September 21, 2020
Welcome (back) to UT.
I hope you were able to make the most of your summer in spite of these extraordinary times. Whether you’ve made the return to campus or are working remotely, we want you to remember that the UT Libraries are here for you.
The traditional library archetype doesn’t often reflect the sort of agility and adaptability that the Libraries at UT demonstrated in response to the sudden closure of campus last spring and the transition to a distance environment precipitated by the health crisis. That work is never complete, of course, but we’re gratified that we were able to provide ongoing access to the resources and services that the campus community needs. Despite the limitations that are largely beyond our control, we were able to:
- Transition most of our in-person services – including research consultations and teaching and learning support to an online environment
- Work with publishers to expand online access to resources, including temporary online access to many which had not previously been available
- Expand access to the collections available through our partnership in HathiTrust, greatly increasing availability of digital versions of many of our print items
- Accelerate the digitization and ingestion of special collections materials into the Libraries’ Digital Access Management System, making items normally only accessible in person available for remote research
- Negotiate additional remote access to specialized licensed software
- Provide technical and research support for faculty as they transitioned to a virtual classroom environment
Our idea of normalcy has been upended by an unprecedented pandemic and a long-deferred social uprising, and so our lives have faced challenges to which we’re not accustomed. What was routine has been disrupted and the requirements dictated by the crisis have created discomforts in otherwise everyday activities. The user experience with the Libraries is not immune to that. Our physical collections have been confined to use by request, and visitors to the limited available spaces we have reopened are subject to distancing measures and safety protocols that at times may seem inconvenient.
That which helps us to persevere at a societal level, though, is the same that will help us transcend this transient crisis at a local level: patience, vigilance, trust and community.
Accepting that we are traveling in uncharted waters and that we are all facing challenges is a good first step in coming to terms with the frustration we likely feel. From that well of understanding, we can find the patience to endure any hardships, the vigilance to stick to doing our part, the trust that our institutions are working in our best interest and the sense of community that binds us together in a unified effort for the better of us all.
I thank you for your patience, vigilance, trust and sense of community as we navigate these times together. And when you feel overwhelmed and need our help, please remember that we’re here for you.
lorraine j haricombe
Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries