Category Archives: Staff

Staff Highlighter: Mabrouka Boukraa

You have to be a pretty resourceful human to work in HR, and it’s important to know who to turn to when you need some of those human resources.

Get to know Mabrouka Boukraa – who is closing in on a year at the Libraries, and has already made an impact.


What’s your title, and what do you do for the Libraries?

My title is Libraries Human Resources Representative.  My main focus is overseeing all student and hourly employment at the libraries, but I also assist with recruitments and a myriad of other HR tasks.

What motivates you to wake up and go to work?

I work with a great team and the work I do really supports other people, especially students.  I benefitted a lot from student employment when I was an undergraduate and it’s nice to be able to help others do the same.  I also like learning about the interesting projects other people are working on and the variety of materials and collections that exist across the libraries.

What are you most proud of in your job?

In my job I am proudest of the student wage increase implemented this past spring.  Although it was a stressful project for me it really felt great to be able to make a meaningful change.

What has been your best experience at the Libraries?

Hmm. Hard to pick!  I would say I have really enjoyed the staff events, such as the plant sale and the cookie party.  UTL has a lot of talented gardeners and chefs!

Which do you prefer: on campus or remote? Why?

I like the mix that hybrid offers.  Commuting is very time-consuming so it’s nice to have that time back when I’m remote, but I also like being in the office to interact with people face-to-face.  


What’s something most people don’t know about you?

For a variety of reasons with which I will not bore you my parents did not have a crib when I came home from the hospital as a newborn.  As a result I spent my first few nights at home sleeping in a drawer.  

Dogs or cats?

Dogs in theory, cats in practice.

Favorite book, movie or album?

My favorite movie is Disney’s Robin Hood. 

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert? What’s your favorite food or dish?

Olives are my all-time favorite food!  Not the canned variety, though.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I see myself on a beach, possibly napping.

Meng-Fen Su Honored with Emerita

In recognition of her 20 years of excellent service to the UT Libraries, President Jay Hartzell granted former East Asian Studies Liaison Librarian Meng-fen Su “Emerita Status,” an honorary designation conferred upon retirees to recognize their contributions and accomplishments over their university careers.

Meng-fen came to UT Libraries in 2000 after serving as a cataloger at Ohio State and at Harvard-Yenching Library. 

During her tenure at university, the East Asian Studies collection has more than doubled in size (from 91,000 volumes to 190,000) and has been carefully curated to create a more representative balance between Chinese, Japanese and Korean materials. 

Her reserved demeanor belies the fact that she was an expert at networking to bolster resources. For example, Meng Fen established the first Taiwan Resource Center for Chinese Studies in 201 by building a collaboration between the Libraries and the National Central Library in Taiwan. She submitted multiple successful grants to garner support for both physical (Reference Materials Distribution Program) and digital (Korean Studies e-Resources grants) materials from the Korea Foundation, and also forged relationships to receive publications from research institutes throughout East Asia – the Academia Sinica, the National Museum of Taiwan Literature, Waseda University and the Korean Film Council, to name a few.  

Congratulations and thanks to Meng-fen Su for her devotion to her work on behalf of the university and to the Libraries.

Staff Highlighter: Meryl Brodsky

These Libraries’ are nothing without the folks who keep the ship on course, even in stormy weather.

Meet Meryl Brodsky, Liaison Librarian for Communication, who joined the Libraries in September 2019, just before a storm….

What’s your title, and what do you do for the Libraries?

My title is Moody College of Communication & School of Information Librarian. I work with faculty and students from both of these schools to help them with research and classes. I teach information and data-related classes and workshops, create learning materials, and select materials for our collections. 

What motivates you to wake up and go to work?

I am constantly learning, whether it’s about student or faculty research projects or new technology, I get to learn new things every day.

What are you most proud of in your job? 

I recently co-edited a book with a former colleague on Data Literacy, that is teaching people to find, evaluate, use and manage data. The ACRL Data Literacy Cookbook will come out in about a year.

What has been your best experience at the Libraries?

My best experiences have all been working with people, whether they are colleagues, faculty, or students. I really enjoy co-creating with others.

Which do you prefer: on campus or remote? Why?

I have a lot of experience in remote work from past employment so I am pretty comfortable with remote, though I also like the energy of being on campus. 

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Paper quilting by Meryl Brodsky

I have a keen interest in paper and card making. I’ve been obsessed with something I call paper quilting, that is cutting paper to create quilt patterns. 

Dogs or cats?

Cats, though right now, it’s just one, Tigger, who makes an occasional Zoom appearance.

Favorite book, movie or album?

Book: The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert? What’s your favorite food or dish?

 Breakfast: Coffee!! Though, coffee is good any time.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I hope to be upside down, have mastered a headstand.

Focusing on User Experience with Melody Ethley

The lion’s share of what libraries do requires a fundamental attention to the experience of the researcher, scholar, student, faculty or patron who engages either in-person or online with resources, services, spaces and expertise. That experience of the user can have a profound effect on the quality and efficacy of the work being pursued. With the growth of personal technologies and the development of user-centered design, there’s been a growing movement to place a greater emphasis on user and customer experience in all manner of industry, and libraries have begun to incorporate this strategy into their own operations with the enlistment of User Experience and Content Management experts.

The UT Libraries recently hired its first User Experience Designer, and we sat down with Melody Ethley to learn a bit more about what she will bring to improve the experience of all who enter the Libraries, be that through a door or a browser.


Tex Libris: What’s your background, and how did you get into user experience (UX)?

Melody Ethley: My background is in computer information systems. I was first exposed to User Experience design during my undergrad years. I was still trying to figure out what I’d like to do. After graduation, I had an opportunity to intern at the Library of Congress (LOC) and that was really such an invaluable experience. It was so hands-on, and I learned from a lot of well-versed UX professionals. And I also appreciated having that exposure in the library, which I had never even known about as an option for a career. After my time at LOC, I did some independent work and sought out small business owners to help them develop their websites with a UX focus. I tried to implement my processes while also considering that they don’t really know much about UX. I was eager to continue to follow the path that I was on in pursuing a career in this field and making sure that I was still moving forward while the world was kind of falling apart. I started at UTL in the summer, so I’ve been here for a few months now.

TL: Tell me a little bit about the law.gov project that you worked on at the Library of Congress (LOC). What was it like being involved in a project that big coming fresh out of out of college into this internship?

ME: It was very intimidating, I will say. And didn’t realize how big the project was until I was working on it. I was on a team of about 12 people all doing UX within their own projects at the library. My direct supervisor was the lead experience designer on law.gov at the time. I was brought in as a user researcher and content strategist to help facilitate usability studies and synthesize data from our findings. My integration into the project was very quick, you know. I did a lot of research on how various topics were found on the law.gov landing page, because there was a concern with important content being buried under the menus. And if you have ever visited the law.gov website – like many library websites – there’s a lot of content to sift through. We wanted to figure out how our novice and power users were navigating the Law.gov website and organize the content in a way that everybody could find the information that they needed.

It was a fun project. I got to sit in the Law Library and recruit participants to do our study, which was really interesting. I had to be very strategic in when and how I approached people. At first, it was a little nerve-wracking, because I didn’t want to interrupt their studies, but I was also motivated to gather as many participants as I could. I am a people person, and I’m comfortable with approaching people I don’t know, so it was right up my alley to just go in there and recruit folks for our study.

Later in the project, I inherited the content inventory, which was a big undertaking. I didn’t even realize until after I was finished with this internship that there were over 30,000 items that I helped to capture for the law.gov redesign. I spent weeks revising the existing content inventory and while it was a tedious task, I found a lot of interest in the artifacts that I uncovered while I was working on it. I captured every piece of content that I encountered – any internal and external pages, pdfs, collections, events, you name it. The Type A personality in me had to make sure any and everything was in that spreadsheet. So, at times it was like, ‘oh man, this is a lot, this is a lot.’ But I feel like I was able to kind of truncate it and break it down in a way that wasn’t too overwhelming. And then I realized that I enjoyed working within the realm of content strategy and it became an area that I wanted to explore more about in UX. It’s just another element under the big umbrella of things that you can do in this industry. 

TL: Do you think the LOC experience provided any preparation for coming to work at the UT Libraries?

ME: Oh, definitely. I didn’t have that experience working in a library coming into the UX profession. That was one thing that I was excited about when I applied here. My previous experience in a library helped me realize how meaningful my work could be in this space, and the idea of impacting so many people who are striving to reach their educational goals brings me so much purpose. And having that hands-on experience in a larger organization was great, because if I hadn’t had that experience then I would have been mostly relying on my independent projects with the smaller organizations which might not have served me as well in this role. I think that my experience at LOC gave me the reassurance and confidence in my capability to do the work at the caliber that it needs to be done.

TL: Does the approach to UX differ for an organization like a library?

ME: I would say that UX is fairly the same across all industries. Of course, there are nuances, but the core concept and idea remain the same – to deliver a delightful experience to the user. UX in the library is going to be very similar to UX in a private organization. When I think of UX, I think of how I can bring together the needs of the user, the needs of the organization, and the constraints of a specific product that I’m working on. And when I say users, I’m thinking of all my users – so here at the Libraries that is staff, leadership, our patrons. Then how can the organization benefit from the work that I’m doing, even if it’s just in the smallest way? I think all three of those components are what embody UX at its core. And of course, considering that there are nuances in everything it’s difficult for me to pinpoint right now, but I’m sure I will gather these things as I navigate my first few projects.

I’m excited to spread UX around the organization and to inform everybody about all the possibilities of UX. I feel like there’s still kind of like a foggy notion about it, you know. I’m going to be working a lot on the library website and to make sure that our resources and services are useful, and accessible for not only our patrons but for our staff too, because as I see my role, everybody is my user, not just the students – it’s also my colleagues, leadership, and really anybody who has a stake in the Libraries. I think about how I can make each person or group of people’s lives a little bit easier with the work that I do.

TL: That’s good because I generally just make their lives more complicated with what I’m asking them to do – kind of like this right now.

ME: That’s why we’re on a team. Hot and cold.

STaff Highlighter: Anh Holicky

One of the greatest assets of these Libraries is the dedicated, skilled and expert staff that make the complex machinery of a world-class research library run with such efficacy and care. We’ll use this highlighter as an occasional space to gain some insight into the work and personality of a selected member of this incredible staff.

Today, we meet Anh Holicky, a member of the Content Management team who began her career at the Libraries in 2006.

What’s your title, and what do you do for the Libraries?

Anh Holicky

My title is Senior Content Management Specialist. I am managed the Receiving and End Processing unit at PCL/Content Management/Acquisition. My team and I handle receiving the acquired materials into our ILS and physical processing each item before items can be shelved and circulated from the libraries. 

What motivates you to wake up and go to work?

It is my habit to show up when I am expected. However, I enjoy being at work and feel happy when my team and I work together to accomplish our goal. I also like to challenge myself to getting better at handling tasks. 

What are you most proud of in your job?

I am most proud of helping to coordinate the workflow across teams to reduce the backlog in Receiving. And because I enjoy a well-organized work space, I hope to get it done soon.

What has been your best experience at the Libraries?

My best experience has been my first time coming to PCL as freshman to UT. I have never seen so many books in my life and I was totally in love with this place. As you may or may not know, I am from Vietnam and English was my second language. Having access to all kind of books improved my understanding of the language, the culture, and broaden my interests. I learn something new every day since I stared working for the Libraries many years ago. From the Libraries, I discovered the importance of equal access to resources, learned the value of organization, and got to work with interesting, engaged, and service-oriented people.

Which do you prefer: on campus or remote? Why?

Before the pandemic, I would say on campus. Currently, I would prefer the hybrid working arrangement that the Libraries made it possible for the employees this year. Its model enable me to stay in touch with my team and allows for face-to-face interactions. It’s also allow me to have a more work-life balance. And on my telework day, I get to go to work right away and do not have to waste time sitting in traffic. 


What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I don’t think most people know that I am a fan of WWE entertainment. It is such a fun sport to watch. I love seeing the interactions between the wrestlers and the audiences and how engaged the audiences to the wrestlers performance. And it’s best when you can watch the performance in person.

Dogs or cats?

Can I say neither and is having a bunny counted? However, if I have to pick, I would prefer dog because I think my husband would love to have a dog. 😊

Favorite book, movie or album?

My favorite movie of all time is Grease and I do own the DVD. It is such a fun movie to watch. It got singing, dancing, and John Travolta. 

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert? What’s your favorite food or dish?

Dinner would be my choice because I get to see my family together at the end of the day and everyone shares about his/her day whether it was good or bad. My favorite food is soup and I love to eat Pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup that you can eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or whenever you need something warm and delicious.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years, I‘d like to find myself in a position that allows me to continue my work with technical services but also mentor others in the field. I hope to share my experience and technical knowledge that help others who are interested in library technical works.

Zoom In: LLILAS Benson’s Virtual Workshops with Latin American partners

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It was the Summer of Zoom. Anyone whose job quickly morphed from being in-person to being entirely online can relate to (a) isolation, (b) feeling overwhelmed, (c) video-conference overload, or (d) some or all of the above. Yet the ability to engage with other people on platforms such as Zoom has allowed some important work to move forward. Such was the case with the recent workshop series conducted with archival partners in Latin America by the LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives team (LBDI).

The workshops were originally planned to occur in person during a week-long retreat in Antigua, Guatemala, with a group of Latin American partner archives. As an essential activity of the two-year Mellon Foundation grant titled Cultivating a Latin American Post-Custodial Archiving Community, the week would provide an opportunity for partners from Guatemala,  El Salvador, Colombia, and Brazil to come together for training, share resources and knowledge, exchange ideas, and discuss challenges they face in their work.

The Mellon grant, covering work between January 2020 and June 2022, provides funding to support post-custodial* archival work with five partner archives, some of whom are already represented in the Latin American Digital Initiatives repository, which emphasizes collections documenting human rights issues and underrepresented communities.

Embroidery from the Bordados collection, Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (MUPI, San Salvador, El Salvador). This embroidery from Comunidad de Santa Marta, Honduras, depicts refugee life, including different kinds of labor. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/mupi03

The Covid-19 pandemic demanded that the digital initiatives team quickly pivot in order to keep the project moving forward on the grant timeline. For the resulting workshop series, offered via Zoom, members of the LBDI team prepared extensive training videos, designed Q&A sessions, and arranged for sessions with guest experts. Topics included grant writing, budgeting, archival processing, metadata, equipment selection, digital preservation, and digital scholarship, among others. 

Over the course of five weeks this past summer, workshop participants met twice a week with LBDI staff members Theresa Polk, David Bliss, Itza Carbajal, Albert Palacios, and Karla Roig, as well as LLILAS Benson grants manager Megan Scarborough. All sessions were conducted in Spanish with closed-caption translations into Portuguese (or vice versa) provided by Susanna Sharpe, the LLILAS Benson communications coordinator. Additional presenters included Carla Alvarez, the U.S. Latinx archivist at the Benson Latin American Collection, and photo preservation experts Diana Díaz (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and María Estibaliz Guzmán (Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía, ENCRyM, Mexico).

Cover, MOAB: A Saga de um Povo, by Maria Aparecida Mendes Pinto. The book is an account of the 25-year history of the movement against hydroelectric dams in the Vale do Ribeira region of São Paulo and Paraná states in Brazil. EACCONE, Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR collection. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/eaacone01

Partner archives who were able to participate in the online workshop series included Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (San Salvador, El Salvador), Oficina de Derechos Humanos del Arzobispado de Guatemala (ODHAG, Guatemala City, Guatemala), Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, Buenaventura, Colombia), and Equipe de Articulação e Assessoria às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira (EAACONE, Vale do Ribeira, Brazil).

Despite the physical distance, workshop participants clearly valued the opportunity to come together and learn from one another, especially during the pandemic, which has had such profound effects on daily life as well as work. The increased isolation, repression, and attacks against communities that have accompanied the pandemic also underscored for partners the urgency of preserving their communities’ documentation to support current struggles for recognition and respect of basic human rights, and to prevent future efforts to erase or deny ongoing violence and injustice. This shared commitment fostered a sense of solidarity and mutual support among participants.

