of the HRDI site integrates streaming, search, and browse functionality alongside information about each project partner and the HRDI web archive in a single mobile-friendly interface. To fully accommodate international audiences, several pages are available in both English and Spanish, including those describing Spanish-language collections. The previous HRDI website launched in 2008 and was retired in 2020, when Adobe Flash was discontinued. An archived copy of the previous site and the retired HRDI blog are each available via the Wayback Machine.

Selections

Radio Venceremos

Radio Venceremos, the rebel radio station that broadcast from the mountains of Morazán, El Salvador, during the eleven-year Salvadoran Civil War (1981–1992), produced an important collection of recordings that contain valuable historic, anthropological, and ethnographic information, particularly in regards to human rights violations during an era of social transformation in Central America. This recording from December 31, 1981, contains an interview with Rufina Amaya about the massacre at El Mozote: Radio Venceremos Recording

Chammah and Young 1976 Oral History on the Jewish Community in Syria

Four-part account of Albert Chammah and Oran Young’s 1976 visit to Syria to investigate the political, social, and economic status of the Jewish community there. The account details the contemporary size of the Jewish communities in several Syrian cities, formal restrictions imposed by the Syrian government, and general social discrimination. Albert Chammah was a professor at UT Austin, while Oran Young was a graduate student at the time: Conversation between Albert Chammah and Oren Young

This account was transferred from two cassette tapes, donated to the HRDI by Albert Chammah’s son Maurice. Maurice Chammah is an Austin-based journalist and staff writer for The Marshall Project, focusing on capital punishment and the criminal justice system in the United States.

TAVP: Texas After Violence Project

Still from the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) oral history interview with Donna Hogan, filmed in December 2009. The new HRDI site contains a variety of streaming audio and video collections, made available using a mobile-friendly interface.

Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) is a human rights and restorative justice project that studies the effects of interpersonal and state violence on individuals, families, and communities. The collection includes hundreds of hours of personal testimony that serves as a resource for community dialogue and public policy to promote alternative, nonviolent ways to prevent and respond to violence. Watch: Interview with Donna Hogan


David A. Bliss is digital archivist at the University of Texas Libraries.

LIBRARIES Joins the Change the Subject Movement

Daniel Arbino is the Librarian for US Latina and Latino Studies at the Benson Latin American Collection.

In late summer 2020, I brought up the possibility of the University of Texas Libraries (UTL) participating in Change the Subject. This movement, documented in the 2019 film by the same title, was begun by students and librarians at Dartmouth College, who lobbied the Library of Congress to change anti-immigrant language in subject headings.

I partnered with Sean O’Bryan, Assistant Director of Access, who shared my admiration for the movement and who also had the technical know-how to foster the change. Thinking about ways to work toward continued inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA) of the Libraries’ collections, we began to explore the possibility of joining the Change the Subject movement. Today, I am proud to say that the UT Libraries has made strides in tackling outdated and often derogatory Library of Congress subject headings. Below, Sean gives a brief summary of the origins of the project and the resistance encountered by the Library of Congress when they eventually tried to update their terminology. We also describe how UTL participated in this project, considering local opportunities within our library catalog.

Background

Change the Subject started in 2014 when students and librarians at Dartmouth College initiated a collaboration with the Association (ALA) and the Library of Congress (LC) to formally change LC subject headings that contain the terms “illegal aliens” and replace them with terms that recognize the humanity of migrants and are less racially insensitive. 

The Library of Congress put forth a plan to formally change subject headings containing “illegal aliens,” but members in the U.S. House of Representatives (led by representatives from Texas) intervened in 2016 by applying conditions to a funding bill and requiring the retention of the term “Illegal aliens” in authorized Library of Congress subject headings. This effectively ended Library of Congress’s participation in the project. 

Despite the change in course for Library of Congress, libraries across the U.S. have joined in support of this project in various ways. Some have removed the authorized LC heading from their bibliographic records and replaced it with less biased local subject headings. Others have retained the authorized subject heading in their bibliographic records but have changed the rules in their discovery interfaces to replace the term displayed with a less biased one (similar to the option that UTL implemented; see below).  

