Category Archives: Strategy

Keeping Tabs on Campus Trends

The only constant is change, as the old saying goes. As technological and social change affect how we interact and engage with one another, it’s critical that libraries continually seek information about the evolving expectations of our community. Observations and usage trends provide valuable data that help orient our direction, but sometimes the best way to surface user expectations is to just ask

At the end of February, the Libraries launched a campus-wide survey to a random sample of students, faculty, and—for the first time—staff. If you happened to be among those who received an invitation and responded, we offer our thanks. If you didn’t get an invite, maybe we’ll catch you next time. The Libraries typically undertake a survey every 2 or 3 years to make sure we’re keeping tabs on how we are doing—it’s a great way to see what’s working well, what we might consider changing and in some cases, what we might stop doing. 

The 2022 survey is particularly important because it is the Libraries’ first survey since prior to the pandemic. The original plan was to implement the survey in fall 2020, but things felt too different, too anomalous at that time to get an accurate picture. Many of us were not on campus, and many of our circumstances were strained or unusual. We wanted the survey to represent longer-term trends—inasmuch as those exist anymore—rather than a snapshot of perceptions during the campus’s most restrictive COVID-related policies. The last time we surveyed the campus was in spring 2018, so there’s an eagerness to see what has changed and what has stayed the same over the last four turbulent years. 

For the first time, we developed and wrote our own survey instrument. This has long been a goal of mine, not because there aren’t great survey instruments available to libraries, but because we wanted to be able to tailor our questions to our unique population and circumstances. Past industry-standard instruments that we’ve used such as those created by LibQUAL and Ithaka S+R allowed us to compare trends at UT to national trends—which is a valuable exercise—but this time we wanted to focus on the perceptions, experiences, and needs of the Longhorn community. With support from folks around campus (especially the staff in IRRIS) and a seasoned assessment team, we took on the challenge of writing, administering, and analyzing our own survey, designed to provide us with actionable feedback. 

In the coming months, we’ll be using this space to share some of the findings from the survey as we work through our analysis, and eventually, we will have full results to share with the public. Topics that you can expect to see addressed here include longitudinal insights (i.e., where we see trends and perceptions evolving over the long term), spotlights on insights gleaned about different demographic groups, and other interesting tidbits. We won’t just tell you what we find interesting, though—we want to highlight what we’re doing with the results. Expect to read about areas that we want to investigate further with focus groups and interviews, and changes that we’re putting in place based on what we learn. 

A sneak peak of a survey item focused on satisfaction shows that for the most part, folks are pretty happy with us…in particular, happy with the Libraries’ services.  But there is more still to be learned from a thorough review of the data:

  • Does that hold true across all demographic groups?  
  • What can we learn about those who aren’t satisfied?  

These are the kinds of questions we’ll be asking ourselves and our users, as we sift through the results. We invite you participate in an ongoing exploration of the data we’ve collected so that we can learn even more from the process of analysis as we seek to improve the work of these Libraries.  

The Libraries’ roadmap for success depends largely on hearing both the praise and criticism of our users, so take an opportunity to help improve your UT Libraries by providing your own input, feedback and observations as we plan together for the best possible future. 

First Black Graduate Thesis Now Online

Oscar Leonard Thompson

Though Heman Sweatt is the historical figure most associated with integration at The University of Texas at Austin, the first Black graduate to benefit from Sweatt’s efforts is getting a notable space in the university’s digital repository.

Thanks to a heads up from John Wallingford, professor in Molecular Biosciences, the thesis of Oscar Leonard Thompson is now available online.

Thompson became UT’s first black graduate in January 1952.

Born in 1907 and raised in Rosebud, near Waco, Thompson had his college career at Paul Quinn College in Dallas delayed by the Great Depression and further interrupted after a stint serving for three years in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. When he returned after the war, he used the GI Bill to complete his degree at Paul Quinn, then attended Tillotson College in Austin, and graduated magna cum laude from Samuel Huston College in 1949.

After the Sweatt v. Painter decision effectively integrated UT, Thompson came to the university in September 1950 to pursue a master’s degree in zoology, with an emphasis on genetics. He was 45 when he became the university’s first black graduate, and became a research scientist at the Human Genetic Foundation assisting UT geneticist C.P. Oliver investigate sickle cell anemia.

