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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, many in the Latinx community are gearing up to celebrate both Christmas as well as Las Posadas. A lesser known celebratory act performed during the holiday season are the plays known as pastorelas. Pastorelas can be traced back to the 16th Century when Franciscan monks leveraged the strong artistic culture of the Mexica people in Tenochtitlan to evangelize them by incorporating Christian ideals into their performance tradition.
Historically, pastorelas have told the story of how Satan attempted to thwart the travels of the shepherds following the Star of Bethlehem in search of the baby Jesus. While pastorelas have maintained the general premise of good vs. evil, the roles of what constitutes both the good and the evil have changed to encompass contemporary issues that have faced the Latinx communities. Immigration, racism, politics, and a plethora of other topics have been incorporated into pastorelas to transmit opinions and ideas to audiences, both religious and secular.
Please visit the digital exhibit to see the beautiful illustrations in “el Triunfo” as well as some of the other spectacular rare books available to view from the Benson Collection. Also, peruse Zayas’ entire book, which has been digitized and can be viewed at Texas ScholarWorks.
Gilbert Borrego is the Digital Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks, UT’s institutional repository (IR).
The recent succession of weather events provided a rather inauspicious beginning to the new semester, though the main campus and our local branches have been spared all but an abundance of rain. Our family and friends along the coast, however, weren’t so lucky.
For those who attempt to recall the list of branch locations overseen by the UT Libraries, it’s not uncommon to overlook the one library that doesn’t reside in Austin, but rather on a usually pastoral stretch of sand a few blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. The Marine Science Library serves the faculty and researchers at UT’s Marine Science Institute (MSI) in Port Aransas, which is just across the bay from Rockport, Texas — a city that was the focal point for much of the news coverage surrounding the arrival of Hurricane Harvey on Friday, August 25. Port Aransas actually took a direct hit from Harvey and suffered catastrophic damage, which was also visited upon the MSI, including the building where the library is located.
As a matter of course, the Libraries have a Collections Emergency Team composed of relevant administrators, dedicated facility staffers and outstanding preservation experts, who jump to action in the event of a threat to the resources or infrastructure of the libraries. With any storm of Harvey’s magnitude and destructive impact, staff are paying close attention and preparing for potential issues, but in the case of this hurricane and the position of its landfall, most proactive considerations gave way to planning how to react to whatever damage would inevitably be wrought upon the library and its collections.
Immediately in the wake of the storm, the island and the surrounding areas lost power and, subsequently, most communications were sporadic at best. It wasn’t until Sunday that the Libraries became aware of the extent of damage to MSI, but without specific information about the library, so staff began to prepare for the worst possibilities. Liz DeHart, the Libraries’ liaison at MSL, was contending with the personal effects of Harvey and unable to get to the library, and administrators at MSL were prioritizing assessment of the impact on research assets and infrastructure at the campus, which had suffered severe damage. Representatives from the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) in Austin became the conduits for information about the situation on the ground, and eventually an initial assessment was returned suggesting that the damage to the library was hopeful, with wet floors, but dry books — almost miraculous, since the same building that contained the library had extensive roof damage, flooding and blown out windows. But there was also no air conditioning or power, and as one might imagine, paper doesn’t fare well to exposure to the balmy coastal climate of late summer. As much as the team wanted to rush to the coast on a rescue mission, widespread destruction, impassable roads and a moratorium on travel to the island by non-residents made that seem like an impossibility.
By Wednesday, August 30 — the first full day of the fall semester — staff had worked with CNS to obtain permission for a response team to travel to Port Aransas to assess damage and hopefully, recover the most valuable of the close to $9,000,000 worth of collections, but there was a caveat: they had one day to do it.
A team of Geoff Bahre (Manager), Matt McGuire and Bill Gannon from the Facilities & AV unit along with Joey Marez, a library specialist from the Preservation department, immediately began preparations for all contingencies that could be imagined on a first trip into a storm disaster zone: food, water, tools and equipment, supplies for any mechanical trouble. And gas.
The window was tight, so the team left Austin at 3:30 a.m. on Friday, September 1, agreeing to make sure they refilled fuel on the south side of San Antonio, but discovered that the rush on gas stations had already drained supplies when they stopped to refuel. A fortunate encounter with a kind soul at a local pancake house directed the team to a station with adequate fuel supplies, and the team continued its journey to the coast.
Because the ferry wasn’t yet operational, the team had to travel through Corpus Christi and up the length of Mustang Island to reach Port Aransas in the mid-morning hours of Friday.
Upon arrival, an initial assessment verified earlier information about the state of the library — some wet flooring, but the books were dry, and no apparent mold — and even some welcome evidence that local administrators at MSI had taken measures to mitigate environmental threats with the arrival of fans and dehumidifiers that were powered by portable generators.
