UH Libraries News

Tejada Gifts Artist’s Book to UH Special Collections

Why the Assembly Disbanded

Why the Assembly Disbanded

Roberto Tejada, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of English and Art History at University of Houston and 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow in Poetry, recently donated a limited edition copy of a bookwork to UH Special Collections.

Why the Assembly Disbanded is an artist’s book co-crafted by Tejada and book designer Cristina Paoli of Periferia in Mexico City. “I’ve been fortunate to work with artists and designers on several collaborative projects at different inflection points in my life,” Tejada said, “so I turned to Cristina to work on an object that would reflect the themes of [the forthcoming poetry collection] Why the Assembly Disbanded—primarily, how to think of possible futures from the relentless social madness of the past in the present—with the help of photographs by Connie Samaras and Rubén Ortiz Torres, whose images activate some of the fears and fantasies I confront in the book.”

View Why the Assembly Disbanded Artist’s Book Presentation

Only 100 copies were created and gifted to libraries and collecting institutions, an “engineered scarcity” that connotes the motivation to preserve rare cultural artifacts. “It became clear to me as I worked with Cristina that I wanted this artist’s book to underscore the perversity of value in our social-media environment and its economies of attention and scale,” Tejada noted.

The book viewer is greeted with a message to accept the work as an “act of social faith,” a concept that Tejada, as a young poet, first encountered in the pages of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property and which left an enduring effect.

“As opposed to economies of accumulation, [Hyde] argues that gifts and gift-giving keep ‘cultural vitality in motion,'” Tejada wrote. “The gift being ‘property that perishes,’ my aim is to emphasize the life-enhancing commitments, the élan vital, in short, the erotics that sustain every act meant to survive us.”

Fonts of inspiration for this work date back to the period from 1987-1997 when Tejada lived and worked in Mexico City. “My friends included the writer Carmen Boullosa, the painter Magali Lara, and the bookmaker Juan Pascoe, all belonging to a generation of artists who turned to mail art and bookworks as legitimate and surreptitious mediums for collaboration,” he said. “Pascoe has produced beautiful letterpress objects at his preeminent Taller Martín Pescador, including a collaboration between Boullosa and Lara (Lealtad, Taller Martín Pescador, 1981). Magali was the first to speak to me of the great Mexican book artist and multimedia thinker Ulises Carrión who in his writings, including The New Art of Making Books, wrote about the book medium as ‘a sequence of spaces. Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment—a book is also a sequence of moments.’ (UH Special Collections owns a unique object by Carrión, a marvel of an artist’s book called Mirror Box.)”

Other creative work and collaborations of particular significance for Tejada include Chilean writer-artist Juan Luis Martínez and his “uncontainable” book La nueva novela (1971/1977/1985), the collaboration between poet Jayne Cortez and artist Mel Edwards (Festivals and Funerals, Phase Text, 1971) and bookworks by Chicana conceptualist Celia Alvarez Muñoz. 

With the widescale challenges of the past year, the project elicited greater meaning. “Working with Cristina on this book, even at the risk of overstatement, saved me from some of the darkest hours of despair in the global catastrophe of the COVID-19 pandemic, continued acts of racial injustice, the forced relocation of peoples, and the encroaching dangers of illiberal rule throughout the world today,” Tejada shared. “In the process of collaboration, I held a space for the uncounted, for both the cruel fortunes and joyful vitality of what my book calls a ‘society of alternate belonging.'”

Partially quoting the book’s preamble, “Why the Assembly Disbanded wonders, from the uncontainable perspective of a present already becoming the past, whose purpose does it serve to wager on the future’s history?”

“Artist’s books like Why the Assembly Disbanded, Mirror Box, or cartoneras and handmade works from Cuba’s Ediciones Vigía—among many housed in Special Collections—engage with text, image, form and format, through an analog, personal interaction with the ‘reader’ for creative and often political expression,” said Christian Kelleher, head of UH Special Collections. “This is artistic, social and cultural critical commentary that can be a unique experience. We are gratified to be able to make works like this available to students and scholars at UH.”

Why the Assembly Disbanded is available for viewing in the Special Collections Reading Room, located on the second floor of the MD Anderson Library, by appointment. Researchers are encouraged to contact curators with questions and requests.

New Instruction Librarian

Natalia Kapacinskas

Natalia Kapacinskas

University of Houston Libraries welcomes Natalia Kapacinskas as the new instruction librarian. She joins UH from Fort Bend County Libraries. 

Please describe your role at UH Libraries and talk about some of your professional goals.

As a member of the instruction team, I will be supporting student learning by working to develop and sustain meaningful collaborations with my colleagues in the Libraries and with teaching faculty across the University. This includes teaching class sessions, particularly for key foundational classes in the undergraduate curriculum, as well as creating digital instructional materials covering important research skills like evaluating the production, access, use, and collection of information through a critical lens. There are so many exciting conversations happening on these topics in the world of library instruction, and it’s my goal to learn from and contribute to these conversations as our team continues to tailor our instruction to the UH community.

Please share a bit about your background and interests. How do these inspire and shape your approach as a librarian?

I have a passion for supporting students, especially those early in their university careers, as they research existing information and produce information of their own. This passion comes both from my own transformative experience doing research as an undergraduate and from my more recent role as a library instructor, which gave me another perspective on the undergraduate experience. To better support students in developing their own identities as scholars, I am always asking how I can make my instruction more collaborative, inclusive, and empathetic.

What is your first impression of the University?

I’ve been so impressed by the kindness and welcoming spirit of my colleagues in the Libraries! Given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, my onboarding experience has been far from typical, but my colleagues have gone above and beyond to make me feel welcome. I’m very excited to be working with colleagues who will apply this same spirit of care to our work in the Libraries. 

What is your favorite hobby/cuisine/book/movie/TV show?

Cooking and baking are my biggest hobbies, and I like experimenting with different flavors and new recipes. One day when it’s possible to share food with colleagues again, I look forward to bringing a batch of lemon cream cheese cookies to work! Though it’s not a movie, book, or TV show, I’d like to spotlight the podcast Home Cooking with Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway as a favorite piece of media and a huge source of joy in the past year. 

By on June 1st, 2021 in Announcements, Featured

Davis-Van Atta Wins TDL Scholarly Communication Award

Taylor Davis-Van Atta

Taylor Davis-Van Atta

Taylor Davis-Van Atta, director of the Digital Research Commons at University of Houston Libraries, has been chosen as the 2021 recipient of the Texas Digital Library (TDL) Scholarly Communication Award. The award honors the work of an individual or group of academics, including faculty and librarians, who have made significant advances in our understanding of the issues surrounding scholarly communications.

In her letter of nomination for the award, Anne Washington, semantic applications product analyst at OCLC and former coordinator of metadata services at UH Libraries, stated that “Taylor Davis-Van Atta is most deserving of the TDL Scholarly Communication Award for his leadership in transforming UH Libraries scholarly communication services and support. His achievements include significantly growing University of Houston (UH)‚ open access repositories; championing UH Libraries services across campus; and creatively engaging UH colleges and programs to make thousands of student and faculty works openly available.”

Among Davis-Van Atta’s many accomplishments are the build-out of infrastructure for the Cougar ROAR (Repositories for Open Access) to support scholars in depositing and sharing their open works, and the establishment of a curriculum vitae service to expedite the deposit of faculty works into the Institutional Repository. 

Davis-Van Atta came to UH Libraries in 2017 as the digital scholarship coordinator and was promoted to his current role in 2020. His areas of specialization include scholarly publishing, open access and author rights, thesis and dissertation development, and his research interests include digital research sustainability and the presentation and preservation of born-digital research outputs. He is also the founding publisher and co-editor of the humanities journal Music & Literature.

Call for Applications: Fall 2021 Digital Research Institute

University of Houston Libraries Digital Research Commons (DRC) invites all UH graduate students to submit an application for participation in the Fall 2021 Digital Research Institute, a multi-day intensive experience aimed at building the foundational skills and knowledge needed to generate a piece of digital research.

The Institute will take place virtually over five days, August 16 – 20, 2021, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm daily. It is aimed at graduate students who are in the beginning phases of digital research that is intended to form the basis for part of an article or a thesis/dissertation. The 4-6 students who are best positioned to benefit from the experience will be offered a seat in the Institute along with a $250.00 scholarship, provided by the UH Graduate School, to be delivered after successful completion of the experience.

Participants will be expected to attend all five days of the Institute plus a one-day “Getting Started” workshop to be scheduled on a Friday approximately two weeks prior to the Institute. Participants will be assigned individualized pre-work and readings that will give them the theoretical and conceptual grounding needed to undertake the work of the Institute and exit the experience with the tangible beginnings of their digital research as well as next steps. Over the Institute, they will attend 3-5 sessions per day delivered by librarians and other digital research practitioners, each targeted at building their technical skills and offering individualized mentorship.

To apply, fill out this form by Friday, June 18, 2021, 11:59 pm.

Questions? Contact the staff in the Digital Research Commons: drc@uh.edu

Criteria for acceptance: The application review committee aims to accept 4 – 6 applicants for participation in the Institute. Applications will be evaluated based on candidates’ clarity of purpose and intent, and how they hope to benefit from the Institute experience. Preference will be given to applicants who clearly illustrate how the Institute will enhance and further their research ambitions while at University of Houston. The review committee will strive to represent a variety of perspectives, disciplines, backgrounds, and levels of experience in its selection process.


Application submission deadline: Friday, June 18, 2021, 11:59 pm

Acceptance notifications issued: Friday, July 9, 2021

Confirmation of participation: Friday, July 16, 2021

Digital Research Institute: August 16 – 20, 2021

Apply for the Digital Research Institute at UH Libraries

UH Libraries Spring 2021 Newsletter Now Online

The University of Houston Libraries spring 2021 newsletter is now online, featuring recent gifts, COVID archives, digital research, a message from our dean, and more.

University of Houston Libraries Spring 2021 Newsletter

University of Houston Libraries Spring 2021 Newsletter

By on May 24th, 2021 in Announcements, Featured

Promotions in Rank

Dean of University of Houston Libraries Athena Jackson is pleased to announce promotions in rank for the following librarians, effective September 1, 2021:

Associate Librarian

  • Ariana Santiago, open educational resources coordinator, Liaison Services
  • Bethany Scott, coordinator of digital projects, Special Collections
  • Emily Vinson, audiovisual archivist, Special Collections
  • Mea Warren, natural science and mathematics librarian, Liaison Services


  • Christina Gola, director of human resources and organizational development, Human Resources
  • Andrea Malone, coordinator of research services, Liaison Services
By on May 3rd, 2021 in Announcements, Featured

New Medical and Health Sciences Librarian

Ana Corral

Ana Corral

University of Houston Libraries welcomes Ana Corral as the new medical and health sciences librarian.

Please describe your role at UH Libraries and talk about some of your professional goals. 

I am a medical and health sciences librarian in the Health Sciences Library. I primarily support the College of Medicine students and faculty with liaison services, research support, and evidence-based practices. Some of my goals are to complete my Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) and my Academy of Health Information Professionals (AHIP) credentialing. Long-term, I would love to explore how libraries can support and partner on community-inclusive health research and initiatives.

Please share a bit about your background and interests. How do these inspire and shape your approach as a librarian? 

Prior to my arrival, I was the community engagement and research librarian at Virginia Tech where I provided support for community-based research and initiatives. My research interests include community-inclusive research methods and the interactions between language and western research practices and their impact on information access and dissemination. As a librarian, I try to not just focus on providing equitable access to information, services, and programming but take a critical look at who is lacking access and why.

What is your first impression of the University? 

My first impression was how friendly and welcoming everyone has been. They have all been excited to share what they enjoy most about working at UH and of course, all wearing red!

What is your favorite hobby/cuisine/book/movie/TV show? 

I am a foodie so I love good food, but I would say my favorite hobby is writing and playing with my fountain pens and ink.

