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University of Texas Libraries Committee


The University of Texas Libraries Committee met four times during the fall semester of 2012 and three times during the spring semester of 2013. The committee met in the conference room of the PCL. The main function of the meetings was the exchange of information and perspectives between committee members and UT Libraries administrative staff. 

At the meetings, libraries director and Vice Provost Fred Heath described the overall state of the unit as solid, albeit with some challenges. He reported that it has maintained its standing with peers, continued to invest in scholarly materials, and even developed new initiatives (which are noted below). This was done by reducing staffing levels and streamlining operations.

As in 2011-12, one of the main topics of committee discussion was the continuing budgetary challenge. Projections provided by the administrative staff indicated funding stability for the next few years. However, this could change due to factors such as increases in the costs of scholarly communications (particularly journal subscriptions). The committee appreciates the support of the University administration for scholarly communications, which are crucial to research and teaching across campus.

To enhance funding, the libraries have initiated a number of development efforts. Chief Development Officer Gregory Perrin discussed a new outreach initiative, a multi-media “roadshow” designed to present an overview of the libraries’ role in the life of a research university. The committee saw PowerPoint slides from the presentation. The libraries also held several “tailgates” at home football games and inaugurated an annual Distinguished Author Dinner (on November 8, featuring Michael White, the Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Religious Studies). The committee also discussed naming opportunities in the libraries.

Another topic addressed by the committee was learning in a digital age. The committee and Director Heath discussed the changing needs of University research and teaching and reviewed several initiatives developed by the libraries in response. For instance, we discussed the libraries’ participation in the University’s MOOC efforts via the edX platform. It was noted that MOOCs show promise but can encounter challenges, such as low completion rates. Other developments include the digital delivery of scholarly materials to individual desktops and the continued development of the University’s Institutional Repository. Director Heath also demonstrated “scoUT,” the new integrated search feature on the UT libraries website, which should allow a more effective location of electronic resources.

Administrative staff reported that over the past two years, campus libraries have experienced an average of 2.7 million total visitors per year and circulated an average of 2.25 million physical items per year. To better serve this demand, the libraries continue to adjust the services provided to these students and researchers as well as reconfigure the physical spaces of its buildings. Among the facilities and technology upgrades discussed by the committee, the PCL reference services desk and circulation desk will be combined into a single point-of-service operation during the summer of 2013. Another new initiative is the materials retrievals service, which according to the libraries website “allows patrons to request eligible materials to be retrieved from the shelf and delivered to the UT libraries checkout desk of their choice for pickup.” Student government leaders also discussed the implementation of PCL 24/5, which began as a pilot project on October 15. A future possibility is a redesign of the PCL 2nd floor as a learning commons that would include services provided by campus partners.

In response to committee questions about the new medical school, Director Heath noted that its library would likely be built on existing and expanded electronic resources, augmented with a smaller traditional physical collection. It is also likely that UT libraries will expand staff expertise in health sciences.

A number of additional topics were discussed during the year. These include the collaborative venture with Benson/LLILAS, the Nilsson Lecture in Contemporary Theater and Literature, Science Study Breaks, off-site storage, and A Viva Voz. These efforts spotlight University research strengths, underscore the relationship between libraries and research, engage the broader community in the results of research activities, and support the increasingly collaborative nature of research. In addition, Linda Abbey (events and external relations officer) discussed the READ poster initiative. In conjunction with the American Library Association’s READ initiative, libraries posters were developed with University athletics and development featuring Bevo and Hook ‘Em. Sets of the four posters were donated to each of the 655 schools in Central Texas; they are designed to encourage student reading. The topic of potential partnerships between the libraries and the University of Texas Press was also raised; we anticipate that it will be discussed in 2013-14.

Lastly, Michael Winship was elected committee chair for 2013-14.

David Leal, chair