UH Libraries News

2023 Library Excellence Awards

University of Houston Libraries recognized outstanding employees at an awards ceremony this week. The 23rd annual Library Excellence Awards celebrated librarians and staff who bring a high level of leadership, collegiality, and care to their roles. The yearly tradition is supported through the generosity of the John P. McGovern Foundation.

Dean Athena N. Jackson with Robby Reyna, a Student Achievement award winner at the 23rd annual Library Excellence Awards

Dean Athena N. Jackson with Robby Reyna, a Student Achievement award winner at the 23rd annual Library Excellence Awards

Athena N. Jackson, dean of Libraries and Elizabeth D. Rockwell chair, opened the spirited event with acknowledgment of the positive influence all Libraries’ employees have on the workplace and on our communities of students, faculty, and researchers, and gratitude for those who brought the awards ceremony to fruition, including committee members Jeannie Castro, Alma Gallo, Annie Wu and Christina Gola who facilitated the nomination process; members of the Employee Engagement Committee who contributed to the development of the event theme, “Hats Off To You;” to Mauricio Lazo for contributing his design and photography talents; and to Dwendol Nelson who coordinated logistics and venue preparation.  

The Dean’s Advocate award was presented to Emily Messa, PhD, CASP, senior associate vice chancellor and vice president for administration. The award recognizes a UH employee who has collaborated closely with UH Libraries during the past year. Messa has given considerable time to building a relationship with Dean Jackson in support of UH Libraries. She has been an advocate and partner in finding opportunities for improving the student experience.  

The Student Achievement awards were presented to Katie Aguiar and Robby Reyna. Aguiar works in the Jenkins Architecture, Design, and Art Library. Her colleagues stated that very quickly after being hired she became essential to the department and proved to be a terrific teammate. She is described as welcoming to students, reliable, patient, and someone who understands the value of time and productivity. Reyna goes above and beyond as part of the Libraries Administrative team. He is always kind, smiling, and working hard. He is willing to come in early, and do what is needed to get the job done, often providing great ideas to make processes more efficient. When not working in the Libraries or tending to his studies, he serves as a College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics student ambassador. He was recently selected as one of the John P. McGovern Library Scholars.  

This year’s McGovern Outstanding Student award recipient is Celenia Garcia, the lead student worker for resource sharing in the department of Acquisitions and Resource Sharing. She is described as being extremely helpful, trustworthy and responsible, demonstrating excellent time management and organizational abilities. She makes positive contributions to the department’s overall success and shows confidence. She is also creative and innovative in her work, looking to be sustainable and cost effective in her use of supplies and resources. 

Duong Pham is the McGovern Staff Rookie of the Year. She has been a true asset in many ways. Colleagues describe her as thoughtful, friendly, warm, competent, and communicative. She has been instrumental in helping employees get settled into new workspaces and helping them understand all the technology equipment they need. She takes on major projects with care and consideration, ensuring positive outcomes for all employees involved.  

Maurine Nichols is the McGovern Librarian Rookie of the Year. She has quickly proven herself to be a positive leader. Faced with multiple staffing vacancies, changes, and potential challenges, Nichols demonstrated effective leadership by engaging staff, listening, exploring options, and developing clear plans. When tackling challenges, she immediately identifies and brings together key stakeholders to find collaborative solutions. She is full of new and good ideas and is making positive changes. 

Chris Galloway and Dolores Martinez received Staff Achievement awards. Galloway is known for consistently and enthusiastically volunteering for, and serving as a resource, for annual events such as Cougar First Impressions, student orientations, and other campus events. He is a wonderful supervisor and collaborative colleague, having worked at UH Libraries for many years in a variety of positions and locations, making smooth transitions and quickly becoming a critical asset in each of his roles. Martinez also consistently and enthusiastically participates in supporting our students across campus through events such as Cougar First Impressions and fundraising efforts such as March of Dimes. She is a long-time employee who has adapted to many changes over the years and has been essential to the Resource Management unit. She has hired and trained numerous students, learned new skills, and is a friend and colleague to many across UH Libraries.  

The McGovern Outstanding Staff award recipient, Keith Komos, demonstrates leadership, flexibility, emotional intelligence, and innovative solutions. Over the years, he has contributed to faculty research projects and countless web applications, and has served on numerous committees. This past year he has focused his expertise on enhancing the Libraries’ discovery platform and helping to streamline workflows. He is pleasant to work with, highly responsive, thoughtful, and trustworthy. 

The Librarian Achievement awards were given to Natalia Kapacinskas and Linda Garcia Merchant. Kapacinskas began her UH Libraries career remotely during the more challenging days of the pandemic, but nonetheless made meaningful connections with colleagues resulting in successful collaborations that have accelerated her impact. She has taken the lead on instruction efforts for lower-level undergraduate core courses, and has been successful in moving forward a curriculum mapping project, an online learning videos project, and learner-centered pedagogy. One colleague shared that she is the most courageous in taking on challenging and demanding instruction opportunities. She has also served as a leader on the Organizational Learning Committee. Garcia Merchant has also made an incredible impact in a short amount of time. Her decade of experience in the field of public and digital humanities has centered her as a critical leader in the development of the Digital Humanities Core Facility. She has created a strategy for planning and implementing key elements of the DH Core, gained buy-in on this strategy from key stakeholders, and built critical relationships across campus. She is adept and creative in her problem solving, evident on a daily basis as she navigates a complex and politically nuanced campus landscape. On top of the many wonderful traits and talents she brings to the Libraries, she also shares joy, enthusiasm, and good humor in every aspect of her work.  

Carolina Hernandez is the McGovern Outstanding Librarian, excelling in all areas of librarianship, scholarship, service, and job performance. She has proven to be an effective leader and collaborator within the Teaching and Learning department to develop lessons, online objects, and videos, as well as new documentation and workflows for LibGuides. She has represented the Libraries with appointments on the Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluation Committee and Honors in Co-Curricular Engagement Advisory Board. She also serves as a mentor in the Las Comadres organization, which supports Latina students on campus. She has also led the Organizational Learning Committee. Her extensive service and scholarly contributions have resulted in peer-reviewed articles and prestigious conference presentations, earning her the Rooks Early Career Fellowship.  

This year’s Outstanding Group Award goes to the Collections Assessment Working Group (CAWG), chaired by Wenli Gao, and current and past members Jeannie Castro, Orolando Duffus, Ian Knabe, Maurine Nichols, Judy Parsons, and Shawn Vaillancourt. The group was formed in January 2022 for the purpose of fostering cross-departmental evaluation of existing collections and potential new resources. In just one year, this group has made tremendous progress in ensuring responsible stewardship of collections budgets and has helped to enhance the value and relevance of our collections. They have established workflows, created and applied holistic evaluation criteria, began evaluating subscriptions and maintenance fees, and made recommendations on renewals. They also created a review schedule and automated processes for long term planning. 

Madelyn Washington received the Dean Dana C. Rooks and Dr. Charles W. Rooks Diversity Award for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of her life and work, in both nuanced and noticeable ways. She is intentional about how she interacts with others to demonstrate inclusion, and is often asked for advice on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. She has been asked by many groups across campus to lead diversity initiatives, including leading book discussions and working with student groups. She has championed inclusive recruitment practices on search committees, and been involved with community building in the surrounding campus neighborhood. She is always setting a good example in leadership meetings on how to explore multiple perspectives with empathy.  

View photos from the 2023 Library Excellence Awards.

By on May 18th, 2023 in Announcements, Featured

Announcing Micro-credential in Digital Humanities

University of Houston Libraries and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Data Science Institute (HPE DSI) are thrilled to announce the inaugural Micro-credential in the Digital Humanities program, part of the joint Digital Humanities Core (DHC) initiative.

The Digital Humanities Core facility welcomes applications from any tenure-track or promotion-eligible non-tenure track faculty interested in building a public or digital humanities project, and securing funding to launch that project. No prior experience is required but seats are limited. Applications are due on May 22, 2023.

Successful applicants will engage strategies around:

  • Digital project ideation and planning
  • Project, data, and labor management
  • Process development
  • Successful grant proposal strategies

Participants commit to attending workshops June 5 – 16, 2023 held virtually and in person at the Digital Research Commons in MD Anderson Library and the HPE DSI Visualization Theater.

For more details, please contact dhcf@uh.edu.

Professional and Scholarly Spotlight Spring 2023

University of Houston librarians and staff are actively engaged in scholarship and service to the profession, demonstrated through presenting, publishing, and community engagement; and recognized through fellowships, honors, and leadership roles.

Taylor Davis-Van Atta accepted a one-year extended appointment as a chair of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Digital Scholarship Section Professional Development Committee.  

Davis-Van Atta presented at Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Forum on “Directions in digital scholarship: Support for digital, data-intensive, and computational research in academic libraries.”

Orolando Duffus co-presented “Gathering for action: A presentation on how to identify and take advantage of career growth opportunities for BIPOC librarians” with F. Foster, S. Webb, J. Thacker, and C. Jacobs as a pre-conference workshop panel at Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC).

Duffus co-presented “Employing pedagogical approaches towards inclusivity in library instruction for business and related disciplines” with A. Kraft, R. Peri, and W. Pothier; and “Mentorship: Creating pathways and expanding opportunities for historically underrepresented minority groups” with C. Guy, L. Xu, and R. Hankins as panels at ACRL Conference.

Wenli Gao co-presented “Bringing Asian Pacific American library workers together: An overview of ‘Path to Leadership’” with L. Pelayo-Lozada, L. Ruan, and R. Pun; and “Moving forward together: CALA’s actions towards EDI” with H. Yao, M. Huang, and G. Liu at JCLC.

Gao received the JCLC Advocacy Award.

Edward Gloor and Carolina Hernandez co-presented a poster, “Reconsidering LibGuides: From Pathfinders to Learning Opportunities,” at ACRL Conference. 

Gloor and K. Adams will co-present a breakout session, “Building Community: DIY Punk Strategies for Critical Information Literacy,” at LOEX Conference; and a column titled “Building Community: DIY Punk Strategies for the Library Classroom” will be published at College & Research Libraries News.

Rachel Helbing co-wrote “In-person and online escape rooms for individual and team-based learning in health professions library instruction” with Stefanie Lapka, K. Richdale, and C.L. Hatfield which was published in Journal of the Medical Library Association.

Helbing co-wrote “Response to school-based interventions for overweight and obesity: A systematic scoping review” with K.R. Arlinghaus, A.B. Cepni, L.P. Goodman, T.A. Ledoux, and C.A. Johnston which appeared in Clinical Obesity.

Helbing and A. Corral co-wrote a book chapter, “Maintaining continuity through institutional growth and personnel changes,” which appeared in Accreditation in the health sciences: A handbook for librarians, edited by D. Schmick.

Helbing presented with A. Corral “Chaos is a friend of mine: Creating and planning services for a new medical library space” at Medical Library Association and Special Libraries Association Joint Meeting; and is a member of the UH Population Health Internal Advisory Board.

Carolina Hernandez presented a paper titled “Need not apply: Identifying barriers to application in academic librarian job postings” at ACRL Conference.

Hernandez participated in a virtual panel titled “Navigating research incentives: IRB, institutional support, and funds” hosted by Institute for Research Design in Librarianship (IRDL); and co-presented a session with Veronica Arellano Douglas titled “What are they really saying and why? An interdisciplinary approach to critical visual literacy” at Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Annual Conference.

Susan Hoover was selected for the 2023 Institute for Research Design in Librarianship and is serving on the planning committee for the 2023 LD4 Conference on Linked Data. Hoover will present a lightning talk, “What’s behind door number 2? Discovering and using hidden APIs to automate repetitive tasks,” at the annual Texas Conference on Digital Libraries.

Natalia Kapacinskas will co-present “Tending to our roots: Collective care, crip time, and disability in the library classroom” with Brea McQueen and Anna Boutin-Cooper at LOEX Conference.

Kapacinskas and Gloor co-wrote “Pandemic Professionals: Beginning a Librarian Career in a Crisis,” which was published in Journal of New Librarianship.

Stefanie Lapka co-wrote “Assessing for developmental language disorder in the context of African American English” with I. Francois, N.B. Ratner, and M.T. Mills which appeared in EBP Briefs.

Lapka led the Health Science Libraries’ spring webinar series, Scholarly Profiles: Communicating Your Research Impact While Meeting Funder Requirements, presenting three sessions geared toward UH health professions faculty, researchers, and students: “Researcher & Author Identifiers, Profiles and Social Networks: Maximize Your Impact,” “Developing Biosketches: How to Create a Biosketch for NIH/NSF Grant Proposals,” and “Creating and Using Your ORCID iD.”

Andrea Malone began five-year term on the Executive Committee of the Modern Language Association’s Libraries and Research Forum.

Malone presented “Trends in research impact librarianship: Developing new programs and services” at LibLearnX 2023; moderated a panel titled “BIPOC experiences in library/archive leadership: Centering the voices & perspectives of Black women” for the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Leadership and Career Development Program; and co-led a workshop with Taylor Davis-Van Atta for the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences titled “Strategies for improving research visibility and impact.”

Mary Manning presented “Clifton’s blues: Blending Acadian sounds with blues, R&B, and popular music in southeast Texas” at the Texas Historical Association Annual Meeting.

Manning wrote “’Agents of Change: Celebrating Innovation at UH’s Centennial,’ a collaborative exhibit bringing 100 Years of Stories project full circle” which appeared in Houston History Magazine.

Ariana Santiago presented on an ACRL Conference panel titled “Opening Doors: From Library Residencies to Open Education” and co-edited a book (two volumes), Exploring Inclusive & Equitable Pedagogies: Creating Space for All Learners.

Mea Warren was appointed to the ACRL National Student Engagement Survey Committee.

$135K Gift Designated for Co-Curricular Student Success

University of Houston Libraries has received an anonymous gift of $135,000 to support the expansion of co-curricular student success.

UH students comprise a diverse population representing various backgrounds and needs, including and not limited to first-generation, international, and transfer students. UH Libraries’ Teaching and Learning team facilitates the academic success of all UH students through highly-engaged experiences beyond the classroom known as co-curricular teaching. The generous gift enables UH Libraries to scale efforts through a program dedicated to the significant University goal of providing a top tier, inclusive educational experience to all.

Teaching and Learning librarians work within and beyond the traditional UH classroom, empowering all students to discover that which matters most to them and to value the pursuit of lifelong learning. Librarians play a unique role in bringing learners together outside of the classroom structure; there is no grading, only curiosity and creativity in a supportive environment. Co-curricular teaching efforts are focused on the learning ecosystem that complements formal curricula where students can apply what they discover to make meaningful contributions to the University and the greater community.

“This influential gift allows us to advance student success at UH in direct ways,” said Athena Jackson, dean of UH Libraries and Elizabeth D. Rockwell chair. “Through the provision of resources, services, and partnerships that lead to enriched learning and knowledge-sharing, our librarians are creating a holistic academic experience at the heart of the University which will have a beneficial and substantive impact on all UH students.”

Preserving Houston’s LGBTQ Broadcast History: The Gulf Coast LGBT Radio and Television Digitization Project

The following post was contributed by Bethany Scott, head of Preservation and Reformatting, and Emily Vinson, preservation coordinator.

In 2020, the Gulf Coast LGBT Radio and Television Digitization Project was launched with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Program. The project’s mission is to digitize, preserve, and grant access to thousands of hours of Houston’s LGBTQ broadcast history, including recordings that had not been publicly available since their initial broadcast.

Thanks to community partnerships, this project has successfully digitized all materials included in the grant, resulting in over 3,500 unique digital files. Among these files are the long-running radio program After Hours, episodes of radio series Wilde ‘n’ Stein and Lesbian & Gay Voices, among other radio programs, and 48 episodes of TV Montrose, a cable newsmagazine documenting life in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood from 1998-1999.

We are excited to announce that all episodes of TV Montrose have been published in the UH Libraries Audio/Video Repository. Within these episodes, researchers will find bygone sites of Montrose, interviews with local political figures such as Mayor Lee P. Brown, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, then-city councilperson Annise Parker, and information about local arts, health, and social events that affected the LGBTQ community.

Additionally, several years of After Hours are now available on the AV Repository, with more to come. Styled as a late-night “queer variety show,” After Hours features “music, news, chat, risqué antics, gossip, and above all, activism.” The show’s content varies from interviews with LGBTQ musicians to coverage of the March on Washington and frank discussions around gender and identity.

To ensure equitable access to these materials and promote the use of the collection, all digitized materials have been transcribed, with searchable PDFs available through the AV Repository platform. Moving forward, the project team will continue to work on transcription and descriptive work, and they plan to create an online exhibit to contextualize and highlight these historically significant materials.

The Gulf Coast LGBT Radio and Television Digitization Project is an important resource for preserving and sharing the history of Houston’s LGBTQ community. With its extensive collection of digitized materials, the project offers a unique opportunity to learn about the experiences and contributions of LGBTQ individuals and communities in Houston. We encourage everyone to explore the digitized materials and learn more about this important part of Houston’s history.

GCSW Faculty Support Student Success Via ATIP

Ginger Lucas, LMSW, clinical associate professor and director of online and hybrid programs at University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW), is part of the cohort of UH faculty promoting student success by facilitating free and immediate access to course materials. Lucas, in collaboration with additional instructors, received an award from the UH Alternative Textbook Incentive Program (ATIP) to create open educational resources (OER) for SOCW 6306: Social Work Practice Skills and SOCW 6308: Human Diversity and Development.

Now in its fifth award cycle, ATIP has improved access to affordable education for over 11,000 UH students by supporting faculty who adopt, modify, or create OER to replace a commercial textbook in their courses. This includes the adoption of existing no-cost resources; modification/adaptation of existing OER; or creation of OER, particularly open learning materials such as lecture slides, test banks, quizzes, lesson plans, or videos.

Since its launch in 2018, ATIP has helped achieve approximately $1.4 million in textbook cost savings.

The process for adopting the alternative textbook for Human Diversity and Development was “reasonably easy,” said Lucas. “I found a current, open-access textbook that I knew could be the backbone of the course. I knew I would want to supplement that textbook with other open-access resources to provide diverse approaches to the material.”

The alternative textbook for SOCW 6306, a course for which Lucas and Shelley Gonzalez, assistant director of field education and assistant clinical faculty, were awarded an ATIP incentive, was adopted beginning in 2020 and has benefited 172 students, with estimated savings of $30,091 in one year. For the Human Diversity and Development OER, implemented in 2022, 144 students have been impacted with estimated savings of $28,792 in one year.

Cost reduction is just one of the many benefits students enjoy with the implementation of OER. Students’ assessment of the utility and quality of alternative textbooks in social work courses are positive. They are reporting a wider range of voices and high relevance to current practice in OER material, with greater accessibility and ease of use over traditional textbooks. OER tend to remain applicable even after the course is completed. “Students can take with them and reference [OER] once they are practicing social workers,” Lucas noted. “They appreciate materials that are accessible on the go. I integrated videos and podcasts that they could listen to during their commute.”

Lucas cites several reasons for choosing to adopt an alternative textbook, not the least of which is removing financial barriers to academic success. “Integrating a variety of open-access learning materials such as videos, journal articles, and textbooks increases the accessibility of the course content, and allows us to be creative in the sources we choose to teach the content to different learning styles,” she said. “It helps our curriculum stay current, addressing the most recent trends in social work practice. In addition, incorporating OER allow us to provide diverse perspectives, encouraging critical thinking.”

While selecting and evaluating material took time, Lucas found support from colleagues. “Once you begin looking for alternatives to textbooks, you will find many resources, and it helps to collaborate with other faculty to make final decisions,” she said.

For instructors who are considering OER, Lucas encourages them to reach out to the UH Libraries department of Open Education Services. “The librarians, especially Ariana Santiago, are so helpful and always available to answer questions and provide support when integrating new course materials,” Lucas said.

“I’m pleased that UH Libraries has been able to support instructors in adopting OER to remove the cost of textbooks for multiple social work courses,” said Santiago, head of Open Education Services. “It’s great to see GCSW faculty leveraging ATIP to make a positive impact on student success.”

Marilyn Kay Patterson National Women’s Conference Collection

The following is a guest post contributed by Nine Abad (they/them/their), who is pursuing a double major in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies. Abad processed the Marilyn Kay Patterson National Women’s Conference Collection as part of their capstone. Their take on students working with primary source materials: “Special Collections holds a fascinating inventory of various primary sources. I find that they are more revealing and interesting than secondary sources re-explaining and inserting their own analysis. While secondary sources can be helpful, it is uniquely valuable and important to discover your own perception and analysis of the primary source.”

At 28 years old, Marilyn Kay Patterson was among the waves of feminists fighting for equal rights and actionable policies that address issues such as abortion and reproductive freedom, sexual orientation and LGBTQ+ rights, disability, and race. In 1977, a slew of state conferences culminated into a National Women’s Conference held in Houston, where about 2,000 delegates from across the nation, in addition to 15,000 to 20,000 attendees, deliberated over a plan of action to present to Congress. Marilyn Kay Patterson was one of these delegates, representing New Hampshire and her stance on robust mental health policies. University of Houston Libraries Special Collections recently received a donation of her documents regarding the New Hampshire State Women’s Conference and the National Women’s Conference, including her speeches and proposals, newspapers covering the events of the conference, name badges, flyers, and a poster signed by members of the New Hampshire delegation to be housed in the Carey Shuart Women’s Research Collection.

The mental health proposal speech that Marilyn Kay Patterson was meant to give at the Houston National Women's Conference. Patterson explained that "there were so many discussions that had had no airtime by Monday, the last morning of the conference, that the leadership said there would be open mic time on Monday morning. I was scheduled to give that speech, but never got to the mic as there were more speakers than time. So I had written it in my hotel room Sunday night and you can see that I was changing my mind as I went along." She and the New Hampshire Delegation instead passed around a proposal sheet to spread awareness.

The mental health proposal speech that Marilyn Kay Patterson was meant to give at the Houston National Women’s Conference. Patterson explained that “there were so many discussions that had had no airtime by Monday, the last morning of the conference, that the leadership said there would be open mic time on Monday morning. I was scheduled to give that speech, but never got to the mic as there were more speakers than time. So I had written it in my hotel room Sunday night and you can see that I was changing my mind as I went along.” She and the New Hampshire Delegation instead passed around a proposal sheet to spread awareness.

The Marilyn Kay Patterson National Women’s Conference Collection includes booklets of information and plan-of-action drafts with Patterson’s notes, providing insight as to how she and other delegates may have looked at the policies proposed. In the margins of the proposals, she compares which national planks are similar to the New Hampshire proposals, jots down issues that were not addressed, and takes notes of speakers and procedures.

While there was a general sense of unity within the National Women’s Conference, there were still some internal tensions. Patterson and the New Hampshire delegation attempted to present a proposal regarding the mental health of women at the Houston National Women’s Conference, but they were unable to get to the microphone to present their proposal within the allotted time. Despite not being able to reach the stage, notes on the margins of the proposal asked delegates to pass the proposal around during the conference in hopes they would get more people to support the addition of such policies. After the conference, Patterson wrote letters to notable figures such as Gloria Steinem that important issues such as mental health were absent in conversation at the national stage.

Patterson went on to deliver speeches to local women’s organizations after the conference ended. In these speeches, she mentions critiques of the conference, including the lack of coverage of advocacies important to her. However, she notably crosses them out, instead focusing on informing women of the unity and progress that was displayed at the conference.

The Sharing Stories from 1977 project works to preserve the stories of participants like Marilyn Kay Patterson, who donated the collection materials and provided an oral history during her visit to Houston in 2022.

The Marilyn Kay Patterson collection hosts these speeches, proposals, and letters as well as photographs, flyers, a cassette tape, and newspapers covering the National Women’s Conference. Those interested in more information on the Marilyn Kay Patterson National Women’s Conference Collection and other National Women’s Conference collections are encouraged to visit Special Collections.

UH Theatre Students Design Course Reading List

Theatre students visited University of Houston Libraries Special Collections to access the archives and take part in a reimagined way of learning.

Students in American Drama visit Special Collections

Students in American Drama visit Special Collections

Elizabeth Coen, PhD, assistant professor and head of the MA in Theatre Studies at the UH School of Theatre and Dance, collaborated with Madelyn Washington, head of the Music Library, and Mary Manning, university archivist, to plan a co-curricular experience for 29 students that involved an assessment of playbills and marketing materials from theatre productions of the mid-to-late 20th century, with the goal of developing a list of plays that would be read collectively by the class.

Based on a recommendation by Andrew Davis, PhD, dean of the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts, Coen read The New Education (2017) by Cathy Davidson, and was inspired to craft a different kind of learning experience for the undergrads in her course, THEA 2344 American Drama, one that encourages creativity and empowerment. 

“I began mulling the idea of having the students design the reading list,” Coen said. “My thought was to have them in the library researching and reading plays the first weeks of classes so that they could contemplate what constitutes the genre of American Drama – whose voices have been privileged through the stage and whose voices have been left out of the historical record. These questions address some of the most pressing issues in the theatre industry right now.” 

Manning connected the students with primary source materials drawn from the Performing and Visual Arts Research Collection, followed by a session with Washington to learn how to boost their research with secondary sources, such as production reviews and related scholarly articles. 

“My scholarship and teaching are informed by community collaborations and I really wanted the students to see what could be accomplished when experts across disciplines work together toward a common goal,” Coen said. “Mary Manning and Madelyn Washington opened up new possibilities for inquiry and thinking, which has enriched our conversations about American drama in the traditional classroom.”

It was playwriting/dramaturgy major Rachel Coleman’s first experience working with primary source materials, an exploration that showed the significance of document preservation on revealing culture and values of the past, and for stewarding the human perspective so often hidden in the historical record. “I think it’s easy, as a young creative, to feel like the only artist in the world, but these papers showed thousands of artists who also wanted to change, create, and evoke,” Coleman said. “These are not just records but memories, all of which took time, effort, and love. For many of these productions, the collections are the only evidence of that care.”

In examining the materials, Coleman sensed the mostly missing voices of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community in theatre of the time, not because of lack of individuals in the space, but from concerted attempts to mute them. “These identities have always existed, and as long as theater has existed alongside them, these people have been telling stories,” Coleman noted. “While several other themes stuck out in my research, such as many shows being adaptations, this silence was the most deafening.” This insight supports the need, in the study of American drama, to examine what wasn’t being produced as much as what was. 

Countless discoveries of the serendipitous kind are waiting to be found in the archives. “We would have never been able to unpack this necessary work without the time spent in Special Collections,” Coleman said. “Primary documents are wonderful paths for original thought, filtered through no other narrator but time itself.”

Representation in the historical record is crucial, as Jessica García, a first-year student of stage management, found through her work with a group assigned to research the Dr. Nicolás Kanellos Hispanic Theatre Collection.

