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.
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.
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.
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.
lorraine j. haricombe | Vice Provost and Director, UT Libraries, University of Texas, Austin.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
The Perry-Castañeda Library is named for two former University professors, Ervin Sewell Perry and Carlos Eduardo Castañeda.
Ervin Sewell Perry 1935-1970
Ervin S. Perry, the first African American to be appointed to the academic rank of professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was an associate professor of civil engineering at the time of his death in 1970. He received the M.S. degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1961 and the Ph.D. in civil engineering from the university in 1964, working in the areas of materials science and structural mechanics. Before his untimely death, Dr. Perry was a prominent figure in engineering. In 1970, he was named to receive the National Society of Professional Engineers’ first “Young Engineer of the Year Award.” He had been similarly honored at state and county levels by the Texas Society of Professional Engineers.
Ervin Perry was graduated from Prairie View A & M University in May 1956 with a B.S. in civil engineering and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After two years of military service, he taught at Southern University in Baton Rouge before deciding to pursue graduate work. He first came to the University of Texas at Austin in the summer of 1959 when he entered the graduate school to study civil engineering. He took a brief hiatus from his studies to serve on the engineering faculty at Prairie View A & M University. From the summer of 1960 until December of 1970, Ervin Perry was connected in some way with the university and brought distinction to himself and his institution.
He was awarded the M.S. in civil engineering in June 1961; he chose the title, Bond Stress Distribution in Concrete Beams and Eccentric Pullout Specimens, for his master’s thesis. Three years later in May 1964, Perry was awarded his Ph.D. His dissertation, A Study of Dynamically Loaded Composite Members, described his research in the areas of materials science and structural mechanics.
Ervin Sewell Perry was born on a farm in Coldspring, San Jacinto County, Texas, in 1935, a twin son of Willie and Edna Perry. He grew up with four sisters and a twin brother. The close-knit family was inspired by their father and schoolteacher mother to move toward higher education: all of the Perry children hold degrees from Prairie View A & M University, where their mother attended school.
Headlines over the state carried the news when Ervin S. Perry was named assistant professor of civil engineering in the Fall of 1964, the first African American ever appointed to this level of academic rank at the University of Texas at Austin. Widely sought by other top-ranked colleges, Perry elected to stay in Austin and to make noteworthy contributions to his own university.
Early in 1970 Dr. Perry became ill and went to M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston for treatment. He resumed his teaching later in the year, but illness recurred that fall in Berlin, Germany, where he was representing the university at an international engineering conference, presenting papers based on his research on the basic properties of concrete. Ervin S. Perry died at the age of 34 in December 1970.
Carlos E. Castañeda played a central role in the early development of the Benson Latin American Collection, which is considered one of the world’s foremost repositories of Latin American materials. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Texas at Austin where he earned the B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees. Dr. Castañeda was librarian of the Latin American Collection from 1927 until 1946 and is given principal credit for acquiring the incomparable private collection of Garcia Icazbalceta of Mexico. Recognized as an authority on the early history of Mexico and Texas, Dr. Castañeda served as a part-time associate professor of history from 1936 to 1946, when he was named professor of Latin American history, a position he continued until his death in 1958.
Carlos Castañeda was born in Camargo, Mexico, in 1896. He attended schools in Matamoros until the sixth grade when his family moved to Brownsville. He quickly learned English and was graduated with highest honors from Brownsville High School in 1916. Orphaned at the age of fourteen, young Carlos assumed the responsibility for himself and his four unmarried sisters. After graduation he taught in a school at Las Palmas.
Castañeda enrolled in the University in 1917 as a student of engineering and took a part-time job working for Dr. Eugene C. Barker in the History Department. This work with Dr. Barker led Castañeda to discover history and to change his major. He was graduated with an A.B. in history in 1921 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation he taught in the public schools of Beaumont and San Antonio before returning to the University of Texas at Austin to work on his M.A., which he completed in 1923. His master’s thesis was titled A Report on the Spanish Archives in San Antonio, Texas .
Carlos Castañeda was an associate professor of Spanish at the College of William and Mary from 1923 to 1927. He returned to the University of Texas at Austin and was named librarian of the Genaro García Collection, now the Benson Latin American Collection, in 1927. He retained this association while serving as associate professor of history from 1939 until 1946 and developed that collection into one of the most distinguished in the United States.
