From the Vice Provost
January 4, 2021
After a challenging year, it seems the clouds are beginning to break on what hopes to be an auspicious new year.
The period of upheaval, uncertainty and unease has challenged us all in different ways. Work and home have necessarily intersected, and finding balance when things are beyond our control compounded natural anxieties. Future prospects have become less clear, and previously active strategies have been shelved to address current adverse realities. The loss has been shared by us all, though for some much, much more than others.
The objectively ruthless year has brought renewed understanding that we’re all in this together. Collective problems respond best to collective solutions. As a campus, The University of Texas at Austin has acted as a cohesive whole to adapt to what could have been an otherwise lost year, and the UT Libraries played its part to keep the university open in spite of an unprecedented season of crises.
The year started with great promise. The Libraries announced significant gifts from individual supporters, and received noteworthy grants from major foundations. We continued to build out our digital resources with the launch of new tools for expanding and enhancing access, and we transitioned to a new service platform to streamline our core operations.
The health crisis and societal reckoning forced us all to recalibrate. Libraries staff responded quickly, and with great purpose to adapt to sudden change, and we amplified efforts that were in their formative stages in order to make them operational on a timetable that surprised even us. The concept of “library as platform” that had been quietly building for years was made real for most of campus in a matter of months to meet the needs of remote work by students, faculty and researchers. Our increased focus on IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility), newly formalized the previous year, moved front and center as our society came to terms in tragic ways with its historical inadequacies in matters of race.
We proved to ourselves capacities we didn’t realize we had, and that is something to be grateful for as we reflect on 2020.
But as this year fades into the rearview mirror there’s even more to appreciate as we look forward to a future filled with hope. Effective vaccines promise to get a grip on the pandemic, our users have discovered many more tools and skills to work online and our staff’s expertise have been elevated as the “intellectual health” professionals who continue to provide distinctive expertise and support during this crisis. To them all, I extend my heartfelt gratitude for staying the course, remotely and online, that have contributed to our resilience and also characterize so much of our endeavors this year. This annual report highlights these efforts.
We look forward to the new year with that same spirit of hope and resilience to build on those efforts as we begin to shape a plausible post COVID-19 future for the University of Texas Libraries. Thank you for your gifts of time, talent and treasure to sustain our mission critical role at UT and beyond. Your gifts have mattered, lifting our collective spirits when we needed it most.
The end of 2020 also marks a new beginning. My hope is that as the new year dawns we will all find moments of joy and gratitude to rekindle our spirit for a new year filled with promises of a brighter tomorrow. I wish you a healthy and prosperous year filled with hope for new beginnings, together. We hope to “see” you again in 2021!
lorraine j haricombe
Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries