Libraries and Archives: the Cure for Misinformation and Disinformation

Last week the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murphy, issued a formal advisory to declare that misinformation represents “a serious threat to public health.” The report states that “the rapidly changing information environment has made it easier for misinformation to spread at an unprecedented speed and scale.” The advisory is focused on the impact of misinformation on public health, but the concerns are much broader.

And they have been widely stated. The Knight Foundation, which supports study and research around issues of media and society, has thoroughly documented both the extent and the impact of misinformation and the loss of confidence in traditional news outlets.

The Pew Research Center has explored the impact of 2016 and 2020 election cycles occasioned much concern about the impact of misinformation on the democratic process. They document that 48 percent of Americans are very concerned about the influence of made-up news on the 2020 election and 72 percent saw news about the 2020 election that “seemed completely made-up.”

And in the area of health information, the promulgation of such false or misleading information during a pandemic even has a name: “infodemic.”

Libraries and archives are uniquely positioned to provide a cure for the infodemic. A recent article in Library Journal describes the work of libraries in the U.S. and around the world in attempting to fight misinformation and disinformation. The article begins by pointing out that “providing accurate and reliable information is a cornerstone of public librarianship.” The article explores how through programming, partnerships, and redoubling our professional commitment to providing authoritative information, libraries will continue to be a trusted source of information of all kinds. To formally examine these ideas, the Digital Public Library of America will be convening a group of “library leaders, scholars, journalists, and civic leaders to talk about the role of libraries in combating misinformation.”

Archives are a critical part of this equation. Archives hold the primary source record and, when that record is a public record and accessible via public information request, citizens can be assured that they will always have recourse to “what really happened.” TSLAC ensures the transparency of the executive and judicial branches of state government in Texas. (As of the 85th session, the legislative records of the state were relocated from TSLAC to the Legislative Reference Library and some legislative communications exempted from the Texas Open Records Act.)

The work of librarians and archivists stand in opposition – institutionally, operationally, and philosophically – to insidious effects of misinformation and disinformation. TSLAC, along with the libraries, archival institutions, and public records officers in Texas and across the nation, are committed to providing Texans of all ages with the most accurate, authoritative, and thorough information possible.

Links

“Confronting Health Misinformation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Healthy Information Environment” – https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-misinformation-advisory.pdf

Knight Foundation – https://knightfoundation.org/

Pew Research Center – https://www.pewresearch.org/

Pew Research Report: “Misinformation and competing views of reality abounded throughout 2020” – https://www.journalism.org/2021/02/22/misinformation-and-competing-views-of-reality-abounded-throughout-2020/

World Health Organization article on Infodemic – https://www.who.int/health-topics/infodemic#tab=tab_1

Mahnaz Dar. “To Tell the Truth: Public Libraries in the Fight Against Misinformation, Disinformation,” Library Journal, March 15, 2021 – https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=To-Tell-the-Truth-Public-Libraries-in-the-Fight-Against-Misinformation-Disinformation

Digital Public Library of America joins national effort to combat misinformation – https://dp.la/news/digital-public-library-of-america-joins-national-effort-to-combat-misinformation

The Need for Library Facilities

San Marcos Public Library Director Diane Insley cuts the ribbon to dedicate the new library while Congressman Lloyd Doggett and other dignitaries look on.

Today I attended the dedication of the newly expanded San Marcos Public Library. Aside from the fact that this was the first library event I have attended since February 2020, it was very exciting for other reasons. Not only was I able to see the beautiful library designed by PGAL Architects, I was able to meet Mayor Jane Hughson, hear comments from Congressman Lloyd Doggett, and also enjoy a poem by poet and staff member E.D. Watson.

In my comments at the dedication ceremony, which I will include below, I shared my thoughts about why library openings are such an encouraging reaffirmation of the power of libraries to transform individuals and communities. I also thanked Congressman Doggett for his co-sponsorship of the Build America’s Libraries Act, pending federal legislation that would appropriate $5 billion for library construction and modernization projects across the U.S. Texas’s share of these funds would be over $373 million. And while our needs for library facilities run easily into the billions, this amount of funding would certainly allow more communities to experience the huge economic and educational benefits that accrue from new library facilities. 