Option for UTL Participation

Access Systems staff reviewed participation by other institutions (most notably the State University of New York as well as the California State University system) and investigated various options for UTL to participate. Based on this review and given the Libraries’ infrastructure, the most effective option was to modify the display of subject terms in Primo, our discovery interface. Normalization rules in Primo were then created to display local, alternative terms such as “undocumented immigrants” as opposed to the existing Library of Congress subject terms (e.g., “illegal aliens,” “illegal immigrants,” etc.) in the brief display.

The UT Libraries retained the authorized LC subject headings (e.g., “illegal aliens,” “illegal immigrants”) in our local bibliographic records. This allowed the authorized LC terms to continue to be indexed and searched in our system. However, rather than display those authorized LC terms, the brief record results that users now see in Primo display locally determined alternative terms in their place. Again, this was done without altering the underlying bibliographic records.  While it is important to note that this alternate display only impacts our local records, we are pleased to say that nearly 2,000 local records have been positively impacted with this change. Sadly, we are unable to change the display for records that are managed by ExLibris in the Alma Central Discovery Index (please see the last example in the section below).

Examples

A current advanced search in Primo with the LC subject “illegal aliens”:

A title selected from the former returned results displays the following brief record details (note the authorized LC subject heading):

Subject heading(s) in the brief record display is now configured to show alternate local terms (compare the view below with the one above):

The normalization rules that allow for the alternative display above impact local records in Primo (accounting for nearly 2,000 local records that underwent change).  As noted above, we could not alter the display of non-local records, so they continue to display the authorized LC heading:

The Final Step

Prior to implementing the alternative subject headings, Sean and I worked with the Diversity Action Committee to make sure that our choices fostered values of diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility, as put forth by UTL’s IDEA platform. The Diversity Action Committee is a well-respected group within UTL precisely for their dedication to social justice and change. Presenting them with the alternative terms that we planned to implement was the final step to doing this the right way. Their expertise was much appreciated. To that end, this project was a group effort, with many people offering invaluable input, and I am grateful to everyone.

Never Too Late

In the middle of February 2021, reports surfaced that the Biden administration directed the Department of Homeland Security to refrain from using dehumanizing language like “illegal aliens.” Our hope is that the Library of Congress will soon follow suit. However, even if that happens, I do not believe that this project was in vain. For the library to take a stand in defense of the humanity of all of its users is never a waste of time.

Additional Information

If you have questions or an interest in additional information about the Change the Subject project, please contact Daniel Arbino.  Those with questions or an interest in additional information about the technical aspects of implementing the option for participation described above, should please contact Sean O’Bryan.

Learn more about related work to update subject headings in intersectionality of gender, sexuality and U.S. Latinx identity in a post at the blog of the Libraries’ Diversity Action Committee.

Rituals of Remembrance

View the original version of this post at the Libraries’ Diversity Action Committee’s blog.

Across time and cultures people have developed an astounding diversity of practices to remember the passing of others.  Nearly every cultural and religious tradition have their own practices of mourning and remembrance.  This is necessary as the death of a loved one creates the paradoxical impulses of both wanting to hold on to someone and the need to let them go. One common feature of many of these traditions is they are a public ceremonial method for processing private grief; the transferring of private grieving into a shared community activity.  The following post provides a very brief sampling of remembrance practices from a variety of cultures with links to resources in the UT Catalog electronic resources for further exploration.

Famously from antiquity, pharaoh rulers from ancient Egyptian cultures had enormous monuments built, including the pyramids that have withstood millennia, to house their remains as well as their earthly possessions, to ensure their legacy and a prosperous afterlife.

The tombs of early Chinese rulers also displayed immense funerary dedication for the dead. The tomb of Qin Shi Huang from the late 3rd century BCE contained the Terracotta Army of roughly 9,000 terracotta sculptures, buried to protect the first Emperor of China in the next life.

Ancient Roman mausoleums were monumental memorials intended as public records of a prosperous individual’s life.  Some funeral monuments were situated publicly, such as on a well-traveled road, with inscriptions admonishing those passing by to remember the deceased, allowing a manner of momentary survival as their name lived on.

In Judaism, the first stage of avelut is shiva (“sitting”), a seven-day period of mourning following burial. For this week, mourners remain at home, refraining from work and receiving visitors.  Visitors may offer prayers and condolences and bring food so mourners need not need cook during their time of grief.

