Category Archives: Uncategorized

Open Education Week 2024 Recap

The Libraries once again recognized Open Education Week (March 4-8) with events and activities intended to raise awareness of open educational resources and their application across campus, foster collaboration, and empower learners and educators alike.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are openly licensed materials that can be:

  • Retained
  • Reused
  • Revised
  • Remixed
  • Redistributed

OER can make a huge difference for students, especially in terms of cost savings. In the 2022-2023 academic year alone, students saved over $1.8 million dollars because OER was prioritized over paid course materials.

The highlight of the Libraries’ Open Education Week 2024 was a virtual panel discussion featuring educators and students who gathered to share their perspectives on the transformative potential of open educational resources (OER) in widening access to quality education. From exploring innovative pedagogical approaches to discussing the role of technology in enhancing learning experiences, the panel provided invaluable insights into the evolving landscape of open education.

Tocker Open Education Librarian Heather Walter amplified the celebration and recognized faculty and student OER advocates throughout the week on web platforms. Dr. Jocelly Meiners (Spanish and Portuguese) received a spotlight for championing open educational resources (OER) and  collaborating with faculty to integrate OER into their courses and promoting awareness of open access principles among students and colleagues. And student advocate Marco Pevia (COLA, Spanish and Linguistics) received a nod for his collaboration with faculty to incorporate OER into courses, participated in open access advocacy efforts, and engaging in projects aimed at expanding access to knowledge.

Walter also used her social media prowess to promote the message of Open Education Week, sharing updates, resources, and insights on Instagram which provided glimpses into the vibrant events taking place, encouraging broader participation and sparking meaningful conversations around the importance of openness in education.

Even though Open Education Week 2024 has drawn to a close, the Libraries continues its commitment to fostering a culture of openness, accessibility, and collaboration in education. Through ongoing initiatives, partnerships, and advocacy efforts, the Libraries strives to empower learners and educators to embrace the principles of openness and drive positive change at UT.

Read, Hot and Digitized: Italian Poetry, Translated and Sonorized

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this new series, librarians from UTL’s Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship.  Our hope is that these monthly reviews will inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.


For most of human history, poetry has been an oral tradition, with poets singing their verses to an audience rather than writing them down and disseminating them in print. Italianpoetry.it, an independent digital humanities project without academic affiliation, aims to share the beauty and lyricism of recited Italian poetry with a wider audience, offering recordings of Italian poems alongside the original text and English translations.

The site, which is frequently updated with new poems, focuses on a simple but very effective content model. Poems are published in their entirety in the original Italian, with the English translation of the text beneath each line. An audio file containing the recording of the poem is embedded at the top of each page. When the audio file is played, the word being read is highlighted in both the Italian and the English translation, allowing users to follow along with the recording and to see how the word order and phrasing in the translation compares to the original text. This allows for a streamlined, user-friendly experience that facilitates appreciation and enjoyment of the original text—both for its sonority and its meaning—regardless of the user’s knowledge of Italian. Each poem also has a brief write-up by the site’s creator at the bottom of the page, providing additional context for the work. A guide to navigating the site is also provided to make it easy for new users to interact with its content.

Screenshot of a poem from the site.
The page for the poem “A una zanzara.”

The site is intentionally simple and, per the author, “unapologetically retro-looking” in its appearance, allowing users to focus on the site content without interference from unnecessary or distracting web elements. Focusing on simplicity is not only an aesthetic choice, though, as it helps make the site more accessible for users with slower or unstable internet connections who may have trouble browsing more complex webpages. The site uses the BAS Web Services set of tools to synchronize the poems’ texts with the audio recordings. The BAS Web Services are provided by the Bavarian Archive for Speech Signals, and provide a broad and valuable set of tools for speech sciences and technology.

Screenshot of a list of poem titles available on the site.
The selection of all poems available on the site, including options to sort by composition date, date added to the site, author, and title.

In addition to the main pages created for each poem, there is also an audio-only podcast version of the poems for those who would like to listen to the audio without the interactive elements of the main site. The site’s creator makes clear that the poems selected are in no way representative of Italian poetry as a whole, and that they were chosen at the author’s discretion. This adds a personal touch to the site sometimes absent from more comprehensive digital projects.

Screenshot of the site's podcast offerings.
The podcast audio files included on the site.

Italianpoetry.it is a valuable resource for those wishing to explore Italian poetry, regardless of their experience with the Italian language or knowledge of its history. While intentionally a personal selection rather than a wide-ranging survey of the Italian poetic tradition, its content offers a great introduction to that tradition that can spur further interest and exploration. It also provides a very interesting and accessible way to explore the relationships between written and spoken text, sonority and textual structure, and translation and original texts.


For more information, please consult the UTL resources below:

Picchione, John, Lawrence R. Smith, John Picchione, and Lawrence R. Smith. Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry : An Anthology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019.

Lind, L. R. (Levi Robert). Lyric Poetry of the Italian Renaissance; an Anthology with Verse Translations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954.

Lucchi, Lorna de’. An Anthology of Italian Poems, 13th-19th Century. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1922.

Bonaffini, Luigi, and Joseph Perricone, eds. Poets of the Italian Diaspora : A Bilingual Anthology. New York: Fordham University Press, 2014.

Staff Highlighter: Yi Shan

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

Yi Shan: My title is East Asian Studies Librarian. I manage all East Asian language materials at the UTL and support the research and teaching of East Asia-related topics and disciplines on UT campus.

Any library (UT or otherwise) memory worth sharing?

YS: I can never forget my research trip to the Seikado Bunko Library in Tokyo. It’s a relatively small private collection but holds some of the rarest and most valuable premodern Chinese books. The reading room rules are very strict. You have to leave your shoes outside (like many Japanese places), wash your hands, and leave your electronics before entering the reading room. Interestingly, however, you can eat (!) your lunch inside the reading room. There is a designated lunch table at least by the time of my visit in 2019.

I found a lot of valuable primary sources for my dissertation there, and the librarian was so kind, knowledgeable, and helpful. The most exciting story is that I was so lucky to stumble upon a presumably Ming dynasty (1368–1644) manuscript that one 18th-century collector that I studied rescued from a stack of old scrap paper.

You’ve lived in many places. How does Austin compare?

YS: Austin is such a lovely city! Having lived in a few giant cities, I find the size of Austin perfectly manageable. In some way, I surprisingly find that the view of Zilker and Barton Springs area resembles a lot to my hometown, Taiyuan, at least in the way it appears in my memory. I used to say that I was okay with the cold but not the heat. Now I guess I am getting there to make my body think otherwise. Anyway, I spent my college years in one of the most notorious four “oven” cities in China, and having survived last summer in Austin, I guess I can cope. But how the heat has been trending for the future does scare me a lot.


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

YS: I love to cook. This interest in culinary art started during my grad school, and I always went to the occasion cooking lessons at the student union. Another version of myself always dreams to own and operate a restaurant. I’m pretty familiar with cooking in Chinese, French, Italian, and Japanese styles, and now I am foraying into Thai. I like to bake as well, but the oven has not been treating me as kindly as the stove has. Or when I bake a cake, it starts to hate me. 

As a historian, what makes you gravitate to the past, and how does it influence your perspective on the future?

YS: Trained mostly as a premodernist, I think what makes me excited about the past is you really have to use imagination to understand it. There’s the saying that “past is a foreign country,” but I think it is more than that. It’s like a whole different phenomenological and ontological universe. By imagination, I don’t mean that historians are inventing things and events that never existed or happened. It is that we so often need to question the take-for-granted categories and ways we thought what the past was like.

I think the future, like the past, invites bold imaginations. Building a better future, like understanding the past, needs us both to engage and work with the structures we have today but also to break free from their constraints. It’s all about defamiliarizing the familiar and bravely embracing the unfamiliar with an open and empathetic heart.