A mere four months after Thompson graduated, John Chase – who has previously been mistakenly identified as the university’s first black graduate – earned his Master’s of Architecture.

In 1956, UT admitted its first black undergraduates, of which there were about 75.

Thompson died in 1962 at 55, when he was working on his Ph.D. and teaching at Tillotson College in Austin. UT flew its flags at half-mast.

In a bit of irony, Thompson’s wife Irene – whom he met through his research and who typed his thesis for him – lived in a house designed by John Chase in East Austin.

Thompson’s thesis – “A study of phenyl-thio-carbamide taste deficiency in a Negro population and in family groups” – is now available online through Texas Scholar Works.

Meet the New Diversity Residents

Established in 2018, the University of Texas Libraries’ Diversity Residency Librarian program offers entry-level librarians from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to develop skills and professional growth while gaining practical experience in an academic library setting. The program is designed to align with the professional goals and interests of the residents as well as the strategic priorities of the Libraries. The program supports the goals of the Association of College & Research Libraries Diversity Alliance program.

This term’s incoming librarians – Jeremy Thompson and Karina Sanchez – began their residencies over the summer remotely, but are now immersed with their initial rotations with significant time spent onsite at the various library locations. We sat down with the pair to get some personal insights and to learn about their expectations for the program.


Tex Libris: Tell us a little bit about your backgrounds – where you’re from, where you studied, what your interests are and what it’s like since you’ve come to the Libraries.

Jeremy Thompson: Well, I call Arizona home, but I’m originally from Indiana. But I moved to Arizona when I was nine and went to the University of Arizona where I did my undergrad. I was a history major and Information Science & eSociety major. And I got my master’s there, too, in library and information science. I have multiple backgrounds in library work. I worked for six years at the Arizona State Museum. Then during that time I also took internships. So, I worked a year and a half of the 390th Memorial Museum, which was a World War II Museum dedicated to the bomber group. Then I worked for two years for UArizona’s special collections and then I did it and I was a junior fellow at the Library of Congress. And when I was graduating I was looking for all kinds of jobs, this position popped up and I told myself digital archives has always been an interest of mine and I just thought of something I could learn on the job somewhere. The original plan was to get a traditional kind job and then just build and becoming a digital archivist. But if I could get into this program and actually focus on digital archives, then that would be great for my career and something I actually wanted to do. I got this career and I’m mainly focusing on when digital archives and digital processing. That’s my main focus and why I’m here.

Karina Sanchez: I’m from Los Angeles, California, and I was born and raised in the valley there. For my undergrad, I went to UC-Irvine, which was like an hour away, and I majored in English and education. And during my undergraduate career, I went to a special collection workshop and that’s where I became interested in working in libraries and specifically special collections. And remember before that I thought, ‘I don’t want to be a librarian – they just sit at the desk, you know?’ But then after that I realized that there’s so much to librarianship and archives and special collections, and there’s so many jobs related to that. Once I graduated from Irvine, I earned a Getty Multicultural Undergraduate internship, but it was at Olvera Street (El Pueblo Historical Monument), which is a historical Mexican monument. From there I went to the Huntington Library, and working there has really informed what I want to do for work. After the Huntington, I got my library information Masters at UCLA, and I thought I wanted to stick with reference. Working there my supervisor, allowed me to critically analyze our space and how it impacts people of color and how it impacts people who just don’t have the privilege to use these spaces. I think that’s where my specific interest is – working with students of color, researchers of color, people who come from low income areas, because their perspective is so important and how research is perceived.

TL: So what made you decide to settle on the residency instead of going directly into a professional career? Was it a learning learning opportunity or was it an experiential opportunity that you saw there?

JT: It was both. I saw this as an opportunity to actually branch out and explore – with it being a three year program, I knew I would be able to take my time. I know that both of us are younger people in the field, so we had time to explore, and I knew I would get the experience that I needed and also be able to explore what I wanted to.

KS: I think I found out about the diversity resident librarianship before I found out that UT Austin had it, and because I had a job, I was not going to stress out too much about it. I needed to focus on graduating. I was just casually looking for stuff, and in January I saw that North Carolina was advertising for a diversity resident librarian. When the UT Austin position popped up, I read the description. There were other positions and I compared it to the other ones, but this one sounded perfect. It was very focused on learning and teaching. I didn’t feel like I needed to know all this stuff before I got in, so it didn’t feel as intimidating as some of the others. And I remember talking to my supervisor at the Huntington – she’s a mentor for me – and she said, “You should apply for this, you’ll learn more than just special collections – you’ll be better, you’ll be rounded out.” And it’s an academic library so it’s really great experience. With her help I applied and I’m happy I was able to get it. 

TL: What are your expectations coming into the program?

KS: I guess my expectations coming in were very much about learning. I had to tell myself, ‘Don’t worry about going in there and feeling like you need to know everything because there’s just so much and this institution is so big.’ The first week of doing my informational interviews I realized that there are librarians for a lot of subject areas that I didn’t even consider. I realized quickly that it is okay to ask questions and learn. And I think that’s the mentality I’ve had – it’s an expectation to learn and to gain skills that I don’t have. Once I’m done with the program, hopefully it will be a bit easier to apply for the ideal librarian job.

JT: I came in wanting to be a digital archivist and that’s my expectation. I remember when I was interviewing for this position, I wanted to make sure it was worth my time because I am experienced. And while I was interviewing for here, I was also interviewing LSU for a manuscript processing possession, which I didn’t get – so (laughing) luckily I got this one. I just wanted to make sure that I that I came in expecting to come out a digital archivist, and making sure that I was going to learn something new. And so far I’ve learned a lot of things, and I’m only five months in.

TL: You both had previous experience in special archives. UT has a depth in special collections, so was there something about the special collections at the university that compelled you to apply here?

KS: Yeah, I remember when I was at UCLA, there’s a librarian there now, T-Kay Sangwand, and I remember seeing one of her presentations about a digitization process at the Benson (Latin American Collection) and the outreach the Libraries did in other countries, and I thought that was really cool. I remember seeing this position open and wondered if I might get the chance to work with the digital initiatives group or to work where T-Kay was working. And then when I reviewed our rotation options, I saw that digital initiative was part of the rotation, and it’s just perfect that it worked out somehow. I’m really excited to work with them and to understand more about the digital initiative outreach that they do. Also the Benson is Latinx-focused, so I’m really excited just to get that perspective because the Huntington was a very European-focused collection, while this collection has more diversity, even though there is still some intrinsic whiteness and colonization.


JT: Coming into it just finding the job posting, I was like, ‘Oh yeah…the University of Texas – that seems like a good place to work.’ Getting into the interview process and doing the research about the Libraries, one of the things I was impressed with is the Black Diaspora Archive (BDA), which I’ll be working on in my next rotation. Being in Arizona and working for their special collections and the Arizona State Museum, I’ve worked with Latinx collections and Native American collections, but I’ve never had the opportunity to work with a Black collection. And for my project at the Library of Congress, I was supposed to work on the African American Collection but it was right as the pandemic started, so they had to go virtual, so I worked in a different collection. Having the opportunity to actually work with a Black collection and learning in my interview from (Black Diaspora Archivist) Rachel Winston that the BDA is new and it doesn’t have a lot of digital components –  just being able to be in on the ground floor for the collection and add in my own piece and my own work to the is to the archives something that I’m excited about.

TL: What are the what are the other areas of interests for you each here? 

JT: Teaching services. One of the things that I’m impressed with again – going back to special collections – is Theresa Polk’s post-custodial, but also teaching what we’re doing. One of the things that I like about archives is the problems encountered and the solutions that come from those, but also having to not only find a solution but also adapt it so it doesn’t just stay with the institution. One of the things that we typically do when we find the solution is create a workflow so that we can inform others how we went about that process, and it can be reverse engineered. That’s one of the things that I enjoy and I plan on focusing on is teaching what we do so that outside communities can do the work, decentralizing the archival process.

TL: So if they are working on a post custodial project and you had the chance to go and do fieldwork with them where they’re teaching folks how to use technology in the field to digitally-preserve resources, would that be something you might jump at?

