Open Textbooks Key to Curbing Costs and Increasing Student Success

Concerned about the escalating cost of traditional college textbooks, the UConn Libraries is partnering with UConnPIRG and the Undergraduate Student Government to explore “open-source” electronic textbook alternatives.

Open Textbook Image

Image derived from a graphic created by Giulia Forsythe and remixed/re-used under Creative Commons license. Courtesy of BCcampus

As commercial college textbook costs continue to rise, estimated as high as 812% or more than three times the rate of inflation since 1978 by Student PIRGs, many students are choosing to not purchase textbooks, jeopardizing their success in the classroom. A new initiative at UConn, spearheaded by students from UConnPIRG and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), is underway to investigate ways to educate students and faculty on the value of Open Educational Resources (OER) such as open source textbooks. Unlike traditional commercial textbooks, open source textbooks are made of content gathered from various sources that are freely available online and for everyone to use.

Last fall, USG kick started the movement by voting unanimously to form a committee to explore the use of open source textbooks.  The committee is being led by UConn’s Vice Provost for Libraries Martha Bedard and UConnPIRG Textbooks Coordinator Toyin Akinnusotu.  To further strengthen their commitment, USG passed a resolution on March 11, urging faculty to submit their textbook requirements on time to the University, a requirement for all federally funded institutions. This was further supported by the University’s Provost’s Library Advisory Committee, formed to help direct the library on issues regarding scholarly information access and delivery.

“These are important resolutions for UConn students to understand,” said Hilltop Dorms Senator Daniel Byrd. “As the cost of textbooks continue to increase exponentially, it is our responsibility to do what we can to both encourage the use of open source textbooks and ensure the disclosure of information about textbook costs.”  Knowing the costs when the courses are listed is not only useful to students when considering taking a course, but also affects the buyback value of textbooks.

UConn’s Vice Provost for Libraries Martha Bedard has been involved with the Open Access movement for over a decade. “The library is a natural place to facilitate this student-centered effort regarding open textbooks,” said Bedard. “We have seen a continuous cost increase in higher education resources and much like the issues students face, libraries cannot afford to provide all the resources requested by faculty and students. There have been many advances in the amount of high quality resources freely available so I am confident the adoption of open source textbooks will not compromise a quality education and in turn will make a tremendous difference for students.”

According to a report recently released by the Student PIRGs, the soaring textbook costs is a trend across the nation. The average undergraduate student spends as much as $1,200-$1,300 for textbooks and supplies each year, one of the largest out-of-pocket expenses they face. In traditional PIRG style, members of UConnPIRG have taken a grassroots approach, talking to individual faculty and gathering support for the effort. “I am encouraged by the numerous faculty members I have spoken with who have agreed to use open source materials in their classes,” said UConnPIRG Textbooks Coordinator Toyin Akinnusotu. “We are off to a great start.”

“Much of the issue is simple education. There are dozens of open textbooks available online, for free right now that provide the same high quality information as their traditional print textbook options. It is our job to help inform faculty on the resources available to them,” said Bedard.

Learn more about some of the open educational resources available via our helpful guide.

A copy of the referenced report, “Open Textbooks: The Billion-Dollar Solution,” is available at www.studentpirgs.org/textbooks.

Shakespeare at UConn and Art in Nanochemistry Featured in Spring Exhibits

This spring the art exhibits at Homer Babbidge Library feature William Shakespeare and his influence in performance, language, scholarship and pop culture at UConn and the artistry that results when microscopic objects are magnified a billion times and photographed. The exhibits run through June 15. An opening reception will take place on Thursday, April 2, from 4-6 p.m.

In “The Play’s the Thing: Shakespeare at UConn,” Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s (CRT) Managing Director Matthew Pugliese and Assistant Professor in the Department of Dramatic Arts Lindsay Cummings show the creative work of the students and artists of the Department of Dramatic Arts and Connecticut Repertory Theatre. The scholarship of professors from English to Digital Media, highlights the many academic, social, and cultural ways we interact with Shakespeare on campus and in our lives. The University’s roots as an agricultural institution are also featured, focusing on herbs and their symbology in Shakespeare’s work.

Ten foot tall bear puppet used in a campus production of  "The Winter's Tale," on display in "The Play's the Thing: Shakespeare at UConn.

Ten foot tall polar bear puppet used in a campus production of “The Winter’s Tale,” on display in “The Play’s the Thing: Shakespeare at UConn.

Last year, UConn was invited to join the Folger Institute’s Consortium. The Folger Institute is a center for advanced study and collections-focused research in the humanities at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

The CRT will present Shakespeare’s most popular comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” from April 23 through May 3 in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre.

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Art in Nanochemistry
Using high power electron or optical microscopes, Professor Challa Vijaya Kumar, head of UConn’s Divisions of Physical and Biological Chemistry, and his Ph.D. students capture the natural world on the nano-level, creating awe inspiring images of natural materials that are as majestic as the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls.

This “Art in Nanochemistry” exhibit is a collection of electron micrographs of nanomaterials from Dr. Kumar’s research group, created with support from the National Science Foundation, works of his colleagues at UConn, and also from the Materials Research Society Art-in-Chemistry annual competitions. Dr. Kumar and his group are investigating how these protein-DNA nanomaterials they create in the lab can be applied in enzyme fuel cells, DNA-solar cells, and neuroprosthesis for spinal cord repair.

Two of Professor Kumar's images, left, 'Enzyme' Stained Glass, and DNA Floor Boards.

Two of Professor Kumar’s images, left, ‘Enzyme’ Stained Glass, and DNA Floor Boards.

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New Library Website is Here!

Library Website on four different devicesAfter months of planning, gathering feedback, and migrating hundreds of pages of content, the Library is proud to announce our new website. The site has been redesigned and rebuilt to make it easier to find the resources and services you need.

The new lib.uconn.edu features a responsive design that has been designed to work on all devices, so whether you’re on a phone, tablet, or computer, you’ll be able to find whatever you need. The homepage features information about upcoming library events and news, and the navigation bar expands to provide quick access to key services and resources, no matter where you are at on our website.

Image of the Navigation Bar

We are incredibly excited about the release of the new lib.uconn.edu, and we want to hear what you think.

Spotlight on Researchers – Noted Historic Landscape Architect Professor Emeritus Rudy J. Favretti Has Sights on Mansfield’s Past

One might think that after teaching at UConn for 33 years, writing some 20 books and scores of journal articles on the historic restoration and preservation of landscapes, and creating master plans for such national landmarks as Jefferson’s Monticello and Washington’s Mount Vernon – not to mention having those plans placed in the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Gardens and Landscapes – Professor Emeritus Rudy J. Favretti, might be ready to sit back and rest on his proverbial laurels. That would be a reasonable assumption, if one didn’t know him.

Blessed with an abundance of energy and a “planning gene,” Favretti, 81, says much of his intellectual spadework has been done at the UConn Libraries.

Rudy Favretti in the Archives & Special Collections Reading Room.

Rudy Favretti in the Archives & Special Collections Reading Room.

“I use the library a lot – the art and history sections and interlibrary loan,” he notes. I have found the staff in all of these sections extremely helpful, in general, and especially as I search for odd and obscure material that is not readily available. It’s a great place!”

After earning his undergraduate degree from UConn in plant science, the Mystic, Connecticut native went on to earn advanced degrees in horticulture, landscape architecture, and regional planning from Cornell and the University of Massachusetts. At UConn, he served as an extension garden specialist and extension landscape architect from 1955-1975, and taught landscape architecture here from the late 1960s to 1988, developing the accredited landscape architect program, retiring when he was 55. During his career, he completed about 700 individual and collaborative design, master planning, and preservation projects.

In 2011, no longer actively engaged in design work, he agreed to share his personal papers with the Smithsonian. There, one can find the lion’s share of his research and work – 4,000 slides, drawings, and notes totaling some 27 linear feet. Having it housed there is a “huge honor,” he says. Some of his work can also be found in UConn’s Archives & Special Collections

Favretti made the restoration and preservation of gardens and landscapes his life’s work, appreciating not only their aesthetic value, but their value as a lens through which to view a person’s life and times. Several years ago, he shifted his focus from gardens directly to people, specifically those who lived in Mansfield, his home for close to six decades. To date, he’s written about Wormwood Hill (in concert with his friend and longtime resident of the area, veteran UConn administrator, the late Isabelle Atwood), Mansfield Four Corners, Mansfield Center (as co-author) and the Gurleyville/Hanks Hill area, which is a tribute to his friends, fellow UConn faculty members, the late Annarie and Fred Cazel, Gurleyville residents themselves, who had done some research on the area, but who died before writing a book. The couple’s bequest to the Mansfield Historical Society will allow more regional histories to be published.

Research for these histories, as well as for other undertakings including his keynote address in 2012 on the University’s iconic “Great Lawn,” has made Favretti a familiar sight in Archives & Special Collections and Homer Babbidge Library.

“Even though I’ve been on this campus for over 60 years, I didn’t realize that in 1908 President Charles L. Beach had hired prominent landscape architect Charles Lowrie, a founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, to help plan the placement of the buildings surrounding the Great Lawn. The plans are here at the Dodd Center. I didn’t know they existed until I began researching the Great Lawn. Just because you retire, your academic life doesn’t end,” he contends.

He is also currently at work on a book commemorating the 50th anniversary of Joshua’s Tract Conservation and Historic Trust, the largest such trust in Northeastern Connecticut, which he helped to found and whose papers are housed in UConn’s Archives & Special Collections. After completing that volume, he intends to finish his research into Mansfield Depot and produce yet another local history.

“Over the years, I’ve done all this research into local history. What would happen to it? That’s what I’m doing now – transposing it into books, which I’m enjoying very, very much.”

His enjoyment today extends well beyond Mansfield. While he continues to tend his own gardens and remain active in the greater Mansfield community, he and his wife, Joy, regularly savor performances at the Metropolitan Opera. While in New York, they stay with their son, Giovanni, keeping tabs on the garden he designed for Giovanni’s townhouse. Other pleasures come from following the activities of his two daughters, Margaret, a high school history teacher in Scarsdale, NY, and Emily, an artist in Chicago.

What hasn’t the energetic octogenarian done? “I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I’ve written so many straight-forward subject matter things like extension bulletins; when you write a novel, it’s about people.”
His training as a landscape architect, which required him to notice detail, should serve him well. “I can go to a cocktail party, come home, and describe what everyone was wearing. That kind of detail would be good for writing a novel,” he observes with a smile.

Connecticut Digital Archive Hits the Century Mark

BranfordHouse

Branford House (University of Connecticut at Avery Point), University of Connecticut Photograph Collection, Archives & Special Collections

The Connecticut Digital Archive (CTDA) has reached the Century mark with the recent addition of the 100,000 object. The CTDA provides digital preservation services to Connecticut-based non-profit cultural and memory organizations, including libraries, archives, galleries and museums.

The first item placed in the archive in November, 2013 was from the Thomas J. Dodd Papers   from the University of Connecticut’s Archives and Special Collections.

Since then, thousands of other digital resources have been added to the archive from multiple institutions, including Trinity College Library, Connecticut Historical Society, the Connecticut State Library and Archives and the Fairfield Museum and History Center. Others are busy preparing their digital resources for preservation and access. A complete list of participating institutions and more information about the CTDA can be found here.

 

On Track with an Eminent Railroad Historian, Collector, and Donor J.W. “Jack” Swanberg

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Jack Swanberg Metro-North Railroad, Old Greenwich, CT. May, 2001

Jack Swanberg Metro-North Railroad, Old Greenwich, CT. May, 2001

Whether contending in the 1990s with the many issues facing the safe and punctual operation of Connecticut’s heavily used Metro-North commuter rail service in New Haven, writing a definitive history of the New Haven Railroad – a volume coveted by historians and collectors alike – or traveling aboard classic steam trains in exotic locations, J. W. “Jack” Swanberg has done it all.

He recalls a 1994 British charter trip into Pakistan’s Khyber Pass, almost to the Afghan border, as being particularly memorable. “Using British-built steam locomotives, we had a carload of Pakistani Army soldiers with us for security, although even they would not let us stop the train in areas that they deemed unsafe. Not a luxury train at all, but the mountain scenery was fantastic. Our base of operations was Peshawar, a Bin Laden stronghold where you certainly wouldn’t go today.”

Clearly an adventurer, Swanberg’s love of trains took hold when he was a toddler. During his life, he has indulged that early fascination by taking rail trips throughout the world, while simultaneously enjoying a 38-year career in railroad management. He began as a locomotive fireman shortly after his graduation from Hartford’s Trinity College, and ended as Lead Trainmaster for Metro-North in 2000.

Since 2000, the Guilford, Connecticut resident has shared his time, energy, and expertise with Laura Smith, curator of UConn’s Railroad History Archive. He recently bequeathed his rich collection to the Archive, which is being digitally scanned to catalogue and preserve it.

“Jack’s collection is extraordinary and comprehensive, most particularly to the history of the New Haven Railroad and of railroads in New England, but more generally in showing the impact and importance of trains and train travel in the United States,” Smith says. “It is no exaggeration to say that Jack’s collection reminds us of the importance of the railroad in the making of America.”

Railroads aren’t the only thing firmly within Swanberg’s grasp. He is knowledgeable about the defense of our country following four years of active service in U.S. Naval Aviation as an aerial transport navigator. He flew scores of missions worldwide, including many into Vietnam, and served another 25 years in the Reserve, retiring as a Captain.

Author of not only the notable New Haven Power, 1838-1968: Steam, Diesel, Electric, MU’s, Trolleys, Motor Cars, Buses & Boats, a history of the locomotives and motive equipment of the New Haven Railroad, published in 1988, the research for which is included in the donation, Swanberg continues to share his knowledge and insights with readers of Railroad History (a publication of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society), Shoreliner

(a publication of the New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Association), and other railroad history and enthusiast publications. Many photographs that he has taken and collected over his career with the railroad have been widely published, many by other railroad history authors.

Swanberg explains the rationale for his largesse this way: “Typically when a collector dies, his or her collection of photos, records, etc. goes to a dealer and is scattered by being sold off piecemeal, thus mostly becoming unavailable to future researchers,” he says.

“I’ve been collecting and accumulating photos going back into the 1800s for over 50 years myself, plus taking my own photos for just as long, plus collecting voluminous historical records. All of this is now consolidated, so why should it be scattered once again? I know that UConn will archivally preserve my collection and will make it available to researchers indefinitely.

Current authors, myself included, refer frequently to such collections, and I appreciate having my own collection being available for such research in the future.”

A regular visitor to the Railroad History Archive, Swanberg has applied his knowledge and helped Smith organize and describe materials in the collection, particularly photographs of New Haven Railroad steam and electric locomotive that were placed online in an early digital project.

“The UConn Libraries has benefited tremendously from our relationship with Jack, and we are honored to preserve his legacy as a historian, collector and creator of railroad history,” Smith added.

New Winter Art Exhibits at Babbidge

Illustrations of arguably the most famous French executioner alongside some of his almost 400 “subjects,” colorful collages of a crow, the focus of a children’s book inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven,” striking photographs of one of this country’s most beloved natural treasures, Yellowstone National Park, and surreal images inspired by mythology and nature are featured in the winter art exhibit series recently opened in Homer Babbidge Library and on view until February 20, 2015. Surreal acrylic paintings and highly polished sculpted wood figures round out the series.

Cora Lynn Deibler with some of French executioner Anatole Deibler's "subjects" in her exhibit.

Cora Lynn Deibler with some of French executioner Anatole Deibler’s “subjects” in her exhibit.

Illustration professor Cora Lynn Deibler showcases her graphic novel Anatole Deibler: The Tale of Monsieur de Paris about the most famous French executioner of all time. Deibler worked from 1885 until 1939 when executions were public spectacle and when the infant media of photography and film turned him into something of a celebrity. In her graphic novel, the artist showcases Deibler’s unusual career made more intriguing by the speculation that they may be distant relatives.

Alison Paul, who writes and illustrates children’s books for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, exhibits work from her first book, THE CROW (A Not So Scary Story). Paul often builds dioramas for exhibition from the set pieces used in her stop-motion animation work. Two are on display.

Professor Alison Paul installs her exhibit featuring art from her children's book "The Crow."

Professor Alison Paul installs her exhibit featuring art from her children’s book “The Crow.”

Photographer Janet Pritchard examines the relationship between nature and culture in her photographic project, Yellowstone Dream: An American Love Story. Drawing upon insights developed while a fellow at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts where she examined maps, personal stories, and expedition records, Pritchard reflects upon her own time spent in Wyoming, and how generations have invested the park with their own values since its founding in 1872.

Lower Falls of the  Yellowstone River, Thomas Moran, 1872 & 1893, Smithsonian.

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, Thomas Moran, 1872 & 1893, Smithsonian. One of the images in photographer Janet Pritchard’s exhibit.

In the 1980s, Liviu Cupceancu worked in UConn’s neurobiology department doing research and creating scientific illustrations for professional journals. Now retired, the Tolland, Connecticut resident devotes his energies full time to his art. In this show, he exhibits his surreal acrylics, abstract oils, and wood sculpture.

Liviu Cupceancu, a native of Romania, next to an acrylic painting, Carpathian Sphinx, that draws up elements of his homeland.

Liviu Cupceancu, a native of Romania, next to his surreal acrylic painting, Carpathian Sphinx, which draws upon elements of his homeland.

 

Looking for Private Funding? Try Foundation Directory Online.

FDO Now AvailAll current UConn faculty, students, and staff now have access to Foundation Directory Online.  Covering 28 broad fields of interest ranging from agriculture to youth development, FDO provides information on U.S. based private and corporate foundations that fund national and international projects. The database includes information on each foundation’s application process, the number and amounts of grants given each year, recently awarded grants and their recipients, geographic focus, specified areas of interest, contact information, and more.  Additional content includes links to foundation websites, recently filed IRS 990 forms, listings of recently announced RFPs and Foundation Center newsletters.

Search FDO by grantmaker name, geographic region, fields of interest, recipient type, support type (fellowships, scholarships, research grants, travel awards etc.), grant amount, and names of trustees and officers. To learn more, go to: https://fconline.foundationcenter.org/welcome/tour

Foundation Directory Online is jointly funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the UConn Foundation, and the UConn Libraries.

Ebook Access and Privacy Concerns with Adobe Digital Editions

It has recently come to our attention that Adobe Digital Editions, the software we use to allow access our ebooks, has been transmitting unencrypted reader data. The information Adobe is collecting includes the title, publisher, and other metadata for the book you have downloaded, and the information is being sent to Adobe’s server in plain text. We stand with our colleagues at other libraries in opposition of these practices, arguing that this is not only a violation of privacy but also a security concern since it allows for the potential interception of the data. The vulnerability is limited to the newly released Digital Editions 4, which is a requirement for downloading ebooks.

If you are concerned about your right to privacy, we recommend that you uninstall Adobe Digital Editions 4 from all of your devices and contact either your subject specialist liaison or our electronic resource services unit for possible print options. You can also download an earlier edition of Adobe Digital Editions.

The UConn Libraries values your right to privacy and have expressed our concerns to our ebook vendors, asking them to advocate on our behalf. We are also members of the American Library Association, which is working with Adobe to correct this issue.

More Information:
Adobe is Spying on Users, Collecting Data on Their eBook Libraries
“Adobe is gathering data on the ebooks that have been opened, which pages were read, and in what order. All of this data, including the title, publisher, and other metadata for the book is being sent to Adobe’s server in clear text.”

Adobe’s e-book reader sends your reading logs back to Adobe—in plain text
“Adobe’s Digital Editions e-book and PDF reader—an application used by thousands of libraries to give patrons access to electronic lending libraries—actively logs and reports every document readers add to their local “library” along with what users do with those files. Even worse, the logs are transmitted over the Internet in the clear, allowing anyone who can monitor network traffic (such as the National Security Agency, Internet service providers and cable companies, or others sharing a public Wi-Fi network) to follow along over readers’ shoulders.”

Adobe Responds to Reports of Their Spying, Offers Half Truths and Misleading Statements
“Adobe hasn’t addressed all of the evidence against them, but they did admit that they were gathering info from users. They won’t admit to scraping my library, but they did admit to tracking a user’s activities.”