Another exciting semester is underway at the University of Houston, and we at UH Libraries are thrilled to be your partners in teaching and research excellence! UH Libraries includes the main MD Anderson Library, the William R. Jenkins Architecture, Design, and Art Library, the Music Library, and the new Health Sciences Library. You’ll find subject experts, specialized collections, and a wealth of services at each of our branches.
At UH Libraries, one of our core values is Service Excellence. We are user-centered and work assiduously to create a high-quality user experience. We are deliberative in our interactions with users, anticipate their changing needs, and provide services that are targeted, empowering, innovative, and inclusive.
This fall, we’re pleased to launch the WHAT WHERE HOW library awareness campaign, in which we’ll be sharing information and stories about our variety of services and resources. Did you know that UH Libraries has expanded its faculty-focused services in a number of areas, including including the use of digital tools through programs in the Digital Research Commons, repository services, and our open educational resources (OER) program? These offerings complement our existing menu of services and resources, such as interlibrary loan and our unique research collections in Special Collections.
How can you make the most of all that UH Libraries provides? Contact your subject librarian, browse our Find & Search menu, and attend our events and workshops.
Finally, I’d like to invite you to take our quick services survey to tell us what’s most important to you. Your feedback will help us create and improve faculty-focused services.
Welcome to the University of Houston. Did you know that library use has a positive impact on student success? From getting research help to finding the right study space to checking out laptops, you will see that there is so much available for you at UH Libraries.
To those of you who are new to the university, we’re so glad you’re here. Make sure to visit your University Libraries for programs, collections, and spaces designed to help you achieve academic success. And for those of you who are returning, you’ll find what you need among our world-class resources.
We know you’ll be successful, and UH Libraries is here to help you achieve your goals and dreams.
Two auspicious events occur in the month of May. The first is graduation, a time of celebration, recognition of hard work, and a launch pad for the rest of our graduates’ lives. The second event is Memorial Day. This past Monday, we honored those who have given their lives in defense of democracy. As I was thinking about both of these events, my mind wandered to the role that libraries serve in a democratic society. I believe the UH Libraries is critical to the mission of the University and to democracy. The Libraries’ mission is to advance student success, knowledge creation and preservation, and globally competitive research. We accomplish this through the creation, discovery, and preservation of knowledge and through the services, programs, and spaces we provide. We are a part of a larger ecosystem of libraries throughout the world with similar missions and collectively, we provide our constituents with the facts they need to make informed choices, decisions, and opinions.
Libraries collect and provide access to a wealth of information of all types – scientific research, government documents, social and cultural information, literature, music, arts and everything in between. We make that information available so that people can learn about anything they desire. Libraries facilitate learning and promote the pursuit of knowledge. Well-informed people are the cornerstone of a democratic society. In a letter to George Herbert Putnam, the eighth and longest-serving Librarian of Congress from 1899 to 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote, “I have an unshaken conviction that democracy can never be undermined if we maintain our library resources and a national intelligence capable of utilizing them.”
What specifically does that mean for us at the University of Houston Libraries? It means we make collections accessible that enable our scientists to break new grounds in research. We make sure that we can provide access to government information. Our librarians can help you find the information that keeps our government accountable, and provides a record of how democracy works.
It means we have literature to spark creativity, music that performers can play, business databases for our finance students, and many other informative resources. It also means we have some of the brightest people I know who are collaborating with faculty to embed information literacy and critical thinking skills into their teaching. We want our students to graduate with tools that enable them to think critically.
It means we have archivists who are preserving our history and making it available for present and future scholars. It means we have people who describe this material and make it accessible so that you can discover it. In 2018, it means we employ library professionals who understand digital humanities and data visualization, and who create spaces to serve the learning styles of our students. It means that we create programs and services that facilitate and inspire learning and creativity.
It turns out that it is hard to find one definition of democracy – there are many different ones. I’m going to use the definition found in Cambridge Dictionary which says democracy is “the belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of government based on this belief, in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves.” I believe people need knowledge, need to be able to think critically about what they hear and see, and then make informed decisions based upon that knowledge. Through the collections we make available, the services we offer, and the people who offer those services, libraries are an essential part of our democratic society.
When people feel passionately about something, there are often roots about the topic that are personal. This is true for me when it comes to the topic of open scholarship.
