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Written By: Emily Akers

Electronic reserves, or e-reserves, are just like print course reserves, which Angela Whitfield describes in Clearing the Air About Course Reserves. They are course materials that the instructor has designated as required reading for their class. The only difference is that they are accessed online and often only contain small portions of a book as opposed to the entire text. This option makes course material easily accessible to students.

But did you know that in some cases, if you use an e-reserve which says print or view, you can have it read out loud to you? Willis Library Access Services is piloting a new accessibility initiative for our electronic reserves in which the material undergoes an extra editing process before it is uploaded to the library website. This editing process not only allows the documents to become text readable, but it also enables the document to be read in “logical reading order.” This means that the flow of the reading carries on in the same way in which a person would logically read through a document. This is not necessarily the order in which the document displays the information. For example, if a paragraph is broken up by a picture, the logical reading order would, if possible, allow the paragraph to read all the way through before indicating that there is a picture, instead of stopping the paragraph in the middle to announce the presence of a picture. It also excludes extraneous information such as interrupting the reading flow with running headers or page numbers. Additionally, along with the reading order, this editing process tags each piece of the document, indicating whether each section is a heading, subheading, text, figure, or other elements.

All you need to do to access this feature is to click on an electronic reserve which says print or view, which indicates that it is a pdf scanned by the library. Then log in with your EUID and password, and the course password provided by your instructor. Then download the document and open it again in Adobe Acrobat DC. Once you are in Adobe Acrobat DC, you can click View in the top left-hand corner, scroll down to “Read out loud” and then choose “Read to the end of document.” The document should begin reading immediately. While the document is reading, you also have the option to choose “pause,” “stop,” or “read this page only.”

a screenshot of Read out loud option selected under View menu option

Screenshot from Adobe Acrobat DC by Emily Akers

This pilot initiative is a great way to expand accessibility within the library, especially in regards to course material. Please take advantage of this feature if listening instead of reading aids your studies in any way.
For more information on this topic, please email us at AskUs@unt.edu or contact Reserves Manager Emily Akers directly at Emily.Akers@unt.edu

Will this library service benefit you? We would love to hear about your experience. Comment below!

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Finals week is around the corner as the semester draws closer to the end. Take a break from studying and join us for some fun activities to de-stress. The GSAs from Access Services will be hosting a virtual brunch this Saturday, May 2, from 12 pm to 4 pm. This event features a trivia competition, origami, a caption the library’s photos contest, and coloring. Bring your brunch/lunch and enjoy it!

Looking for more information or have questions? Contact us at AskUs.

Flyer for Fun before Finals brunch using zoom

Posted by & filed under Library Resources, Research Help.

Written By: Scholar Speak Team

As a part of UNT’s evolving response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the UNT library is committed to helping faculty and students to access the resources and services they need for their teaching and learning. The drastic change for the AskUs team is moving to provide virtual reference services only to library users via email, texting, and live chat. Just use AskUs to let us know your needs. During this challenging time, Student Engagement Librarian, Jenn, and the AskUs team would like to share their challenges and tips to adapt to such a new lifestyle change.