Here are my comments from today’s event:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is such an honor and privilege to be with you on this important day. Thank you to Director Diane Insley for inviting me here today. And a huge thank you to Congressman Lloyd Doggett. We thank Congressman Doggett for his service representing us in the U.S. Congress in these very trying times and for the tireless support that he and his wife Libby have given education and libraries over the years, including his current co-sponsorship of the Build America’s Libraries Act, which would ensure that hundreds of other communities across Texas and the U.S. could enjoy the huge benefits of new library facilities.

This is truly a joyous day. In fact, I tell you in all sincerity that dedication ceremonies for new library facilities are my favorite of all public occasions. I say that because every new library is an affirmation of our collective belief in the power of libraries to change lives.

A new library affirms our belief that children who have access to books and reading at an early age are more successful in school and later life.

A new library affirms our vision that public spaces like this one will bring the community together in civic engagement and break down divisive barriers between people.

And a new library represents our shared aspiration for the growth of our communities, support for entrepreneurship and economic success, and for the potential for personal growth and enrichment through equal access to information and opportunity.

I applaud the people of San Marcos for your vision in making the dream of this beautiful library a reality. I understand that this project was paid for with a 2017 bond that passed by 77 percent of the voters. I invite you all to stop for a moment and contemplate the significance of that. In this day and age, when we are so divided on so many issues, when we can’t even often agree about what our problems are so that we can start to fix them, the prospect of a new library was approved by over three quarters of the voters in this city! How encouraging is that!

And those funds were supplemented by a generous donation from Friends of the Library and a grant from the Burdine Johnson Foundation.

Thank you to the City of San Marcos for your support and leadership for making this project a reality. I know that the City Council has been very supportive of the library and has extended free service to all students in the San Marcos School District regardless of where they live. And thanks also to Hays County for arranging with the City to have free access extended to all residents of the County. These types of partnerships are so important in leveraging your investment to increase opportunity and quality of life for the entire area. 

The improvements in this library sound amazing and I can’t wait to see them. The new children’s room, story hour space in an enclosed courtyard, and teen room to encourage youth literacy and engagement; a new makerspace to help build STEM skills; and an expanded local history area, including a generous donation of 3,500 items from Texas author Mike Cox.

I understand from Diane that there are also improvements in the HVAC and other infrastructure to keep people comfortable, socially distanced, and fully enjoying this beautiful library.

While most of us already knew that libraries were important, the pandemic really brought home to a lot of people how essential libraries really are. During the pandemic, libraries, including this one helped Texans across the state get to information resources they needed while they were working at home and attending school remotely. Wireless around libraries helped people get online even when the library was closed. And libraries were among the first services to reopen and offer curbside pick-up, grab and go, and even limited on-site use.

Post pandemic, libraries will be a key to helping their communities find the resilience they need to recover and get back on track. So, it is fitting that we come together here today to celebrate and dedicate this re-imagined San Marcos Public Library. I urge you all to be very frequent visitors here, bring your families, your children, your friends, and yourselves to visit the library often and discover all the ways it can enhance your lives and the life of your community.

Best wishes to all and congratulations on this beautiful library facility.

Former San Marcos Public Library Director Stephanie Langenkamp (left) talks with poet and library staff member E.D. Watson.

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To learn more about the Build America’s Libraries Act, visit:  https://www.ala.org/advocacy/buildlibraries#:~:text=Don%20Young%20(R%2DAK),environmental%20hazards%2C%20and%20accessibility%20barriers.

 

TSLAC and the 87th Legislature–Good News for Libraries

On Monday of this week, the Texas Legislature wrapped up their 2021 session and we are assessing how TSLAC and libraries and archives fared. The answer is, we did well. 

Last summer, when we drafted our 2022-2023 Legislative Appropriations Request, we feared the worst. Due to the effects of the pandemic, state and local revenues were projected to be deeply in the red. As we moved into the fall, those fears only intensified and we expected a large reduction in our budget. Those reductions did not materialize. Beyond a five percent reduction required of most state agencies, we had no further cut to our budget.