For García, the opportunity to examine the manuscripts, printed materials, photographs, and publications was impactful. Delving into the primary source materials presented a pivotal shift in her perspective on drama, denoted by a harmonizing of her identity as a creative and as a member of the Hispanic community, where there was once dissonance.

Her high school theatre program, although comprising a majority of Hispanic students, was limited in its scope. “Our only insight into theatre was through a white lens, so my ethnicity and identity as an artist were in separate boxes,” she said. Now pursuing higher education, García’s view of theatre had expanded, particularly through the research she conducted in the Kanellos collection.

New insights about Hispanic theatre materialized in the historical documents. “I had no idea the history behind Latino and Chicano theatre was so rich,” García said. She noticed that the archives presented a story of inclusion and empowerment, making theatre meaningful and engaging to Hispanic audiences. “The flyers we examined were more often than not advertising workshops or festivals, which was interesting,” García said. “These forms of presentations make theatre so much more accessible. The collection gave the impression that the goal for this Chicano theatre was to educate the community on what theatre can be, as a social platform and as a means of expressing oneself.”

Other notable observations surfaced for García in the collection, for instance, how musical presentations like corridos and boleros were produced as theatre, and the influence of Bertolt Brecht. “There was an inclination toward presenting epic theatre which at first took me off guard, but in retrospect it makes so much sense,” García said. “Hispanic artists were forcing their audience to take their message at face value. These plays were almost always about the Chicano experience. I think theatre is a great way to advocate, and these documents proved that a community can thrive with theatre used in those ways.”

One of the strengths of Special Collections is its focus on supporting the teaching and research activities of the University through preservation, organization, and description of materials representing a variety of perspectives. As a resource for the scholarly community and the general public, Special Collections offers endless potential for new knowledge that raises the visibility of these voices, both historical and contemporary.

Celebrate Open Education Week

March 6 – 10 marks the annual celebration of Open Education Week (OE Week), an opportunity for actively sharing and learning about the latest achievements in open education worldwide. OE Week was launched in 2012 by Open Education Global, a collaborative forum that exists to increase quality, accessibility, and affordability of education.

Here are some ways University of Houston faculty can learn more about open education: 

  • Apply for the Alternative Textbook Incentive Program (ATIP). This program offered by UH Libraries awards instructors who replace a commercial textbook with a no-cost or low-cost alternative textbook, which may include adopting open educational resources (OER), library resources, or other freely-available resources. Applications are due March 24.
  • Attend OE Week events from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Division of Digital Learning. These sessions will highlight new services and initiatives including the OER Nursing Essentials (O.N.E.) Project in partnership with OpenStax, the Texas Student Success Program Inventory, and the Texas OER Playbook.
  • Explore the UH Pressbooks catalog to view new OER titles from UH faculty and students. UH Libraries offers access to Pressbooks, an online book publishing platform for the creation of OER. Pressbooks regularly introduces new updates and features that improve the appearance and accessibility of the web books on its platform. Visit the Open Educational Resources Guide to learn more about how to publish with Pressbooks.

To learn more about how you can get involved, contact the UH Libraries department of Open Education Services by emailing oer@uh.edu.  

This post was contributed by Kate McNally Carter (‘11), open educational resources librarian.

New Digital Collection: Diana Foundation Oral Histories

A new collection, the Diana Foundation Oral Histories, is now accessible online at the UH Libraries Audio/Video Repository.

Through the Diana Foundation Oral History project, UH Libraries collected interviews with key members and past presidents of The Diana Foundation, America’s oldest continuously-running LGBTQ+ organization. The Diana Foundation is focused on assisting and supporting the needs of the gay community by fundraising on behalf of worthwhile civic, charitable, and educational endeavors. The interviews in this collection record the life experiences of notable Dianas, as well as their many insights on The Diana Foundation in the context of the LGBTQ+ community, the city of Houston, and beyond.

The collection features items from The Diana Foundation Records found in UH Libraries Special Collections.