JT: Yeah, I’ve worked on a similar project in the past. In Tucson, there’s the Dunbar Pavilion school. The Dunbar was the first segregated school for African Americans in Tucson – they were having a reunion – and special collections were on hand with portable scanners to digitize photographs and put them on USB drives. And it wasn’t a requirement that they had to give us a copy, but we asked. It was a process to show people that you can do this yourself, you can preserve your own history. So, yeah, if there was an opportunity to go out in the field and actually do that work and produce onsite metadata, it is something that I would be interested in.

KS: Right now I’m working on an assessment with (Assessment Librarian) Maria Chiochios learning the assessment process and the survey process, and what to assess. There was a lot of assessment that we probably should’ve done at the Huntington, but we didn’t have the time or the staff.  And going back to the Huntington, as with many museums and academic institutions, there are issues with how people use space. I’ve gotten to talk to (User Experience Designer) Melody Ethley about the user experience process and how people use space, how it impacts the research – especially if you’re a person of color. I am interested in understanding how people of color use special collections, since these spaces are not built for them and many haven’t encountered these resources can be a whole new world thus being scary.  Also, at the Huntington, we didn’t have a lot of outreach. I think one of the rotations I’ll be doing is with Teaching and Learning, and I’m excited to work with undergrad students because I never had that chance before. I’ve always worked with professors and PhD students, who already knew exactly what they were doing. I’m excited to work with undergrads who are still trying to figure out what they’re doing and exploring the space. At the Huntington to I was able to develop a virtual reading room during the pandemic, which is basically a service where researchers – whether they’re local or out of the country – able to see our materials virtually through a document camera. In doing that, I realized how important the technology and the digital aspect of special collections are. I’m excited to work with (Benson Digital Scholarship Coordinator) Albert Palacios because he does the Latin American Digital Initiatives, but he also does the outreach and public facing work. I feel like it’s something I don’t know much about and something I’m really interested in and combining those two is exciting. 

TL: You mention people who have traditionally experienced barriers to accessing special collections. What can you hope to gain from your experience here that might help inform improving the situation for people who experience barriers when it comes to special collections? You’re talking about working with researchers – they come in with a very much different attitude than students. If you layer on top of that, these sorts of barriers that affect underrepresented communities, how how do you expect your time here to inform how you might address that in your future work, especially if you’re planning on going back to special collections or spaces where those barriers still exist?

JT: I was a diversity scholar with the Association of Research Libraries. During my time in library school, I was put together with a group of other people from underrepresented groups. And one of the things I enjoy about about digital archives is that it’s new. It’s everyone’s starting from the same starting place. Everyone has photographs, everyone has videos, everyone has that. So where traditional archives are behind the paywall, with digital archives, we’re all starting from the same place. While I’m building the skills, I also have to learn how to adapt them so that people who are not traditionally trained in archives – because one of my focus is while I was in library school was in community archives and the techniques that they use – will have the access and skills to use these resources. Since digital archives is still a fairly new practice, it’s a starting place for everyone and you can gear an approach towards underrepresented groups, so that they can have this new tool to tell their stories and they’re not starting at such a distinct disadvantage.

TL: That’s a really interesting perspective. I hadn’t thought about that, but thinking about the difference between trained scholars and researchers versus students who may be digital native. The new digital landscape might actually start to tip that balance a little bit toward people who haven’t had experience in archives previously. 

KS: I think for me, what I hope to gain from my time in terms of the way I approach librarianship when it comes to working with low income or underprivileged students is through my experience working with undergraduate students. That’s what I’m most excited about. I am first generation college student, I was the first one to go to a university, so it was an unfamiliar experience. Working with students and seeing how they think and how they perceive not only their library space, but their academic career, and being able to empathize – hopefully I can gain some understanding of how they use the space and use that knowledge to make the space for them. From personal experience, I went to one workshop as a first year in an archive that affected my whole career and that showed me that I could be a librarian, and then every time I meet other librarians of color who are ahead in their careers – like Rachel or like Albert – it’s like, ‘Oh, there are people of color and their doing really well in their field. I could do that, too, and hopefully I could have some type of impact.’

TL: Move ahead in time two years, what are you hoping to look back and have gained from your residency? What are some of the other intangible benefits that you want to gain from you experience here? 

