2020 — A year of TSLAC in service to Texans

TSLAC Conservator Heather Hamilton preserving Texas history in the conservation lab.

Every year this time I like to review the work of our agency over the course of the last 12 months and I usually create a list of highlights organized by the goals of our Agency Strategic Plan. This year, as I created that list, I was more taken than ever by the commitment of our dedicated team to serving the needs of the people of Texas. In any year, this list would have been impressive, but in this year when we have risen to meet a much higher level of demand with a staff many of whom are working remotely, I have to say that I am especially proud of what our team has achieved. 

Records Center Specialist Nicholas Kisoso keeping records flowing to and from state agencies.

This is not an exhaustive list of all work of the agency. Much of the ongoing work is not reflected here, including the hundreds of thousands of titles delivered to patrons of the Talking Book Program, the dozens of competitive grants awarded, the thousands of librarians assisted, the many workshops for records managers and librarians, and the thousands of boxes of records received from and delivered to agencies. Thank you for taking a moment to let me share with you some of the highlights of our year at TSLAC.

Goal 1: To fully realize the statutory mandate to “take custody of, preserve, and make available. . .state records and other historical resources.”

  • The Archives Reading Room has been open to public since May 4, the only library operated by a state agency providing service during the pandemic
  • Staff completed a comprehensive new Archives Strategic Plan 
  • The Sam Houston Center has been open since May and the museum since September
  • The Texas Digital Archive has grown to 69 terabytes of digital materials available to the public

Goal 2: To ensure that all types of libraries have the tools, training, and resources needed to meet the informational, educational, and economic needs of the people they serve.

  • Awarded $1.6 million to 60 libraries in TSLAC CARES grants
  • Awarded $1.6 million to four libraries for Border Libraries facility development grants
  • Awarded second round of Library Technology Academy grants
  • A dozen libraries brought are first Texas public libraries to join the Lone Star Education and Research Network statewide high-speed Internet backbone
  • Texas Free Wifi Map provides guide to finding free wifi in hundreds of locations across Texas
  • Texas Library Status Report keeps Texans updated on library reopening across the state
  • Offered extensive resources for staff via a COVID 19 Resources page
  • Created access to thousands of E-books to Texas public libraries during the pandemic
  • Expanded E-Read Texas e-book program and resources to 100 libraries
  • Hosted resource sharing conference in August attended by hundreds of Texas librarians

Goal 3: To develop awareness and use of TSLAC services so that all Texans and state and local governments find the library and information resources they need to succeed in school, work, and life.

  • Hundreds of thousands of clicks of boosted Facebook content promoting the Talking Book Program and other projects

    TSLAC Audio Production Administrator Miles Lewis (left) and Lead Audio Technician Craig York in the Talking Book Program recording studio.

  • Launched #TXBookChat series, first ever TSLAC virtual programming
  • TBP staff successfully transitioned a majority of patrons to Duplication on Demand service
  • Created of the TSLAC Strategic Plan for 2021-2025
  • Completed Legislative Appropriations Request 2022-2023
  • Secured $10,000 grant to add five Literary Landmarks in Texas
  • Hosted all-virtual Texas Authors Celebration and two Texas Center for the Book Literacy Awards

Goal 4: To guarantee cybersecurity of agency electronic resources and systems

  • Complete redeployment of TSLAC staff to remote work in March
  • Installation of two-factor authentication required for all access, internal and remote
  • Completion of agency-wide training in cybersecurity measures

Goal 5: To make TSLAC a key partner among libraries, state agencies, and other organizations to facilitate access to information by the public and state government

  • Retrofit of the Promontory Point facility as our fourth TSLAC location
  • Adoption of revised State Records Retention Schedule
  • State Records Center open and serving state government throughout pandemic
  • Achieved record attendance at the 100% virtual 2020 E-Records Conference
  • Adopted new rules allowing more local control of local records by the Regional Historical Records Depositories
  • Coordinated plan to implement UELMA
  • Transferred all Texas legislative records to Legislative Reference Library

Internal administrative

  • Creation of a staff committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Restructured procurement processes to create contract coordinator
  • Re-establishment of TSLAC Advisory Committees in Administrative Code
  • Created new training manual and process for commission training
  • Supported Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas in their conversion to the Texas Library and Archives Foundation, including a new website and logo

It has been a long and challenging year, but libraries and archives across Texas have continued to demonstrate their value to their communities by providing access to books, information, technology, and programming that sustain individuals, families, and communities during times of crisis. TSLAC has been honored to be able to lead that work at the statewide level while also directly serving researchers, state government, and the general public throughout the pandemic. We look forward to another successful year in 2021.

From all of us here at TSLAC, we wish you Happy Holidays and a healthy, safe, and prosperous New Year. 

 

Texas Digital Archive is 5 years old

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Texas Digital Archive (TDA). In that five years, Texas has gone from being one of the few states without a digital repository for state government records to being a leader in this area of archival preservation.

The Texas Digital Archive was born with a special appropriation by the Texas Legislature in the 2015 session. Aside from an acute need (TSLAC staff had requested the project the two previous sessions), the impetus to act was the transfer to the Archives of the Governor Perry records. That records transfer in January 2015 included more than seven terabytes of data in electronic format. The project also launched with about 18 terabytes of digital audio files of recordings from Senate meetings. From that initial 25 terabytes of data, the Texas Digital Archive has grown to include 69 terabytes, representing over 5.4 million unique files. 

The intention of the TDA was always to contain archival records from all state agencies and all branches of government. In this way, the TDA will comprise a one-stop-shop for state government and researchers seeking access to Texas government records of permanent value to the state. The TDA now contains the records of a number of state agencies and contains records from all branches of government.

The TDA now contains the following notable collections:

  • Complete records from the Austin and Houston districts of the Texas Department of Transportation
  • State agency operating budgets and most recent LARs
  • Digitized records of all governors from Sam Houston to Richard Coke (1859-1877) and Governor Thomas Campbell (1907-1911).
  • Supreme Court case files for the years 1840 to 1892
The Texas Digital Archive page on www.tsl.texas.gov.

The Texas Digital Archive page at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/texasdigitalarchive

TSLAC Electronic Records Specialists Mark Myers and Brian Thomas are the lead TSLAC staff working on the TDA project. As the content of the TDA grows exponentially each year, Mark and Brian also work continuously with TSLAC’s contract partner, Preservica, to provide technical enhancements, including improved end-user interface. These improvements to the look and feel as well as the usability of the TDA will help the public move effectively navigate the millions of resources found on the site. 

TSLAC has had a robust digitization program for the last decade, generating more than 150,000 digital files, including historical photographs, audio recordings, reformatted film from Texas agencies, along with the thousands of paper documents now accessible online. All records in the TDA are unrestricted, and are thus available for public use, including for scholarly research, journalism, teaching using primary source documents, genealogy and family history, and creative arts purposes. Patrons may browse collections, perform keyword searches, and view and download records through the online portal.

In five short years, the Texas Digital Archive has grown to become a huge collection of resources related to the history and government of Texas. As the resource continues to grow, it will occupy an ever-greater role as a one-stop point of research for researchers as well as for libraries and archives across Texas. We encourage you to explore the TDA and learn about the rich array of resources that are available now and we urge you to watch as the content of the TDA continues to grow. 

Texas Digital Archive, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/texasdigitalarchive

 

 

 

Join us Friday for: TSLAC Update – Current status and future outlook for TSLAC and Texas libraries

On Friday morning, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m., I will be co-presenting a webinar with Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and the members of the Library Development and Networking team to discuss the current state of library issues, programs, and opportunities.

We will be exploring statewide efforts to support communities during this time as well as upcoming opportunities, budget considerations, and how libraries can look to the future. Your questions and thoughts are most welcome!

Attendance at the LIVE program qualifies for 1 hour of Texas State Library Continuing Education credit (CPE eligible for Texas educators). Printed certificates will not be issued. A follow-up email will be sent within 5 days of the event to individuals who attended the live Webinar. Attendees are advised to save and/or print the follow-up email as it will serve as proof of attendance for CE purposes.

This webinar will be recorded; however for maximum benefit, including the ability to ask questions in real time, we strongly encourage you to attend the live session. If you use assistive technology and the format of any material related to this training event interferes with your ability to access the information, please email ld@tsl.texas.gov. To enable us to respond in a manner most helpful to you, please indicate the nature of your accessibility issue, the preferred format in which to receive the material, the date and title of the training event, and your contact information.

For more information and to register, visit: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3822897886752260879

Libraries and the Statewide Plan for Broadband

Last week the Governor’s Broadband Council released their first report, “2020 Texas Report.” That plan makes three recommendations as follows:

  • Create a state broadband plan.
  • Establish a state broadband office.
  • Develop a state broadband funding program to incentivize deployment in unserved areas.

