Celebrating the growth of the Texas Digital Library

It is now two years since the Texas Legislature appropriated the funds to allow TSLAC to create the Texas Digital Archive. We had proposed for over a decade to create a repository for the archives of Texas government in electronic formats. When we asked the Legislature for these funds in 2015, we were one of only 8 states that did not have a program to preserve permanently valuable electronic records.

I am glad to report that in those two years, our Archives staff under the direction of State Archivist Jelain Chubb, has not only created the digital archive we proposed, but has become a best-practice example for other states in the potential for such a project.
This project, directed by Laura Saegert, Assistant Director of the State Archives, and managed by TSLAC Electronic Records Specialists Mark Myers and Brian Thomas, and Digital Asset Coordinator Steven Kantner, along with the contributions of many others on the Archives staff, have created a resource of huge potential value to the state.

And they are just getting started.

The genesis for the project were the electronic records of the office of Governor Rick Perry. Researchers and citizens can now access a number of finding aids, including for Gov. Perry’s Appointments Office records, budget and planning, and much more.

The TDA also includes a significant collection of digitized manuscripts, prints and photographs, and recordings of Senate hearings, among many other materials. The born digital records of longtime Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) are the first legislator’s records to be added. (This is especially fitting as Rep. Turner was instrumental in supporting the appropriation for the TDA in his role as Vice-Chair of the House Appropriations Committee last session).

Most recently, the TDA has begun to grow its collection of state agency archives. A particularly rich collection of such material is the file of resources for the Texas Historical Commission, specifically the History Programs Division, which includes historical marker files from 2007-2016. Other agencies in the TDA holdings include files of the Secretary of State, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and several others. These files will continue to grow as other agencies make their historically valuable electronic records available for storage in the Texas Digital Archive.

The TDA represents a huge leap forward for state government, citizens, researchers, librarians, and others across the state. This centralized repository of materials, preserved and carefully maintained, and made available to every citizen, represents a treasure trove of resources on the state of Texas. Without the TDA and the vision of the Texas Legislature in making this repository possible, these materials of permanent value to the state would be lost and scattered or, at the very least, inaccessible.
We hope you will visit the TDA, use the resources, and keep checking back to see what’s new.

Because this project really is just getting started!

The long hot summer at TSLAC

It has been a busy several weeks at TSLAC. It seems as though as soon as the legislative session ended, many other activities developed in quick succession.

As I reported in my last post, we received an additional $1 million from the Legislature to assist public libraries across the state in securing broadband connections. Our strategy is to incentivize and assist libraries in applying for E-rate discounts to bring the high cost of high-speed Internet down to affordable levels. We aspire to bringing 100 libraries to higher Internet speeds by helping them to apply for E-rate discounts in FY 2018 and paying a portion of their telecomm bills in 2019. So that we can start promptly at the beginning of FY 2018 on September 1, we have issued an RFP for a contractor to work with libraries in FY 2018 and FY 2019 to assist in applying for E-Rate discounts. If you are interested in this program for your library, please watch for announcements on the PLD listserve and elsewhere regarding participating in this opportunity.

We are also recruiting for a director of the Library Development and Networking Division. After over 17 years of faithful and dynamic service to the state, Deborah Littrell is retiring as LDN Director on August 31. We salute and honor Deborah for her commitment to Texas libraries, and her management of LDN through very tough times. We will miss Deborah’s unique blend of logic and compassion in the management of TSLAC’s extended portfolio of services to Texas public, academic and school libraries. We conducted interviews for this position last week and we look forward to making a selection in the coming days. We are confident that Deborah’s successor will carry on her great work and help guide library services in Texas to new levels.

The process to draft the next version of Texas Public School Library Standards has been proceeding under the able guidance of Standards Committee co-chairs Donna Kearley and Sonja Schulz and coordinated by our own School Library Coordinator Liz Philippi. The committees have issued three successive versions of the proposed new standards, first at TLA in April, then at the Texas Association of School Library Administrators meeting in June, and finally at the TLA Annual Assembly last week in Austin. Helped along by excellent and substantial comments from the field, these standards have evolved to the point where we feel we can send them to the Texas Education Agency for comment. Our intention is to have these formally approved by our Commission by April 2018.