Jenn
Perhaps the most striking difference for me and the hardest to overcome is the new realness I feel for the digital divide. The divide was something of an abstract concept to me before the pandemic. I had an awareness of the impact of income inequality on education from my experiences working with low income and rural students at UNT and other academic libraries. But that knowledge seems vague and cloudy compared to the piercingly clear picture I have now.
Those who relied on the library to bridge the divide were certainly there but safely in my peripheral. Their basic needs were met with our library services and materials, so I only really “saw” them as the faces of those I helped each day and the numbers in our annual reports. Now, they have my full attention as we all struggle to face the awful truth that we could not keep them from being swallowed by the divide. It is unsettling for me to be in a position where I can no longer help everyone. My only hope is that we use this new awareness of the digital divide to remake our libraries into centers of learning that are truly accessible for all students.
Anima
Adapting to a new lifestyle, working remotely, and taking full-time online classes has been a challenge. To remain focused, motivated, and stay home. Here are some tips that I am trying my best to follow:
  • To eat right and stay healthy, which has helped me to stay focused and make the college experience more productive.
  • Know what my resources are and develop an appropriate plan.
  • Develop new hobbies such as gardening, sketching, cooking, and still looking for more.
Lastly, a motto: “You can still make something beautiful and something powerful out of a really bad situation.” by Gabe Grunewald.
Sarah
I live in a tiny studio apartment, so as I’m sure you can imagine, suddenly having to spend all my work, school, and leisure time at home has been a challenge. One thing I was already doing before which has become even more important in the past few weeks is to set aside different spaces for different activities. I try to always eat in my kitchen area, work and study at my desk, etc. This makes it easier to follow a routine, focus on my work when I need to, and fully relax during my free time. Creating that separation also helps to make the small space feel bigger, which is much-needed right now.
Frances
I’ve slowly adapted to this new lifestyle of doing everything at home by trying to create a sense of normalcy through the routine. This mainly involves sticking to healthy habits such as cleaning my space regularly and cooking full meals. Mentally, reminding myself that I still have school and work responsibilities and that I’m lucky to be able to stay home pushes me to take care of myself. When being at home all day inevitably gets boring, I look for excitement in activities such as exploring new recipes or doing puzzles. Even simple tasks like rearranging my desk or bookshelf can be an adventure. In times of uncertainty, I often feel like I’ve lost track of time, but I find comfort and reality in these routine tasks and new hobbies.
Utsav
I am the kind of person who prefers staying home even during breaks but having to stay home for classes and work has been a challenge. This may be because the choice of actually going outside has been stripped away as it is rather unsafe. It has been challenging to focus on studies and work from home, where I usually just de-stress and play videogames. To remain productive and keep a sense of normalcy while staying home all day, I follow a routine to ensure both study and work time are well managed. Things that have helped me during this situation are talking to my mom on the phone and having her walk me through her recipes while I miserably fail to recreate her dishes, learning to play guitar and of course, playing videogames!
Hui-Yu
Here are my personal tips to effectively study or work from home during the COVID-19 crisis. First, have a dedicated workspace in the home to help avoid distractions. Even if you live in a small apartment, it can be a corner of a living room or bedroom. Second, create a to-do list and prioritize tasks to remain focused and help with procrastination. In addition, taking short breaks is a great way to refresh yourself during the long work/study day. I usually use my break time to do a house chore. It is a good way to help myself reduce stress. At the end of the day, I video call my family back home and cook for the next day. Last and the most importantly, keep your spirits up!
Madison
The most challenging aspect of this change has been trying to balance working remotely, completing homework, and helping my toddler understand why mom has to work sometimes. This is what has helped me deal with the situation.
  • Communication- As someone who has never submitted an assignment late, it has been difficult to let my professors know that I need an extension. I have always worked to maintain a balance between my professional life and my parent life, so it has been difficult to now have my toddler yelling in the background of a Zoom meeting. I have pushed myself to communicate with my boss and professors about my situation and am fortunate that everyone is so understanding.
  • Staying in the moment-Since work-life and home-life have collided, I have found myself more often thinking about my kid at work and thinking about work when I am with my kid. This leads to me feeling like I am not doing either right. To combat this, I am trying to stay in the moment and focus at the task at hand. Though difficult, this has helped me.
I personally find it helpful to know I am not alone in this, and I hope other parents in this situation will find me sharing my experience helpful as well.

UNT Libraries and the AskUs team are here for you. For information about access to resources and services, please visit our Continuity of Library Services guide.

Posted by & filed under Library Resources, Research Help.

Written By: Sarah Diaz

Although distance education has existed in various forms for over a century, it has evolved rapidly in recent years due to technological advancements. The earliest type of distance education came in the form of correspondence courses, which originated in the mid 19th century for purposes of religious instruction, the teaching of foreign languages, and the training of employees in the business world (Berg and Simonson, 2016). In the present day, online classes are the preferred method for distance learning, with students and teachers communicating over the Internet. Online classes have become an important part of higher education, and as of 2009, over 5.6 million students in the United States were taking a least one class online (Berg and Simonson, 2016).