My brother had cystic fibrosis, a disease of the lungs and pancreas. In the early 2000s, his lungs had deteriorated enough so that he needed a double lung transplant. He and his wife lived in Wisconsin at the time and neither of them were enrolled or employed by a university. Dana was, and is, a teacher and Doug worked at Barnes & Noble. Both of them had master’s degrees and were skilled researchers…Doug was ABD in Philosophy. They performed many literature searches because they needed information on the procedure, prognoses, and any background information on the hospital and on the surgeon. Time and time again they found articles they wanted to read, only to find that those articles were inaccessible to them.
Because I was a professor at the University of Illinois at the time, I was able to access copies of the scientific articles they wanted. I had access to these very expensive, commercially published journals because my library had purchased them. For the majority of Americans who are not affiliated with universities that are paying for these journals, they are forced to pay high prices to access the scholarship that they need – scholarship that citizens can use to make what might be life and death decisions. This is a broken model. Universities are paying the salaries of the researchers who produce the scholarship, and then they are turning around and buying articles produced by those researchers in the form of library subscriptions. Universities are paying twice and citizens not affiliated with those universities do not have access. There is something wrong with this picture.
Many of us who work in the scholarly communication field are trying to change this situation. Funding agencies such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are mandating that publications resulting from their funding must be openly accessible online. Many governmental agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are requiring scientists to submit their final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts to PubMed Central upon their acceptance, and to make them accessible to the public within 12 months. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) has been doing yeoman’s work, especially on the policy, advocacy, and communication fronts, to move the open agenda forward. The faculty of many universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty, have adopted Open Access (OA) policies. At the University of Houston, the Faculty Senate is moving forward with a task force for developing and implementing OA policy, and establishing a fund to help investigators pay for high-visibility Open Access papers.
Here in the Libraries, we’re pleased to announce a pilot of our new repository for UH scholarship, Cougar Research Open Access Repositories (ROAR). ROAR provides safe, long-term storage for data and scholarship produced by the UH community and makes these materials widely available to researchers around the world.
We encourage all to learn more about Open Access. Our goal is to highlight the power of Open Access to broaden the impact of research and scholarship in practical and accessible ways for a more informed society.
I grew up before the internet was widespread. My sources of information were the morning and afternoon newspapers, along with my Saturday morning weekly trip to the Arlington Heights Memorial Library with my dad. We’d go there and he’d head over to the adult nonfiction section to see what new books came in that week. Then he’d head to his favorite area – the art and architecture books. He could spend hours there if he wouldn’t have had a list of things he wanted to get accomplished. Need to wire the basement? Go find a book in the library. Building a patio? Off to the library, he’d go. I would head to the children’s section. Sometimes I would ask questions of the librarians and often, I’d just sit on a stool in the middle of the rows of books, looking for the most recent Nancy Drew mystery, or looking for a biography of a woman such as Clara Barton or Harriet Tubman.
The Arlington Heights Memorial Library transformed my life. It brought a world of knowledge to me that I could have never imagined. Though I can’t say that I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a librarian, I have always felt proud of my career choice because I know the work that we do can transform the lives of our students, our faculty, and ourselves.
This week, we held a successful Dean’s Cabinet kickoff meeting. We have a wonderful array of advocates from all walks of life that have pledged to help me to raise funds so that we can continue to keep this library on an upward trajectory. As I’ve been thinking about why libraries are transformative, I’d like to share with you some of the important activities on which our library staff are collaborating with our faculty to help students have a successful experience here at the University of Houston. These are just a few of the many ongoing initiatives:
Our business librarians are embedded into the first course taken by students newly admitted to the Bauer College of Business to set the groundwork for good information-seeking behavior and analysis. They also work with students in the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, including the capstone project of developing their own businesses.
We create opportunities in support of the Houston community by hosting various events such as LinkedIn @ the Library, which paired librarians and career services staff with students to improve their LinkedIn profiles and learn best practices for networking while they’re job hunting; and a workshop for grad students and post docs that featured publishers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, along with senior faculty, who gave guidance about best practices in publishing. Our Music Library teamed up with the UH Office of Sustainability to host a meetup on upcycle crafting. Students created their own repurposed book bag using recycled plastic bags, unusable music scores, and recycled clothing.
The innovation that our librarians and staff bring to creating community activities blows me away. The work they do every day – teaching our students, acquiring, cataloging, circulating, and digitizing resources, and developing archives and creating new services – is so meaningful and worthwhile to the more than two million annual visitors to our libraries, and to those who met with our librarians for 33,439 reference consultations last year.