I understand you may be a train enthusiast. What is it about trains?

YS: I think my enthusiasm for all mass-transportation vehicles, trains, civil aviation, etc, all comes down to my like to travel to faraway places. I spent a big chunk of my childhood in my grandparents’ apartment right next to a train station (the complex and the station share a wall). My grandfather would tell me, “Look, this train is bound for Beijing, that is for Shanghai, that is for Xi’an,” and I always wanted to take the trains to those places.

And most times I just like the feeling of being on the way, and it has to be a long way that you don’t have to constantly worry about missing your stop. The sound of a train ride or the engines of an aircraft kind of calms me down, and I like to read and write on my way. However, I do hate packing for a trip and spending time at a train station or an airport. 

Favorite book, movie or album?

YS: Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko is my favorite of all fiction (very few) I’ve read since 2019. Dream of the Red Chamber/Story of the Stone (Honglou meng) is an all-time favorite. Since 2022, I’ve been following the #readingthestone reading-together project (mostly listening to their podcasts) started by Prof. Eileen Chow at Duke University. If you are interested in getting small doses of this greatest piece of Chinese literature (in both original and translation), this is the perfect place to start.

Recently I’ve started Four Treasures of the Sky, a fiction inspired by the Dream of the Red Chamber, and I am loving it.

Favorite food or drink? Make it at home or go out (and where)?

YS: My favorite food recently is Cantonese roasted duck. Ho Ho Chinese Barbecue’s roasted duck is, so far, the best that I’ve found in town. It’s very difficult to make at home, and best to leave for the pros. 

What’s the future hold?

YS: There are so many new developments in Higher Education that make the future both exciting and scary. But knowledge/expertise and a strong collection should always be our best assets to embrace the challenges and grow from them. Right now, I am exploring OCR and automated textual processing of CJK (the library jargon for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) texts and also identifying strategic growth points for our East Asian collections.

In the long run, together with my UTL colleagues and the learning community on campus, I hope to build such a collection that makes UT a strong and unique resource for East Asian studies in the world. I hope this collection will not only serve the existing and emerging research and pedagogical needs but also foster, nurture, and inspire scholarly and pedagogical innovations.

Scholars Lab Newsletter – February 2024

Digital Humanities Workshop Series

Digitization, Digital Projects, and Copyright Issues

When: Feb. 2, 2024, 12 pm – 1 pm 

Where: Perry-Castañeda Library Scholars Lab Project Room 6 (2.218)

Join us in-person for a discussion about some of the common copyright issues that pop up when digitizing materials or creating digital projects. We’ll have some scenarios to talk through as a group, but feel free to also bring your questions and we’ll try to discuss some of those scenarios as well.

In-Person Registration

Interactive Writing in Twine

When: Feb. 9, 2024, 12 pm – 1 pm

Where: Zoom 

Twine is an open-source application used to write interactive narratives ranging from fictional adventures to practical decision trees. This workshop will introduce the basics of Twine story creation: creating your first passage of text, linking passages, incorporating HTML and variables, and publishing a Twine project. The session will include a variety of example Twines of different complexity and purpose, and by the end, participants will have their skeleton decision tree that they can expand into a larger text. 

Zoom Registration

Getting Started with Scalar

When: Feb. 23, 2024, 12 pm – 1 pm

Where: Zoom 

Scalar is a free, open-source publishing platform designed for long-form, born-digital, and media-rich digital scholarship. This workshop will give an overview of Scalar and discuss what differentiates it from other content management systems, before demonstrating how to build your Scalar site.

Zoom Registration


Data & Donuts Workshop Series

 Research Data Management Best Practices

When: Feb 16, 2024, 12 pm – 1:15 pm

Where: Perry-Castañeda Library Scholars Lab Data Lab (2.202) and Zoom

This workshop will go over helpful strategies and techniques for effective research data management in all stages of the research lifecycle, from the drafting of comprehensive data management plans to successful publication of research data. Join this session to learn how to overcome data management challenges and stay in compliance with research data management regulations.

