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.
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).
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
The website refresh has been under consideration for some time, but was urged along when the Senate of Student Councils made a detailed formal request for site improvements in January, 2016. Production of the new site began in February of this year, and was managed through an iterative, evolutionary project development process called Agile.
What’s new and improved:
Responsive design – the new site adjusts to the screen size of the user’s device.
Efficient browsing and search – clearer language for navigation, and a house-cleaning that cuts down on the bloat of a 6,000+ page site will make use of the site more efficient.
Homepage refresh – aligns with campus-wide standards to create consistency of user experience across the university web platform.
Updated location pages – consistency across the dedicated pages for branch locations will increase the ease of use while also allowing for customization of services and resources.
Expanded equipment pages – more information about creativity and productivity tools on hand for checkout or use onsite, with specs, access and availability information.
New “space” pages — specialized study, creativity and productivity spaces throughout the Libraries are now discoverable and browseable with information on capacity and availability.
Improved “Hours” interface – up-to-date information on location and service hours available in multiple locations to make planning a visit easier.
Sustainability – streamlined production process will result in constant improvements to the website based on user behavior and feedback.
Task-orientation – the new architecture focuses on helping users get work done more efficiently by increasing the integration of services, resources, spaces and expertise.
The new website will be available in parallel to the legacy site through the remainder of the fall semester, accessible via a pop-up at lib.utexas.edu, followed by a full launch with expanded features — including “unified search” — in early January.
NOTE: On January 4th, 2018, the URL for the Libraries new website will change to www.lib.utexas.edu and contents of the existing site will be moved to legacy.lib.utexas.edu. Users will be able to reach pages from the old site with outdated links by changing “www” in the target URL “legacy.” This change will likely have some effects for online users and there are plans to frequently communicate about any changes that may impact user experience.