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

Stay Connected to Reading with the TSLAC Talking Book Program

Welcome to the New Year, everyone. Before I kick off the first blog of the new year, I will report that the launch of the legislative session and this week’s inauguration of a new administration has come and gone with no incident around our building in downtown Austin. All is well and quiet and what few protesters were around the Capitol were peaceful.

Reader Consultant Victor Hunter assists patrons in locating their next great read in the TBP Call Center.

Against the background of historical events in our state and nation, our team at TSLAC continues with resolute determination to provide information services to Texans in all parts of the state. Those services have been more important during the pandemic than ever. The Talking Book Program (TBP) is a prime example of a TSLAC service that has been even more important than ever during the pandemic.

The Talking Book Program provides books and other reading materials to Texans who cannot read standard print because of a visual impairment or other disability. Those materials are mainly recorded books and magazines provided by mail or digital download to patrons all across the state, but also include large print books and Braille materials. As one can imagine, the clientele of this program, even in the best of times, might tend to be isolated and in particular need of reading materials, but during the lockdowns and because of the limitations of the pandemic, that need has only increased. To be able to receive materials mailed or downloaded completely free of charge has been a lifeline to these Texans.

Library Collections Technician Jonathan Gibbs pulls large print materials for patrons at the TBP warehouse.

About 11,420 persons in virtually every county in Texas borrowed a total of 763,767 books and downloaded another 293,269 items. That is a total of 1,057,036 items loaned to Texans in 2020. With a total number of registered patrons of 17,977, that represents a total rate of circulation of 58.7 items per capita. If the Talking Book Program were a public library in Texas, that would be one of the highest rates of circulation in the state.

The TSLAC Talking Book Program is affiliated with the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, a division of the U.S. Library of Congress. As an affiliate, TBP patrons are able to receive absolutely free of charge, access to a national collection of many hundreds of thousands of books and other recorded materials. Not too long ago, those materials were delivered either by analog cassette or by a single title on a digital cartridge. Increasingly, those materials are delivered in digital formats and many are downloaded directly to devices.

And in addition to the books that TSLAC patrons borrow from the national collection, we also contribute recorded books that patrons in other states can use. For over 40 years, the TBP Recording Studio has recorded books and magazines about Texas that are uploaded via a system known as the Braille Audio Recording Download, or BARD. To-date, TSLAC has contributed 266 books to BARD, including 35 titles uploaded in 2020. All those books recorded in the TSLAC recording studio are done by more than 100 volunteer readers and monitors who contributed 4,033 hours of their time in 2020 alone. During the pandemic, many of our volunteers continued their work from home, including in improvised recording “studios” created in living rooms and closets!

Staff of the Talking Book Program are eager to help patrons find their way to good books to read. Readers advisors spend thousands of hours on the phone each year with patrons helping them find their next reads. Also, TBP staff offer a regularly scheduled book club for readers to discuss specific books. Upcoming 2021 titles to be discussed can be found here: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/tbpbookclub/index.html

Do you know a friend or family member who could use this program? It is easy to sign up to use the services. You can visit the TBP website at www.TexasTalkingBooks.com or call 1-800-252-9605. You can also learn more about this program at the Talking Book Program Blog at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/texastalkingbooks/

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