All posts by Lisa German

Forging Ahead

It’s been a wonderful and busy summer, and we at the University of Houston look forward to the start of the fall semester when the campus will be bustling with energy and excitement. In the whirlwind of activity that has been my first year at UH Libraries, I’ve taken a few moments to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished, in anticipation of even greater things on the horizon.

Participating in the UH Center for Diversity and Inclusion's #IAMUH campaign.
Participating in the UH Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s #IAMUH campaign.

Our Strategic Planning Implementation Executive Team has been working to establish standards and provide guidance on the very complex process of realizing the bold and ambitious Strategic Plan goals. Our vision is a community nurtured by curiosity and creativity that drives lifelong learning and scholarship, and we are proud and honored to enact initiatives in partnership with our colleagues on campus and in the community that serve the research and educational needs of our students and faculty.

With Mike Furlough of HathiTrust at the first Libraries Rising: Enriching Conversations event.
With Mike Furlough of HathiTrust at the first Libraries Rising: Enriching Conversations event.

I was very pleased to learn that the UH Libraries has advanced to number 65 in the recently released rankings from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and to 34th among US public university libraries. This move is a testament to the incredible support that we’ve received from the University, particularly from the Office of the Provost, and with this advocacy, we are able to deliver top-tier resources and services to the UH community and scholars worldwide.

Reading at the first UH African American Read-In.
Reading at the first UH African American Read-In.

A new UH tradition, the Promotion and Tenure Recognition Program, has been created to honor faculty and librarians who have recently been promoted or achieved tenure. The Libraries, in partnership with the Office of Provost, celebrates the accomplishments of these individuals by placing a special book of their choice in our catalog, serving as an enduring tribute to excellence in scholarship. A spin-off program, the UH READ Campaign, features newly promoted and/or tenured faculty and librarians with their book selections, and is prominently displayed in the MD Anderson Library.

With UH NSM Dean Dan Wells at a Downton Abbey-themed event.
With UH NSM Dean Dan Wells at a Downton Abbey-themed event.

Two of our core values are ‘partnerships and collaboration’ and ‘curiosity and experimentation.’ We are thrilled to announce the development of a new makerspace in the MD Anderson Library with our campus partners in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, an initiative that embodies those key values. Plans are underway for the centrally located, highly accessible, and specially equipped area that will bring low-power electronics, embedded computing, signal processing, sensors and low-power actuators to students in every discipline across campus. ­­

With the Outstanding Group Award recipients at the Staff Awards ceremony.
With the Outstanding Group Award recipients at the Staff Awards ceremony.

And that’s only the beginning! We’re gaining momentum as we approach a fresh academic year, full of vibrant opportunity. Stay tuned as we move onward, forward, and upward! Thank you for your support and partnership!

Planning, Paws, and Pancakes

As the semester comes to a close, I’ve spent some time reflecting on my first semester at the University of Houston. I am so thrilled at all we have accomplished in a few short months, and excited to think about what lies ahead. We are moving forward and onward, and the librarians, staff, and I are doing it together in support of the goals of this great university.

We are embracing strategic planning in the University Libraries with energy and excitement. We are meeting with people – students, faculty, research deans and other groups from across the campus so that we can get wide input from a cross section of our university. We have received input from our librarians and staff, and we collected over a thousand comments that we’re coding and analyzing. Our plan will be completed this spring. It will be both visionary and bold, and it will propel this library toward 2020 and beyond. I am so proud of everyone who is contributing to our plan and its goals. Our libraries are a tremendous resource for the UH community, and we’re proud of our collaborations with colleagues and other campus units to further the educational mission of our students.

We have added several wonderful collections to our Special Collections this fall. One I’d like to highlight is the Emilio R. Ypiñia Journal collection that is a manuscript collection consisting of five distinct journals authored by Emilio R. Ypiñia (1905-1936). A self-educated Mexican national born in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes, Mexico, Ypiñia immigrated to Houston, Texas, following the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Each volume contains approximately 100 pages and 10-20 poems, essays, and journal entries authored throughout the 1930s, the bulk in 1933. We’re digitizing his journals so that they can be used by scholars worldwide.