KS: I went back home for Thanksgiving, and I was thinking about what I’ve learned so far in the little time I’ve been here, and I realized I’ve been able to work really closely with Maria and I’ve learned so much just working the last few weeks with her. I’ve learned so much about how she carries herself as an assessment librarian. Also as being a co-chair of the Diversity Action Committee and how strong she is. I really admire that and working with (Digital Scholarship Librarian) Allyssa Guzman, and meeting (U.S. Studies Liaison and former diversity resident) Adriana Casarez and the previous diversity residents. I have been able to speak to them about my experience and learn from their own experience working at UT. Their advice has been very helpful in learning how to navigate my role. It really makes me excited to work closely with other people throughout my rotation because I’ve learned so much already, and I’ll be able to learn more and create fruitful relationships that I’ll be able to keep. I’m really excited to create those relationships and to understand how a bigger academic place like this works. Being here, learning about the organization and understanding that will benefit me once I move to a permanent professional position. Talking to Allyssa about people’s positions and how everything is structured has been really helpful because I feel like if I came in here as a librarian, I would feel intimidated to even ask those questions because I would feel like I should know this already, but as a resident, I get the opportunity to ask question and to learn how this library works.

TL: You’ve been working in academic libraries, and you’ve had some experience there. So how is it different for you then?

JT: Well, I’m not a student anymore (laughing). One of the things that Karina hit on that I’ve also noticed is that while doing these interviews, one of the things that – for lack of a better word – has been contagious is that everyone is so energized by the work and that’s one of the things I want to take away from this is not being the student actually but actually being treated as a professional. I want to come out of this feeling like a professional and that I have this subject knowledge, and that I’m able to apply that to other places. In most of the groups that I’ve interacted with, I’ve been a student and someone who’s preparing to be in the in the career. So now when I’m networking, I can talk as a professional and I have contributions to the conversation. That’s one of the things that I want to carry with me when I’m out of this residency program. I think that this is a great incubator for that because it’s a program that’s made to made to support you and make sure that you’re getting what you need. And I think that I think that we will be successful once we’re out of this program, but we’re also given time to explore, to realize what kind of information professional we wouldn’t want to be. 

TL: Why is this program and programs like it important? Is it important at all? 

JT: Yeah. I think, I think it’s really, really important. First, you’re able to rotate different areas, which something that I really like about. I don’t know if other diversity programs do the same way, how Austin does it. And I think it specifically focuses on people of color. I feel like when you see positions like that, you feel more motivated and you feel like you have more of a chance to succeed. And also it’s for people who have just gotten their Master’s and just graduated. So that’s another thing that makes you feel like you have more of a chance to hopefully get this than another librarian job where it might require at least 2-3 years of professional setting and you’re competing with people who have like many more years than you. It’s very important in that aspect. And it’s also important, in a critical sense, to think about the way you are perceived in this type of space, the type of impact you have. As people of color coming from a low income area, it’s not our responsibility to create the change, but if you want to, you have that power, and it feels a little less intimidating being in this position. It gives you a bit more sense of having a voice.

I think it’s important that we recognize that we are the two individuals in this position, out of all the people who applied. We were privileged to be in this position and that in some way we’re flag bearers. There’s a lot of talk in this field about the need for diversity and the need to have diverse perspectives and that as the two individuals in this position and also the other individuals who are in similar programs that it’s our responsibility to no bring the change, but to be the change. The point of being the flagbearer is to make sure in the future that there’s no need for a flagbearer, is that there’s no need for programs like this. So, the point of this program is to make sure that there is no need for programs like this in the future. We kind of have the responsibility to be the best professionals that we can and advocate where we can, because we are the we are the two individuals representing this program. We have to interlink with the other individuals who are in similar programs to make sure that there’s no need for programs like this in the future, because the field will already be diversified.

KS: And to piggyback on Jeremy’s thoughts – not to seem negative – but programs like this do have a performative activism to them, which is an issue. So, I totally agree with Jeremy that hopefully in the future we don’t need these kinds of programs because libraries are diverse enough or we don’t have to have this type of performative work to show that we’re diverse. 

JT: Yeah. Speaking to the performative, I don’t really like public speaking, or, you know, talking to anyone – I would be more than happy to be in my dungeon doing my archival work, just be in this position. But I have to stand up, be counted. Like: Hey, I’m Jeremy Thompson. I’m the diversity resident and I’m in this position and I’m showing you my face. And that’s important.

