National Women’s Conference: A Retrospective

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the National Women’s Conference, held in November 1977. Over two thousand delegates representing 50 states and 6 territories, as well as 32,000 observers, gathered in Houston, Texas for the historic event, the first federally funded conference charged to assess the status of women across the country and the challenges they faced.

An exhibit celebrating the 1977 National Women's Conference opens at UH Libraries on November 5.

An exhibit celebrating the 1977 National Women’s Conference opens at UH Libraries on November 5.

In honor of this occasion, the University of Houston will host The National Women’s Conference: Taking 1977 into the 21st Century on November 6 – 7, 2017. Sponsored in part by the John P. McGovern Endowed Lectureship in Family, Health and Human Values, the conference will bring together participants of the former gathering and dynamic scholars.

Sharing Stories Challenge from Gloria Steinem | Capture and share your story about 1977.

UH Libraries Special Collections will host a related exhibit beginning November 5. The Spirit of Houston: A Retrospective 40 Years in the Making will feature materials comprising documents and ephemera from the Marjorie Randal National Women’s Conference Collection in the Carey Shuart Women’s Research Collection, and was curated by UH students in the Issues in Feminist Research course. For information on the exhibit, contact Vince Lee or Lisa Cruces.

Posted on October 11th, 2017 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | No Comments »

New Digital Research Commons Director

The University of Houston Libraries welcomes Claude Willan as the new director of the Digital Research Commons (DRC).

UH Libraries Digital Research Commons

Please describe your role at UH Libraries and discuss your professional goals and research areas.

My role is new to the Libraries. We’re bringing researchers into the library, and we are producing research from within the library. The DRC is a catalyst and hub for research and collaborative work among students, faculty, and librarians.

One of the things I discovered when I arrived at UH, to my delight, was the huge number of people who are already working in digital research in various forms across the humanities, social sciences, and the experimental sciences. My job is to bring all of them together and provide cohesion through workshops, reading groups, classes, and projects to build a wide-ranging and diverse intellectual community.

Part of my job as DRC director is to pursue my own research in 18th century British literature. I’m particularly interested in the circulation of manuscripts and in tracing where manuscripts went and who read them. I use visualization tools to do that. I’m also interested in more broadly how we came to think about literature in the ways that we do, and the role that the 18th century plays in that story.

Please share a bit about your background and interests. How do these inspire and shape your philosophy on digital humanities/digital research?

I came here with a PhD from Stanford in English literature. My journey into digital research began much earlier. As a kid I had that curiosity; I had tinkered with some basic programming. In graduate school I was drawn into this large project where I began to think about quite traditional humanistic questions while drawing on skills that I’d picked up as a teenager. We think of digital research as something new or groundbreaking, but a lot of the way we do our work is digital, and has been for decades. What’s new are the tools, innovations, and processes that have brought sea change. What we’re trying to do here is make good on the promise of computing power.

When I teach my students new tools to do text mining, data visualization, or network graphs, graduates and undergraduates find it to be an easy conceptual shift, because like me, they grew up thinking digitally in some sense. Digital research doesn’t have to be a big transformation in the way we do things; it’s more about seeing the potential for new avenues of inquiry and scaling our methods.

Please describe your first impressions of the University.

I’ve been incredibly excited to come to UH because it’s by far and away the most diverse university I’ve worked at, in terms of the student body and in the variety of research that’s going on. I’ve been lucky to meet with faculty who are engaged in unusual and exciting work. It’s clear that UH is being intentional and deliberate about where it’s going as a rigorous, energetic, and forward-thinking place, and it’s thrilling to build something new as a part of that vision.

For more information on working with the Digital Research Commons, contact Claude Willan.

Posted on October 10th, 2017 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | No Comments »

Banner Project Returns to UH Libraries

This week, visitors to the University of Houston MD Anderson Library will notice a suite of 40 banners displayed in the atrium. The Banner Project, created by Houston activist Sara Fernandez, is a pop-up exhibit featuring pivotal points in Houston’s LGBT history from the 1930s to present day.

The Banner Project is on display at UH Libraries.

The Banner Project is on display at UH Libraries.

This is the second year that UH Libraries has partnered with Hernandez to host the banners and promote awareness of diversity and inclusion. Vince Lee, UH Special Collections archivist, states that the display “encapsulates Houston’s LGBT history: individuals, events, and milestones which have been hard fought to secure recognition and rights which we all enjoy.”

