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Notes from Elliott Shore’s Listening Tour: Texas

University of Texas at Austin, Perry-Castañeda Library

ARL executive director Elliott Shore has embarked on a “listening tour” of ARL member libraries. This is the fourth in a series of informal reports from his visits.

Last week my listening tour of ARL member libraries took me to four of our five Texas members while I was in the south-central part of the state for the CNI Membership Meeting. I visited UT Austin, Texas A&M, the University of Houston, and Rice University.

At UT Austin, Fred Heath introduced me to Charles Hale, from whom I learned about UT’s interdisciplinary Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. They’re engaged in an innovative program of working with folks in the southern hemisphere on an innovative digitization partnership. And the library’s licensing coordinator, Alexia Thompson-Young, shared her thoughts about how we develop new metrics for things like efficiency and cost avoidance.

At Texas A&M, David Carlson related the recent excitement of hosting George R. R. Martin, author of the sci-fi novels that inspired the HBO series Game of Thrones. The library has been the repository for his work since 1993, a relationship that started when Martin attended the AggieCon sci-fi convention on campus in the late ‘80s. There was a lot of energy on the 52,000-student campus and I had some lively exchanges with the library staff, including a conversation about the question of hybridity and credentialing in libraries with metadata librarian Sarah Potvin. I met with the provost and with the CIO, with whom the library has a strong working relationship and enjoys support of such projects as DPN.

At the University of Houston, Dana Rooks gave me a tour of the library’s vibrant main building filled with innovative spaces. UH hosted the largest gathering of staff on my tour so far—my 90-minute conversation with them could have continued much longer. We discussed the legacy of 19th-century thinking that is ubiquitous in higher ed and how it informs and sometime limits how we can proceed. We talked again at UH about something that has been on the minds of most of the staff that I have met in this series of visits—more programming directed towards building leadership skills for librarians in mid-career.

At Rice, Sara Lowman pointed out Mike Stilkey’s book sculptures that tie the spaces in the library together—stacks of bound books, on the spines and covers of which the artist painted wild animals. We talked about the innovative work Geneva Henry is doing as director of the library’s Digital Scholarship Services: I was able to attend a seminar on the use of visualization software. The meeting with the staff was punctuated with thoughtful comments about organizational change.

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