Grants to help UTSA Libraries, museum reinforce technology, digital access in pandemic | UTSA Today | UTSA

Grants to help UTSA Libraries, museum reinforce technology, digital access in pandemic

SEPTEMBER 25, 2020 — The U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission have awarded the UTSA Libraries and the Institute of Texan Cultures nearly $150,000 in grant funding in support of virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grants will increase technology access for students, will help in the development of a digital literacy toolkit and will create a virtual, interactive museum exhibit.

More specifically:

  • TSLAC CARES grant provided $49,991 in COVID-19 relief funds to purchase 31 additional laptops for student borrowers for semester-long checkouts.
  • TSLAC Special Projects grant provided $72,777 to develop an open access digital literacy toolkit to teach essential digital skills to freshmen students and the general public.
  • TSLAC TexTreasures grant program provided $24,146 to create a digital exhibit of the sharecropper cabin currently on display in the African American exhibit area at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures.

“The funds will help provide crucial digital tools and skills needed for success [that] will carry forward into the workplace.”

“Providing access to educational resources is central to the mission of libraries, and the grant funds have helped meet the urgent technology needs of students,” said Dean Hendrix, dean of libraries at UTSA. “The funds will help provide crucial digital tools and skills needed for success in college coursework, which will carry forward into the workplace, ultimately enriching students’ personal lives.”

The TSLAC Special Projects funds will help UTSA Libraries build an online toolkit with training modules focused on digital literacy. It will cover subjects such as online identity, digital communications skills, privacy, security awareness, e-safety and identification of reliable information on the web.

“Rapid development of technologies and social media platforms—as well as exponential growth of AI in everyday life—creates an ever-changing information environment that requires adaptability and critical thinking,” Hendrix said. “After piloting the toolkit with UTSA freshmen, the libraries will release it as an open access resource for the community at large.”

At the ITC, the sharecropper cabin, an early 1900s two-room house built on a cotton plantation near Navasota, stands as a reminder of a major chapter in Texas history. The grant-funded project will create an immersive, virtual tour of the cabin with interactive views of household artifacts plus photos and oral history files from people who have experienced life in it.

“We want to create a digital space for users to navigate this exhibit virtually,” said Veronica Rodriguez, interim head curator at the ITC. “We envision an interactive program that would let users click through items in the house and reveal photo galleries, videos and audio recordings that narrate information related to them. This would preserve aspects of our state’s rich cultural heritage and make it available for all to experience.”

These projects were a part of the 44 made possible this year by grants from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act.

“Communities in every corner of Texas will benefit from the resources that have been made available through this list of forward-thinking grant proposals,” said TSLAC Director and Librarian Mark Smith.

TSLAC awards competitive grants annually. The agency has awarded approximately $1.23 million in competitive grants between September 1, 2019, and August 31, 2020.

Both the TexTreasures grant program and the Special Projects grant program seek to expand library services to users across the state, including those populations with special needs.

“We have given the green light to some truly powerful proposals designed to offer Texans the tools necessary to meet the ever-changing needs of the future,” said Michael C. Waters, TSLAC commissioner chairman.

The TSLAC CARES grant award was part of the $2.6 million Texas received from the Institute for Museum and Library Services as part of the CARES Act.

“These funds will help allow Texans to safely utilize local library services and resources,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said in a statement. “I applaud area leaders in San Antonio for their work to obtain these grants and for putting the safety of Texans first as we continue to persevere through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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