The University of North Texas offers a variety of online courses as well as degrees which can be completed entirely online, allowing students to complete their education around their busy schedules and in many cases without relocating. However, distance learners also face unique challenges. If you are pursuing your degree online, you may be wondering what the UNT libraries can do for you. You may even have concerns, such as how to go about doing research for a class project when you live in a different city, or perhaps even a different state, and cannot visit the on-campus libraries in person.

The good news is that there’s nothing to worry about! The UNT libraries offer many services and resources which can help distance learning students access the information they need.

The most important piece of advice I can give to distance learning students is to sign up for an ILLiad account. ILLiad is a system used to request books and articles owned by the UNT Libraries or by other libraries through Interlibrary Loan. If you are a distance learning student creating an ILLiad account for the first time, be sure to choose “Dist Learner” as your status and “Dist Learning (Home)” as your delivery location.

Here are a few ways the UNT libraries can help distance learning students access the resources they need:

  • Document Delivery: Even if you are not able to visit the UNT libraries in person, you can still borrow books from our collections. Distance learning students can have UNT library books mailed to their current address, as well as having journal articles or a book chapter sent to them electronically (“Distance Learning Requests”, n.d.).
  • Interlibrary Loan: If the book or article you need is not in the UNT collection, you may be able to get it from a different library through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Although books borrowed through ILL must be picked up at one of the libraries on campus, copies of articles can be delivered electronically (“Distance Learning Requests”, n.d.). Public libraries also offer ILL. If you are a distance learning student and need a book that the UNT libraries do not have, you may be able to use your local public library’s Interlibrary Loan service.
  • TexShare Cards: All UNT students are eligible to request a TexShare card. Many public and academic libraries in Texas participate in the TexShare program. With a TexShare card, you can borrow items from other participating libraries (“TexShare Cards,” n.d.). So, for example, if you live near another university, you may be granted access to their library resources with a TexShare card. Click here for more information about TexShare card.
  • Course Reserves: Many professors put copies of the textbooks for their courses on reserve at one of the libraries on campus. Although these books are typically checked out for short periods of time and cannot be delivered to your home address, you can use ILLiad to request a digital copy of a book chapter; likewise, journal articles placed on reserve can also be delivered to you in digital form (“Distance Learning Requests.” n.d.).
  • Electronic Access: Along with print collections, the UNT Libraries have many electronic resources, including e-books, e-journals, and databases, that may be accessed regardless of your location. Go to the UNT Libraries website to start your search. Choose a tab from the left panel to search online articles, databases, e-books, or e-journals.
Screenshot of the bluebox from our library website with search the catalog by electronic resources

Screenshot from our library website by the author

You will need to login with your EUID and password to access electronic resources from off campus.
If you have any questions about the UNT Libraries’ resources and services, please AskUs.

Are you pursuing a degree online? What library services or resources have you found to be the most useful? Feel free to leave a comment below.

References:

Berg, G. A., & Simonson, M. (2016). Distance Learning. In Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/distance-learning

Distance learning requests. (n.d.). UNT University Libraries. Retrieved from https://library.unt.edu/services/distance-learning/

TexShare cards. (n.d.). UNT University Libraries. Retrieved from https://library.unt.edu/services/texshare-cards/

Posted by & filed under Careers in Librarianship, Library Resources.

Written By: Melissa Gamez-Herrera

Introduction

Willis Library provides many materials and services, which patrons and students may be surprised to learn exist. I am the GSA in the Digital Projects Unit of Willis Library, and I digitize primary materials for institutional partners to contribute to the Portal to Texas History. I have worked on projects like the CC Cox Collection, the National WASP WWII Museum Collection the Maude Kitchen Tintypes, and many more. I also digitize books, photographs and other objects for the UNT Digital Library! This kind of work requires much in terms of time, technology and know-how. As a graduate student in the College of Visual Art and Design (CVAD), I am on my way to earning an MFA in Photography. The Digital Projects Unit was in search for a GSA that had technical experience in photography, and began a relationship with the Photography Department in CVAD. As an MFA student in Photography, I originally set out to only focus on the artistic expression of making photographs. When I discovered an opportunity to work for the Digital Projects Unit here in Willis Library I jumped at the chance to work here. I have been here for the past two years, digitizing materials primarily using the Phase One system—a tethered capture camera system used by many institutions to digitize cultural heritage materials.

Photo and Digitization

In digitization, we aim to preserve materials in a digital format so that the item, through proxy of the computer screen, will be available to a worldwide audience for the foreseeable future. “Digitization is the conversion of any type of original, be it paper, photographic prints or slides, three dimensional objects or moving images into a digital format.” (Astle & Muir, 2002. p. 67). This digital format can exist in a variety of formats that many of us with some computer proficiency may recognize, such as .TIFF and .JPEG. There is much information in Library Science scholarship which examines access and preservation goals that digitization can solve, as well as some of the challenges that can arise from this method of preserving cultural heritage. My main experience in this field has been through photography, using it as a tool to digitize cultural heritage materials.

Copy stand with Phase One/DT Photon system in the Digital Projects Unit

Copy stand with Phase One/DT Photon system in the Digital Projects Unit. Photo by the author

The Phase One system is a system standard for commercial photographers and has widely been in use for preserving images of cultural heritage materials. Technical knowledge pertaining to photography is effectively applied to digitize collections in libraries and other cultural institutions. This includes museums, too! Photography has a significant place in digitally preserving cultural heritage materials like books, music, photographs (including negatives), written oral histories, and many others. The Phase One capture system allows us to capture high resolution images of the materials we wish to digitally preserve, and that align with the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines (FADGI). Primary sourced cultural heritage images, videos, sound files and more are also made widely available on the internet through databases like the Portal.

Artists Using Primary Sources

There is an incredible amount of overlap for artists, like myself, who seek primary sources for research, and for the purpose of artmaking. Students in art can take advantage of what the Portal to Texas History and the UNT digital library have to offer. As an artist, there are many possibilities for using the Portal to Texas History for source materials such as news articles, photographs, and other primary sources. I have used video clips themselves from the Portal in my own work, as primary source research, as well as speaking to the ideas I want to communicate. This is an important aspect to creating research-based art today. Also, I have used other databases like the Newspaper Archive to create a stab bound book pertaining to my research. To take advantage of these databases that provide primary sources to make artwork is both relevant to history and the current day.

Artist Book Part 1. Photo by the author

Artist Book Part 2. Photo by the author

There is not much scholarship written which documents and examines the use of primary sources by artists and its importance. However, from first-hand experience, digital primary source databases, have heavily informed my practice. Primary source research has also allowed me to articulate the historical and theoretical aspects of my artwork so that it can exist within the context of contemporary art. In this way, primary sources that are digitally preserved become further established through the way we think about art and through our engagement with history.

References
Astle, P. J., & Muir, A. (2002). Digitization and preservation in public libraries and archives. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 34 (2), 67–79. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/096100060203400202

KXAS-TV (Producer). (1988, August 14). News Clip: Mexico Dr. [Video file]. University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu. Retrieved from https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc858221

Posted by & filed under Library Resources.

Written by: Sephra Byrne

One of the challenges that every library from small, local public libraries to the academic libraries of large research universities face is how to spend their budget in a way that serves the most patrons. University of North Texas (UNT) Libraries are no exception to this struggle. The current purchasing budget at UNT Libraries sits around seven million dollars, and while this leaves a lot of freedom, that freedom can also present a challenge (UNT Libraries, 2020.) How can we as librarians make sure that the books, databases, and journals that we spend money on are really serving you, our patrons, with your learning, teaching, and research needs? We generally evaluate these resources in three ways: through analyzing individual resources like in the graph above, through our annual serials review, and through evaluations of entire subjects.

Many of the purchases of smaller items like individual books come from recommendations by our patrons and the liaison librarians they work with. This works well on a small scale, but it is possible that we are either buying too much of one subject or too little of another subject. One of the ways we try to avoid this is through periodic evaluations. Every year about five or six subjects are chosen on a rotating basis to be evaluated. This means that a subject is assessed every ten years. The assessment starts with looking into things like what classes are required for that major, the number of students majoring in that program, the research interests of faculty, and recent dissertations. Once we know these things, we can consider what students, faculty, and staff working in that subject area need. These needs are then compared against what we already have. We can also check on the quality of what we have by using comparing what we have against the Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles (OAT) lists for books and looking at the rankings of journals we offer in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR). Finally, the information about how often resources like books, journals, and databases is collected in order to gauge how well what we have in that subject area is used. These pieces of information are compiled into a report detailing the strengths and weakness of that what we offer for that subject. After creating this report, it can be reviewed by both librarians and a departmental representative so that we can earmark money for making improvements over the course of the next year.