Photographs, Colección Dinámicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia, Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, Buenaventura, Colombia). This photograph was taken at a meeting of the Yurumangí River community advisory general assembly. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/pcn01

“For our team, it was an enriching experience that allowed us to reflect, as part of a multinational group, on the achievements and expectations of the LLILAS Benson Mellon project,” reported Carlos Henríquez Consalvi (aka Santiago) of MUPI, who also remarked on the opportunity to get to know the work of partner archives, “and to learn of their challenges with conservation and diffusion of their respective collections.”

Carolina Rendón, one of two participants from ODHAG’s Centro de la Memoria Monseñor Juan Gerardi, expressed how the day-to-day burdens of the pandemic were lightened by the opportunity to meet with others: “It was very good to be in spaces with others who work in different archives across Latin America. The pandemic has been heavy. During the course of the workshops, we passed through several stages—lockdown, fear, horror at the deaths,  . . . . I appreciate getting to know, even virtually, people who work in archives in other countries.”

For the LLILAS Benson team, the positive comments, and the general feeling of gratitude for the solidarity of online gatherings, offset the heavy lifting of preparing multiple training videos per week in Spanish, with texts quickly and expertly translated to Portuguese by collaborator Tereza Braga. In words of David A. Bliss, digital processing archivist, “The biggest challenge was distilling a huge amount of technical information down to its most important elements and communicating these as clearly as possible in Spanish.”

PCN digitization project coordinator Marta and Latin American Metadata Librarian Itza work together during a 2018 visit to refolder and inventory PCN collection materials (Photo: Anthony Dest)

Bliss also alluded to the fact that the partners themselves are a diverse group with different backgrounds, needs, and types of archives: “Some of our partners have been running digitization programs for years, but for others the information was all new, so I worked hard to strike a balance between the two using visual aids and clear definitions for technical terms.”

One of the most rewarding aspects of the workshop series was knowing that archivists and activists who work to preserve important records of memory in the area of human rights were able to come together, albeit virtually, to share their work and their perspectives with one another. As Bliss put it, “Ordinarily, we work individually with each partner organization to help them manage their digitization project, with the goal of gathering all of their collections together in LADI. But many of our partners don’t just hold collections of historical documents; they’re engaged in ongoing struggles for their communities. They’re far more equipped to help one another strategize and succeed in that work than we are, so giving them the space to form those direct connections with one another is really important. It’s also very validating for us, because it’s been one of our goals for years now: we want to be just one part of a network of partners, not at the center of it.”


* Post-custodial archiving is a process whereby sometimes vulnerable archives are preserved digitally and the digital versions made accessible worldwide, thus increasing access to the materials while ensuring they remain in the custody and care of their community of origin. LLILAS Benson is a pioneer in this practice.


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.

Jackson School Alumnus Honors Trombatore with Endowment

Former Dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences Dr. Sharon Mosher announced in December the creation of a new endowment fund honoring longtime Geology Librarian Dennis Trombatore. 

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

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

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

Trombatore received his B.A. (’75) and MLS (’77) from Louisiana State University, and joined the University of Texas Libraries in 1985 after working in librarian positions at Loyola University and The University of Georgia at Athens. He has served as head librarian at the Walter Geology Library for over three decades, and has participated on numerous committees and at conferences in a variety of capacities. Trombatore has also been recognized for his ongoing contributions to the university, including with the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of Geological Sciences (1997), the University of Texas Staff Excellence Award (2001), the Jackson School of Geosciences Staff Excellence Award (2006), the William B. Heroy Award for Distinguished Service to the American Geosciences Institute (AGI, 2012) and the Jackson School of Geosciences Joseph C. Walter Jr. Excellence Award (2018). He is a member of GSA and the Geoscience Information Society, and is past president of the Austin Geological Society.

boy in red striped shirt and bolo tie, smiling, with rock collection
On a trajectory for greatness from a young age. A proud Dennis Trombatore with his rock collection, circa 1966.

Book Finding in the Arab World

UT Libraries’ Global Studies liaisons regularly travel internationally in order to maintain their expertise as librarians, establish and nurture international networks and productive collaborations, and acquire unique materials that distinguish UT Libraries’ collections and make them a destination for researchers from around the world. In March of last year, I traveled to the United Arab Emirates and Oman for materials acquisitions and networking on behalf of the UT Libraries. Dubai, UAE, served as my home base as I made trips to Abu Dhabi and Ajman, UAE, and to Salalah, Oman.