The annual Chinese Qingming Festival is a traditional observance for paying respect to ancestors through visiting, sweeping, cleaning and repairing their gravesites.  Half cooked food is offered at the graves, firecrackers are used to chase off evil spirits, while incense is burned to entice the ancestor spirits to partake in the offerings.

Some African funeral traditions have a social and performative aspect to funerals, which are intended to provide a catharsis for grief over loss of a loved one.

In England in the mid-1800s, as photography became more affordable, and epidemics took their toll on the country, memento mori (“remember you must die”) photography of deceased family members became popular as a way of preserving their memory.

In contemporary North American Judeo-Christian traditions, we are most familiar with funerals with attendance by families and friends of the departed.  Contemporary practices such as including sentimental tokens to include in internment such as photographs or wedding rings can be seen to reflect ancient practices of including goods such as arrowheads, pottery and shell jewelry in ancient burials.

Another tradition found to be adopted contemporarily are funeral processions. Many may be familiar with processions of mourners or cars, even for heads of state, such as Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral Procession in April 1865, or the funeral procession for President John F. Kennedy in 1963.  Funeral processions have remained a powerful metaphor for enabling the transport of the departed from one world to the next.

In the Remembrance Project members of UT Libraries staff have developed an interactive exhibit for the UT community to honor loved ones and colleagues, and to acknowledge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UT community and worldwide.  We invite members of the UT Community to share remembrances of colleagues, friends and loved ones as a way to honor and share their memory.  Remembrance offerings are meant to be personal and individual, and may be inspired by your personal or cultural traditions or of those you are honoring.

https://scalar.usc.edu/works/the-remembrance-project/index

Through acknowledging our losses and sharing we hope to provide a communal space during this challenging time for working through the difficulty of grief and loss.  We invite you to explore further about various traditions of mourning and remembrance. We have collected some resources from the UT Library collection as a starting point.

SOURCES

Do funerals matter? the purposes and practices of death rituals in global perspective / William G. Hoy. https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/be14ds/alma991058080349106011

Ancient Egyptian tombs the culture of life and death / Steven Snape.

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/be14ds/alma991057957240006011

Roman Funerary Practices and Monuments

https://go.gale.com/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=T003&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=SingleTab&hitCount=3&searchType=BasicSearchForm&currentPosition=1&docId=GALE%7CCX2458800905&docType=Topic+overview&sort=Relevance&contentSegment=&prodId=GVRL&pageNum=1&contentSet=GALE%7CCX2458800905&searchId=R1&userGroupName=txshracd2598&inPS=true

Challis, Debbie. “Memento Mori: Grief, Remembering, and Living.” Lancet Psychiatry, The 3.3 (2016): 210–212. Web.

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_crossref_primary_10_1016_S2215_0366_16_00060_2

Terracotta army : legacy of the first emperor of China / Li Jian and Hou-mei Sung ; with an essay by Zhang Weixing and contributions by William Neer.

DS 747.9 Q254 L5 2017 Fine Arts Library

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/be14ds/alma991046548279706011

Hindu Ancestor Rituals Knipe, David Encyclopedia of India, 2006, Vol.2, p.183-184

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_gale_vrl_3446500266

Qingming. Shu-min, Huang. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, 2002, Vol.5, p.34-34

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_gale_vrl_3403702442

Shiva. Encyclopedia of World Religions: Encyclopedia of Judaism, 2016

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_credo_entries_27433443

Ukaegbu, Victor. “African Funeral Rites: Sites for Performing, Participating and Witnessing of Trauma.” Performance research 16.1 (2011): 131–141. Web.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13528165.2011.562037

LLILAS Benson Launches Curriculum Site

By ALBERT A. PALACIOS

In the spring of 2019, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections partnered with the Urban Teachers Program at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education to develop and provide free, online access to high school lesson plans. The goal was to bring together the historical perspectives of underrepresented groups, current scholarship, and digitized holdings of the Benson Latin American Collection and Latin American partners. Thanks to a Department of Education Title VI grant, LLILAS Benson was able to create a portal via UT Libraries’ open-access repositories to make these resources widely available to teachers.

Department of Curriculum and Instruction chair Dr. Cinthia Salinas walks “Social Studies Methods” master’s students through a teaching exercise using a pictorial account of Moctezuma and Cortés’s meeting from the Benson’s Genaro García Collection, March 19, 2019. Courtesy of Albert A. Palacios.