Castañeda was granted his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1932. His dissertation, Morfi’s History of Texas, is a critical edition from an original manuscript by Fr. Juan Augustin Morfi that Dr. Castañeda discovered within the archives of the convent of San Francisco el Grande in the National Library of Mexico. In 1946 he was named professor of Latin American history, a position he continued until his death in 1958.
We hope you had an exciting and/or restful summer reprieve, with time to reflect on your successes so far, and to look ahead to the coming academic year.
We’re feeling optimistic about the ongoing reset after our experiences with the health crisis, and the work of UT Libraries is returning to a sense of normalcy and stability that begins to recall its former state.
We have learned much in the past few years, and now that we are feeling more confident in the outlook, we’ve begun to apply that knowledge to our planning for the future. Much of this work revolves around the different ways in which people learned to use libraries during the pandemic when operations moved to remote then hybrid environments, and the residual practices that users developed out of that experience. But a key area to which we have committed our efforts is one that found currency during the crisis and was motivated by social upheavals and the subsequent reflective period that occurred as a result.
The concept of Inclusion/Diversity/Equity/Accessibility – IDEA in our work, but recognizable elsewhere as components of DEI – has become a priority for the Libraries. Our staff committed extraordinary effort and time to reviewing our systems and developing an IDEA implementation plan for beginning the ongoing work of integrating IDEA concepts into the normal operations and systems of this institution. We felt this work was such an imperative that we began work before we could feel the ground settle beneath our feet, and we know that moving forward, our recovered stability will help to advance at a greater pace to address inequities that have gone too long overlooked.
This work cannot be ours alone, though. As always, we can only succeed in partnership with our users, advocates and friends. We need praise and recognition when we are making progress, but also criticism and accountability when we fall short. This long journey has begun, and we ask that you accompany us and help navigate these Libraries towards its best future.
We wish you the best for the coming year, and brighter days ahead.
UT Libraries is excited to announce that Texas ScholarWorks (TSW) has crossed the 100,000 item threshold!
The 100,000th item to be added was the minutes from a meeting of Student Government on May 3rd, 1988. This item is part of a larger collection of over 3,000 documents related to UT Student Government. Gilbert Borrego, Digital Repository Specialist, has been managing this long-term project in cooperation with Student Government.
Texas ScholarWorks (formerly the University of Texas Digital Repository) was created to provide open, online access to the products of the University’s research and scholarship, preserve these works for future generations, promote new models of scholarly communication and deepen community understanding of the value of higher education. TSW went into production in September 2008, and the process of making content available online has been a team project from the start. The launch of TSW was the work of Project Institutional Repository Implementation (IRI) which started in early 2008. Over the course of approximately one year, the Project IRI team contributed 4,505 hours of work towards the launch and promotion of TSW. At the conclusion of the project in January 2009 there were 5,961 items in TSW.
The current TSW team includes our Digital Repository Specialist, Head of Scholarly Communications, a student worker, several catalogers, staff in digitization, librarians who refer faculty and students to us, and staff at Texas Digital Library who host TSW.
It’s really exciting to see the usage of resources shared in TSW. As of earlier this month, there have been over 39,000,000 total downloads of TSW materials. Top countries using TSW materials include:
We know how much amazing research and scholarship is happening at UT Austin, and being able to offer remote access to that content is really important. We’ve gotten so many comments from researchers around the world who have found relevant materials in TSW and are thankful for online access. We’ve also gotten rave reviews from faculty and staff on campus who have shared their research in TSW and seen immediate results.
Thank you so very much. I have already downloaded the dissertation and love being able to read it here at home!
You ROCK! Dr. [redacted] was thrilled to get access to [redacted] thesis. Many thanks to you and your team for keeping us in the hopper while traversing all things COVID. It was greatly appreciated.
Thanks for your help in finding this paper. In these Covid times, lots of groups, including my local library, have discontinued research services.
Thanks a lot. It really means a great deal to me.
I am extremely grateful! Thank you for acting so quickly. You have brightened my day.
We are so excited—I uploaded the report to TSW yesterday and it already has 25K views!
We are so thankful to everyone who has contributed to the success of TSW: the Project IRI team, current UT Libraries staff working on TSW, staff, faculty, and students at UT who upload their research, and our partners at Texas Digital Library for helping us reach this impressive milestone! Here’s to the next 100,000!
With the arrival of Vice Provost and Director Lorraine Haricombe, the Libraries leaned into Open Access as a strategy for equitable access to resources and as a budgetary countermeasure in a the face of skyrocketing publishing costs. A facet of the work that has gotten extra attention is Open Educational Resources – OERs – defined by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition as “teaching, learning and research resources released under an open license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OERs can be textbooks, full courses, lesson plans, videos, tests, software, or any other tool, material, or technique that supports access to knowledge.”
In the fall of 2019, the Tocker Foundationprovided $355,000 for a collaborative project between the UT Libraries, the Austin Public Library (APL) and Austin Community College (ACC) to promote the adoption, development and distribution of OERs. Funding from the gift subsidized the hiring of a dedicated librarian to develop and execute a plan for broad adoption of OERs at UT, as well as for the award of open education grants, education and training on OERs and joint promotion of open education with partner institutions APL and ACC.
In fall 2020, the Libraries hired Ashley Morrison – a former UT iSchool alum and GRA who had landed a permanent position at the North Carolina State University Library, but whose interest in open education called her back to Austin – to become the first Tocker Open Education Librarian at the university.
A little over a year after pioneering the position at UT, Ashley talks with us about her love of open access and OERs, the foundation she’s building and perceptions of the enterprise so far.
Tex Libris: How did you become interested in Open Access and OERs?
Ashley Morrison: I first learned about open access and open education as movements in graduate school, but conceptually, democratized access to and production of knowledge is something that always spoke to me (and was a big part of why I wanted to become a librarian!). As a first-generation college student who was responsible for most of the cost of my education, it’s easy to understand the power and potential of OER to transform course material access and have a positive impact on the financial well-being of students. While textbooks and course materials are just one factor contributing to the rising expense of higher education, it is a tangible and addressable obstacle through the availability and adoption of OER and other OA materials.
TL: What is your assessment of the OER landscape at UT? In what ways can OERs benefit students/faculty/researchers at the university?
AM: There is a small but growing community of UT instructors, staff, and students who already use and advocate for the adoption of OER, and they are my partners in driving awareness of OER on campus. Through my personal interactions and through more scaled survey-based outreach, we know that faculty at UT are largely receptive and willing to consider OER as required course materials. We also know that they often need more support to make such a big change to their curriculum, and I love being able to offer some of that support as they search for, evaluate, and adapt OER for use in their classrooms.
The most obvious benefit of OER for students, and what gets most people interested in OER, is the eliminated or significantly reduced financial barrier to access course materials. Most OER is available at no cost, and printed materials are generally available at the cost to produce them. But what I’ve heard others say and I definitely observe to be true is that with OER, you come for the free access, but you stay for the pedagogy. The open licenses conferred to OER by their creators allow anyone who uses them to make copies and customize the resources freely. That means they can be translated into new languages, modified to better reflect the student body of a particular institution or classroom, updated with new research or case studies, and more. It also enables faculty to engage students as editors and creators in the production of OER. Students can contribute to open textbooks, create open websites, and more. Students are not just knowledge consumers but knowledge creators, and that’s a really transformative concept for many of them.
TL: What projects have you undertaken since you took on the job?
AM: This year has been a busy one! There are a few projects that have been especially fulfilling, including a partnership between UT Libraries and students in Natural Sciences Council and the Senate of College Councils that produced our first faculty recognition program, the Affordable Education Champions. Through this campaign, we invite the student body to nominate faculty whose choices to assign free or low-cost materials have had a real impact on them.
I also really enjoyed working with colleagues from the OER Working Group to launch our first OER-focused instructor learning community, with grant funding from the Faculty Innovation Center providing small stipends to our participants. We spent six weeks with the ten selected instructors discussing OER and other affordable course materials as tools to foster inclusion in their classrooms, and we hope to offer more communities like this in the future.
Finally, one I’m very excited about this year is the Open Education Fellows pilot program. This program is designed to offer our small cohort of faculty fellows financial and programmatic support in their effort to adopt or adapt existing OER or develop new resources to fill gaps in the OER landscape.
TL: What sort of reception have you received from potential stakeholders on campus?
AM: It’s been a very encouraging reception! From students to staff to faculty to administration, open education is generally received with curiosity and interest. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some concerns expressed, but most stakeholders I’ve spoken with are open to learning more about the financial and pedagogical benefits of using OER in the classroom.
TL: Do you coordinate with institutions outside of UT? If so, how does that influence your local strategy?