We truly are a community nurtured by curiosity and creativity that drives lifelong learning and scholarship. Our library employees truly embody this vision each and every day.
Lately, I’ve been considering the ways in which we at the University of Houston Libraries help shape our students into information-literate, critical thinkers. Now, more than ever, the competencies of information literacy and evaluative thinking are essential for the advancement of a democratic and educated society, and librarians are partners with faculty creating learning opportunities that encourage the development of these competencies.
I asked two of our librarians to share their perspectives on the importance of information literacy and critical thinking in higher education and beyond. Christina Gola, head of Liaison Services for instruction and outreach, and Kerry Creelman, coordinator of undergraduate instruction and outreach, both stated that information literacy is interdisciplinary, transferable, and evolving. And the development of information literacy doesn’t end when our students leave the classroom.
A robust and flexible set of concepts that are central to information literacy comes to us from the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL), which has provided the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. The framework defines information literacy as “the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities.”
The framework is transformative in that it recognizes the ongoing, lifelong learning and development of information-literate citizens. Information literacy is never the endpoint, but a journey that allows for the acquisition of competencies that help us navigate the vast information landscape. The framework takes into account emerging forms of information, and acknowledges the future evolution of information. “It gives us concepts to understand how information operates, how it’s produced, and how it’s consumed in any format,” Gola states.
As denizens of the vast digital information landscape, we hold dual roles: as both producers and consumers of information. As such, we’re all held to higher standards of accountability in this realm. The ease and speed of the transfer of data holds far-reaching implications and necessitates a deliberative and prudent approach. Implementation of the information literacy framework takes many forms at UH Libraries, where we empower students to consider issues surrounding the sharing of information online and how others may potentially consume that data. For example, one of our popular student-success events, LinkedIn at the Library, pairs librarians and career service professionals with students to maximize their LinkedIn profiles for the best chance at finding career opportunities. We equip our students with foundational competencies that are necessary for them to build upon and apply not only in their coursework but also in their personal and professional lives. “As we provide the strategies, tools, and framework of information literacy concepts, we’re also creating learning opportunities where students are encouraged to reflect and engage in critical thinking around these concepts,” Creelman notes. “Our students make breakthroughs and connections when they’re encouraged to do so within authentic learning situations.”
Creelman and Gola characterize a critical thinker as someone who is “evaluative at multiple levels, self-aware, reflective, inquisitive, and takes a deeper dive into learning for the sake of discovering more, a persistence and flexibility in their thinking that develops from freshman to senior level.” Our librarians and faculty encourage students to challenge assumptions and approach questions from multiple viewpoints.
On the opposite side of the coin, we are all consumers of information as well. We have an abundance of information at our fingertips. How do we manage, organize, and locate the information that we seek when we need it? Gola and Creelman, along with their colleagues, advance the concepts of information literacy that address how we sift through all available information and identify credible sources, most significantly, not simply the sources that fit within the scope of our own schemas. “With more and more information that is being produced in the world, we want to try and find easier methods to consume that information while at the same time realizing that we’re not always seeing the whole view,” Gola states.
It’s about taking the creative and critical approach to finding credible and reliable sources of information. It’s about knowing there are alternative places to conduct a search if at first you don’t find what you’re seeking. It’s about persistence in finding solutions. It’s about being cognizant of the unseen or marginalized voices that exist in our world.
Awareness of information literacy will continue to grow and develop, as well as awareness of its importance. Our ability to inspire critical thought within the information age is priceless. Information literacy is the bedrock of a free and democratic and educated society. Nurturing our students’ ability to navigate through the mechanisms of information delivery, identify credible and authoritative sources, and to recognize the potential for bias is at the heart of the Libraries’ mission, vision, and values. I am so proud of all our librarians who are teaching students to be critical thinkers and information-literate citizens.
As another great semester at the University of Houston Libraries winds down, we are looking ahead to the new year and a new phase in our organization. We have recently announced team rosters to accomplish the first wave of projects for our Strategic Plan, and I am so pleased that our librarians and staff members enthusiastically volunteered to work on activities outside of their core duties. It will take the entire library to ensure that we achieve our goals for the benefit of our students, faculty, and researchers.
