University of Texas at Arlington

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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
Cover of PALARA, volume 21, Fall 2017
Mavs Open Press publishes first digital, open access volume of PALARA

Mavs Open Press publishes first digital, open access volume of PALARA

The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries’ Mavs Open Press recently published volume 21 of the Publication of the Afro-Latin/American Research Association (PALARA). This two-decade-old journal was previously only available in print by subscription. 

“As co-editor, I wanted to continue the journal’s stellar publication reputation and increase the number of persons who have access to scholarly material written about Afro-Latin American literature and culture,” said Dr. Sonja Watson. “In addition, I wanted to decrease the cost of publication of the journal without jeopardizing its scholarly reputation. Thus, Mavs Open Press was a way to accomplish both missions.”
Dr. Watson and Dr. Dorothy Mosby became PALARA’s co-editors in 2017. Dr. Watson is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for the College of Liberal Arts, Director of the Women's & Gender Studies Program, and Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Texas at Arlington. Dr. Dorothy Mosby is Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of Spanish at Mount Holyoke College.

Drs. Watson and Mosby worked with staff at UTA Libraries to bring this first digital, open access volume of PALARA to fruition. Not only is this issue available digitally, UTA Libraries staff are also digitizing all 20 back issues of the journal, so that the entire backfile will soon be available to all scholars around the globe. 

“The Mavs Open Press is an outgrowth of the UTA Libraries’ strategic vision to catalyze the academic and professional success of UTA students and faculty, which mirrors the University’s guiding aspiration to enhance visibility and impact through global engagement,” said Jodie Bailey, UTA Libraries’ Director of Publishing. “PALARA is an example of how faculty collaborations with Mavs Open Press can expose and highlight significant, unique scholarship, and we hope to engender similar collaborations in the future.”

Dr. Watson believes that moving from print to electronic publishing and from subscription-funded to open access will have a huge impact on the global access to material published in the journal. 

“The journal already has a strong national and international reputation in the field. Making it open access will only increase the number of scholars, students, and researchers who have access to the material,” she said. “In addition, UTA Libraries has digitized past issues, which will bring to the forefront scholarship published since the nineties in the field of Afro-Latin American Studies. This really excites me as a researcher and professor.”

PALARA was established in 1997 as a multilingual, multidisciplinary journal devoted to the study of the African diaspora in the Americas. The journal’s mission was to center scholarship on the African diaspora in the Americas and creative works by Afro-descendant writers. As the official journal of the Afro-Latin/American Research Association, PALARA was and continues to be a pioneer in the field of Afro-Latin American and African diaspora studies.  The online issue can be viewed at

For more information, Contact:
Jody Bailey
Kathryne Beebe, assistant professor of medieval history and digital humanities, breathes on a gesso design.
Shorthorn covers FabLab workshop

Shorthorn covers FabLab workshop

The Shorthorn published an article and slideshow Tuesday, April 17, covering a FabLab workshop on gold leafing, taught by Kathryne Beebe, assistant professor of medieval history and digital humanities.

Read the whole story.

Image courtesy of The Shorthorn/Alexis Austin

For more information, Contact:
C.D. Walter
Maker literacies research team (L-R) Morgan Chivers, Katie Musick Peery, Martin Wallace (missing) Gretchen Trkay
UTA FabLab leads national collaboration

UTA FabLab leads national collaboration

University of Texas at Arlington Libraries is leading a team comprised of six library makerspaces across the country in a pilot study to investigate the effectiveness of early-stage maker-based competencies in undergraduate learning, stemming from work developed by a UTA Libraries task force. The Maker Competencies and the Undergraduate Curriculum project is funded by a $49,800 National Leadership Grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Martin Wallace, Maker Literacies and Engineering Librarian at UTA Libraries, leads the research team, which also includes Gretchen Trkay, Katie Musick Peery, and Morgan Chivers of UTA Libraries. The team traveled to several university library makerspaces across the country, ultimately selecting five of them to join the study.

“It was a lengthy process, and a hard choice given the amazing selection of academic library makerspaces that we had to consider,” Wallace said. “Each of which had some unique quality that made them stand out from the others.”

The selected partners include Kelly Delaney at Carnegie Mellon University’s IDeATe, Sarah Hutton at UMass Amherst Libraries’ Digital Media Lab, Danianne Mizzy at UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan Science Library Research Hub & Makerspace, and Amy Vecchione, at Boise State University Library’s Maker Lab. Tara Radniecki at University of Nevada, Reno’s DeLaMare Library Makerspace, has been a partner since the beginning; she helped write the grant proposal and participated in the partnership selection process.

“We here at UTA are so very excited to begin working with our partners,” Wallace said, “and we look forward to collecting the data and feedback that will allow us to further refine and scale this program.”

For more information, Contact:
Martin Wallace