Zoom Registration


The Institute for Historical Studies in the Department Workshop

“Mapping Trauma: A Workshop on Space and Memory”

When:  Feb 19, 2024, 12 pm – 1:30 pm 

Where:  Perry-Castañeda Library Scholars Lab Data Lab (2.202) and Zoom 

Anne Kelly Knowles has been a leading figure in the Digital and Spatial Humanities, particularly in the methodologies of Historical GIS, for more than twenty years. She has written or edited five books, including Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship (2008); Mastering Iron: The Struggle to Modernize an American Industry, 1800-1868 (2013); and Geographies of the Holocaust (2014). Anne’s pioneering work with historical GIS has been recognized by many fellowships and awards, including the American Ingenuity Award for Historical Scholarship (Smithsonian magazine, 2012), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), and three successive Digital Humanities Advancement grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (2016-2022). She is a founding member of the Holocaust Geographies Collaborative, an international group of historians and geographers who explore the spatial aspects of the Holocaust through digital scholarship. She is currently developing a public website to share data on over 2,200 Holocaust camps and ghettos and nearly 1,000 survivor testimonies to enable students and scholars to map the historical geographies of named and unnamed Holocaust places.

Levi Westerveld is a geographer and award-winning cartographer with broad experience in spatial data gathering, analysis and visualization. He has 8 years of work experience in GIS and mapping for environmental modeling, impact assessments, community engagement and communication. Levi has international project management experience overseeing multidisciplinary teams with delivery in the Arctic and Pacific, and thematic knowledge in land and marine environmental issues, including climate change, waste and biodiversity. He is the lead editor of the forthcoming Arctic Permafrost Atlas. He is currently employed as senior engineer in the section for digitalization and innovation at the Norwegian Coastal Authority.

For In-person Registration email: cmeador@austin.utexas.edu

Zoom Registration


Digital Scholarship in Practice

Computational Approaches in the Study of History: The Case of People’s Daily

When: Feb 21, 2024, 12 pm to 1 pm 

Where: Perry-Castañeda Library Learning Lab 3

In this talk, we will explore what computational approach and methods may look like in historical studies. Alongside the potential advantages, the talk will also discuss the limitations and pitfalls in computational historical analysis. We will focus on a case study of the People’s Daily 人民日报, a prominent national newspaper of the PRC, to demonstrate the outcomes and limitations of applying computational methods in historical research.

A Boot Camp for Researchers: Successes in Systematic Review Support

On a Monday morning before the semester started in January 2024, members of the Systematic Review Interest Group gathered to prepare for a multi-day event. The Systematic Review & Evidence Synthesis Boot Camp, to be precise, took place over the course of three days, and was designed as an educational series of short workshops describing best practices for conducting systematic reviews, from idea formation through content screening (with many steps in between). Content sections were interspersed with opportunities for one-on-one, customized consultation sessions with a librarian, for working through questions and creating actionable takeaways.

A systematic review starts with a very specific question and then reviews a variety of empirical sources of literature that offer a response to that very specific question.

Systematic reviews are the most common and best-known type of systematized evidence synthesis methodologies. Originating in the field of medicine, they have spread across other disciplines such as education, engineering, sociology, criminal justice, public health, environmental sciences, and beyond. A systematic review starts with a very specific question and then reviews a variety of empirical sources of literature that offer a response to that very specific question. Because this review type attempts to be highly thorough (or systematic) in finding sources to include in the review, librarian assistance is often sought. The support offered can take on multiple forms, from advising on database selection and helping with search strategy development to recommending and training on tools to ease the steps in the process. If the librarian’s schedule and bandwidth permit, they may take on a request for more intensive assistance with a review project and be a co-author on the final published review. 