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.

Enhancing Search to Highlight Diverse Resources

Access Systems staff have been exploring available functionality in UT Libraries’ Alma resource management system to help support the integration of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) principles into the unit’s efforts. Subsequently, they recently announced a new Featured Collections pilot in the Primo discovery interface, serving to highlight the rich diversity of UT Libraries’ collections.

Working closely with DAC and the Discovery Services Advisory Group, and employing an IDEA lens, Access Systems staff will identify, aggregate, and highlight select resources in Alma, while also coordinating with existing collection promotion efforts where possible to support messaging continuity.

The first three Featured Collections are already existing, discrete collections having bibliographic local notes and online promotional content, enabling Access Systems to readily assemble and highlight them in Primo:

  • Black Queer Studies Collection
  • Latinx LGBTQ Collection
  • Taiwan Resource Center for Chinese Studies

Future Featured Collections will be identified from the wealth of Libraries’ content in Alma and aggregated around IDEA-related themes, and will be available via a new link in the top navigation, of the Libraries search page.

The staff working on this project plan to rotate in three new features each semester. The approach for selection and rotation of Featured Collections comes from close consideration of the work required by Access Systems and Content Management staff, and sustainable capacity for such work going forward.

We’re excited to implement this new functionality in Alma/Primo in support of IDEA initiatives at UT Libraries, and hope to further promote the breadth and depth of UTL’s amazing collections. 

Diversifying Library Collections

We recently talked in specific about a project to work on a proactive strategy to diversify our collections. That piece focused on the expansion of Black Lives Matter materials in our holdings, and was a great practical introduction the sort of work being done by professional staff to account for past inequities in how we acquire materials. The umbrella effort for that project was spearheaded by Carolyn Cunningham, the Libraries’ Head of Collection Development, who shares her perspectives on the comprehensive work to diversify the Libraries’ collection here.

As the diversity and inclusion work done on UT campus continues to grow and gather steam, it has been helpful to have UT Libraries commitment to inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA) as a guiding star for our work in the Scholarly Resources Division (SRD). 

The liaison librarian team in SRD recently had the opportunity to talk with library colleagues about how IDEA informs our collection development work, and how we support others in their collection development work. Our team members are Carolyn Cunningham, David Flaxbart, Corinne Forstot-Burke, Bill Kopplin, Susan Macicak, Katy Parker, and Shiela Winchester. The team is committed to using an IDEA lens in all of our work, beyond special projects or short-term initiatives. This means that we approach every request for a book, every new product offer, and every decision about how to use collection funds with the frame of mind that we will strive to include diverse voices in our collection and orient ourselves toward finding and making available resources that include the many experiences and perspectives of our campus community and beyond. The team describes this work as a group effort, and we continuously learn from each other. 

This embedded IDEA orientation is important because the academic publishing landscape does not necessarily represent all the voices that we want to include. The team recently looked at the results of the 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey together. This survey looked at diversity in the publishing industry, which included academic publishing participants. The respondents to this survey were 76% white, 97% cisgender, 81% heterosexual, and 89% non-disabled. For a quick point of comparison, 38.9% of UT students and 75.7% of UT professors are white. As the creators of the survey point out, “If the people who work in publishing are not a diverse group, how can diverse voices truly be represented in its books?”

Publishers are not the only influencers of what we add to our collections. User requests and emerging research areas are an important source of data for us. One exciting area of focus this past year has been strengthening our holdings related to the Black Lives Matter movement, civil rights, and anti-racism topics. Bill Kopplin, social sciences librarian and coordinator, has compared our collections against peer libraries, kept an eye on campus reading clubs and resource lists, and worked directly with vendors to do a wide-ranging scan of publications in these areas to consider adding to our collection. I can also point to the strong interdepartmental work of facilitating selection and discovery of important resources via catalog notes and subject headings. Folks from across UT Libraries work together to select and make available the U.S. Latinx LGBTQ Collection and Black Queer Studies Collection with local notes in our library catalog. This kind of focused attention is found throughout the work of our subject librarians, and our team is here to help get new efforts off the ground. 

One programmatic aspect of collection building that our team works on closely is the major approval plans. These plans are arrangements with large vendors to automatically send us certain types of books published by essential publishers. We keep an eye on those plans to make sure they are bringing in the right material. By describing this process with words like “arrangements,” “large,” and “automatically,” I want to illustrate that it is easy for up-and-coming authors and small publishers to get left out. This is where the expertise of our knowledgeable subject librarians, as well as input from our users, comes in. While we aim to collect books that our researchers expect us to have from major publishers, we pay close attention to the requests we get from users through interlibrary loan, through our Suggest a Purchase form, and via our library colleagues. Those data tell us which things are missing from the collection. We also use these requests to update ourselves on new terminology, new classes being offered, and new and enduring research topics that are finding an audience on campus. 

This work takes a village, and we will continue to learn from each other and respond to new opportunities to make our collections meet the needs of our current and future users.

Discover more of the diverse collections at the Libraries through our Instagram series, Highlighting Diverse Collections.


This post originally appeared at the blog of the Diversity Action Committee.

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.

Scene Onscreen: ¡A Viva Voz! Celebration Will Bring Levity at the Right Moment

LLILAS Benson is thrilled to announce the return of the ¡A Viva Voz! Celebration of Latina/o Arts and Culture. The annual event, usually one of the highlights of the spring semester, was canceled in 2020 due to the recent campus closure for Covid-19.

Now that we’ve got an advanced degree in Zoom, we are pleased to announce Scene Onscreen: An Evening with JoAnn and Rupert Reyes, Founders of Teatro Vivo. This virtual event will be held on Thursday, April 1, 2021, at 7pm CDT. To register for the event and receive a link, visit Attend.com/AVV2021.

JoAnn and Rupert Reyes. Design by Jennifer Mailloux; original artwork by Monica Rodriguez

During the evening, hosted by Roxanne Schroeder-Arce of the Department of Theatre and Dance, the audience will be treated to recorded scenes from some of Rupert Reyes’s iconic achievements as a playwright, interspersed with conversation about the history of Teatro Vivo, the bilingual theater company that Rupert and JoAnn founded in 2000 and led for many years.

Scenes from Petra’s PecadoPetra’s Cuento, and Petra’s Sueño; Crossing the RíoCuento NavideñoCenicienta, and the forthcoming film Vecinos will bring some levity to everyone’s evening, and it is our hope that the shared experience of laughter while enjoying these scenes will make the virtual a little more personal.

The JoAnn and Rupert Reyes Collection

The Benson Latin American Collection is the repository of the papers of JoAnn and Rupert Reyes, which contains a rich assortment of materials from their decades working with Teatro Vivo and other theater companies. According to the archival notes, “Teatro Vivo has garnered numerous nominations for acting, writing, and design from local theater award councils, including the B. Iden Payne Awards and the Austin Critics Table Awards, and the company continues to serve as an active contributor to the arts community in Austin. JoAnn and Rupert led the company as the executive director and artistic director, respectively, until they stepped down in 2016.” Both of the Reyes have received accolades for their work, including the Community Leadership Award from the University of Texas at Austin (their alma mater) in 2008 and the Partners in the Arts and Humanities award by the Austin City Council in 2011. They continue to serve as advisors to Teatro Vivo and remain significant cultural ambassadors for Latino theater in the United States.


For more information, please contact Susanna Sharpe.

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

Portal Magazine Presents Benson Centennial Edition

LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections is pleased to announce the publication of Portal magazine’s Benson Centennial edition, available online at llilasbensonmagazine.org.

In anticipation of the centennial of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection in 2021, this issue features articles by faculty, students, scholars, and staff that highlight a wide array of collections in areas as diverse as art history, feminist theory, Black diaspora, Indigenous studies, Mexican film, and more. A special selection of Staff Picks surveys items in the collection chosen and written about by staff in short feature pieces. Truly, this issue has something for everyone, including information on how to support the Benson Centennial Endowment.

Annotated contents of Portal‘s Benson Centennial issue follow below.

Portal 2019–2020, Benson Centennial Edition 

From the Director

FEATURES

Diego Godoy, Inside the Agrasánchez Collection of Mexican Cinema—An entertaining and engaging look at a collection of historical Mexican cinema materials that will make you want to watch a bunch of these movies.

Still from the Agrasánchez Collection of Mexican Cinema, Benson Latin American Collection

Matthew Butler and John Erard, The Hijuelas Books: Digitizing Indigenous Archives in Mexico—A history professor and a first-year student teamed up to write this article on what is being learned by digitizing important historical records in Michoacán, Mexico.

Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Decolonial Feminists Unite! Dorothy Schons and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz—Award-winning Chicana feminist author Alicia Gaspar de Alba explores the fascinating yet tragic story of UT scholar Dorothy Schons (1890–1961), whose groundbreaking research on the Mexican poet, intellectual, and nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648–1695) was dismissed by her colleagues at the time. 

Miguel Cabrera, Portrait of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, c. 1750

Julia Detchon, To and From the “Real” World: Concrete Art and Poetry in Latin America—This piece, by an Art and Art History PhD candidate, explores the Concrete art and poetry movement and its artistic and intellectual foundations.

Voices of Black Brazilian Feminism: Conversations with Rosana Paulino and Sueli Carneiro—Rosana Paulino is a visual artist and Black Brazilian feminist; Sueli Carneiro is an author and one of the foremost feminist intellectuals in Brazil. Both were keynote speakers at the February 2020 Lozano Long Conference on Black women’s intellectual contributions to the Americas. Interviewed here by UT faculty members Christen A. Smith (Anthropology, AADS, LLILAS, dir. of Center for Women’s and Gender Studies) and Lorraine Leu (LLILAS / Spanish & Portuguese).

Daniel Arbino, (Self)Love in the Time of COVID—Reflections from Benson head of special collections on themes of self-care and solitude in the Benson’s Latino zine collection. 

David A. Bliss, Selections from the LADI Repository—Bliss, digital processing archivist at the Benson, highlights collections in the Latin American Digital Initiatives repository. These are vulnerable archival collections that are now available online due to Mellon grant–funded collaborations between LLILAS Benson and Latin American archival partners. 

STAFF PICKS: FAVORITES FROM THE BENSON COLLECTION 

Brooke Womack, Catalina de Erauso o sea la monja de alferes, a 19th-century text on a 16th-century nun who was born a woman and obtained permission to dress as a man in the Spanish army.

Susanna Sharpe, La Inocencia acrisolada de los pacientes jesuanos, 1816, on a stunningly illustrated rare book in the collection. 

Joshua G. Ortiz Baco, Arbol cronologico del descubrimiento de las Americas, 1864, on a map of the Americas in which the continent is depicted as a tree. 

Arbol cronologico geografico del descubrimiento de las Americas, 1864

Albert A. Palacios, Student Activism in the Archives, 1969, 1970. Items from Texas and Uruguay are but two of the many examples of student activism in the Benson’s archives. 

Dylan Joy, Ernesto Cardenal in Solentiname, 1970s, explores the spiritual artists’ community of Solentiname founded by the lateNicaraguan poet, priest, and politician Ernesto Cardenal (1925–2020), whose archive is at the Benson.   

Zaria El-Fil, Black Freedom Struggle and the University, 1977, focused on the John L. Warfield Papers and written by fourth-year student Zaria El-Fil, the 2019–20 AKA Scholars Black Diaspora Archive intern.   

Blackprint, Monthly Black Culture and Feature Supplement to The Daily Texan, March 30, 1977. John L. Warfield Papers

Ryan Lynch, Manifesto ao povo nordestino, 1982, discusses a Brazilian political archive and showcases how political themes are discussed in cordel literature, cheap chapbooks popular in Brazil.  

Susanna Sharpe, Camas para Sueños by Carmen Lomas Garza, 1985. The Benson is the repository for the archive of artist Carmen Lomas Garza, a native of Kingsville, Texas, whose highly popular and well-known artworks evoke many aspects of Chicano life and culture in the Rio Grande Valley and elsewhere. 

Daniel Arbino, Tecuichpoch / Doña Isabel de Moctezuma—Madre del Mestizaje, 2016, showcases the artwork of Catalina Delgado-Trunk, inspired by Mexican papel picado (paper cutouts).

CENTENNIAL 

Celebrating a Century A brief history of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection)  

Message from the Benson Collection Director A message from Melissa Guy

The Power of Giving Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long, The Castañeda Legacy, Benson Centennial Fund