Texas State Library and Archives Commission
Libraries and Talking Book Committee
December 17, 2021
The Libraries and Talking Book Committee met on Friday, December 17, 2021, at the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building, 1201 Brazos Street, Austin, Texas.
Darryl Tocker, Chairman
Arthur T. Mann
Bradley S. Tegeler
Commissioners Via Video:
F. Lynwood Givens
Gloria Meraz, Director and Librarian
Donna Osborne, Chief Operations and Fiscal Officer
Sarah Swanson, General Counsel
Staff Present Via Video:
Ann Griffith, Electronic Resources Coordinator
Erica McCormick, LDN Program Coordinator
Jaclyn Owusu, Public Awareness Coordinator
Jennifer Peters, Director, Library Development and Networking
Katherine Adelberg, Manager, Continuing Education & Consulting Services
Sarah Jacobson, Director, TBP
Liz Philippi, School Program Coordinator
Susan Floyd, Communications Officer
Laura Tadena, Equity and Inclusion Consultant
Karen McElfresh, Resource Sharing Projects Coordinator
Naomi DiTullio, Distance Learning Consultant
Guests Present Via Video:
- Welcome and introductions.
Chairman Tocker called the meeting to order at 8:30 a.m., welcomed everyone and stated that the meeting was being conducted via videoconference. He stated that the agenda was posted on the Texas Register on December 9, 2021, and the agenda included a link and phone number for the public to use to access the meeting.
Roll call for members and establishment of a quorum.
Chairman Tocker conducted a roll call vote. Commissioners Mann, Tegeler, Givens and Chair Wong had joined via Zoom. Chairman Tocker established that a quorum of the committee was present. He noted, for the record, that the commissioners present for the meeting who were not members of the committee would not vote for any action items on the committee nor would any action of the commission be taken.
Wendy Woodland, Director of Advocacy and Communications for the Texas Library Association (TLA), thanked TSLAC for its work in support of librarians and the expertise and resources staff provide. Ms. Woodland expressed TLA’s support for the proposed resource document for school library programs, noting that providing a framework for policy development will help school librarians, especially those in smaller school districts, as they work with school administrators and principals to ensure current and updated policies are in place. She added that some school libraries may serve multiple campuses and that policies are essential to ensure that collections meet the broad and varied interests and learning styles of students. She added that reconsideration policies are critical to ensure that books are not removed for the purpose of denying students access to ideas that some individuals disagree with. Ms. Woodland added that TLA has added resources to support librarians including launching an intellectual freedom helpline.
Mary Woodard, President Elect of the Texas Library Association, spoke on behalf of school librarians. She noted over the last few months she has seen firsthand “the trauma and emotional distress that recent actions and directives” have caused to hardworking school librarians by implying that books in school libraries are inappropriate. She stated that these actions take focus away from educating students, and school staff are spending a large amount of time reevaluating books that were added to library collections using local board-approved instructional material selection policies. She emphasized that school librarians are highly qualified to select books for their campus libraries. They have a classroom teacher certification, a master’s degree, and graduate level coursework in collection development. She added that librarians work extremely hard to develop library collections that allow students to personalize their learning through self-directed exploration of curriculum topics and personal interests, and spend time and effort seeking out books that reflect the diversity of their particular school community.
Ms. Woodard emphasized that the implication that librarians would intentionally include books that are harmful to students undermines the public trust. The threat of criminal prosecution for purchasing a book someone doesn’t agree with, she stated, “is frightening and beyond anything” she has encountered in her 35 years as a school librarian. She noted that self-selected reading is one of the English language arts and reading standards for every grade, K through 12, and a robust library collection with lots of choices for varying ability levels and interests is essential for students to be able to practice this skill. She concluded by stating that when librarians are limited in their ability to choose books using their professional expertise and knowledge of their school community, students suffer.
Jill Bellomy, Chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians, stated that she considered school libraries as vital laboratories where students could take what they learned in the classroom and then question, dig deeper, discover, and grow as independent readers and learners. She noted that the middle school students she works with are figuring out who they are and who they want to be. She noted that, as students read fictional stories, they can see scenarios played out, characters make choices and then endure the consequences of their actions. Experiencing all of this in the pages of the book equips students for the new situations they may face in life as they get older. School libraries are filled with engaging books that intrigue, challenge, delight, and represent different perspectives and voices.
She added that the school library is a safe, welcoming place for all students and the library is a haven for her students during these formative and often uncertain middle school years. She adds that students are lined up waiting for librarians to open the doors every morning and are eager for new books, participate in book clubs or other programs, and often find new friends with common interests. Often, students bond over a book and then “find safety, hope, and a place to call their own. I have lost count of how many students have told me over the years that the library is their favorite place in the school.” She added that there is no harder working group of educators than the group of librarians she leads in her district. She says they care deeply about their students and teachers and work tirelessly to provide the best resources, lessons, and programs. She adds that it has been disheartening to seem them under attack.
Robin Cashman, Chair of the Texas Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, began by noting that the last couple of years have been very trying for school librarians. Librarians know that many students rely on the library as a safe haven, both physically and emotionally. She noted it has been difficult to get the right book into the students' hands, either because they are attending virtual school or the teacher doesn't have time to bring classes to the library. She has worked at her current campus for ten years and believes she knows her student population well and is able to purchase books for the variety of reading levels and topics of interest to students.
She stated that collection development is not one size fits all students. Interests vary across the state, as well as across school districts and within her own district. She stated that the book ordering process this year has caused her extreme stress, noting that professionally, she knows she must serve her students and purchase books of interest to eleven-to-fourteen-year-olds, but she does not want to be at the center of controversy. When placing bulk orders, she relies on the Lone Star List and the Spirit of Texas Reading List for middle school levels, as well as the Maverick Junior High List as a starting place for current and relevant materials. She notes that her students look for those book list labels in the library because those books are great reads. She adds that several students who did not see themselves as a reader became excited about reading after reading a book from these reading lists.
Chairman Tocker thanked the individuals who provided testimony and said he is aware of how hard and well librarians work. He noted the public is invited to participate in the education of their children and be assured of nurturing environments in libraries. He also stated that librarians work hard to protect those they serve from content that is egregious and they do so in balance with their duty to support intellectual freedom and individuals’ right to seek all viewpoints without restriction. He stated that the comments from witnesses would be invaluable as the committee discussed those points. He asked if there was anyone else wishing to provide testimony. Hearing no one, he moved on to the next item.
Approval of Minutes of Libraries and Talking Book Committee meeting of August 2, 2021.
Chairman Tocker called for a motion to approve the minutes of the Libraries and Talking Book Committee meeting of August 2, 2021. Commissioner Mann moved to approve the minutes and Commissioner Tegeler seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
TSLAC Guidance for School Libraries: Collection Development Resources; Voluntary Standards and Guidelines for School Library Programs.
Director Meraz noted that over recent months school libraries have experienced an increase in challenges to items in collections. Educators, librarians, parents, and state leaders have called for additional guidance and resources. Director Meraz stated that TSLAC does not have authority over school library programs or collections policies, but the Commission does have a history of providing support and resources to the school libraries, including developing voluntary school library standards in consultation with the State Board of Education. She stated that staff have prepared a draft document which is a resource guide relating to the collection development process, which provides a general overview for communities, school districts, school libraries, parents, and stakeholders. She stated the importance of such a resource to communities is to help people understand the process of building, reviewing, and maintaining library collections.
Chairman Tocker mentioned that the commission is acting in its capacity per Section 33.021 of the Education Code, which requires school libraries to consider the standards adopted by TSLAC (in consultation with the State Board of Education) when developing and implementing or expanding library services.
Commissioner Wong stated that she believes the committee’s work to review the staff recommendation is the right approach. Staff have worked hard on the proposed resource guide, and she provided input on drafting the document. She noted her appreciations for all of the librarians who provided testimony and said she believes the document we are attempting to complete will meet their needs. As noted, the commission does not have enforcement abilities, but the commission is looking to provide guidance, but school districts have control of their libraries. She noted that we are looking forward to working with TEA and the State Board of Education to provide guidelines that will be acceptable to our constituents and thanked Chairman Tocker for his leadership.
Chairman Tocker opened the topic for informal discussion. Commissioners offered revisions to the guide to emphasize the role of parents, underscore the importance of broad collections, and articulate the transparency of library collections. Commissioners noted that the agency has no enforcement authority and that school districts are responsible for their local policies. Commissioners also discussed that, while TSLAC, the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education are all independent bodies with respective duties and approaches, TSLAC will put forward its work to the agencies as all undertake similar goals. Commissioners also discussed that while other organizations, such as the Texas Association of School Boards, have created helpful information, the commissioners could not endorse any resources or processes not yet complete. Commissioners also clarified that the resource guide is intended to apply to all types of library materials.
Chairman Tocker raised the issue of public library services and whether these procedures apply to them. Commissioners discussed the issue, and Chairman Wong stated that she did not believe it was necessary to discuss public library services at this time. She noted that the task at hand was to develop something for schools. Chairman Tocker agreed that the committee will focus on the resource document for school libraries.
Chairman Tocker noted the need for minor edits, including a strong qualifier at the beginning as recommended by Commissioner Tegeler regarding the voluntary nature of the standards, removing the definitions, including the six learning strands from the school library standards, including an up-front section on parents and public, and as far as a specific mention of databases the committee is going to consider that “materials” is inclusive of all materials.
Commissioner Mann asked if a motion was in order to make these recommendations. Chairman Tocker asked to entertain a motion. So moved by Commissioner Tegeler and seconded by Commissioner Mann.
Sarah Swanson asked a clarifying question regarding the motion, and Commissioners Tegeler and Mann clarified that the committee should review the document before it is submitted to the full commission.
The revised motion to present the guidelines and resources for school libraries as edited to the Libraries and Talking Book Committee for review and final recommendation before presenting it to the full commission was made by Commissioner Tegeler and seconded by Commissioner Mann. The motion was approved unanimously.
TSLAC guidance on public library services, including collection development policies – discussion
Chairman Tocker noted that agenda item six was essentially covered, and the committee would postpone the discussion on public library services recommendations as that is not an issue before the committee at this point.
American Rescue Plan Act Projects
Director Meraz noted staff have been hard at work implementing ARPA projects. She noted that the timeframe for using ARPA funds is very limited, and staff is completing items such as the digital navigator program and various contracts. Normally, TSLAC contracting processes take several months and, without an extension from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, we would only have three to four months to implement the project for regional IT support for libraries. She noted the commission approved $900,000 in November for up to three contracts for this purpose. Given the challenges in the procurement timeline, including time for needed state approvals, staff do not believe we can contract for these services in sufficient time to offer more than a limited amount of service. She noted staff is also working with Broadband Development Office for potentially finding a different longer-term source of funds. She stated staff is coming before the commission to ask for guidance and permission to consider redirecting some or all of those funds to other projects, specifically a mini-grant program that has been in development.
Chairman Tocker summarized the needed actions and noted the current status of ARPA projects for the Talking Book Program and the potential to increase the overall amount for mini-grants. After discussion, Chairman Mann moved to reallocate funds, with $600,000 going for mini-grants from the $900,000 which was previously approved for Regional IT support. Funding would be redirected towards this program and further adjustments for library projects. Commissioner Tegeler seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Update on the Talking Book Program
Sarah Jacobson stated that TBP is moving forward with the $750,000 that had been approved for the devices that had been ordered through the device lending program. TBP is now testing how to set the devices up for patrons as well as to determine the best ways to ship and circulate the items. The devices will be targeted to patrons who do not currently use BARD. She said that there is also a need to provide training to patrons on the use of BARD, and she is very happy that TBP will be creating a digital literary trainer position to specifically help TBP patrons connect and to support their overall learning opportunities and skill-building.
TBP is also continuing and expanding its advertising activities to reach out to potential patrons and caregivers. She also mentioned that TSLAC is working with the National Library Service on two projects, including implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty, which paves the way for the exchange of accessible format books across international borders. Additionally, TSLAC has been invited to participate in the DA2 field test which is the new talking book machine developed by the National Library Service. It has the capability for Wi-Fi in which people can access BARD and download directly to their machines. She also noted TBP’s effort to use commercial audio producers to expand the range of content available to patrons.
Commissioner Tegeler inquired about some of the advertising channels and recommended approaching AARP and electric cooperatives for promotion in their monthly magazines.
Chairman Tocker thanked Ms. Jacobson for the information and her good work.
There being no further business before the committee, Chairman Tocker asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting. So moved by Commissioner Mann and Commissioner Tegeler seconded. The meeting was adjourned at 9:54 a.m.