In the spring of 2021, the UT Libraries’ Systematic Review Interest Group offered a 6-part workshop series on evidence synthesis methodologies. Though the series offered thoughtful content that was well-received, discussions persisted about whether scholars were receiving adequate support, given the multiple weeks between sessions. We thought they may instead want to progress at a faster pace and need more individual time with librarians, so this more concentrated and intensive session was conceived. Teamwork was required to pilot the Boot Camp approach – with eight librarians working together to contribute content similar to what is on our shared library guide page, coordinate and present the prepared sessions, and provide the one-on-one breakout consultation sessions – in a “many hands makes light work” model.

On that opening morning, Boot Camp participants and providers consumed a welcome breakfast of tacos and enjoyed coffee in the new PCL Scholars Lab. Jenifer Flaxbart, one of the Boot Camp’s sponsors and UT Libraries’ Assistant Director for Research Support and Digital Initiatives, provided an official welcome to both the Boot Camp and the newly introduced Scholars Lab. The Scholars Lab turned out to be a great space for the event. On each of the three days, librarians offered presentation sessions and then we broke out into individual work sessions for one-on-one support. The flexibility offered by the multiple, yet nearby, spaces in the Scholars’ Lab made the transitions seamless. In addition, the spaces supported back-and-forth communication without causing strain to hear or be heard. 

This intensive Boot Camp method of delivery presents a unique opportunity for both librarians and scholars. The support offered falls somewhere in between having a few librarian consultations with a research team and serving as a co-author on a project. At a large campus like UT Austin, it is not feasible for librarians to support every request received at the co-author level. We need to budget our time and yet we also want to offer our expertise to scholars wherever we can. This method allowed us to deliver three days worth of content and one-on-one support. It is yet another mechanism in our toolbox to help meet the growing demand for evidence syntheses here on the UT campus. In addition, it was a rare pleasure to collaborate in building this experience with colleagues and learn from one another in the process.

At the end of the three days the participants, hopefully not too overwhelmed with information, took a survey to inform possible future Boot Camp planning efforts. The coordinators were pleased to see positive responses on the survey and an increase in knowledge about the concepts covered. Just a few quotes are evidence of the positive reception: 

  • THANK YOU for this amazing learning opportunity
  • Interaction with the amazing Librarians and their support [favorite part]
  • The small group session is really helpful to establish the appropriate search strategy which is the one the most important steps to do systematic review. [favorite part]
  • Learning about all of the tools available (e.g., searching, deduplication, and screening) which will make future literature reviews, including systematic and more general reviews much more efficient and comprehensive. [favorite part]

As illustrated through these comments, many participants gained the knowledge and confidence needed to go forward and conduct their planned review project. It will be exciting to follow these projects through to publication and track the impact made in future years by the results of the evidence synthesis collaborations resulting from the Boot Camp. 

Scholars Lab Hosts First Open Science Summit

The doors of the new Scholars Lab at the Perry-Castañeda Library swung open for the first Texas Open Science Summit, held on Wednesday, September 20.

Hosted by the Libraries, this summit was organized as a call to action for the advancement of open science in recognition of the Year of Open Science, a move by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to advance national open science policies across the federal government in 2023.

The Summit marked an initiatory gathering to highlight the commitment of advocates in the campus community to openness, collaboration, and the dissemination of knowledge. The event took place both in-person and virtually, to ensure accessibility to a wide audience.

The event served a diversity of ideas and perspectives to attendees, with participants from various disciplines and backgrounds coming together to explore the benefits of open science practices and individual experiences in the application of those practices. It offered a platform for sharing success stories, discussing challenges, and brainstorming solutions, all with the ultimate goal of promoting transparency and accessibility in research.

The summit provided inspiring keynote addresses and panel discussions featuring local and national experts in open science, including representatives from Higher Education Leadership Initiative for Open Scholarship (HELIOS) and NASA’s Transform to Open Science (TOPS) program.

These thought-provoking sessions covered a broad spectrum of topics, from open-access publishing to data sharing and reproducibility. Participants left inspired and armed with practical insights to implement in their own work.