We applaud the work of the Governor’s Broadband Council in making these recommendations. The report points out that as of July 2020, 926,859 Texans do not have access to broadband at home. The report also points out that approximately 90% of all Texans without broadband live in rural areas.

The Council was made possible by the passage of HB 1960 by Rep. Four Price. That bill specifies the composition of the council and includes “one representative from a library association.” That representative for the library community is Edward Smith, Director of the Abilene Library Consortium. We are very fortunate to have Eddy as a voice for libraries on the council. Why is that important? Because while libraries are a key component of the solution to lack of broadband access, they are often overlooked when library representatives are not at the table.

Eddy Smith made sure that libraries were not overlooked in this report, which accurately points out that libraries are E-Rate eligible and, along with schools, have been anchor institutions bringing broadband infrastructure to many communities. The report also acknowledges the important role libraries can play in digital literacy training: “Libraries across the state could serve as anchors for this holistic approach by training and educating their communities in digital literacy.”

TSLAC has taken a lead role in state government in helping to bring broadband to Texas communities via library access. That work includes the following strategies:

  • Since a special appropriation of $1 million from the Legislature in 2017, TSLAC has helped more than 160 libraries across Texas acquire high-speed internet.
  • Through that program — Libraries Connecting Texas — we raised from 24% to 33% of public libraries participating in E-Rate discounts and brought the number of libraries meeting FCC standards for internet access from 6% to more than 30%.
  • Our Technology Consultant Henry Stokes provides technical assistance to libraries seeking E-Rate and Technology access across the state and we provide support in filing E-Rate applications to Texas libraries through our partners at E-Rate Central.
  • In FY 2021, we will complete a pilot project with the Lonestar Education and Research Network (LEARN) to bring 11 libraries across Texas into that network, providing 500 megabit or 1 gigabit connections. Another project with ESC 20 will bring several libraries in the San Antonio area into that high-speed network.
  • The Texas Free WiFi Map developed by TSLAC Digital Inclusion Consultant Cindy Fisher partners with three legal aid organizations to provide information on hundreds of locations across the state where the public can find access to free wifi, most often at the library.
  • TSLAC School Program Coordinator Liz Philippi represents the important role of K-12 libraries on the Operation Connectivity Taskforce Workgroup, a project of the Texas Education Agency to ensure broadband deployment and utilization on school campuses in Texas.

As the Broadband Council report suggests, libraries are where the public goes when they don’t have access to internet at home. In most communities it is the only source for free internet and that reality became especially apparent during the pandemic when we have seen crowds of people crowding into library parking lots to access the wifi even as the library was closed. And in some communities like Pottsboro in North Texas, the library proactively went into the community and stationed wifi locations to give the public more convenient access.

Congratulations to the Governor’s Broadband Council on its first report. Here’s hoping that it will be the first step to a more robust deployment of high-speed internet across the state of Texas. TSLAC and the Texas library community are standing by ready to assist.

Links in this post:
2020 Texas Report — https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/2020_Texas_Report_-_Governors_Broadband_Development_Council.pdf
HB 1960 — https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/billtext/pdf/HB01960F.pdf#navpanes=0
Texas Free Wifi Map — https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/tech/wifimap


Celebrating the Texas Library and Archives Foundation

National Friends of Libraries Week Spotlight: Texas Library and Archives Foundation
This is National Friends of Libraries Week, October 17-24, 2020, and in honor of the occasion, I would like to acknowledge the great work of our own Texas Library and Archives Foundation (TxLAF) at http://www.txlaf.org/ TxLAF is a statewide nonprofit organization chartered to support the work of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Originally enabled by state law in the late 1990s and formed as the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas, the group recently went through a major reorganization under the leadership of President Andrea Lapsley of Houston to recharter as a Foundation.
The mission of the Texas Library and Archives Foundation is “to support the interests of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in order to collectively promote learning, literacy, and the preservation of Texas History. TxLAF realizes this mission by investing in Texas libraries through literary awareness events, grants, school programs, and book festivals celebrating continued education and our state’s rich documentary heritage. They support special archival exhibits here at the State Library and Archives, which holds millions of historic artifacts, both in Austin and at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty— from rare maps and films to historic letters. TxLAF also provides opportunities to volunteer for statewide literary events and fundraisers, uniting people who share a love of learning in their communities.
During 2020 alone, TxLAF has accomplished the following:

  • Re-chartered from being a membership organization to a foundation, including new branding and creating an entirely new website—that launched today!
  • Forty libraries received mini grants to participate in Lone Star Día, a statewide celebration of Children’s Day/Book Day and the power of books and reading to change young lives.
  • More than 1,300 students in grades 4 to 12 across the state wrote letters about books that touched their lives in the annual Letters About Literature Texas contest
  • Two Texas scholars received $2,000 TSLAC Research Fellowships in Texas History in partnership with the Texas State Historical Association.
  • The Edouard Foundation received the Texas Library Association Benefactor Award for their support of TxLAF’s programs.
  • Books to the Border received the Texas Center for the Book Literacy Award.
  • A grant awarded by the Summerlee Foundation will create five new Texas Literary Landmarks starting in 2021 and doubling the current number of landmarks in Texas.

TSLAC staff and commission are very grateful to the support and encouragement of the Texas Library and Archives Foundation. Join me, along with TSLAC staff, patrons, customers, and friends, in expressing our warmest thanks to TxLAF for their ongoing vision and work in support of Texas libraries and archives!

And, of course, donations to the TxLAF in any amount are very welcome—look for that big new “Give Now” button on their new website.

Remembering Dr. David B. Gracy

Last weekend brought the sad news of the passing of Dr. David Gracy, former Texas State Archivist. Dr. Gracy was a highly respected archivist and historian, educator, author, and tireless defender of intellectual freedom and access to information.

Dr. Gracy served as State Archivist of Texas from 1977 until 1986 when he became a full professor at the University of Texas Graduate School of Library and Information Science. In that position, Dr. Gracy taught and mentored hundreds of future archivists and information professionals including a number of current TSLAC staff. Dr. Gracy was a nationally recognized scholar and leader in the field of archives. He served as the president of both the Society of American Archivists and the Academy of Certified Archivists and was a fellow and active member of the Texas Historical Association.

Dr. Gracy wrote extensively. One of his books, The State Library and Archives of Texas: A History, 1835-1962, was published by the University of Texas Press in 2010 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of TSLAC. Dr. Gracy’s last book was about his ancestor G.W. Littlefield, Austin banker, UT Regent, and, briefly, on TSLAC’s first commission.

In Dr. Gracy’s final year, he graciously accepted our request to speak at our TSLAC in-service day held last November 8, 2019. The topic of Dr. Gracy’s speech was–as it ever was–the importance of preserving access to public records and he spoke forcefully for the role that archives play in ensuring transparency of government. Concerned about a recent directive to relocate records from TSLAC to another agency, Dr. Gracy said, “Essential to a democratic government is transparency–the ability for citizens to monitor the actions taken in their behalf by government leaders.” He went on to say, “Archives are information as accurate, factual, truthful in historical context as we Americans, we Texans, we human beings have.” 

Dr. David Gracy was a giant in the world of archives, preservation, and history. We were highly honored to have known him, work with him, and call him friend and teacher. We will greatly miss his leadership, constant support, and immense expertise and extend our sincere condolences to his family and his many friends and colleagues. 

Links in this post:

Austin American-Statesman obituary of Dr. David B. Gracy: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/statesman/obituary.aspx?n=david-bergen-gracy&pid=196877146

“Nor Is This All: The Spirit of the Texas State Library and Archives.” Speech to TSLAC staff: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/sites/default/files/public/tslac/exec/Gracy%20Talk–LEO%202019.pdf

Celebrating 10 years of The Texas Record

By guest columnist, Megan Carey, Manager, Records Management Assistance

This past May SLRM’s popular blog, The Texas Record, quietly turned 10 years old amidst a pandemic. When the Records Management Assistance (RMA) unit staff realized this milestone was coming up, they quickly jumped into action, arranging for a bespoke blog banner and looking to the blog’s history for key indications of how it began. The Texas Record was “born” in May 2010 as RMA staff transitioned away from communicating with their customers via semiannual newsletters (The Local Record and The State Record). The format and manner of delivery may have changed, however, the goal was the same: to create an RMA hub where customers could just as easily learn about training opportunities and FAQs as they could about current events in the records management field and meet new government information analysts (GIA).

Not much has changed in 10 years except…

  • The Texas Record now entertains over 3,000 monthly subscribers and in its 10 year tenure has shared 625 articles to its followers.