For the past two years, College of Education graduate students have been creating World History and World Geography units for use in high school classrooms. The underlying principle for these teaching materials is that students are able to understand, and then subvert, dominant historical narratives in Latin American, U.S. Latinx, and African Diaspora history given the marginalized perspectives the lesson plans highlight. Using the Benson’s digital collections, they have focused on a variety of topics, including women in colonial Latin America, the Mexican Revolution, and the Cold War in Central and South America (publication in process).

Collection materials from the Benson’s Rare Books and Genaro García collections, and El Salvador’s Museum of the Word and Image’s Armed Conflict Collection.

The collaboration and site has since broadened to include other disciplines, audiences, and learning objectives. LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship staff has been partnering with faculty and graduate students in Latin American Studies, Art and Art History, Spanish and Portuguese, Mexican American Studies, and History to design Digital Humanities–focused lesson plans and assignments for undergraduate teaching. Work is also ongoing to publish technical capacity-building teaching and learning resources for graduate students, digital humanists, and archival professionals at UT Austin and beyond.

Banner image for platform tutorial, “Presenting Geospatial Research with ArcGIS,” based on colonial holdings from the Genaro García Collection.

The site also helps instructors and students find and browse through LLILAS Benson’s digital resources. It consolidates under its Primary Sources section all existing LLILAS Benson digital scholarship projects, digitized collections, and exhibitions. Visitors can filter these resources by grade level, date range, course subject, and country to find relevant primary and secondary sources on their research and teaching focus.

Banner image for Fidel Castro’s Building Inauguration Speeches geospatial exhibition. Curated by Karla Roig, Association of Research Libraries’ Digital and Inclusive Excellence Undergraduate Fellow (2018–2019).

Explore the site through http://curriculum.llilasbenson.utexas.edu/. The interdisciplinary collaborations and site’s development were generously funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI Program and LLILAS Benson’s Excellence Fund for Technology and Development in Latin America. This resource was conceived, designed, and launched by: 

  • Lindsey Engleman, Public Engagement Coordinator (2014–2019), LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
  • Tiffany Guridy, Public Engagement Coordinator, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
  • Delandrea S. Hall, Doctoral Candidate, Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education
  • Rodrigo Leal, Website Designer and Student Technician(Spring 2019), LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
  • Casz McCarthy, Public Engagement Graduate Research Assistant, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
  • Albert A. Palacios, Digital Scholarship Coordinator, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
  • Cinthia S. Salinas, Professor and Chair, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education
  • UT Libraries Digital Stewardship (Anna Lamphear and Brittany Centeno)

Pivot to a New Environment

The UT Libraries wants you to know that even though spaces on campus may be closed, our work continues.

The challenges that libraries have been continuously addressing for some 30 years in a migration from the analog to digital experienced some artificial timeline compression as the university was forced to rapidly migrate operations to a mostly online presence in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the temporary shuttering of university operations.   

“We moved 100% of our 200+ member staff from their campus work locations to a work-from-home arrangement, and started making similar arrangements for many of our 200+ student employees – in two weeks,” explains Vice Provost and Directore Lorraine J. Haricombe. “This required an intense rapid planning effort by supervisors, managers and leadership in conjunction with the entire staff.”

After the university announced it’s return plan, it was all-hands-on-deck to try to support the massive campus transition to a completely different format, and that included much of the day-to-day work happening at the Libraries.

“The University’s abrupt shift to fully online instruction, along with our complete relocation of work environments, created challenges across all of our core divisions,” explains Haricombe, “but as key partners in ensuring academic continuity during this pandemic, our librarians and staff moved quickly to provide essential services online, while also extending our reach into support for online teaching and learning.”

Libraries have spent decades building a framework for technological innovation and expertise. They’ve been working online, expanding digital resources, and advocating for barrier-free open access to information. Here at UT, faculty and students have access to high-quality digitized resources, licensed e-resources, online LibGuides, and our collective expertise to support teaching, research and learning. We have created a robust system to preserve the analog resources we’ve built over the past 130+ years in digital formats in order not only to protect them, but to make them available to people who might not be able to access them in person.