Attendees were also introduced to the university’s new Open Source Programs Office (OSPO) – funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation – which has recently been launched to promote open source and open science opportunities to students, faculty, staff and researchers at UT.

Those who attended expressed that the Summit was a resounding success in reaffirming the global scientific community’s dedication to open science principles. Participants left the event with a deeper understanding of open science practices and a shared commitment to making research more transparent and accessible.

Collecting Francophone Zines and Books in Montreal

Due to generous donor support to a Hornraiser campaign for foreign acquisitions trips, I was recently able to travel to Canada to attend the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair and purchase books for the UT Libraries’ collections. In addition to meeting with vendors and participating in the international community of librarians, zine makers, booksellers, and publishers at the book fair, I collected materials that continue to grow the UT Libraries’ collection of Francophone zines and literature, further developing our collection of rare and distinct materials related to global leftist movements past and present.

The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair is North America’s largest anarchist book fair, and has been held since 2009. Attracting visitors from all over the continent, the fair included over 80 vendor tables where attendees could browse and purchase materials and discuss non-commercial publishing and distribution directly with content producers. Vendors ranged from established presses like AK Press and PM Press to individual creators selling their zines and other materials. The book fair also featured a diverse range of speakers and workshops, including offerings such as an introduction to anarchist thought, a talk on Mastodon and federated social media, and a panel discussion about the book Black Metal Rainbows recently published by PM Press.

A picture of zines and books purchased at the bookfair.
A small selection of books and zines purchased at the bookfair.

The book fair offered many opportunities to acquire materials we would not otherwise have access to, and to speak directly with publishers, writers, and artists and to learn about the processes and motivations behind why certain books or zines were written and made. A couple of my favorite acquisitions for the UTL library include a global history of the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical union founded in 1905 that is still active today, and a zine-bibliography highlighting resources on the transfeminism movement. The trip also gave me a valuable opportunity to build our holdings of Francophone materials from North America, expanding our corpus beyond materials published in Europe, the Caribbean, and Africa, thereby making our holdings even broader globally than they already were.

Picture of two books and two zines acquired at the book fair.
Additional books and zines acquired at the book fair.

Beyond all this, the trip allowed me the opportunity to represent UT Austin internationally to a diverse group of vendors, artists, and colleagues, and I’m grateful that I was able to serve the Libraries in such a capacity. I look forward to continuing to build our distinctive holdings and further expand UT’s collections to include diverse ideas and voices.

Librarian Ian Goodale standing at the entrance to the bookfair.
Librarian Ian Goodale standing at the entrance to the bookfair.

Reflections on Libraries in 2023

Friends,

As we celebrate National Library Week at the close of another long academic year, I want to take a moment to reflect on recent developments in the world of libraries and technology.

It’s impossible to understate the importance of libraries in our society. Libraries are not just buildings that house books, but they are cultural and educational centers that foster learning, creativity, and community engagement. In the face of recent challenges, libraries have remained steadfast in their commitment to serving the public.

We recognize that libraries across the nation are facing challenges and opportunities in the current environment of censorship, legislative initiatives that seek to end diversity, equity and inclusion practices, and the rise of artificial intelligence as a potential paradigm-shifting development in technology. 

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago, and a number which nearly doubles the 729 book challenges reported in 2021.

Libraries have traditionally been viewed as bastions of free speech and intellectual freedom, but the challenge of censorship in the current political environment is an ongoing concern. National Library Week is a time to celebrate libraries and all that they stand for, and also an opportunity to redouble our commitment to the principles of the free exchange of ideas.

On another front, legislatures across the country are considering laws that would prohibit colleges from having diversity, equity, and inclusion offices or staff; ban mandatory diversity training; prohibit institutions from using diversity statements in hiring and promotion; or prohibit colleges from using race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in admissions or employment. As of this writing, 34 bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country – 2 have final legislative approval, 1 has been signed into law, and 5 failed to pass. 