The Strategic Plan Implementation Executive Team has been steadily working behind the scenes to propel our initiatives. This group has accomplished much since its inception in July by establishing a new modality in strategic planning and organization. The group comprises leaders within the Libraries, many of whom also served on the Strategic Planning Team, who are charged with identifying priorities, balancing opportunities, and serving as an advisory entity for the various project and planning teams that will be activated at various points over the next five years. The Implementation Team is an innovation driver that complements our enduring organizational structure, bringing agile and smart transformation without disruption to the essential services and resources we provide for UH and the scholarly community.
There is so much energy and excitement on campus. Our students remain the focus of all of our efforts, and I am so pleased to see our library positively buzzing with excitement. We recently hosted the fabulous Finals Mania, our twice-yearly tradition of serving a late-night pancake breakfast to those who are diligently studying for exams, as well as Paws and Relax, the popular stress-free event that brings therapy dogs into the library for a fun break from studies.
Our vision is a community nurtured by curiosity and creativity that drives lifelong learning and scholarship. I am incredibly excited that we are all moving forward as one to achieve this vision.
The topic of open access holds personal significance for me. My brother had cystic fibrosis and underwent a lung transplant in 2010. When he was trying to do research about the surgery, it was difficult for him and his wife to gain access to information, as they were not affiliated with a university. They either had to go through interlibrary loan or through me, a librarian who could help them navigate the information-gathering process.
One of the things this experience taught me was just how difficult it is for people to get access to information that originates from federally funded research. I was thrilled that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has mandated that researchers who are receiving federal funding must deposit material, the output of the funding, into PubMed. Information should not just be accessible to those of us who are fortunate to work at universities; it should be open to all taxpayers. Scholars absolutely should be compensated for their works, and should be free to share their research widely. It is very important for us all to be informed citizens, and if the research is accessible, we can achieve this.
UH Libraries is actively advancing open access scholarship. One of the initiatives outlined in our Strategic Plan is to expand and promote repository services enabling researchers to acquire and use collections for research endeavors as well as to store, preserve, and publish research output. We’re creating a repository for our scholars so that they can deposit their works and have control over the access to that work, with the benefit of curating and preserving the important research being conducted at the University. We are also looking forward to discussions on how, as a University, we might tackle big data management and other forthcoming developments in the world of research.
One of our core values here at the University of Houston Libraries focuses on diversity and inclusion. We respect all aspects of diversity and create an inclusive virtual and physical environment, for all learners, researchers, and library staff. We are responsive in providing spaces, services, programs, and resources that promote and value diversity.
As such, it is essential for us to embody these important values with next-level action. I am pleased to announce that a newly formed Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CODI) for the UH Libraries will soon convene. The Libraries recently conducted a ClimateQUAL®: Organizational Climate and Diversity Assessment survey to ascertain staff perceptions of the Libraries’ commitment to the principles of diversity, organizational policies and procedures, and staff attitudes, aiming to better understand the impact that perceptions have on library service quality. The formation of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion was an initiative spurred by the very positive experience I had with the Diversity Committee at my former place of work, a request by one of our new librarians, and as an outgrowth of our recent ClimateQUAL® assessment.
And it is, quite simply, the right thing to do. CODI will create programs and services which lead toward a richer and more inclusive experience for our students, faculty, and employees in support of the UH Diversity and Inclusion Statement.
Specifically, CODI will:
address issues and strengthen engagement while embracing a broad interpretation of diversity
increase awareness and sensitivity among employees, connect with University diversity offices and student groups, and help recruit and retain a diverse workforce in an inclusive environment
collaborate with the Assessment and Statistics Librarian to perform climate assessments and make recommendations
submit an annual report to the Office of the Dean
In the spirit of inclusivity, an open call was made for volunteers interested in serving on the committee. I was very pleasantly overwhelmed by the widespread enthusiasm shown by our outstanding group of professionals. We had twice as many people interested in serving on the committee than we could accommodate at this time, and everyone will have plenty of opportunities to engage in this important work in the near future. It is a heartening expression of the values that we champion.
The members of the inaugural Committee on Diversity and Inclusion Committee are:
Andrea Malone (chair), Modern and Classical Languages and Ethnic Studies Librarian
Frederick Young, Systems Analyst 3
Margaret Dunn, Senior Library Specialist
Matthew Moore, Senior Music Library Specialist
Julie Grob, Special Collections Coordinator for Instruction
Lisa Cruces, Hispanic Collections Archivist
Annie Wu, Head of Metadata and Digitization Services
Orolando Duffus, Business Librarian
Shawn Vaillancourt, Education Librarian
I would like to thank the committee members for their willingness to serve; I know they will do great work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!