University of Texas at Arlington

Library News

Female playing with virtual reality equipment.
UTA Libraries Awarded Grants Totaling More Than $100K

UTA Libraries Awarded Grants Totaling More Than $100K

UTA Libraries received three awards funded by grants from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. These include an Impact Grant, a Special Projects grant, and the TexTreasures grant. 

“For years, the generous funding from IMLS and TSLAC has helped provide worldwide access to our unique digital content like the disability history collection,” said Rebecca Bichel, UTA Dean of Libraries. “This year, IMLS and TSLAC are also helping us deliver innovative services that will transform students’ experiences at UTA. By giving students access to leading-edge technologies, we are preparing them to thrive in the workplace of tomorrow.” 

Impact grants focus on business/workforce development, digital literacy, family and early childhood literacy, and electronic access to information. UTA Libraries received $10,000 to build a virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) station to help students prepare and participate in the growing VR/AR game development industry. 

“Virtual and augmented reality, along with online gaming, generated in excess of 100 billion dollars in revenue in 2017,” said Library Systems Department Head and principal investigator Bob Samson. “UT Arlington and the city of Arlington have made significant advancements in support of online gaming and eSports. This project will provide our students with access to technologies which will allow them to learn critical skills as they prepare to enter this fast-growing field.” 

Special Projects grants supports expanding library services to underserved groups in the library’s community. TSLAC awarded UTA Libraries $74,994 to partner with two elementary schools to implement universally accessible makerspaces and STEAM labs for elementary students with learning disabilities. Dr. Priscila Cacola from UTA Kinesiology will study students’ motor proficiency while they interact with technology. 

“This grant is tackling three issues at once: how can children with learning differences effectively participate in makerspaces; what kinds of physical accommodations might be needed for this audience; and where can pre-service and current teachers go to test makerspace technologies before purchasing them with limited school funds?” Said Bichel, who is principle investigator for this project. “The generous funding by IMLS and TSLAC will support data-driven discovery relating to how children with learning differences interact with makerspaces and how teachers and schools can best use their resources to promote innovation and creativity.” 

TexTreasures is an annual grant program designed to help libraries make their special collections more accessible for the people of Texas and beyond. UTA Libraries’ Special Collections was awarded $25,000 to digitize additional materials for the Texas Disability History Collection (TDHC) website, which was funded by a TexTreasures grant in SFY 2016. The site showcases Texas’s central role in the disability rights movement and reveals the impact of disability rights on ordinary people’s lives. 

“As a result of the UTA Libraries’ partnership with the Disability Studies Minor and Department of History,” said Brenda McClurkin, UTA Libraries’ Special Collections Department Head and principal investigator for this project, “there is tremendous momentum in moving the Texas Disability History Collection forward, covering exciting new ground in documenting the impact that Texans have had on both the local and national stages in disability rights advocacy.” 

A close-up of a boy holding a chick in his hand.
TexTreasures Grant Funds Disability History Portal

TexTreasures Grant Funds Digitizing Materials for Disability History Portal

The Texas State Library and Archives (TSLAC) awarded University of Texas at Arlington’s Library $25,000 to digitize thousands of materials for inclusion in the Texas Disability History Collection (TDHC) web portal. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). 

“The TDHC highlights UTA’s half-century commitment to making college accessible for students with disabilities," said College of Liberal Arts Dean Elisabeth Cawthon. “UTA was the first school in the country to offer full-ride scholarships for adapted sports—only one of the many ways Texas has helped to lead the nation in disability rights.” 

The TDHC was established in 2013, a partnership among the UTA Disability Studies Minor, the UTA Libraries, and the Public History graduate program. One of just five such dedicated repositories in the country, TDHC contains maps, material objects, personal papers, organizational records, photographs, audio and video recordings, and oral histories. TSLAC and IMLS helped fund the 2016 launch of The TDHC web portal and the digitization of hundreds of items. In keeping with the Collections’ mission, subjects, and audience, the project team included as many accessibility features as possible to accommodate site visitors with a variety of disabilities. 

“UTA Libraries’ partnership with the Disability Studies Minor and Department of History creates tremendous momentum in moving the Texas Disability History Collection forward,” said Brenda McClurkin, UTA Libraries’ Special Collections Department Head and principal investigator for this project. “This Tex-Treasures digitization grant allows us to continue to tell the story of Texans with disabilities and provide broad access to these materials.” 

The collection highlights Texas’s key place in the disability rights movement and reveals the impact of disability rights on ordinary people’s lives.  “Texans have played central, even outsized, roles in driving the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the development of assistive technology, and the growth of adapted sports nationally and internationally,” said Sarah Rose, associate professor of history, director of the UTA disability studies minor, and faculty advisor for the TDHC. “We’re trying to get at stories that haven’t been told yet, such as why Texans such as Lex Frieden, Bob Kafka, and Justin Dart claimed such a preeminent place in disability rights, but also the experiences of transgender Texans with disabilities, patients in tuberculosis sanatoriums, and grassroots accessibility activists.” 

The 2018 TexTreasures grant will fund the digitization of thousands of newly acquired items, providing accessibility to materials for historians, disability professionals, and people with disabilities across the globe, including oral histories and records from leading national disability rights activists such as Bob Kafka and Stephanie Thomas of ADAPT and Pat Pound and Larry Johnson of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities.  This project will also fund digitization of relevant materials from already existing collections, including the papers of Texas politicians who had disabilities, such as James Sewell, Warren C. Cohen, and Sanford Thomas.  

Also scheduled for digitization are records from Student Congress and Office of the President that reveal the process of making the campus more accessible, along with the papers of Jim Hayes and Movin’ Mavs records. 

“Movin’ Mavs and Jim Hayes records show how what was happening at UTA was driving adaptive sports nationally and internationally,” Dr. Rose said. “Something like 37 Paralympians have come out of UTA.” 

Another goal of the 2018 project is to provide more accessibility features on the TDHC website. Metadata will be enriched, such as the alternative text that provides image information to visually impaired site visitors. Another addition will be a project with the Disability Studies Minor and UTA Theatre Arts faculty to provide audio description for videos like Movin’ Mavs basketball games, so that viewers with visually impairments will be able to follow along with the action. 

Rose said that disability history is important for everyone, because most people have at least one family member with a disability. 

“Disability is a normal part of human life,” Rose said. “One in five people have a disability; it’s the only minority that everyone can join.” 

Image credit:  Fort Worth Star-Telegram Photograph Collection
Richard Johnson, age 11, was one of 32 visually impaired children to interact with animals at the Stock Show in Fort Worth (1983).

UTA FabLab student workers gather to critique each others' work as part of staff training.
New FabLab staff training transforms student workers into makers

New FabLab staff training transforms student workers into makers

The UTA FabLab created a new student worker training regime that uses maker concepts to develop student workers’ maker literacies—such as problem solving, cross-disciplinary communication, critical thinking, etc. 

“A lot of thought went into their training,” said Director of FabLab Katie Peery. “A lot of makerspaces hire workers who already know how to use the equipment. We are purposely hiring students that represent our student body, so we’ve hired workers from a variety of majors, ages, countries, genders, ethnicities, world views, etc. Because these students may never have used any of this equipment, we have to do more intensive training.” 

This training includes three two-hour hands-on training sessions per week—either on equipment or software. In addition, students are given projects to work on when they have down time. Projects are intended to instill the skills that student workers need to help other students complete their school projects. 

Biology major Mia Perkins is a new FabLab student worker. She says the training is unlike any she’s experienced before. 

“Most training says, ‘here’s a machine, here’s how you do it; now go do it,’” Mia said, adding that the trainees are given plenty of time and help with completing their training assignment. “I’m a kinesthetic learner, so for me, that’s important.” 