Dale with David Hirsch, formerly the Middle Eastern Studies Librarian at UCLA and now the Chief Adviser for the Muhammad bin Rashid National Library in Dubai
Dale with David Hirsch, formerly the Middle Eastern Studies Librarian at UCLA and now the Chief Adviser for the Muhammad bin Rashid National Library in Dubai.

Science fiction panel at the Emirates Airlines Literature Festival in Dubai.
Science fiction panel at the Emirates Airlines Literature Festival in Dubai.

In Dubai, I attended the Emirates Airlines Literature Festival where I was able to acquire a number of children and young adult books, as well as special editions on Shaykh Zayed, a leader in the UAE who was being celebrated in 2018. David Hirsch, formerly the Middle Eastern Studies Librarian at UCLA and now the Chief Adviser for the Muhammad bin Rashid National Library in Dubai, joined me at the festival and introduced me to local presses and booksellers. I also had the pleasure of attending a panel on Arabic Science Fiction featuring Ahmed Saadawi, the author of Frankenstein in Baghdad, winner of the International Prize in Arabic Fiction 2014 and short-listed for the Man Booker international prize this year; and Nora al Noman, a young adult science fiction author.

Entry at the Zayed University Library.
Entry at the Zayed University Library.

Dale with Riham al-Khafagi and Ahmed Salem of Zayed University.
Dale with Riham al-Khafagi and Ahmed Salem of Zayed University.

In addition, I was able to meet with new colleagues at Zayed University, one of the UAE’s top institutions of higher education. Riham al-Khafagi and Ahmed Salem were kind enough to give me a tour of the university, including its library, and sit down with me to discuss the unique challenges facing a top research university in the Middle East. In particular, we spoke about electronic resources, open access, print collection consortia in the Middle East and Middle Eastern Studies contexts, and censorship, all of which are current and pressing concerns shared by universities across the Middle East.

Dale with Ginny Danielson, Director of the NYU Abu Dhabi Library.
Dale with Ginny Danielson, Director of the NYU Abu Dhabi Library.

Dale with Brad Bauer, Special Collections librarian at the NYU Abu Dhabi library.
Dale with Brad Bauer, Special Collections librarian at the NYU Abu Dhabi library.

The Abu Dhabi Library at New York University.
The Abu Dhabi Library at New York University.

Following my visit to Zayed University, I took a day to drive down to Abu Dhabi and visit with colleagues at NYU Abu Dhabi. Justin Parrott, Middle East Studies Librarian for the NYU Abu Dhabi Library, kindly gave me a tour of the library and introduced me to his colleagues. I met with Ginny Danielson, Director of the NYU Abu Dhabi library, with whom I discussed the challenges of keeping up with local publishing and literature. I also met with Brad Bauer, Special Collections librarian, who told me a bit about the history of their young but growing Special Collections. I was particularly interested in their local photography and maps collections. The current exhibitions were of Shakespeare in translation, which was fascinating to see. Much of my conversation with Justin, however, had to do with being a Middle East subject specialist at, essentially, a small liberal arts college in the Middle East. I had time as well to meet with faculty members Masha Kirasirova and Maurice Pomerantz in Middle Eastern Studies, and to learn more about the programs on offer at NYU Abu Dhabi that may be of interest to UT Austin students and researchers.

Dale Correa with Dr. Al Awaid
Dale Correa with Dr. Al Awaid

I was also fortunate enough to visit Salalah, Oman, during my trip. There, I met with Ali Bakhit Salim Al Awaid, the library director at Dhofar University Library. Dhofar University aims to be the leading science and technology university in Oman, although they also have strengths in English language education and law. Mr. Al Awaid and I spoke about the library’s collections, services, and areas of development, as well as the possibilities for an Interlibrary Loan cooperation. I also met with Khalid Mashikhi, the dean of the Arts and Humanities college, who was eager to discuss potential collaborations of benefit to both UT and Dhofar University student bodies. Dhofar University is a promising location for UT Arabic students to study Arabic and subjects relevant to their majors in the Arabic language. The U.S government Critical Language Scholarship program already relies on Salalah as one of their primary Arabic program sites.

Arabic children's books.

Arabic fantasy literature.

I spent my last days in Dubai visiting local booksellers to collect young adult and science fiction. I found works in this genre from all over the Middle East, but I was particularly pleased to invest in titles from local authors. Gulf publishing is still developing, and it is difficult to track, but more and more I am finding materials more than worthy of adding to UT Libraries’ distinctive collections. This focus on youth literature and science fiction introduced me to a number of local authors and artists who might otherwise not normally make it onto the shelves of a research library in the U.S. I am sincerely grateful to the UT Libraries and CMES for supporting my travel to the UAE and Oman to purchase these materials, learn more about publishing, research, teaching, and technology in the area, and establish contacts on behalf of UT.

 

 

 

After the Flood, PCL Edition

The Perry-Castañeda Library got a bit damp from the recent wet weather. A little too damp, actually.

On Friday, May 3, the Austin area experienced a series of thunderstorms beginning late in the afternoon that dumped a little over 4 inches of rain in the span of a few hours; not a remarkable amount in normal circumstances, but enough to create problems when you have a hole in the side of your building due to a ground-level construction project.

Exterior of the Welcome Center worksite.
Exterior of the Welcome Center worksite.

As a result, the unfinished drainage system being incorporated for the construction of the university’s Admissions Welcome Center wasn’t able to handle the volume of water and allowed a significant amount of water entered through the site and into the operational areas of the basement (1st) level at PCL.

“This is not unusual or considered a failure of the system; it’s simply an in-progress state,” said Jill Stewart, associate director of Project Management and Construction Services. “Due to the nature of incomplete work, the site had not been graded in such a way to purposefully direct water away from the Welcome Center site.”

Standing water viewed from the PCL's central stairway.
Standing water viewed from the PCL’s central stairway.

By that evening a student who noticed pooling water on the ground floor reported it to Libraries staff, and when facilities and preservation personnel were notified of the emergency they activated protocols to protect materials and enlisted the contractors to tackle the larger problem. Staff stayed into the early morning hours to assist the contractors in sandbagging the vulnerable construction area and coordinating with a water damage vendor to begin remediation of the affected spaces and prevent further spreading of moisture into other areas of the building.

Roughly half the floor was affected by flooding, including the InterLibrary Services, several offices for Libraries technology staff and the Texas Digital Library, and the area behind the service desk in the Map Room.

Standing water in the Map Room.
Standing water in the Map Room.

Given the dramatic nature of the incident, the Libraries collections and building fared quite well. The only library materials damaged were ten maps which were triaged and treated for water damage on the night of the flood — all of which have been salvaged for future use— and other items that were at nominal risk were nonetheless relocated for protection. The building level itself was inspected and treated to ensure the containment of moisture with a battalion of dehumidifiers and fans deployed throughout the floor, which ran nonstop for the days required to fully dry out the space.

Fans in an affected space.
Fans in an affected space.

Fans in an affected space.
Fans in an affected space.

Standing water in a first floor office.
Standing water in a first floor office.

The Welcome Center construction space with standing water.
The Welcome Center construction space with standing water.

Maps affected by the flood triaged before preservation treatment.
Maps affected by the flood triaged before preservation treatment.

Staff working to protect library resources.
Staff working to protect library resources.

Director Lorraine Haricombe was laudatory of the staff’s quick response to the emergency.

“We all, of course, wish this had not happened, but I am thankful that our library – and our University – can count on such dedicated and resourceful staff to respond when these things do happen,” said Haricombe.

“A number of staff members at PCL on Friday stayed long past their scheduled shifts and others came in from home or other locations, despite the downpour that evening, to help deal with flooding in ILS and the Map Room. Their efforts made it possible to move hundreds of collection items out of harm’s way and minimize damage to the collection.”

Aside from some temporary inconveniences to relocated staff and the chagrin of principals on the construction project, we consider ourselves pretty lucky. The concerted response by all involved has resulted in a speedy return to normal just in time for summer break.