We will continue to promote and implement IDEA concepts (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility) in our collections, programs, and services, including in efforts to acquire and promote materials from diverse perspectives, provide programming that reflects the interests and needs of diverse communities, and create an inclusive environment for all patrons. Our role in advancing DEI efforts and promoting equity and inclusion for our community is too important.

Despite the challenges, libraries continue to provide access to information and resources to all members of the community regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs. Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and freedom of speech remains unwavering, and we will continue to provide a safe and welcoming space for all.

We’re also watching with great interest developments in the field of artificial intelligence, especially ChatGPT and similar innovations. Though the sudden leaps in technology can be accompanied with a fear of the unfamiliar, libraries can consider ways to leverage nascent developments for the greater benefit of our users and staff. Improved search capabilities can speed the process of uncovering information. Algorithms can analyze user histories to suggest tailored results. There’s great potential for enhancing accessibility for users with differing needs, and for analyzing behaviors in ways that will facilitate improvements in the user experience. And there are possibilities for automating internal processes that can free up human resources for other high-value work. 

Great care, however, needs to be taken when considering the adoption of novel technologies to ensure that their use doesn’t negatively impact information literacy. Transparency in and understanding of how systems work, and how they select and organize results is key to avoiding biases and recognizing the limitations of new technology. New technologies should never be considered replacement for critical thinking; as such, AI should be a tool to augment this most important element in the development of new knowledge, and libraries can play a role in reinforcing the importance of critical thinking skills. And new technologies should be constantly re-evaluated to identify and address shortcomings in their systems.

Artificial intelligence can potentially be a powerful tool to augment and enhance traditional library resources, and by taking a responsible approach to adopting this development, we can leverage it for the benefit of students, faculty and researchers.

We are not daunted by challenge, and we welcome whatever opportunities arise. 

Thank you for your continued support of libraries. We look forward to serving you now and in the future.

With gratitude,

lorraine j. haricombe | Vice Provost and Director, UT Libraries, University of Texas, Austin.

Introducing Rozha: A Tool to Simplify Multilingual Natural Language Processing

In my role as European Studies Liaison, one of my priorities is to assist people in their digital humanities work.  In that work, I have found a glaring gap in tools that support multilingual and  non-English materials, particularly those that focus on natural language processing (NLP).  Much of the work that has been done using NLP has been focused on an Anglocentric model, using English texts in conjunction with tools and computer models that are primarily designed to work with the English language. I wanted to make it easier for people to begin engaging with non-English materials within the context of their NLP and digital humanities work, so I created Rozha.

Rozha, a Python package designed to simplify multilingual natural language processing (NLP) processes and pipelines, was recently released on GitHub and PyPI under the GNU General Public License, allowing users to use and contribute to the tool with minimal limitations. The package includes functions to perform a wide variety of NLP processes using over 70 languages, from stopword removal to sentiment analysis and many more, in addition to visualizations of the analyzed texts. It also allows users to choose from NLTK, spaCy, and Stanza for many of the processes it can perform, allowing for easy comparison of the output from each library. Examples of the code being used can be seen here.

While the project first grew out of the needs of researchers and graduate students working at UT-Austin who were interested in exploring NLP and the digital humanities using non-English languages but who did not have very much prior coding experience, its code also aims to streamline NLP work for those with more technical knowledge by simplifying and shortening the amount of code they need to write to accomplish tasks. Output from the package’s functions can be integrated into more complex and nuanced workflows, allowing users to use the tool to perform standard tasks like word tokenization and then use the response for their other work.

The package is written in Python for a variety of reasons. Python has a wide base of users that makes it easy to share with others, and which helps ensure that it will be used widely. It also helps ensure that people will contribute to the project, building upon its existing code. Fostering contributions for multilingual digital humanities and NLP can help broaden the community of scholars, coders and researchers working with these multilingual materials, which will broaden the community in general while also improving the package. Python is also very commonly used for NLP applications, and the packages integrated into Rozha all have robust communities of their own. This allows for users to connect with other communities as well, and to explore these technologies on their own for applications beyond what this package provides.