Since the initial announcement of the university’s closure, expert Libraries’ staff have been responding to a constant flow of requests from the campus community for help adapting to the temporary process and policy changes that have occurred, along with training in online processes that may have been overlooked in the past.

They’ve worked directly with vendors and coordinated with information technology staff to maintain and in some cases expand digital access to resources, and made spot transitions to in person services making them available in an online environment. In certain cases, they’ve helped to develop alternative pathways to create access to resources that seemed otherwise out of reach without access to physical library spaces. It’s been a massive undertaking with little opportunity for preparation by folks who have traditionally thrived in library spaces surrounded by patrons and colleagues, but who have been required to move to isolation while continuing to provide for the needs of a Tier 1 research university.

Examples of this work abound, from work transitioning to new realities, to finding innovative ways to continue work already in progress, to bootstrapping solutions when success seems a distant possibility.

Preparing Library Staff for a Different World:

The sudden closure of the libraries on campus required a quick response to undertake preparations for a new way of operating for the Libraries, and one of the first orders of business was to try to prepare the extensive staff and their breadth of responsibilities for transitioning to a new work environment.

Even before decisions about operations were finalized that included the cessation of in-person services and subsequent closure of space, Libraries facilities staff were implementing social distancing measures to keep frontline staff and patron safe while continuing to provide core services that included visible distance guides for circulation interactions, and the erection of plexiglass guards to minimize contact.

Libraries’ IT staff, meanwhile, had their work cut out for them with the colossal task of working with a 300+ workforce on individual bases to convert mostly onsite work environments into functional remote digital presences. It required the strategic deployment of limited technology hardware resources, and the immediate evaluation and positioning of new software applications to meet the requirements of the new and considerably unfamliar working conditions.  

Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) staff quickly reorganized research support services by setting up accounts for 35 liaisons and TLS librarians to enable direct booking of consultations, reviewed potential technologies for providing on demand research help, and prepared documentation for using Zoom and Canvas conferencing and teaching tools with organized training for library liasons. Staff also reviewed ways to shift information literacy instruction to an online environment and developed resources for anyone transitioning their instruction sessions.

Staff in Research Service organized communications flows to make sure that liaisons were informing their constituents of service changes, and liaisons updated LibGuides, calendaring applications and chat features to create as seamless a transition for users as possible. Academic Engagement liaisons have been proactive and also quickly responsive to faculty and student needs, ranging from filling requests for e-book text alternatives and other e-resources, adapting their instruction and helping faculty rework assignments, updating CourseGuides, and holding virtual office hours. Discovery and Access staff have set up mechanisms for availing faculty and researchers of crucial physical materials that are no longer directly accessible, and a limited cadre of Stewardship staffers worked feverishly to digitize resources needed for summer classes.

Shifting Resources to a New Environment

As future-oriented as libraries focus on being, it’s hard to deny the quintessential connection between the traditional archetype and the books that are so tied up in it. So when the places that house the 130+ of physical collections are no longer accessible, how do librarians fulfill the needs of the biblio-centric researchers and faculty that normally haunt the stacks on any given day?

As it became evident to the Libraries’ most energetic users that much of their access to stack browsing and physical retrieval were going to be halted for an indeterminate time, it became incumbent on librarians to locate alternate resources in order to support the maintenance of the university’s core research efforts.

Fine Arts Library staff heard concerns from faculty researchers at the College of Fine Arts’s (CoFA) Butler School of Music about burdens caused by the inaccessibility of the bound music scores that reside on the 5th floor of the Fine Arts Library, and were able to point users to over 54,000 digitized scores available thanks to the Libraries’ partnership in HathiTrust. HathiTrust has opened at large cache of their digital resources in response to the pandemic, all of which are accessible contingent on the current accessibility of physical resources, so changes to the status of those physical resources could result in the loss of that resource; copyright inquiries have increased for our Scholarly Communications unit as they help people navigate the intricacies of collaboration the digital environment. Staffers in Research Services have coordinated with faculty to locate ebook alternatives to course texts, pointed to temporary resources opened by publishers in response to the crisis, evaluated fair use requests for audio visual materials to meet teaching needs and promoted existing resources such as the extensive PCL Map Collection as resources for consideration by faculty in the recalibration of their syllabi.