Evaluations are good for looking at the quality of what we offer for each subject area as a whole, but UNT Libraries pays for hundreds of electronic journals and resources on an annual basis. These e-resources range from collections of movies and music1 to 3D models of anatomy complete with lessons and quizzes2 to raw data sets3. The cost of these e-journals and e-resources can range from less than fifty dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. With this much money at stake, it is important to know whether these resources are well-used. This is done on both an ongoing and case-by-case basis. Every year all the databases, eBook packages, journals, and other resources above a chosen price-point are ranked by their total usage, the inflation of their costs, and their cost per use. Once this ranking has been created, resources at the bottom of the ranking can be put on the “endangered species” list. This means that they will be more carefully watched, promoted, or in rare cases, cancelled all together.

More in-depth and individual evaluations are often needed on a case-by-case basis. This is done for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the price of a specific resource is up for negotiation and the librarians negotiating want to know more about the resource and its value. This sort of analysis is also done when new resources are being considered. Instead of trusting that a recommended resource will be well-used, similar journals or databases can be considered to see how well-used they are and how the proposed resource might fit into what we offer. One of the main ways that we can measure the value of a resource is through a simple cost per use calculation. The graph shown in the header is an example of a cost per use calculation where the usage for that resource was collected from our databases along with the costs for each specific resource. The annual cost was then divided by the usage for that year. We look at this cost per use calculation as well as trends in the usage so that we can make a recommendation based on evidence.

Here at UNT Libraries, we are working hard to develop better ways to assess and enhance our collections using evidence to make decisions. You too can have an influence on our collections here at UNT Libraries. If there is a book, journal, or resource that you think we should purchase but currently do not have, you can suggest purchases here, or you can e-mail us at askus@unt.edu about any questions you might have. We really value your input when making decisions, and we enjoy helping you find what you need to be successful here at UNT. Also, if you want to see more visualizations of our collections data and recent evaluations from our Collection Assessment department, feel free to visit our Tableau profile. Many of the visualizations there are updated regularly with monthly usage data. What do you think?
Please leave a comment below.
1 Do you like theatre? You should check out Digital Theatre+ for a lot of recorded theatre productions as well as behind the scenes information. We also subscribe to Naxos which has a wide variety of music from pop to jazz to classical.
2 Primal Pictures Anatomy has 3D interactive models of human anatomy and learning modules for Speech Language Pathology and Audiology topics.
3 Check out Sports Market Analytics for extensive sports data or Morningstar for economics data that is updated daily.

References:
UNT Libraries. (2020). Updated Report 2020. Collection Assessment. Denton: University of North Texas Libraries. Retrieved January 13, 2020

Posted by & filed under Research Help.

Written by: Hui-Yu Hsiung

When writing a research paper, you will need to consult a variety of sources of information. For some research papers, you may be required to use primary sources. What are primary sources? Sources of information are often categorized as primary and secondary sources based on their originality. Primary sources refer to “original materials created at the time under study that have not been altered or distorted in any way” (Meroño-Peñuela & Hoekstra, 2014, p. 282). They are first-hand, authoritative information of an event, a person, an object at the historical time period created by persons who participated in or directly observed the event described. What is defined as a primary source varies from discipline to discipline. For example, in art and literature fields, primary sources are creative works, such as paintings, novels, poems, video or audio recordings, photographs, and music scores. In social sciences, primary sources focus on census statistical data, field notes, interview transcripts, and speeches. In STEM and law fields, primary sources include academic journal articles reporting the design and findings of original research, government documents, patents, and court records. Besides, other common primary sources include autobiographies, diaries, personal correspondence, and internet communications on emails, blogs and social media.