    The reach of the blog has grown over the past few years as is evidenced by the number of hits to the blog. Even as recently as Fiscal Year 2018, The Texas Record received more than 142,000 hits. In Fiscal Year 2019 that was surpassed by more than 150,000 hits, and now, right at the end of Fiscal Year 2020, the blog has more than 191,000 hits. Even in the beginning, email management was a hot topic. The very first blog post shared by The Texas Record was “FAQ: How long do I keep my email?” written by Angela Ossar on May 11, 2010. Among the top 20 blog posts accessed in August 2020 were topics of disposition, using retention schedules, and determining retention periods; not surprising given it’s the end of the fiscal year!

  • It is still the one-stop-shop for training announcements and new concepts in the RM field.

    Although analysts have come and gone, RMA staff brainstorm, research, and author the posts. The maintenance and growth of The Texas Record is very much a group effort; the team crowdsources potential ideas and topics to explore and draws inspiration from webinars watched, consulting completed, and plumbing the depths of an analyst’s mind and creativity. From there all topics are fair game.

The Texas Record is excited about more milestones to come and promises to continue providing content that encourages improvement of records management programs (“How to Approach an Office Records Management Overhaul”) and shares emerging topics in the field (“Off the Record: Unlawful Disposition”), while also reminding everyone that records management may be their job, but it also often permeates our lives, including the media we consume (“RIM-brain in Movies and TV”).

Links in this post:

The Texas Record Blog, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/

“How to Approach an Office Records Management Overhaul, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/2020/07/how-to-approach-an-office-records-management-overhaul/

“Off the Record: Unlawful Disposition,” https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/2020/08/off-the-record-unlawful-disposition/

“RIM-brain in Movies and TV,” https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/2020/08/rim-brain-in-movies-and-tv/

TSLAC and digital access

Last time I wrote about the TSLAC’s history of providing e-resources to millions of Texans via library access to TexShare and TexQuest resources, a key component of TSLAC services since the mid-1990s.

As important as they are, TexShare and TexQuest are only part of TSLAC’s commitment to digital inclusion for all Texans. As we prepare our Legislative Appropriations Request for the 2022-2023 biennium, we will be telling the legislature and state leadership about the important programs that have many thousands of users across the state:

Talking Book Program – This service, which has been an integral part of TSLAC since the 1920s, provides books and other recorded materials to persons who cannot read standard print, usually due to a visual impairment or physical disability. In other words, it is a lifeline for persons who are already isolated and who now, due to the pandemic, are at an even greater disadvantage. The Talking Book Program circulates over 700,000 items to these Texans each year, the increasing majority of which are in digital format. Many readers now access these materials by direct download to their devices.

E-Read Texas – In August 2019 we launched this program to provide e-books to Texans via a platform known as Simply E that allows the public to stream e-books purchased for the state by TSLAC alongside those purchased by local libraries. To-date several dozen Texas public libraries in small communities in all parts of the state have adopted E-Read Texas as a way to bring more materials to their customers at a time when their libraries have been closed or services limited due to the pandemic.

The Texas Digital Archive – Texas leads the nation in this repository of state archival information in digital format which has created an unprecedented access to the archival record of Texas for persons in communities of all sizes in all parts of the state. Currently there are over 5.4 million historical documents, photographs, maps, and other materials in the Texas Digital Archive.

Broadband services. TSLAC actively works to ensure that libraries across Texas are able to serve as an access point to high-speed internet for their communities. Over the last three years, Texas has assisted over 150 public libraries in acquiring broadband at affordable prices and that effort is continuing with further support through the U.S. CARES Act.

Managing state and local electronic records. Our Records Management Assistance Unit provides guidance to state and local governments in the effective management of their electronic records and sponsors the annual E-Records Conference each fall to provide state of the industry guidance in storing and managing e-government records.

• Uniform Electronic Legal Materials. As a result of legislation last session, TSLAC partnered with the Office of the Secretary of State and the Tarlton Law Library to create a framework for ensuring that the public seeking legal materials is using the most current and authorized version.

• And of course, TexShare and TexQuest. These programs combined receive over 100 million information requests each year and are a source of vital information for students at all levels, professionals, researchers, and regular Texans who have a broad range of needs.

These resources and services have always been important and valued by Texans, but during the pandemic, that need has grown significantly more acute. As schools are holding virtual classes, libraries are closed, and people are working from home, the need to access online resources has never been greater.