The Rozha package ultimately aims to make multilingual digital humanities and natural language processing more accessible and to simplify the work of those already working in the field–and perhaps open up new avenues to explore for newcomers and established NLP practitioners. My hope is that this tool will help encourage diversity in the NLP landscape, and that people who may have felt it too daunting to work with materials in non-English languages may now feel more comfortable through the ease of working with this package.  Beyond that, I hope the package will serve as a conduit for additional contributions and collaboration, and that the code will ultimately help strengthen the field and community of practitioners working with non-English materials.


Read, Hot and Digitized: Disability COVID Chronicles

As the European Studies Librarian for the UT Austin Libraries, I am interested in exploring and encouraging connections between my subject areas and the broader global community. Understanding and advocating for disability is one way that this sense of global community can be fostered, as disability transcends national boundaries and affects people across the world.

Disabled people have consistently been marginalized and excluded from the historical record. Efforts to remedy this–and to reclaim the history and dignity of disabled people–are ongoing, and are burgeoned by digital studies and practice. Of especial interest at the moment is how the global pandemic has affected disabled people, and how their experience of the pandemic may differ from the non-disabled. The Disability Covid Chronicles from NYU aims to explore the stories of disabled people in NYC and let them tell, in their own words, how they experienced the COVID-19 pandemic.

Screenshot of the project's homepage.
The project’s homepage.

While the project is still ongoing, essays and interviews from research-in-progress are available to view on their website. The project team is preparing an edited volume based on its research during the pandemic, and is also “building a publicly-accessible archive to preserve memories, stories, artworks, and other materials in a range of accessible formats” in collaboration with community members. In the words of the project team members, they “are preserving conversations on social media, records of digital public meetings, and photographs of street art and actions that are otherwise ephemeral. [Their] goal is to chronicle not only vulnerabilities, but creative initiatives for survival under these new conditions that are structured by old inequalities.”

Screenshot of the project’s Essays & Interviews page
A couple of essays from the project’s Essays & Interviews page.

In addition to the essays and interviews linked above, the fieldnotes section of the site highlights notable ephemera and other media–from posters and artwork to social media campaigns and more–that the team has encountered during its research. This is a great way to explore the diverse content available on the site, as the content is reloaded in a random order each time the page is refreshed. Notable entries from the page include this post recapping a survey from Special Support Services, an advocacy group for disabled students and their families, this post preserving artwork by Jen White-Johnson created to amplify the #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy hashtag, and this post preserving artwork from Roan Boucher/AORTA: Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance. You can also share your own resources at this link.

Screenshot of a few essays displayed on the project’s Essays & Interviews page.
A few essays displayed on the project’s Essays & Interviews page.

The site was built using WordPress, a popular content management platform. While free and open-source, WordPress does charge for hosting plans through its website, which can be a barrier for access to some. It also offers a large number of plugins that can make constructing a website less of a burden for those with less technical knowledge—such as the Random Post on Refresh plugin, which allows users to accomplish a similar randomizing functionality to the site’s Fieldnotes section. The site makes  use of accessibility features, such as the “alt” tag in HTML, to ensure that those using screen readers or other assistive features can still access the site’s content. WordPress itself also makes a commitment to accessibility in its design and code.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a particularly strong impact on many disabled people, and having a site that documents and amplifies disabled perspectives and experiences is an important step toward creating a supportive and equitable culture for all. The site serves as a valuable resource related to the global pandemic, and its forthcoming edited volume and digital project will, I hope, further amplify and uplift disabled voices.

Related materials in the UT Libraries collection:

The Disability Studies LibGuide from UT Librarian Gina Bastone: https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/disabilitystudies

Albrecht, Gary L., Katherine D. Seelman, and Michael Bury. Handbook of Disability Studies. Sage Publications, 2001.

Disability Studies Quarterly.

Hall, Kim Q. Feminist Disability Studies. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2011.

Kapp, Steven K, ed. Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Frontline. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.