The Banner Project will be on display at the MD Anderson Library through October 11, which is National Coming Out Day. Staff from Special Collections will be available with information on the LGBT History Research Collection, as well as outreach from the UH LGBTQ Resource Center.

Related: OutSmart article “The Banner Project: Teaching Local LGBT History in a Fast-Paced Society”

Posted on October 6th, 2017 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on Banner Project Returns to UH Libraries

Increase Your Health Literacy

October is Health Literacy Month and Medical Librarians Month. Rachel Helbing, health sciences librarian at the University of Houston Libraries, offers an overview of health literacy concepts to help you make more informed healthcare decisions.

Do you Google your medical symptoms and find terrifying results? Are you unsure of the best questions to ask your provider when making healthcare decisions? Are you confused by the often conflicting information in the media about health risks and breakthroughs? If so, taking a little time to improve your health literacy will be well worth the effort.

Because libraries are partners in a healthy community

Because libraries are partners in a healthy community

Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. This goes well beyond the ability to read and write. It also includes navigating the healthcare system and being able to understand numbers. Someone can be well-educated and still have low health literacy.

The skills that make up health literacy can be extremely helpful when looking up health information online. With the large number of health websites and resources in existence, it can be confusing and time-consuming to determine which are trustworthy.

The most important thing to consider when evaluating a health website is the source. Start out by looking at the domain. Websites that end in .gov and .edu are typically trustworthy, while .org and .com may be less so. Check to see if there is an easily identifiable sponsoring organization and/or author, and decide if this is someone you trust. If not, proceed with caution. One great resource is, a website produced by the National Library of Medicine which includes information that is easy to read and available in multiple languages.

The media sensationalism around medical stories can also be stress-inducing. Learning a bit about the different types of risks and risk reductions and how to calculate them will help to get past the hype and see the true meanings of the numbers being reported.

Risk is the chance that something will happen. For example, you may have a 2% chance of being diagnosed with a particular disease in the next year. Perhaps if you smoke, your risk increases from 2 to 3%.

Risk reduction is the benefit you get from a treatment or behavior. For example, if you take a particular drug, you may cut your chances from 2 to 1%. There are two ways to communicate the changes in your risk of being diagnosed with that disease in the next year: absolute risk/risk reduction and relative risk/risk reduction.

Absolute risk/risk reduction is the change in risk in fixed terms, using simple subtraction. 3 – 2 = 1%, so, if you smoke, your risk increases by 1%. 2 – 1 = 1%, so if you take the drug, your risk is reduced by 1%.

Relative risk/risk reduction is the change in risk as a proportion of the original risk. This is done by taking the absolute risk and dividing it by the original risk. In both cases, 1/2% = .5, or 50%. If you smoke, your risk increases 50%. If you take the drug, your risk decreases 50%.

While it is technically accurate to say taking the drug reduces your risk of being diagnosed with the disease in the next year by both 1 and 50%, media reports will almost always use the relative number of 50%, because it sounds more impressive. Clinicians pay more attention to the absolute number of 1%, because it is more clinically meaningful. News concerning large percentage changes in risk are probably talking about large proportions of small numbers; knowing this can help you make decisions about your health.

Another simple statistic that is helpful to know is number needed to treat, the number of people who need to have a certain treatment in order for one of them to get the desired effect. It is extremely rare for a treatment to be effective for every single person. In our example, this would be the number of people who need to take the drug in order for one of them to not be diagnosed with the disease in the next year. Many people who take the drug would never have gotten the disease anyway, and some people who take the drug will still get the disease. Number needed to treat is calculated by dividing 100 by the absolute risk reduction, so in this case it is 100/1% = 100. 100 people need to take the drug in order for one of them to not get the disease as a result of taking the drug.

Healthcare is complicated, and factors such as costs and side effects are important considerations. When your doctor presents you with risks and treatment choices, asking about the absolute risk/risk reduction and number needed to treat can help you obtain a better understanding of your prognosis and options. This, in combination with knowing where to find trustworthy health information online, will increase your health literacy and make you a more informed and empowered healthcare consumer.


Posted on October 4th, 2017 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on Increase Your Health Literacy