AM: Yes! I’m very lucky that the open education community actively seeks collaboration, which makes a lot of sense given that connection is a principle of open education. I am regularly in touch with a small group of librarians called the OER Ambassadors, which is a program facilitated by Texas Digital Library. More recently, I’ve also helped convened an informal group of practitioners across the UT System, which aligns strategically with the Momentum on OER (MOER) effort sponsored by the System. Each of these groups is really valuable because they give me a chance to connect with colleagues doing similar work, though each of our OER programs may be in different stages of maturity. I learn a lot from hearing what’s worked well for others, what’s been challenging, and how they’re implementing best practices and in some cases mandates from legislation related to OER. These colleagues are incredibly generous, and their insights have directly informed the development of many of our OER programs at UT.
TL: How did the health crisis impact your work? You came on in the middle of the pandemic, at a time when OERs would’ve been really beneficial, but I imagine that you were also limited in opportunities to hit the ground and start building networks.
AM: While the pandemic did inhibit my ability to knock on doors and host physical programming that was central to UT’s OER advocacy efforts in previous years, my experience was that it engendered a great sense of empathy between faculty and students that opened them up to conversations about OER in a way that they may not have been before the pandemic. There is a heightened sense of awareness of the struggles we’re each facing right now, and for many members of our UT community and their families, financial vulnerability has been a really evident challenge. I have seen faculty go to great lengths to mitigate any of the struggles that they can for their students – from being more flexible about assignment deadlines to revising testing procedures to reevaluating course materials that cause financial burdens for some students. While faculty continue to have so many of their own challenges to address during this health crisis, I have seen them prioritize the well-being of their students repeatedly. OER has been one tool for doing this.
TL: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve recognized since you arrived? What’s the biggest opportunity?
AM: One of the biggest challenges I’ve observed is that while so many faculty are interested in using OER, the right OER isn’t there for every class just yet. This especially comes up in my conversations and searches with faculty teaching upper-division courses. It’s not surprising since most of the large-scale, funded OER projects are aimed at introductory level courses, but it’s still disappointing when someone is really excited about adopting OER and just can’t find what they need. In those cases, we explore other free and affordable options, like searching UT Libraries’ vast collections to identify licensed materials that would be free for students to access. These faculty are also often interested in developing their own OER to address these gaps in content, which I see as one of UT’s greatest opportunities to impact not only our students but anyone, anywhere who wants to learn. However, developing OER takes a lot of time that our faculty often don’t have, and the work is not always recognized through the existing reward structures of the university (such as promotion or tenure). The Open Education Fellows pilot program is our first step to seeing what it would take to support faculty authors and OER publishing projects, and I’m very excited to learn and identify opportunities to scale that program in the future. With funding, I’m optimistic that we can enable UT community members to create more open, public knowledge.
TL: What do you hope to achieve in the short-term – next couple of years – and what about the long-term?
AM: I mentioned already my hopes for scaling OER adoption and development through the Open Education Fellows program, but beyond that, another short-term goal I have is to support faculty who are interested in assessing the impact of adopting OER and other free resources in their classrooms. Studies outside of our institution overwhelmingly show that students enrolled in courses using OER perform as well or better than students enrolled in courses using commercial textbooks. Some studies are even able to demonstrate that the impact to outcomes like final grades are outsized for historically underserved groups like first-generation students, students with financial need, and BIPOC students. I’m eager to partner with faculty interested in replicating or expanding on these studies and contributing to the scholarship of teaching.
A longer-term goal is really more about a cultural shift, and I believe we’re at the start of it now. I want OER (and affordability, more generally), to be a key part of the University’s strategic priorities. It makes sense to have the UT Libraries guide our campus OER efforts as a thought leader and programmatic coordinator, but open education won’t be a formidable movement on campus without administrative support outside the Libraries. It is critical, for example, that faculty contributions related to OER – adopting, adapting, developing, and co-creating with students – are formally recognized and valued in promotion and tenure guidelines. I am optimistic that the work of the Sustainable Open Scholarship Working Group will advance this conversation and lead to more institutional support for OER, but the shift we need will take time at a university of our size.
TL: Given user familiarity with traditional publishing, how do you change minds about the fairly novel concept of OERs?
AM: It’s definitely easy to think of OER as the wild west of publishing – no peer review, no quality control, no graphic design value. But that’s not the case! So far, the most effective way to ease minds has been to actually show people high-quality examples of OER in the wild. I often point to examples from OpenStax, though they aren’t the only publisher of beautifully-produced, peer-reviewed OER with the ancillary materials that instructors often value. (And to be clear, not all OER is like this, just as not every commercial textbook is.) The point is that OER can look a lot like the proprietary textbooks they may already be using, and doing hands-on exploration is the only way to determine if any kind of course material is right for you, whether it’s published openly or commercially.