In my last blog post, I anticipated we would receive instructions to reduce our budget. That did not turn out to be the case. State agencies have not been instructed to prepare reduction plans, however, we have been instructed to prioritize our programs. Our biennial budget request to the state will speak of the high priority for all Texans to be able to continue to rely on remotely accessed resources and services. The pandemic has highlighted the need to move workers to an information-based economy supported by remote access via broadband networks. Our commission has set digital inclusion as a key operational goal of our agency because we recognize that TSLAC and libraries in all Texas communities have a key role to play in supporting cost-effective remote access to information and broadband internet service.

We will approach the legislative session confident that our client groups and legislative decision makers will agree.

Links included in this post:

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

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

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

Broadband and digital inclusion
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/tech/digitalinclusion

Managing state and local records
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/training

E-Records Conference
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/training/erecords

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

TexQuest and other K-12 library services
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/landing/educators.html

The importance of resource sharing–now more than ever

Today I presented closing comments at the Texas ILL/TexShare Virtual Conference organized by our resource-sharing team — special shout-out to Danielle Plumer, Sara Hayes, and Russlene Waukechon — exploring the amazing universe of resources available to libraries across the state via resource sharing. The conference was great with many very valuable presentations. I was honored to be able to make closing remarks. I wanted to share those remarks here on my blog. 

 

Good afternoon, everyone. I am so glad that you were able to attend this day of wonderful presentations and very glad also to be able to provide closing remarks. I want to thank all the presenters today, especially my excellent colleagues Danielle Plumer and Sara Hayes who were our lead staff in planning this conference as well as Russlene Waukechon who also participated in the planning. I want to thank all our resource sharing partner companies and organizations, many of whom were represented in the program today, and especially our friends at Amigos who helped organize and present today’s conference, especially our E-Read Texas project manager and former TSLAC colleague, Christine Peterson.

When I was considering what to say to you today, I was looking back over my over 35 years of professional work and it occurred to me that there are not many enduring aspects of library work about which I can say that I was present at the creation.

But when it comes to TexShare, I am honored to say that I was present at the creation.

Governor George W. Bush signing HB 2721, the TexShare bill, May 27, 1997.

Now, I was not present when the late great Dr. S. Joe McCord first approached Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock with his brainchild idea of creating a statewide shared digital network, which I think occurred around 1995. But as the Director of Communications for the Texas Library Association in 1997, I was directly involved in working to pass HB 2721 by Rep. Bob Hunter of Abilene that established TexShare in statute and permanently located the function at TSLAC (It had previously been with the Higher Education Coordinating Board). And the only bill signing that I have ever had the privilege to attend was when Governor Bush signed HB 2721 into law on May 27, 1997.

In the next session two years later, library leaders were successful in working for the passage of HB 1433, again by Rep. Hunter, to expand TexShare participation to Texas public libraries.

To be sure, those were proud accomplishments for Texas libraries and represented the culmination of much hard work by Dr. McCord, State Librarian Bob Martin, the Texas Library Association, and many other Texas library leaders.

I have been thinking about that accomplishment now going on 25 years ago, as well as the creation of TexQuest, which levels the playing field of digital inclusion for over 90 percent of all K-12 students across Texas, and our statewide interlibrary loan system for public libraries that makes the physical resources of all of our libraries available to patrons wherever they live. And by the way, ILL is consistently ranked one of the most—if not the most—critical service we offer, especially for public libraries.

I have been musing on why Joe McCord and others thought this idea was so important, so worth pursuing. That is, what was the specific value they saw in libraries sharing resources in order to achieve statewide access not only to traditional library services but also to online databases filled with proprietary content? Further, what was that vision at a time when library access to the Internet was still new — and the potential of that medium to create equitable access to information for persons who never before could have enjoyed that –was just being explored?

But while the technology has evolved and the resources have become much more sophisticated, the basic concept is the same. We cannot have a fully functional competitive modern educational system — not to mention economy — in Texas without a level playing field of access to information. What Joe McCord and other library leaders realized in 1995 and 1997 was that shared access to information and particularly to digital information unlocks an ever-expanding universe of resources that are absolutely fundamental to building a progressive modern society in Texas. For the last 25 years, TexShare, and a little later TexQuest, have put libraries in the exact center of that flow of information, made libraries vital to providing the public a gateway to the riches of those shared online resources. And by harnessing the purchasing power of the state, those resources have flowed to Texans in all parts of the state for pennies on the dollar what they would have cost if those libraries had to buy them—as Danielle detailed earlier. Every year, those resources receive over 100 million uses, which means that over the last 25 years, TexShare and TexQuest materials have been consulted literally billions of times by Texans. The investment has paid off. TexShare and TexQuest resources have immeasurably helped the citizens of Texas while putting the libraries of Texas in their rightful place in the driver’s seat of providing public access to information in all its many formats.

Now fast forward to 2020. The outlook is suddenly clouded with uncertainty. The economic crisis that has been born of the coronavirus pandemic threatens to erode much of the amazing progress of library resource sharing in Texas over these nearly two and a half decades. While we have not received our budget instructions yet, we are anticipating a reduction of up to 20 percent or more in our state funding. And while those reductions will be spread across agency functions, because TexShare and TexQuest electronic resources comprise the single largest purchase of our agency and account for over one-third of our state funding, they will by necessity take the brunt of the reductions. We believe we will be able to maintain the core TexShare and TexQuest electronic resources, but we may well be forced to eliminate a number of the individual products you and your patrons and students rely on.

That would be tragic, not just for the libraries, but more importantly for the citizens of Texas. Online resources are needed now more than ever, especially as students grapple with remote learning and the public is forced to remain home and sheltered and many libraries remain closed. In fact, one of the huge lessons of the pandemic is that the public’s ability to access information remotely has been one of the most crucial lifelines offered by libraries. Libraries proved key to the public’s ability to stay connected and informed during the pandemic through access to online resources, including those provided via TexShare, as you saw from Kate Reagor’s analysis. And libraries that had signed up last fall to participate in our E-Read Texas e-book program found that as they had to close their doors, content provided via the Simply-E app integrated with their ILS offered yet another source of materials for their homebound customers. Patrons of libraries that had made that move to E-Read Texas before the pandemic were rewarded for that initiative and several others contacted us to get on board after the lockdown started.

People trust the information they receive via the library. Surveys by groups such as Pew and the Knight Foundation have consistently found that while the public mistrusts both government and the media, they have a high confidence in the authority of information they get through the library. In an era where a significant percentage of the population says it gets its news and information via social media, TexShare, TexQuest — not to mention other library materials available widely through ILL — offer information of high authenticity and accuracy. I believe the public desperately craves that level of authenticity in information sources.

And the difficulty of a potential reduction of TexShare resources is compounded by the fact that local budgets are also likely to get slammed. Public library budgets will probably take a hit from a downturn in revenue for cities and counties. And higher ed libraries might also feel the pain as parent institutions see a decrease in tuition revenue and state support. It is a bad time to try to locally backfill resources lost from reductions in TexShare and TexQuest.

But I don’t want to end your great day today with a bleak downer message. You get enough of that in the news every day. I believe we collectively have the ability to resist and roll back some of these potential reductions. So, I am going to suggest a few ways that you can be prepared to help with this situation.

First, use the heck out of TexShare. One of the ways that we can ensure that we keep these resources is to use them. We have uncommonly high use already, but it would be very helpful to demonstrate that use is increasing, especially in the time of Covid. And in addition to using the resources, let your patrons know how valuable they are and keep seeking creative ways to integrate the content into your ongoing programs and services.

Second, tell your elected leaders at the state level how you feel about TexShare and TexQuest. Thank them for supporting these services over the years. Let them know that your patrons find these resources extremely valuable for school, business, and personal use and the hardship that loss of those resources would cause. If you have them, convey anecdotes of how they have helped people in your communities, how crucial remote access was during Covid, and tell them you’d like to see more money for these resources, not less.

Be ready to support TLA as they advocate for the TSLAC budget. Our intention, if they let us, is to request immediate reinstatement of any funding cuts to our budget, especially for shared digital resources. TLA will coordinate support for that ask, but if you find these resources useful, spring of 2021 will likely be the time to start telling the legislature. Let them know that this is exactly the wrong time to deprive people of access to online resources. Now more than ever people in all parts of the state need to be connected to authoritative information delivered remotely through broadband networks.

