Announcing LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
Finally, after months of our own hard work, and lots of valuable input from friends, a new institution has emerged: LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections! At first glance, the "only" visible changes are the name, and our beautiful new logo, developed thanks to the extraordinary creativity and generosity of Latinworks, combined with the talent and dedication of LLILAS Benson staff. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find much more. From now forward, we hope and expect that our logo will become the symbol for a vibrant new approach to globalized higher education at the University of Texas at Austin and across the nation, and we want this logo to exemplify the potential for organizations on this campus to move forward in transformative and expansive ways, despite these times of budgetary constraint.
Let me start with organizational transformation. The creation of LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections resulted in significant cost reduction for the College of Liberal Arts (CoLA) and the University of Texas Libraries (UTL), the two units to which the new institution belongs. Whereas in 2010 LLILAS and the Benson had completely separate staff, administrations, and programs, today nearly all of us have responsibilities that reach across both, with abundant shared space, and a rapidly increasing agenda of LLILAS Benson activities. This consolidation has allowed us to do more—considerably more—with less. But the transformation is not only—or even primarily—a matter of budget numbers: the greatest benefit of the partnership is our vastly increased potential for collaboration, mutual learning, and unexpected benefits for staff members and faculty affiliates who always have occupied the same physical building and are dedicated to the same broader mission, but until recently have had relatively few opportunities to work together. The making of a plan to “roll out” our new logo is a wonderful case in point: creative sparks flew, hidden talents came forth, and exciting ideas coalesced as we imagined together how to give LLILAS Benson the new look that the transformation deserves.
Behind this logo, as well, is a new approach to globalized higher education, which LLILAS Benson will launch this fall, to be refined and advanced in the coming years. Libraries in major research universities are changing profoundly, propelled by the rise of digital scholarly resources, and buffeted by the prohibitive cost of conventional acquisitions. The field of Latin American studies has been changing for some time, requiring an end to the previous paradigm—benevolent study of our “southern neighbors” from an unreflectively northern perspective—and replacing it with the principles of horizontal collaboration among sister institutions across the hemisphere and critical theoretical engagement from a true diversity of perspectives, including those rooted in the south. Most important, the new approach must be capable of advancing a student-centered, campus-wide ethos that challenges parochialism, and replaces it with a vigorous emphasis on learning through firsthand experience in the region, hands-on engagement with the problems under study, and a deep commitment to scholarship for the common good.
Can one logo really encapsulate all these aspirations? We believe so. The close engagement of “collections” and “studies” is absolutely crucial if we are to take full advantage of the potential that digital scholarly resources bring to the fore. The principle of horizontal collaboration, which lies at the core of the new Latin American studies, starts at home, as we put on display the benefits that result when two venerable institutions come together. Most of all, we want the logo to convey a sense of expansive possibilities: LLILAS Benson is a bigger and bolder institution, capable of taking unprecedented leadership across the campus to enhance the experience of Latin American studies for UT students, whom it is our primary mission to serve.
We are deeply grateful to Fred Heath, Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries, and Randy Diehl, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, for their constant enthusiasm, encouragement, and budgetary support for this rebranding effort. We are equally thankful to Provost Steve Leslie, for his steady endorsement of the LLILAS Benson endeavor. And our hat goes off to Sergio Alcocer, President and Chief Creative Officer of Latinworks, and his incredible team of young talent who gave their energies pro bono; this was an invaluable gift, which we hope will be partially repaid by the enthusiasm and commitment that their creative energies will surely inspire.
Charles R. Hale, Director