Ongoing Remote Expertise

Beyond the access to informational resources that had to be reconsidered, the Libraries needed to reimagine how best to utilize staff expertise to support the changes to the new teaching and learning environment.

Graduate research assistants in Teaching and Learning Services started fielded numerous questions about Libraries services, collections and spaces at the onset of the pandemie, increasing their availability the week of March 16. They have been working Saturdays throughout the crisis to expand the service for user needs.

Staff have also worked on numerous specialized cases to assist faculty who had either enlisted Libraries support for their classes, or who came to the Libraries as a resource when they needed help thinking through a pivot to online teaching. In specific cases, staff experts were able to help facilitate video learning opportunities using prerecorded training videos in tandem with live presentations to explore practical opportunities for research, and in certain cases, included additional special collections archivists to discuss specific digital resources and opportunities available from collections that normally require an in-person visit. Staff have also ramped up video consultations as unforeseen challenges arise in the transition to online, and in certain cases, have helped to train faculty adapting to video conferencing technologies required to carry-out the expectations of a new and sometimes foreign online teaching environment.

What’s next?

Uncertainty seems to be a constant in the current crisis, so speculating on the future seems like a bit of a fool’s errand. Nonetheless, the necessity for change that was precipitated by the sudden closure of library spaces created opportunities to consider what we’ve done in the past, and how we may be able to do things better in the future. An excellent thought piece by Christopher Cox, dean of the Clemson Libraries, ponders some previously unchallenged notions about what libraries are, and suggests that this moment has offered us the chance to reenvision ourselves for a new era. Are we overvaluing books? Do we invest enough work in digital preservation and access? Is the current model for electronic resources in the best interest of the public? Has our investment in collaborative space and technology hardware been challenged? What is our new role in the virtual space? Are we providing equitable access to all our users? These are all questions that have arisen before, but they’ve taken on additional gravity when applied in the midst of extreme adversity.

We know we’re up to the task, though. We’ve proven it. If there’s one thing we’ve gleaned in the last months, it’s that we have the capacity to rapidly adapt to unexpected challenges that are far beyond our control. And to thrive in doing so.

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.

The Rebirth of PubMed

2020 is certainly the year of change, and UT Libraries staff is working hard to keep users and each other as up-to-date as possible so that we can all weather these changes and come out the other side stronger than ever. One of these efforts is a newly published Research Guide outlining and explaining upcoming changes to the highly used database, PubMed.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is transitioning to an updated interface and search algorithm in PubMed. This version will be the sole option for using PubMed when the legacy version is decommissioned. New PubMed, or PubMed Labs as it’s sometimes known, provides the same PubMed content to users with an updated design to correspond more closely with modern users’ expectations of the database functionality. Additionally, PubMed is seeking to create a responsive design system with ongoing user feedback, added features and a regular maintenance schedule. While this is a great undertaking by NLM, UT librarians wanted to show users where and how to do the things they’re familiar with in Legacy PubMed in the New PubMed

With this in mind, the UT Libraries Systematic Reviews Interest Group created a Research Guide illustrating common processes in PubMed. The Research Guide features side-by-side instructions, with accompanying screenshots of Legacy PubMed and New PubMed, to walk users through the changes to the resource. 

Graduated? Don’t Forget Your Libraries

You did it! (Or your graduate did.) Congratulations. After four years (more or less) of hard work and long nights in PCL, you’ve earned your degree and are looking toward the next phase of life as you head out into the world.

And though your time at UT has officially come to a close, you’ll still have some access to library resources on which you’ve come to rely through the summer.

Spring Graduates

Hold on to your student ID card, as you’ll retain privileges through the following summer. These privileges include:

  • regular student check-out privileges
  • access to interlibrary loan services
  • access to most UT Libraries electronic resources
  • use of study rooms, carrels. or lockers under the same guidelines that apply to enrolled students
  • online renewal

Your privileges will remain active until the 12th day of classes in the fall semester.

Courtesy Borrower Privileges

There are several options for getting a Courtesy Borrower card:

Join the Texas Exes

There are several alumni membership levels available–sign up quick, recent grads get special deals! After you’ve joined, bring a photo ID to Courtesy Borrower Services to apply for your card. You’ll also get remote access to three article databases, Academic Search Alumni Edition, Business Source Alumni Edition, and JSTOR Alumni Edition.