The Benson Latin American Collection dressed up and campus lit up for the opening of the newly-named Ann Hartness Reading Room.
On Thursday, March 24, the Benson hosted a dedication ceremony for the renovated space in recognition of former head librarian Ann Hartness, who is renowned for her 38-year career at the Benson and her contributions to Brazilian studies. The space naming is the result of a generous gift by Hartness’s son Jonathan Graham and daughter-in-law and Elizabeth Ulmer, who are both graduates of UT’s School of Law,
The couple is directing a portion of their gift to establish the Jonathan Graham and Elizabeth Ulmer Fund for Library Materials on Brazil, an endowment to enhance the Benson’s Brazilian studies collection. The remainder of their gift will match other donors’ gifts to new or established endowments in any area at the Benson.
“My mother raised three boys in two different countries, moving back and forth while balancing her family, her education and her work,” says, Graham. “I’m just so proud of her, because when I think of the arc of her life, at a time when women from her background essentially followed their husbands, she made her own very distinctive career.”
The reopening of the Hartness Reading Room extends the Centennial Celebration of the Benson, which began last year. In honor of the Benson centenary and the occasion of the reopening, the UT Tower was lighted orange.
Hartness joined the Benson in 1970, working as a cataloger of Latin American periodicals. She helped with the transition as libraries moved towards digital services and resources, and eventually worked her way up to director. Throughout her tenure, she increased the depth and breadth of the library’s holdings in Brazilian materials. She retired in 2008 at age 73.
“Ann Hartness is synonymous with Brazilian collections at the Benson,” says Benson Director Melissa Guy. “It was through her tenacity, in-depth knowledge, and personal relationships that the library built a strong foundation for the study of Brazil at The University of Texas at Austin.”
The Benson’s main reading room is frequented by students, faculty and scholars from around the world, and it is the very room where Jon Graham spent countless hours studying as a teen and later as a Texas Law student.
“It was a refuge to study in one of the graduate student carrels in the Benson Collection. It was a quiet place to read, wander and collect my thoughts. This is a perfect way to honor my mother,” he says.
To learn more about the Jonathan Graham and Elizabeth Ulmer Fund for Library Materials on Brazil and other giving opportunities at the Benson Latin American Collection, contact Hannah Roberts at email@example.com.
When walking through the doors of the colloquially-referred-to PCL, there’s a tendency to overlook the actual name of the building. It’s official designation – the Perry-Castañeda Library – is named for two former University professors and prominent historical figures, Ervin S. Perry and Carlos E. Castañeda.
Ervin Sewell Perry is the first African American to be appointed to the academic rank of professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He was an associate professor of civil engineering at the time of his death in 1970.
Perry was born on a farm in Coldspring, San Jacinto County, Texas, in 1935, a twin son of Willie and Edna Perry. He grew up with four sisters and a twin brother. The close-knit family was inspired by their father and schoolteacher mother to move toward higher education: all of the Perry children hold degrees from Prairie View A & M University, where their mother attended school.
Perry graduated from Prairie View A & M University in May 1956 with a B.S. in civil engineering and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After two years of military service, he taught at Southern University in Baton Rouge before deciding to pursue graduate work. He first came to the University of Texas at Austin in the summer of 1959 when he entered the graduate school to study civil engineering. He took a brief hiatus from his studies to serve on the engineering faculty at Prairie View A & M University.
He was awarded the M.S. in civil engineering in June 1961; he chose the title, Bond Stress Distribution in Concrete Beams and Eccentric Pullout Specimens, for his master’s thesis. Three years later in May 1964, Perry was awarded his Ph.D. His dissertation, A Study of Dynamically Loaded Composite Members, described his research in the areas of materials science and structural mechanics. From the summer of 1960 until December of 1970, Ervin Perry was connected in some way with the university and brought distinction to himself and his institution.
Early in 1970 Dr. Perry became ill and went to M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston for treatment. He resumed his teaching later in the year, but illness recurred that fall in Berlin, Germany, where he was representing the university at an international engineering conference, presenting papers based on his research on the basic properties of concrete. In 1970, he was named to receive the National Society of Professional Engineers’ first “Young Engineer of the Year Award.” He had been similarly honored at state and county levels by the Texas Society of Professional Engineers.
Ervin S. Perry died at the age of 34 in December 1970.
Get a personal perspective on Dr. Perry presented by his nephew, Gene Locke, to the University of Texas Black Alumni Network at their Legacy Dinner on September 8, 2017, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Perry-Castañeda Library.“On Ervin Perry’s Legacy.”