By on April 27th, 2021 in Announcements, Featured, Stories

A Scholar’s View of UH Special Collections

University of Houston Libraries Special Collections is home to primary source materials of intellectual, cultural, and societal distinction, both historic and contemporary. A vast variety of rare and unique items, representing collecting areas of women’s research, Houston and Texas history, energy and sustainability, LGBT history, performing and visual arts, and more, are preserved and made available to the UH community and the general public for research and scholarship.

An exploration of UH Special Collections can reveal new directions for research. Frank Guridy, associate professor of history and African American and African diaspora studies at Columbia University, first visited UH Special Collections over a decade ago to learn more about the Houston Astrodome and its impact on the city during the 1960s and 70s. What he found there and in subsequent visits helped shape the work that led to the recent publication of his book, The Sports Revolution: How Texas Changed the Culture of American Athletics.

“The George Kirksey Papers was the first collection I consulted,” Guridy said. “Kirksey was one of the members of the Houston Sports Association, the group that brought Major League Baseball to Houston in the early 1960s. I also consulted the Thomas Cole Desegregation Papers, which enabled me to discover the role of local civil rights activists in the desegregation of the Astrodome.”

A closer look at the archives brought an enhanced view of the existing scholarly framework. “As my research interests widened, I became more interested in the University of Houston Athletic Program’s impact on the racial desegregation of college sports in Texas,” Guridy said. “Here again, the library’s collections became exceedingly helpful, especially the many game programs and materials in the Athletics Department Records, as well as the Daily Cougar and the Houstonian. One can see the ways the program sought to market itself and how the black freedom movement helped change the way in which the program represented itself to the broader public. These records allowed me to see the larger role of the university’s athletic program on the social changes that took shape in the larger sports world in Houston and in the nation as a whole.”

How to Do Research in UH Special Collections

Guridy’s advice for students and scholars? “Be ready for the surprises you will encounter in the archives. I came to Special Collections expecting to work on just one collection and I left with a whole host of archival discoveries that expanded my research horizon and allowed me to write a story of the university’s pivotal role in the growth of the sports industry and the social changes that accompanied that process.” 

Anyone is welcome to visit the UH Special Collections Reading Room, located on the second floor of the MD Anderson Library, by appointment. Researchers are encouraged to contact curators with questions and requests.

UH Libraries Statement on the Conviction for the Murder of George Floyd

Our hearts are with the family and loved ones of George Floyd, in Houston’s Third Ward, in Minneapolis, and beyond. We acknowledge the labor of activists who helped bring an incremental measure of accountability for his murder. We also recognize that the work of defeating anti-Black racism is not done, and we remain actively committed to the ultimate goal of eliminating anti-Black violence in our community and country. This work belongs to all of us, and this is a beginning, not an end. George Floyd’s murder was not the result of a single bad actor, but of systemic injustice against Black Americans stemming from centuries of racism and oppression.

We will honor George Floyd and all of those lost to anti-Black violence through education and action. While we recognize that education is a crucial step in becoming anti-racist, we also acknowledge that education itself is not enough. We must act to end anti-Black racism and violence. We invite you to join University of Houston Libraries in the following actions:

By on April 26th, 2021 in Announcements, Featured

DH@UH: Announcing the Program

University of Houston Libraries Digital Research Commons is pleased to announce the program for DH@UH, a new series aimed at convening humanists, data scientists, librarians, and digital humanities practitioners at every level at UH.

DH@UH: Building Connections

DH@UH: Building Connections

The inaugural program in this series, Building Connections, is a three-day virtual event to be held on April 19 – 21 via Zoom that will showcase digital humanities collaborations by research teams across UH.

View full program for DH@UH: Building Connections.

Join students, librarians, and faculty for a program highlighting the breadth of digital humanities work ongoing at UH. Discussion sessions will explore the practical challenges of starting and sustaining DH projects and how those who are interested in engaging this work can discover and take advantage of existing opportunities on campus.

DH@UH is a joint venture of UH Libraries Digital Research Commons, the US Latino Digital Humanities program at Arte Público Press, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, the College of Technology, and the UH Graduate School.

DH@UH: Building Connections is free and open to the entire UH community. Sessions will be held online via Zoom (no password required).