Get a TexShare card

The TexShare Library Card Program is a reciprocal borrowing program, coordinated by the Texas State Library, which provides access to materials from many Texas libraries. If you’re a patron in good standing at a participating public library, you can get a TexShare card from that library and bring it to Courtesy Borrower Services to apply for your UT Libraries courtesy card. While the card is free, each participating library has its own qualifications for eligibility. For example, Austin Public Library requires their patrons to be in good standing for a period of six months before qualifying for a TexShare card. Check with your local library for details.

Are you a Texas resident?

If you are a Texas resident, but you don’t qualify for a TexShare card, just bring proof of address, a photo ID, and $100 to Courtesy Borrower Services to apply for borrowing privileges at UT Libraries.

Courtesy borrowers can:

  • check out print and media materials from all UT library branches
  • access most electronic databases from onsite library workstations
  • access online renewal and recall services

Courtesy borrowers cannot:

  • access databases remotely
  • check out equipment
  • use interlibrary loan services
  • access Jamail Center for Legal Research, the Harry Ransom Research Center, or the Center for American History

For additional resources, bookmark the “Access the Library After Graduation” LibGuide.

 

 

Distinctive Collaboration in Pakistan

Mary Rader book-hunting in Pakistan.The mission of UT Libraries is to “advance teaching, fuel research and energize learning through expansive collections and digital content, innovative services, programs and partnerships to develop critical thinkers and global citizens that transforms lives.”  In recent years, our mission is fulfilled through a number of ongoing thematic “Purposeful Pathways” and short-term focused “Current Priorities.”  In this blogpost, I would like to highlight how my recent efforts in Pakistan demonstrate the realization of a number of our pathways and priorities, namely those related to collections of distinction, collaborative collection development programs, and visibility and impact in the global knowledge ecosystem.

Book stall.
Book stall.

I have written before about UT’s maturing South Asian Popular and Pulp Fiction Collection, both in terms of its growth and in terms its relationship to the national distributed collection for South Asian Studies as supported through the South Asian Cooperative Collection Development Workshops.  With my 2018 trip, I was able to expand the collection’s Pakistani imprints considerably.  For a number of years, we have been working to establish UT’s collection of novels by Ibne Safi as one of, if not the, largest in the world.  While in Pakistan, I was able to meet and work with Ali Kamran, the Managing Director of Sang-e-meel, one of our major vendors, to review and purchase both currently produced Ibne Safi titles as well as out-of-print editions–the former we were able to explore in his office itself, the latter we explored on foot in the second-hand markets of Lahore.  I am excited to receive the new additions soon and to add them to our collection, including that which is represented online and described in a compelling new exhibit by UT iSchool student Nicole Marino.

Speaking in Lahore.
Speaking in Lahore.

While in Lahore, I partnered with my colleague from Cornell University Libraries, Dr. Bronwen Bledsoe, to co-lead a workshop for librarians. The 2-day workshop was sponsored by the Lahore University of Management Sciences (most commonly known as ‘LUMS’) and by the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (known as ‘AIPS,’).  Entitled “Exploring Library Cooperation,” the workshop focused on themes of how to identify opportunities for and strategies to work across institutions to improve access to resources and services.

Librarians in Lahore.
Librarians in Lahore.

Approximately 30 librarians from across Lahore attended, including those from LUMS, Punjab University, Government College University, Kinnaird College for Women, and the Government of Punjab Research Wing.  While our opportunities for collaboration here in the U.S. are deeply embedded in our ongoing work (not only efforts such as the South Asia Cooperative Collection Development Workshops noted above but also structural support such as our robust InterLibrary Services), it was clear from our workshop that our colleagues in Lahore are also interested in working together.  For example, they shared details of their work to more fully describe and digitize their collections, to collectively petition funding agencies to advance their missions, and to continue developing professional networks and strategies for the common good.  I was impressed and inspired by their commitment and enthusiasm and am looking forward to growing these newly formed professional relationships long into the future.

UTL’s Director, Lorraine Haricombe, often cites this maxim: “Working alone, I can go fast, but working together, we can go farther.”  I am excited and committed to continuing to work in cooperative ways and have already seen how far it can take us—at least halfway around the world!