Students receive training in two phases. The first phase focuses on best practices, customer service, and most-used equipment and software. After two weeks, they held a critique session for students to receive feedback to help them improve and to hone their own critical thinking by giving others feedback. The second phase focuses on less frequently used resources.  

Visual communication major Liz Markum says that once you understand how to use something, the next step is learning how to train others. 

“It’s important for us to teach them how to do it, not do it for them,” Liz said. “It’s harder than it sounds.”  

This intensive training includes much more than the simple steps needed to complete tasks. For example, when training students to conduct tours of the facility, trainers emphasize the importance of incorporating context and storytelling into the process. So instead of walking around the space, pointing at equipment and naming them, workers talk about the history and context of the space and the value of maker literacies for universities. 

Samuel Law, a new student worker majoring in mechanical engineering, says that the new workers are gaining skills that go far beyond how to use a piece of equipment. 

“We are learning a lot of technical skills,” Samuel said. “But we’re also learning skills like problem solving, critical thinking, and customer service. We have to learn to be empathetic, and that’s something engineers typically don’t excel at. Learning how to convey technical information in a way that’s understandable to the layman will be important when you’re working on teams after you graduate.” 

New student workers are scheduled to finish their training before school starts this Fall 2018. 

For more information, Contact:
C.D. Walter
Students getting help at a UTA Libraries service point
Creating an experience culture

Creating an experience culture

UTA Libraries is reinventing their service model. The goal is to empower library staff to create extraordinary experiences for customers—both external and internal. The foundation of this change is the four service principles: 1. We care. 2. We empower. 3. We take ownership. 4. We are extraordinary. 

“The purpose behind [these principles] is that we wanted to take the really great customer service that we’re already doing and reimagine how we’re doing that—try to be innovative in those processes,” said Holly Kouns, Interim Department Head of User Engagement and Services. “We didn’t want a black and white adherence to the policies and procedures that were created. We wanted to allow people the opportunity to create extraordinary experiences—to feel empowered enough to go above and beyond in creating those experiences.” 

The new service model sets expectations for both external and internal customers. External customers should begin to trust that they will receive the help they need at UTA Libraries, regardless of their issue or problem. This is how staff members take ownership of a problem and walk the customer (literally, if need be) through to a resolution. 

“So we can say, “This doesn’t really directly relate to the library, but we’re still going to actively help you address it and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that you feel like you’re being taken care of and that UTA is an extraordinary community,” Kouns said. 

Internal customers, such as other library staff, learn to trust other departments because each transaction shows that other departments will meet their needs. The process helps knit together those internal, cross-departmental relationships. 

“Part of it is that a lot of times when we talk about customer service, it’s a one shoe fits all mentality,” Kouns said. “One of the first things we need to do is make sure that the way the service principles are being integrated into the departments are relevant to how the department operates—that it is a grass roots process. While the departments are being given tools, people in the department determine the way the tools are used.”  

Kouns said that a lot of libraries—both academic and public—are reimagining their customer service models. They are even designing their spaces and selecting verbiage on signage to create a sense of belonging in their customers. 

“What makes this different from what’s being done at other libraries is not the plan itself, but the way of developing the plan,” Kouns said. “We work in a ‘perpetual beta’ environment, which means that we start implementing an idea, then evaluate how well things are working, and make adjustments as needed to see what works best.”  

The team is still undergoing the iterative process that will eventually lead to a cohesive plan with intended outcomes and assessment. Kouns will then share their findings with other libraries that may want to implement a similar training process. 

Young adults work collaboratively on computers
Funding instructors to lower students' textbook costs

UTA Libraries funds five educators to lower textbook costs

The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries is pleased to announce five new recipients of the UTA CARES Grant Program. The Libraries offers these grants annually to encourage UTA educators to replace textbooks with open educational resources (OER) to decrease costs for their students.