In contrast, secondary sources interpret or analyze primary sources. They are “documents that relate or discuss information originally presented elsewhere, written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight” (Meroño-Peñuela & Hoekstra, 2014, pp. 282-283). These resources often provide detailed reference information on primary sources. In general, they can be found in books and scholarly journals. The commentary, criticism and interpretation of works are key secondary sources in art and literature fields. In social sciences, STEM and law fields, secondary sources are the interpretation of raw statistical data, reviews of law and social policy, as well as scholarly journal articles that analyze or synthesize results of original research.

A well-done research paper uses both primary and secondary sources. They complement each other. Primary sources provide direct access to authoritative information about your topic while secondary sources give you an overview of background information on the topic showing how the topic relates to existing research. When writing a literature review, secondary sources are most useful. To learn more about primary and secondary sources, and how to determine the relevance and reliability of a source, the UNT Libraries has a comprehensive library guide on Beginning the Research Process. As always, feel free to leave comments or contact Ask Us with any questions you may have.

References
Meroño-Peñuela, A. & Hoekstra, R. (2014). What is linked historical data?. In Janowicz K., Schlobach S., Lambrix P.,& Hyvönen E. (Eds), Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management. Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (pp. 282-287). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-13704-9_22

Posted by & filed under Library Resources.

Written by: Scholar Speak Team

2020 Balloons

2020 Balloons by cottonbro licensed under Pexels

Back in January 2019, Graduate Service Assistants (GSA) at UNT Willis Library started a blog, Scholar Speak, as a medium to bridge the gap between students, patrons, and their library where we are continuing to discuss topics and events related to UNT Libraries. As of Spring 2020, Scholar Speak team includes Anima, Frances, Hui-Yu, Madison, Sarah and Utsav.

This month, Scholar Speak is celebrating its first year and we would like to thank all our contributors and readers of 2019! We have a total of 15 posts and we are looking forward to have new posts, contributors and readers.

If you are a graduate student working for UNT Libraries and/or have an idea for a scholarly blog post that could benefit our readers, the GSAs in Access Services would like to formally invite you to submit your ideas and write a post for our Scholar Speak blog.

For more information, please email AskUs@unt.edu or directly contact GSA Madison at madison.brents@unt.edu

Have a wonderful year of 2020 and feel free to leave suggestions or comments in the comments form or simply AskUs. We would love to hear from you.

Posted by & filed under Research Help.

Written By: Emily Cornell

At the beginning of your research, you may simply have a subject. You’re writing a paper on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley or sustainable tourism—but you’re not sure what’s exactly out there in terms of information resources. Besides utilizing keyword searching, executing a subject term search can help you locate all the resources UNT has cataloged under a specific subject, since the associated subjects are assigned as access points (“Access Point,” n.d.).

screenshot of subject term search from our catalog with orange rectangle highlighting the "Subject" dropdown

Screenshot of subject term search from our library catalog

Subject searches, in the case of the first example, are different from an author search because the subject search will bring up all resources within the catalog that are “about” Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and not “by” Shelley. A subject search for the author also brings up criticism and biographies that are directly related to the author as a subject.

Another way to utilize subjects in your search on the catalog is by starting your research journey from one specific catalog record. If you find an item that you’re interested in, there’s a simple way to see what else is within the catalog that is “like” it in terms of subject.

screenshot of item record from our library catalog with orange rectangle highlighting the Subjects located under more item details

Screenshot of item record from our library catalog

For instance, if you found a book on the topic of sustainable tourism in the UNT catalog and you wanted to see what else UNT has that is “like” that book in terms of subject, look under ”Subjects” in the “More Item Details” section of the page. Looking at the subjects of an item allows you to find even more specific subjects, such as is the case with sustainable tourism and the more specific topic of sustainability in heritage tourism, or more broader terms.

Conducting research in college is difficult enough—sometimes you’re learning how databases work, how a new essay structure operates, or how to research an unfamiliar topic and don’t know where to begin. Understanding the different ways to utilize the catalog and its features to your advantage can be liberating and stress relieving.

I hope that in your next research endeavor you’re able to test out the Subject search feature and find more valuable resources!

Reference

Access Point. (n.d.). In J. M. Reitz (Ed.), Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. Retrieved from https://www.abc-clio.com/ODLIS/odlis_a.aspx

Posted by & filed under Careers in Librarianship, Library Resources.

Written By: Madison Brents

Are you fascinated by all things old and rare? As an aspiring librarian, I certainly am. However, despite this fascination, I have never visited UNT’s Special Collections Library because I found it intimidating and felt like I could not go if I did not have a reason. Thankfully, I recently had the opportunity to interview Special Collections Public Services Librarian Meagan May to learn more about this department of the UNT library. If you only have a vague idea of what a Special Collections Library does, and how to use it, then this interview should be as beneficial to you as it was for me!


  • What is a special collections library?
    A special collections library is one that houses and preserves rare and archival materials and collections. One of the main things that set apart special collections from general collections is that the materials generally do not circulate. This isn’t too keep people from accessing them, but rather to ensure that materials are kept in safe conditions. At UNT, our Special Collections include rare books, oral histories, university archives, historical manuscripts, maps, microfilm, photographs, art, and artifacts.
  • I was surprised to see there are items in the collection one would not normally expect, such as items that are not old, or items that are not even books. Could you talk more about that?
    There are a ton of items in our collection that fall outside of those categories! We have toys, games, comics, art, posters, maps, clothing, posters, buttons, quilts, and even the odd hamster skull and preserved gecko. One of our more popular collections, particularly when it comes to class visits, is our Photography Study Collection. We have a growing collection of prints, portfolios, and books by notable modern and contemporary photographers. Several of the artists in the collection have works also owned by major museums and institutions – so it really is a unique opportunity to view them together and isn’t something many would expect us to own.
  • Is there an item in the collection that is very popular among patrons?
    I don’t know if I would say there is a particular item, but everyone seems to really enjoy looking at our Miniature Book collection. We have over 3,000 items in that collection, all of which are books under 4” in height. A large number of these miniatures are on display in the Hughes Reading Room and include antique miniatures, fine press miniatures, artists’ books, propaganda miniatures, mass-market miniatures, Texana miniatures, and several miniatures that were at one point considered “the smallest book in the world.” It’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t had the opportunity, and it’s actually the collection that brought me to UNT Special Collections for the first time as an MLS graduate student.
  • Who can use UNT’s special collections library? Do those who wish to visit need to make an appointment?
    Anyone can visit and use UNT’s Special Collections library! You don’t have to be a researcher or even a member of the UNT community to come visit. We have an exhibition space in our Reading Room that holds semester long exhibits as well as our Miniature Books display that is available to be viewed by anyone and everyone during our open hours. However, if you’re interested in requesting materials, the timeline is a little different. We have a small space onsite where we keep some of our more popular items and collections, but most of our materials are stored offsite. Because of this, there’s generally a 24-48 hour wait time between when a request is submitted and when it is available to be viewed. Once the material is onsite and available though, no appointment is needed to come in and view it.
  • Do you have advice for students who are interested in utilizing special collections for their research but don’t know where to begin?
    My best advice is to reach out to us. Conducting research with primary sources and other special collections materials is a learned skill that takes practice, and we understand that. Our staff is always happy to meet with researchers and assist them with everything from how to locate materials in the catalog and our finding aids to showing them best practices when it comes to viewing, handling, and understanding materials.
  • When I was doing research for this interview, I noticed a lot of articles talking about the importance of primary sources. Could you maybe expand on what those are and how it applies to special collections?
    Primary sources provide raw information on people, places, and events, which is why archival materials such as correspondence, scrapbooks, records, journals, and other similar items are considered so important to scholars and their research. Special collections and archives everywhere work to make sure these items are preserved and cared for because, without them, we would lose those first-hand accounts and insights into the past.
  • Is there anything else you think students should know about special collections?
    Please come check us out! Next time you’re in the library or have a few minutes to spare between classes we’d love to see you. We have an amazing student-staffed service desk that’s always excited to tell you more about our collections, help you request or access materials, and show you around the reading room.
I did not realize the extent of special collections, and after talking with Meagan I find it much less intimidating. Thank you to Meagan for agreeing to an interview, and for providing so much useful information. I know I will be traveling to the 4th floor of Willis to visit the Special Collections library, and I hope you will join me.

If you have any additional questions contact AskUs@unt.edu, or contact Special Collections directly at SpecialCollections@unt.edu.

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