This fall was “fun filled and action packed” in the words of associate dean John Lehner. We taught classes, hosted programs, and helped people get to the resources they need. We hosted Finals Mania which was attended by more students than ever, a wonderful night featuring the UH band, cheerleaders, and mascots Sasha and Shasta. And of course, we can’t forget the thousands of pancakes we served.

I got a chance to visit with our students who loved having stress relief from their finals. Students also got a chance to pet therapy dogs who help people relax, and to take a selfie with President Khator. It was wonderful to see so many units on campus volunteering during Finals Mania – it’s a great example of the UH community.

On behalf of all my colleagues at the University Libraries, we say “happy holidays and a happy new year.”

A Vision for the Libraries

One of the things that leaders get asked time and time again is “What’s your vision?” I’ve been here just two months, and I’ve spoken about my vision a lot in discussions with my fellow deans. Below is a flavor of what I am thinking, and in the next few months, I’ll talk more about research services and collaboration with faculty and our strategic planning process.

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I believe that the University of Houston Libraries and its librarians and staff transform lives and enrich the academic experience of the students and faculty at our University through our services, collections, and spaces.

I believe that every student has the potential to be successful, and that interaction with librarians will aid in that student success. In my vision, our librarians are embedded in the curriculum in every college. We are teaching information literacy and critical thinking skills to all our students.

In a study that discusses the impact of library usage on retention of first-time, first-year students, Soria, Fransen, and Nackerud, our colleagues at the University of Minnesota, suggest that students who use the library have a higher GPA for their first semester and higher retention from fall to spring than non-library users (portal: Libraries and the Academy, vol. 13:2 (2013) pp. 147-164). Here at the University of Houston, Christina Gola, head of Liaison Services for instruction and outreach, is the UH principal investigator on a large consortial study with almost two dozen other academic libraries that is examining the Libraries’ impact on student learning.

I believe, through our library collections, services, and spaces, we provide opportunities to discover, preserve, create, and share knowledge. We provide access to scholarship and preserve the scholarly record. Scholarly communications is our mission and we believe passionately in freedom of speech and the freedom to read.

My vision for the Libraries is that we will have a robust repository in which to preserve the scholarship of UH faculty and students.

I have a vision that the physical space of our libraries will facilitate learning, full of technology that will enhance student learning and prepare them well for the 21st century. Spaces for quiet contemplation, collaboration, and for creating presentations will be available on every floor with new furniture and modern technology.

Our library is the heart of the university, and I believe every great university deserves and needs a great library. I believe we can work together to go even further.

An Inspiring First Month

This first month as the Dean of Libraries at UH has been a month filled with many new experiences. My welcome breakfast was terrific and the excitement carried through for the entire month. My first goals are to meet my new colleagues and to start building foundations for new relationships. Toward that end, I have met with Provost Short, many of the deans across the colleges, our award winning Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Richard Walker and Associate Vice President Dan Maxwell, as well as several members of the staff of University Advancement. All value the partnership of the University Libraries as we build on the success of the past in order to forge a bright future.

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My second week here, I co-hosted a thank you reception with Dean of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture Patricia Oliver for Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl, who donated a large gift of art and architecture books, and surprised me at the reception with a promise of more. Director of Advancement Todd Marrs and I will be working very hard in the next several weeks and months to call on current and future supporters whose passion for our Libraries is only surpassed by our own.

Inside the Libraries, I have been working very closely with the associate deans to learn about the budget and the services we offer. I have met with almost all of the department heads and will continue meeting with more people and with departments. Already, I was fortunate enough to meet with Liaison Services during their retreat and more departmental meetings will follow. I’ve received several reports from task forces who have been working hard on reports on a wide variety of topics, such as digital asset management, digital preservation, digital initiatives policies and guidelines, and digital scholarship services. The directions that many of our colleagues are suggesting are exactly where a university library of our caliber should be heading. In the next week or so, the Provost will be sending out guidelines for a strategic planning process that will commence this fall and conclude next spring. We will create a strategic plan together that will carry us to 2020. What a terrific time to be joining the Libraries!

During the next month, I will be meeting new colleagues at the Texas Digital Library and the Greater Western Library Alliance, organizations in which the UH Libraries plays a very important role.

Thank you so much for this hearty Texas welcome and I look forward to the months and years ahead with you.