Our new Experience Learning initiative recognizes that learning is enhanced—and more enjoyable—when lessons are used to experiment, solve problems, and innovate. It challenges faculty to look for new and creative ways to work with students. As part of Faculty Appreciation Week 2016, here is a look at two UT Libraries faculty members who “go the extra mile” in their teaching, research, and outreach.
The field of information science has changed quite a bit over the last few years, especially when it comes to digital collections and systems. As an assistant professor and head of digital initiatives for UT Libraries, Mark Baggett tackles the challenges these changes have presented head on.
Baggett recently led the implementation of a new digital asset management system for the Libraries that will help provide access to and preserve the digitized historical and cultural heritage collections.
UT Libraries holds many such collections, including the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club Handbook Collection, photographs of the life and career of Howard H. Baker Jr., and the Volunteer Voices Statewide Digitization Project.
Baggett said he sees preserving such collections as one of the biggest challenges in information science in recent years.
“As libraries work to preserve and make available online rare special collections and create digital content, we must figure out ways to ensure that these valuable items are preserved for future generations and are not corrupted, changed, or altered after digital creation,” said Baggett. “We must also work together to develop processes to ensure that these rare materials are protected from catastrophic loss.”
As an information scientist, Baggett also spends time programming and developing applications. He and others in his department work with librarians and programmers from other institutions to create open source software—software that anyone can copy, modify, and redistribute—to solve shared needs.
While Baggett doesn’t formally teach information science courses, he does accept School of Information Science students for practicums during which they get hands-on experience with the digital library. The experience can help students decide if information science is a career path they want to pursue, he said.
“Mark possesses a great deal of technical knowledge and experience, but his ability to understand user needs and translate them into useful library systems may be his superpower,” said Steve Smith, dean of UT Libraries.
In his time away from work, Baggett enjoys traveling around the country to sample newly released craft beer. He also collects rare and limited punk rock and hard rock record albums.
As the modern political archivist for UT Libraries, Kris Bronstad gets to experience a behind-the-scenes look at history and find ways to make this information accessible to others.
Bronstad said archives allow you to explore how events and movements have occurred and why.
“You see how much gets edited out of the versions of history that shape our understanding of the past,” said Bronstad, an assistant professor. “Not just the published speeches, but the rejected speeches, the research that lead to the ideas, and the behind-the-scenes correspondence documenting logistics or arguments.”
Archival materials offer a wealth of information and insight about the way societies work, Bronstad said. When she has been able to give faculty and undergrads the hands-on experience of looking through the records, the feedback has been very positive. “It’s a powerful feeling to discover that history was populated by real people, and that the evidence of those people’s work and lives can sometimes be seen up close and personal.”
She and her colleagues are working to make the Libraries’ Modern Political Archives more available by creating digital collections.
They are currently working on the Sue K. Hicks collection. Hicks was a prosecuting attorney in the Scopes trial, one of the most well-known trials of the twentieth century. Hicks saved many of his notes from the trial, including letters from people across the country who strongly felt their faith was being challenged by the scientific theory of evolution.
Bronstad has also been working with researchers from Texas A&M and University of Illinois-Chicago to develop resources for communities to create and manage their own archives rather than turning materials over to other institutions.
“Having your community’s archives housed at a university or state historical society is not always an option for everyone,” said Bronstad. “We want to provide people with the tools to make their own histories available.”
Aside from her own research, Bronstad assists researchers from UT and around the world who have an interest in the Modern Political Archives’ collections.
“Kris works diligently to bring archived content to the public through physical processing, digitization projects, and instruction,” Smith said. “She goes the extra mile when working with students, faculty, visiting scholars, and the community while they are doing research.”
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)