Furthermore, we had a pleasant surprise. The Legislature approved funding for a package of four items that we grouped together under the banner of “Texans Need Strong Libraries.” When we requested these items, we had little hope that they would get funded, but we thought that they would at least give TSLAC and our friends at the Texas Library Association an opportunity to talk about the good work that libraries do for Texas communities.

The “Texans Need Strong Libraries” projects that we will receive funding are:

  • $1.5 million to support workforce programs in Texas libraries.
  • $1 million for technology support for libraries, including projects to purchase devices to extend library services into the community.
  • $1 million to support the TexShare and TexQuest e-resource programs to avoid having to increase user fees or reduce available resources. 
  • $275,000 to hire two archivists to help process the TSLAC backlog and get more items onto the Texas Digital Archive.
  • These items include 5 additional staff for TSLAC to increase capacity to serve the libraries and people of Texas.  

We are grateful to the Legislature for their support for these projects and the vote of confidence it shows in our work at TSLAC. But more than that, this funding is the direct result of the Legislature’s recognition of the outstanding services that Texas libraries performed for their communities during the pandemic. We were told by legislators how much they appreciated the work of Texas libraries and they recognized that libraries were a lifeline for many people during the pandemic. I see this funding as an acknowledgement of the many ways libraries rose to the occasion to be a crucial link to information and services for people who were otherwise isolated during the Covid-19 crisis.

Also in this budget, while TSLAC did not get the funding requested to begin planning for an expansion of the State Records Center, we did get an acknowledgement of the need for more storage space for archives and records. The Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) was directed by rider to consider options for land acquisitions for state office needs, including for archival storage for TSLAC. We look forward to working with TFC to know what our needs are in this regard. 

We appreciate the support from many quarters for this legislative session. Most particularly, we thank the Texas Library Association and the Texas Library and Archives Foundation for their advocacy for our budget in support of the libraries and archives of Texas. 

In other news:

As I wrote in an earlier post, a few weeks ago, the Texas Center for the Book rolled out Read Across Texas, our statewide reading program centered on the theme of Recovery, encompassing all of the meanings of that word. One of our four suggested titles in this year’s reading is We Fed an Island: The True Story of How We Rebuilt Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by the world-renowned celebrity chef, José Andrés. I am so excited that TSLAC was able to secure an exclusive interview with Chef Andrés about his book and the work of his organization, One World Kitchen, which has rallied his colleagues in the food industry to meet the needs of communities struggling through natural disasters and other challenges. That interview, conducted by TSLAC’s own Center for the Book coordinator Rebekah Manley, can be viewed on our website here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOPrByo7WT8

Links in this post

Texas Digital Archive: https://tsl.access.preservica.com/

Texas Library Association: https://txla.org/

Read Across Texas statewide reading program: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexasebooks

More on We Fed an Island on the Harper-Collins website: https://www.harpercollins.com/products/we-fed-an-island-jose-andres?variant=32205423837218

Link to the Center for the Book interview with José Andrés: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOPrByo7WT8  

Announcing My Retirement

Today I informed our commissioners and my TSLAC colleagues that I will be retiring as TSLAC Director and State Librarian on August 31 of this year.

Serving as the Texas State Librarian and leading TSLAC since November 2013 has been the honor of my life. When I began my library career as a page at the Austin Public Library in 1979, I could never have imagined I would work for 42 years in libraries, much less serve as the State Librarian of Texas. But it has been a wonderful career and this position has been an amazing experience. Working with this highly talented and hard-working staff, serving a dedicated group of commissioners, and seeing the outstanding work by librarians, archivists, and records professionals across the state, has made this job incredibly rewarding.

I don’t mind acknowledging that the last 14 months have been challenging for TSLAC leadership as they have for anyone who is responsible for managing teams whether in the public, private, or non-profit sector. They have been equally trying months for everyone in our society and for some they have been tragic months. But I am guardedly optimistic that we are emerging slowly from the pandemic and by the end of August I expect the worst will be well behind us.