OER are free teaching and learning materials that are licensed to allow for revision and reuse. OER can be fully self-contained textbooks, videos, quizzes, learning modules, lesson plans, syllabi, worksheets, data, and more. A recent Shorthorn article discusses how the high cost of textbooks and the use of digital access codes impact students’ academic success. More than half of the students who drop out of college cite financial barriers or the need to work as the primary reason; OER alleviate students’ stress about paying for textbooks.

“The feedback we received from students during our first year of the grant program really reinforced what we believe about the value of OER,” said Michelle Reed, Open Education Librarian for UTA Libraries. “The financial relief is substantial and learning barriers are reduced when we work together to eliminate cost and access hurdles that so frequently sit between students and their academic success.”

Civil Engineering Senior Lecturer Habib Ahmari received the UTA CARES Innovation Grant. Dr. Ahmari proposes “to transform the traditional teaching [of] Fluid Mechanics Lab” by developing a Web-based multimedia platform providing students with open access materials, including customized lab manuals, educational videos, and an interactive lab-report-preparation toolkit.

“Without this support,” Dr. Ahmari said, “I wouldn’t be able to produce course materials (educational videos, lab manuals, lab report preparation toolkit) that are needed to implement this OER and help our students to better education.”

Three Adoption Stipends were also given. One went to Mathematics Associate Professor Theresa Jorgensen to transition Geometry 3301 to OER. The project includes modifying the syllabus, course assignments, and course delivery method.

“The financial cost of traditional math textbooks is very significant,” Dr. Jorgensen said. “I didn't want students to have to purchase a textbook if it wasn't maximizing their possibilities for learning.”

The second stipend went to History Professor Andrew Milson for his course in human geography. Dr. Milson intends to replace the course textbook with OER and content from the UTA Libraries’ collection. Students will also contribute to their field by creating and editing Wikipedia pages.

“I am concerned about the rising costs of college education,” Dr. Milson said, “I believe that adopting OER in my course is one small thing I can do to counter this trend.”

The third stipend recipient is Economics Associate Clinical Professor Christy Spivey, who is developing Economic Data Analysis Capstone, a new course that begins Fall 2018. Students will use Wiki Education and open source materials from Tableau to analyze an economic question using real data and to clearly communicate the findings to a non-Economics major.

The final grant recipient is Spanish Associate Professor Ignacio Ruiz-Pérez, who was granted an Innovation Seed award. His goal is to create the first two chapters of an open textbook for Spanish 3315: Composition through Literature. Dr. Ruiz-Pérez plans to use OER that will provide Spanish students a more personalized and effective learning experience adjusted to the specific challenges they encounter in today’s global world.

“Cultural immersion students require a ‘practical’ approach to composition,” Dr. Ruiz-Pérez said, “something that provides them with the skills and knowledge to enable them to succeed in our highly competitive job market. Therefore, in the last few years I've been drastically modifying my syllabus in order to address those needs while looking for open access materials reflecting the content of my syllabus.”

Reed said that the Libraries supports the switch to OER in many ways for all UTA educators, including faculty, graduate students, staff—anyone who teaches can benefit from using OER.

“Our grantees represent a small portion of the projects and partners we’ve been working with on open education initiatives,” said Michelle Reed, Open Education Librarian for UTA Libraries. “We have much growth before us, but we should also take a moment to celebrate the growing number of educators willing to invest their time and energy into projects, like those of our 2018 grantees, that can have such a big impact on student success.”

The UTA CARES (Coalition for Alternative Resources in Education for Students) Grant Program, sponsored by UTA Libraries, was established in 2017 to support educators interested in practicing open education through the adoption of OER and, when no suitable open resource is available, through the creation of new OER or the adoption of library-licensed or other free content. Additionally, the program promotes innovation in teaching and learning through the exploration of open educational practices, such as collaborating with students to produce educational content of value to a wider community.

For more information, Contact:
Michelle Reed