And finally, and more broadly speaking, keep the hope and dream alive of the power of sharing resources among libraries. 25 years on from the creation, when electronic resources are so ubiquitous and have become so routine, it is hard to remember the bad old days. Hard to remember when people could not sit at home and pull up the information they need for school, work, and home. Hard to remember when interactive service for people in rural areas meant getting in a car and driving for hours to get to a major city. Hard to remember that information that people needed to grow their businesses or get legal forms or research their family history depended on where they happened to live or whether their local library could afford to acquire all those resources.

What Joe McCord and others knew in the 1990s was that libraries working together, combined with the power of statewide purchasing, has the potential to erase all kinds of barriers that keep people from the information they need. That core model has not changed. In fact, in the age of Covid, it has become even more glaringly obvious. Libraries can and should be one of the central institutions moving Texas in the direction of a sustainable, information-based economy delivered remotely to every citizen via high-speed networks.

It will take effort by every one of us, but I am confident we have the power to go forth from here today and continue to make that dream a reality.

Thank you so much for participating in the conference today and for what you do to serve your communities. I wish you the best of luck in all your programs.

TSLAC CARES

On July 20, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission met in a special meeting and approved TSLAC CARES grants totaling $1,063,469 to 38 libraries in all parts of the state. TSLAC has issued a press release that contains further information about these grants and the types of projects funded. 

These grants were made possible by an appropriation from the federal government as part of the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. TSLAC received the funds from the Institute for Museum and Library Services according to the same formula that allocates funds via the annual Grants to States program. Because that formula is based largely on population, Texas gets the second most funds in the country after California. In this case, Texas received $2.6 million in CARES Act funds, of which at least half will be distributed in direct grants to libraries.

Our grants team, led by Grants Coordinator Bethany Wilson and assisted by LSTA Coordinator Erica McCormick, put the awarding of these funds on a fast track and issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity in early May with grant applications due on May 31. Bethany and an internal grants review panel prioritized the process of scoring the applications and the Commission was able to approve these grants last week, two weeks earlier than the next scheduled commission meeting. 

The funded grants of up to $50,000 address Covid relief efforts and digital inclusion. But that short description covers a wide range of needs from equipment and supplies to facilitate contactless services to patrons to devices and e-content to support remote patron access to library services. Libraries of all sizes in all parts of the state were funded.The Kaufman County Library will use laptops and other devices to provide more online learning capability while maintaining social distancing. The Little Elm Public Library, Marathon Public Library, Gatesville Public Library, and several others, will use TSLAC CARES funds to provide mobile hotspots for check out to patrons. Libraries such as Pottsboro and Johnson City will enter into creative partnerships with local organizations to further digital inclusion and remote access to information. And the Tom Green County Library in San Angelo will use grant funds to install permanent hot spots throughout the community with special emphasis on rural, outlying communities.

Libraries are endlessly creative in finding ways to serve the needs of their communities and most are fierce advocates when it comes to seeking funding opportunities to benefit their cities and counties. Unfortunately, need far outstripped available TSLAC CARES funds. Libraries submitted more than 100 applications totaling well over $2.5 million, or two and a half times the amount awarded. Libraries clearly need support and assistance as they struggle with the costs of responding to the Covid emergency and meeting the demand of their communities for remote access to information and library services. 

We hope more funding for libraries may be on the way. As Congress debates the next coronavirus relief bill, library advocates are boldly asking for $2 billion to address library needs. While this may seem like a large number, it is probably not nearly enough. We fear that as local governments seek to address a budget emergency caused by the economic effects of the pandemic, libraries may once again be among the first to be cut. Such action would be short-sighted and self-defeating. The pandemic has demonstrated that in times of crisis, libraries are even more essential than ever in addressing the needs of their communities for information, education, economic growth, and social cohesion. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, while schools, businesses, and other services have been closed, libraries have provided a crucial remote link to vital information for students, government, business, and the general public. 

TSLAC will be stretching the remainder of its CARES funds to provide more direct grants to libraries and also expanding library participation in high-speed broadband networks across the state. But much more is needed and if you have an opinion about how further relief funding should be allocated, you can share those thoughts with your elected federal representatives

Meanwhile, congratulations to the 38 Texas libraries that will receive TSLAC CARES grant funding.

Links in this post:

TSLAC Press Release on the TSLAC CARES grants: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/node/67656

Information on the Library Stabilization Act Fund:
http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/libfunding/LSFA_Summary_Final.pdf

Sharing your thoughts with your U.S. representatives:
https://cqrcengage.com/ala/app/write-a-letter?3&engagementId=508533