Overall, the last seven and a half years have been productive. The TSLAC budget has grown overall by over 32 percent and we have added important new projects like the Texas Digital Archive, E-Read Texas, broadband improvements for over 180 libraries, digitization of our Talking Book Program, and a new records storage facility at Promontory Point. I had a role in these and many other projects, some more than others. But the heavy lifting was done–as it always is–by the team and I commend all my colleagues at TSLAC for their outstanding work providing a rich array of information services to Texans of all backgrounds and all parts of the state.

Closer to my last day, I will provide an informal final report. But for now, there is still work to be done and I am looking forward to another three and a half months of work. Many thanks to you all for your outstanding work and for your support for TSLAC. 

Link:

TSLAC Press Release, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/node/68029

Celebrating 25 Years of Children’s Day, Book Day

This week we mark an important milestone in efforts to encourage young people to read. April 30 is the 25th anniversary of Children’s Day, Book Day (in Spanish, El día de los niños, el día de los libros), an annual celebration of the power of books and reading to shape the lives of children of all cultures and backgrounds. But this day is more than an annual observation, it is a year-long commitment to encouraging literacy and a lifelong love of books and reading for children of all backgrounds. As we say, “every day is book day.”

At the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, through our Lone Star Día program, a project of the Texas Center for the Book, we encourage libraries to celebrate Children’s Day, Book Day with local celebrations of this important national program. 

This celebration is the brainchild of Pat Mora, the noted author of dozens of books for children, young adults, and adults, who in 1996 proposed the idea of a day to celebrate literacy for children of all cultures, based on the Mexican tradition of El día del niño, celebrated every year on April 30. Over the last quarter century, with Pat’s dedication and motivation and support from organizations such as REFORMA and the Association for Library Services for Children of the American Library Association, Día (as the observance is informally known) has grown to be observed by thousands of libraries and schools in communities large and small across the U.S. 

Why is this important? There is much research supporting the fact that early literacy has many well-proven advantages for the child, the family, and society. Children who enter school reading or ready to read are more successful in school and later life. Studies by the National Endowment for the Arts and other researchers have found that readers tend to be more engaged participants in democratic institutions like voting, volunteerism, and community service. And it is important for children of differing cultures to experience books that are both mirrors of their own experience and windows into the experiences of other people. 

For years Pat Mora has talked about “Bookjoy,” a term that needs no explanation for anyone who has found in books a launching pad to a world of discovery, reflection, learning, and shared experience. Each year, Children’s Day, Book Day helps many thousands of children across the United States come into contact with the world of books and reading that has the potential to change their lives. You can find many great resources on our Lone Star Día page (such as this Día Resource Guide) and on Pat Mora’s website for how you can plan Children’s Day, Book Day celebrations in your library. 

There is nothing more satisfying than reading a book with a child. I hope for this year’s Children’s Day, Book Day, Lone Star Día you are able to do that either in your personal life or via your library work. And thank you to the many librarians who nurture Bookjoy every day. 

Links in this article:

Texas Center for the Book Lone Star Día page: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/lonestardia

Pat Mora’s website: https://www.patmora.com/#

More about REFORMA: http://www.ala.org/aboutala/affiliates/affiliates/reforma

More about ALSC: http://www.ala.org/alsc/

CDBD resources on Pat’s website: https://www.patmora.com/dia-resources-to-share/

Día Resource Guide: http://dia.ala.org/sites/default/files/resources/DiaResourceGuide.pdf

Example of research regarding the impact of the arts, including reading and library use on student achievement: https://www.arts.gov/impact/research/publications/arts-and-achievement-risk-youth-findings-four-longitudinal-studies 

Virtual Programming at TSLAC and a Library Near You

Ethan Wang, National Student Poet of the Southwest.

Tomorrow, April 15, at 11 a.m. Central, TSLAC and the Texas Center for the Book will be presenting an exciting virtual program—the latest episode of #TXBookChat—featuring a reading and discussion with National Student Poet of the Southwest, Ethan Wang. Ethan, a junior in high school who has published a poetry collection titled Cloudy Skies, was raised by a family with a literary background in China. The National Student Poets Program is a joint project of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. Five young poets in grades 10 and 11 are selected for a year of service to represent various geographic regions of the U.S.

To register for this program, visit this link on our website: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/txbookchat

This program is our latest venture into the world of virtual programming. Like hundreds of libraries across Texas, TSLAC has pivoted to providing the public a range of opportunities to engage with library services while on-site access is restricted due to COVID concerns. The #TXBookChats presented by the Texas Center for the Book are half-hour programs designed to fit in anyone’s busy schedule and provide an opportunity to learn about Texas books and authors.

TSLAC has also begun offering practical online programming about Archival practices. Our Archives and Information Services team are presenting 20-minute Zoom-based webinars every fourth Friday of the month. The next research webinar will be held Friday, April 23 at 1:00 on the topic of “Locating County Records.” To register for this session, visit this link on our website: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/workshops. This topic will be presented again on October 22. Future sessions include “Locating Texas Documents” on May 28 and November 19, and “Locating US Documents” on June 25 and December 17. Previous sessions are archived on our website and include an “Introduction to the Texas state Archives” and an “Introduction to Photographic Resources at the Texas State Archives.”

These programs join TSLAC’s long tradition of offering a wide variety of online training programs for libraries (https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/librarydevelopments/ce-calendar/) and for records managers (https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/training).

Staff of the Plano Public Library recording a virtual story hour. (Photo provided courtesy of the Texas Library Association)

Throughout the pandemic, libraries across Texas have conducted a wide variety of virtual library programming. The lockdown began last March just as libraries were gearing up for summer reading, the most intense library programming period of the year. Librarians in hundreds of locations quickly regrouped to offer online summer reading programs along with other programs for all ages. This could not have come at a more important time as parents and children were sheltering in place to stay safe and healthy.

I hope you can join us for to hear Ethan Wang, National Student Poet for the Southwest tomorrow at the #TXBookChat, and at all our online programs.

Read Across Texas: Recovery

This week we are excited to be launching our third Read Across Texas statewide reading program presented by our Texas Center for the Book. This year’s theme of Recovery provides an opportunity to use one or more of our four suggested books to spark challenging, probing, and renewing conversations about profound experiences, both shared and individual. We envision these conversations as a way for libraries to be at the center of important community dialogue about common concerns and values.

If “Recovery” sounds like a broad theme, that is intentional. We hope that communities will approach the theme as inclusive of various perspectives, from personal recovery from tragic or challenging individual circumstances, to recovery on a broad societal level. Some communities might explore recovery from a natural disaster, while others might consider recovery from traumatic events at the national or state levels. After a year like no other in our memory, engaging in a discussion of recovery seemed appropriate. We hope these conversations may provide a context to help individuals, families, and communities to find paths back to normalcy, stability, and relative tranquility.

The conversations might be difficult, maybe at times uncomfortable, but that is part of the process and should be embraced rather than feared. The books offer the starting point for discovery. I have read all four works and was moved by the power of each one:

I hope you will consider participating in Read Across Texas: Recovery and use these inspiring books to start a process of civic dialogue in your community. Our Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley will be providing resources to help frame your local discussions and make this statewide read a success.

On March 25, I will be presenting the next #TXBookChat with Rebekah to discuss how libraries can participate in Read Across Texas. Please join us for tips on how you can use this statewide read to put your library at the center of meaningful community discussions on the topic of Recovery. Click here to register for this great program: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJApcOGurDIqGNUTKfqkClHWbPMsJMwdVF8a

Thank you for your work building strong Texas communities. I look forward to hearing your success stories as you participate in this unique program.

Links in this post:

Read Across Texas: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas

Texas Center for the Book: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/centerforthebook

More information on Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here by Nancy Wayson Dinan: https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/things-you-would-know-if-you-grew-up-around-here-9781635574449/

More information on All of a Sudden and Forever by Chris Barton and Nicole Xu: https://lernerbooks.com/shop/show/19414

More information: We Fed an Island by José Andrés. https://www.harpercollins.com/products/we-fed-an-island-jose-andres?variant=32205423837218

More information on: What Unites Us by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner: https://www.workman.com/products/what-unites-us-1 

Information on #TXBookChat: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/txbookchat/rat

 

 

Libraries and the American Rescue Plan Act

This was an important week for libraries and the millions of people they serve. Possibly one of the most important ever. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the $1.9 Trillion stimulus plan which was passed by Congress this week, included $200 million in funding for U.S. libraries. Those funds will come to the states via the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Texas’ share of those funds will be nearly $8.4 million. This is the largest single infusion of federal funds for libraries in decades, and probably ever.

We are not yet sure what the requirements on these funds will be, but we expect that the purposes will be similar to funds received from the first U.S. CARES Act in April 2020. Those funds could be used to assist libraries in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and for digital inclusion efforts. In Texas, we used the $2.6 million to fund $1.6 million in grants to 59 libraries as well as $1 million to bring broadband internet to small community libraries in rural areas of the state.

Throughout the pandemic, the public has turned to libraries to provide remote access to collections, programs, and other library services when they have most needed to keep in touch with information resources. These new federal funds will be extremely useful in continuing to extend library services to adults, families, and students via broadband networks and to helping libraries cope with the extraordinary demands they face in serving their communities. 

We look forward to providing more information to the library community about how these funds will be used to support community libraries across Texas in the coming weeks and months. 

Libraries once again rise to the occasion

The snowpocalypse of 2021 was a shock to the state of Texas. Many TSLAC staff, like many other people across the state and in neighboring states faced the worse winter weather in several generations. Temperatures in Austin went to 7 degrees, the coldest since 1949, and we had more than 140 consecutive hours of sub-freezing temperatures, a new record. But the real ordeal for most was not the weather, but the power and water outages. And many people were out of power or water for days.

Yet once again, libraries rose to the occasion.

The Austin Public Central Library, like many libraries across the state, served as a warming center for people who needed to come in out of the cold. And in Pottsboro, Texas, in far north Texas near the Red River, the library and their dynamic Special Projects Librarian, Dianne Connery organized a drive to get drinking and flushing water to residents across the town. That library also put a porta-potty in its parking lot and distributed more than 130 hot meals to residents.

This is a typical reaction for Pottsboro where Ms. Connery led the library’s response to the pandemic by expanding WiFi access for residents, including in the library parking lot and via WiFi in a car parked in another part of town. In Pottsboro, as in other towns and cities in Texas, the library has served as a convener, connecting people and resources, and bringing groups together to create a collective impact to moving the community forward.

But while Pottsboro is always a leader in these types of acts of community sustainability in times of crisis as well as more normal times, many libraries across the state have risen to the challenge.

The snowpocalypse was a crisis within a crisis, a lockdown within a lockdown. And throughout the pandemic, libraries have repeatedly demonstrated that they are essential services even when they are closed. Three weeks ago, I delivered testimony on the TSLAC budget to the Texas Senate Finance Committee and told them this:

The pandemic has demonstrated that in times of crisis, people need libraries more than ever. Throughout the COVID crisis, libraries provided remote access to online information and services that sustained millions of Texans at home, as well as students attending school remotely.

As I pointed out in my last blog, at TSLAC, our staff have been welcoming researchers both at the headquarters building in Austin and at our Sam Houston Center in Liberty, since early May. TSLAC is still the only library operated by a state agency that has been open to the public during the pandemic. And TSLAC programs such as TexShare, TexQuest, E-Read Texas, the Texas Digital Archive, and the Talking Book Program, ensure that throughout the pandemic–as always–Texans are able to remotely access the information they need for school, work, and personal enrichment.

We are nearing one year of working remotely, but TSLAC, like most libraries and archives across Texas, has continued to bring services to patrons in both traditional and innovative ways. The pandemic–and more recently, the snowpocalypse–have tested the readiness of certain aspects of the infrastructure to withstand times of crisis, but they have also demonstrated that libraries are a part of the infrastructure that have provided a vital link to key information and resources for Texans, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

TSLAC Serving Texans in Challenging Times

Next month marks a full year since the pandemic forced TSLAC, along with many other organizations, to shift from normal operations to delivering services via a combination of telework and on-site service. The last 11 months have been trying for everyone and a year of tragedy and severe hardship for many.

Throughout the pandemic, TSLAC has doubled down on our mandate and mission to keep Texans connected to information and resources they need for work, home, and school and to maintain key services for libraries, state agencies, local governments, Texans with disabilities, and the general public. The agency focused on meeting the pressing demand for services while keeping staff safe and healthy.

Immediately following the Governor’s March 19 Executive Order declaring a state of emergency, TSLAC operations went remote, with most staff delivering key services from their homes. The State Records Center, however, never closed, and continued throughout even those early days in March and April 2020 to deliver vital state records to agencies on request and to transfer state records to the Records Center. On May 4, in response to the Governor’s call for state agency libraries to open at 25 percent capacity, TSLAC opened its Archives Reading Room on an appointment basis and has remained available ever since. To date, TSLAC is the only library by a Texas state agency to be open to the public.

At TSLAC, our team knew that in times of crisis people need libraries more than ever. That proved especially true during the pandemic when the public found the remote access to information offered by libraries to be especially important. Adults and college students working from home were able to use the electronic resources of TexShare, e-books provided through E-Read Texas, and other library online resources. K-12 students who were attending school remotely were able to access the rich information and curriculum support materials of TexQuest from their homes.

TSLAC staff met the COVID challenge by ensuring that Texans continued to have the services they needed during the emergency period.

  • Staff of the Library Development and Networking Division tripled its outreach to librarians.
  • The TexShare/TexQuest/E-Read Texas team secured access to hundreds of thousands of additional free educational resources and e-books.
  • The Talking Book Program ensured that persons with disabilities that keep them from reading print – a group of people who are often isolated even in the best of times – continued to receive reading materials either through physical delivery or download.
  • Government Information Analysts in the State and Local Records Management Division continued to provide consultation and training in management of public records to state agencies and local government entities.
  • In Liberty, the staff of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center were on-site throughout the pandemic to greet researchers and visitors to the museum facility.

In April, TSLAC learned that it would receive $2.6 million in U.S. CARES Act funds to assist libraries in COVID response and relief efforts as well as digital literacy to help keep Texans connected to vital information resources. The TSLAC grants team quickly rose to the occasion and turned around $1.6 million in competitive grants of up to $50,000 each to nearly 59 libraries in all parts of the state. The remaining funds will be used to ensure access to high-speed internet for a group of small community libraries across the state.

TSLAC also worked to provide information related to the COVID emergency.

  • The Services During COVID-19 web page went up early in the pandemic and has been regularly updated providing information on how to access TSLAC services.
  • The COVID-19 Information and Resources for Library Workers page has been regularly updated throughout the pandemic to provide access to support materials for library services during the emergency period.
  • The Texas Library Status Project provides a real-time interactive map that allows libraries to tell the public and others what services are available and their reopening status.
  • And the Texas Free Wifi Map provides interactive access to libraries and other organizations that offer free WiFi in hundreds of locations across the state, is constantly updated, and is available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

While we all may wish that the pandemic will be over soon and we can all go back to our normal pre-COVID lives, we may be in for a few more months of this. So, we hope that all of you stay safe and stay healthy. However long it lasts, the TSLAC team will continue to provide the information and resources that Texans need to live productive and fulfilled lives.

Links in this post:

TexShare: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/texshare/index.html

E-Read Texas: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/ebooks

TexQuest: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/landing/educators.html

Talking Book Program: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/aboutus

State and Local Records Management Division: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/contact

Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/shc/index.html

TSLAC Services During COVID-19: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/services

COVID-19 Information and Resources for Library Workers: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/covid-19

Texas Library Status Project:
(press release): https://www.tsl.texas.gov/node/67727
(map): https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1ePFD1mZ8-2oPtjgH54SYYxB_ZPwySLc_&ll=31.06321080740714%2C-100.06291005&z=6

Texas Free Wifi Map: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/tech/wifimap