The environment in the library, nonetheless, wasn’t at an optimum stability, so the team began to identify items that they would return to Austin for temporary safekeeping and care. Thanks to earlier efforts to identify salvage priorities, the team was charged with bringing back 900 special collection items, and due to conservative estimation, were able to also rescue additional theses, dissertations and maps.
By 8 p.m. that evening, the team had returned to Austin with the most valuable resources from the MSL in tow. The following week, MSL staffer Marg Larsen relocated to Austin temporarily due to the storm, and so was available to process and assist in storing the rescued materials in the Collections Deposit Library at UT to await their inevitable return to their home in Port Aransas.
There are currently no firm timelines for recovery and reopening of the Institute or the Library, but as with a Gulf hurricane or other natural and unnatural disasters, we’ll be prepared when the time comes.
It’s easy to imagine that a library is a simple machine where books fall onto a shelf and then into hands before returning to the shelf again, uncomplicated by the affairs and events beyond its doors and walls. But out of sight and mind, there are an army of loyal people working to build, protect, rescue and share our body of collective knowledge, both in the face of an average day or during extraordinary times.
As the university wraps up this year’s Fleur Cowles Symposium “Gabriel García Márquez: His Life and Legacy,” it’s worth noting the Libraries (specifically the Benson Latin American Collection and LLILAS Benson) involvement in support of the noted Colombian author’s archive at the Harry Ransom Center.
The Benson’s Mexican materials bibliographer Jose Montelongo accompanied Ransom Center director Stephen Ennis on a trip to Mexico City, where García Márquez spent his final years, to review the archive materials, and upon the announcement of the acquisition, Montelongo responded to media inquiriesproviding perspectives on the importance of the archive to the university and researchers, and on the author’s station in the literary canon.
As the premiere Latin American special collection in the western hemisphere, the Benson will provide the complementary resources and support for researchers who come to Austin to utilize the García Márquez archive, further strengthening the partnership between the two institutions.
Mark Goodwin is a project assistant for HeadsUpGuys and student librarian in the Music, Art and Architecture Library at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He undertook a practicum with Music Librarian David Hunter of the Fine Arts Library at UT this spring. He has graciously provided the following reflections on his time in Austin.
For my two-week practicum, I was extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to work under Music Librarian and Musicologist Dr. David Hunter at the Fine Arts Library at the University of Texas in Austin. My time there resulted in profound growth on both a professional and personal level.
Dr. Hunter was an outstanding mentor. He has a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge relating to the profession and was more than willing to share this wealth of experience with me. He was also exceptionally kind and constantly made sure I was getting the most out of my time, even going above an beyond my role in the library to inform me of events occurring throughout the city. In terms of my role, Dr. Hunter had me take on an assistant-type position in which I shadowed him and helped with his daily duties. This was key to making the experience an invaluable one for me, and I am extremely grateful to Dr. Hunter for giving me this role. Continue reading Reflections on a Practicum→
The Libraries have fired up another round of the LibQUAL+ survey hoping to get some solid feedback on the quality of service around the branches.
This will be the eighth time we’ve randomly queried students and faculty about their perceptions of resources, collections, service, facilities and the like, and the program has been ramped up this year in order to generate higher response rates. We’ve scaled to the LibQUAL Lite version of the online survey to keep it short and simple; the current version takes about 5 minutes to complete, hitting on a smaller sample of the core questions.
We’re also trying to get in front of people with signage in conspicuous locations, and offering some carrots to the student participants in the way of automatic entry – upon completion of the survey – into drawings for one of two 16GB Apple iPads or an Amazon Kindle. How’s that for motivation?
Invitations to 4,800 current students and 1,200 faculty went out last week and the survey ends April 16, so if you’re here at the University of Texas and think you might have overlooked the initial solicitation, it might be worth taking a moment to check. This minute imposition is one of the primary ways we get real, quantifiable data directly from our users regarding the ways we can improve the Libraries for everyone, so let your voice be heard.
Making a wish is easy, but getting it fulfilled takes…well it takes you!
The University of Texas Libraries invites you to help us build our library collection by picking an item on our online wish list.
I talk with people all the time about supporting our library. Many of them feel that libraries are very important, but they never think to put their money where their passion is. And when they do they feel that their $150, $400 or $ 1,000 is not really enough to make a difference in the lives of our students and faculty.
The truth is that $150 does make a difference. In the next year, the University of Texas Libraries will add more than 100,000 books to its collection, which will support the learning, research and knowledge of our 50,000 students and Continue reading Libraries launch online wish list→