In June we recognized the amazing volunteers of our Talking Book Program, in particular the narrators and monitors who work together to record hundreds of books in our recording studio for use by persons throughout Texas and even nationally. We greatly value our wonderful volunteers and honor the countless hours they devote to our agency and the folks we serve across Texas.

And the other major initiative that is occupying our time is our approach to Sunset Review, which will happen for our agency in the 2019 legislative session. Under the able guidance of Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz, we have drafted an agency self evaluation. Following submission of that document to the Sunset Commission in August, the Commission will begin reaching out to stakeholder groups across the state to collect feedback about the agency and how we serve the needs of libraries and archives of Texas. We hope and expect our agency will be recommended to continue in the 2019 session.

Whew! It’s over and we have a budget!

Today Governor Abbott signed Senate Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act. This action culminates months of work by our agency commission, staff, and stakeholders across the state to set a budget that will continue our work providing Texans the information they need to be informed, productive citizens.

The TSLAC 2018-2019 Budget Overview

The final budget for TSLAC as included in the General Appropriations Act stands at $30,227,139 in GR funds and a total budget of $66,010,905. These figures represent a total decrease of state funding of 4.9%, but, an overall agency funding increase of about 1.5%.

Like most other state agencies, we had prepared a budget as instructed at a 4% reduction ($1,271,405) in base GR funding. And while $250,000 of this amount was restored for security and repairs at the Sam Houston Center in Liberty, the legislature, however, reduced the agency’s GR appropriation by an additional $536,573. These reductions can be taken without the loss of staff or deep impact to library and archives programs.

Broadband initiative

The budget includes a supplemental one-time $1 million from the Economic Stabilization Funds (the “Rainy Day Fund”) to support broadband development in Texas public libraries. We are grateful to the Legislature for helping the commission achieve a major milestone toward their strategic goal of ensuring digital inclusion through libraries. The project will help libraries secure E-Rate discounts for high-speed Internet affordable and furthers our goal of demonstrating the important role that libraries can play in providing a digital safety net for their communities. The staff of the Library Development and Networking Division has already begun to plan for this project. Please stay tuned for details in the coming days and weeks.

Unfortunately, no other exceptional items were funded, including the requested $8 million for e-book materials for TexShare and TexQuest. It seems that it was not a year to gain such an appropriation, though many lawmakers told us privately and in committee hearings about their awareness and appreciation of the TexShare and TexQuest programs. We will continue to push for additional resources in future legislative sessions.

I want to thank the Texas Library Association and other supporters across the state who took time to express to the Legislature the importance of the services provided by our agency. We are humbled and grateful for your advocacy and encouragement.

Give yourself the Edge

A comment we hear a lot as we travel the state and talk to librarians is, “we need the State Library to help us tell our story better.” I hear a significant and understandable frustration among many librarians that their community does not fully recognize and appreciate what they do. And undoubtedly that is true: libraries are one of the greatest resources a community has to support literacy and learning, to create sustainable cities and counties, and to ensure access to technology and online information. But often we see that the library is underutilized and underappreciated and we don’t always have a seat at the table for critical discussions in the areas where we could most effectively contribute.

Edge is specifically designed to help libraries tell their story in the critical area of technology. TSLAC purchases access for every public library in the state to this highly effective tool designed specifically so that libraries can assess their technology readiness, make a case for local support, and demonstrate the important role they can play in digital inclusion and technology access. Edge allows a library to benchmark their work against others of similar size across the country to determine where they are ahead of the curve and where they need to improve.

Over 200 libraries in Texas have completed the assessment and many have used Edge to great effect. The San Antonio Public Library used Edge to assess its technology program and ultimately to argue successfully for $1 million in additional city funds to improve library technology. The New Braunfels Public Library, an early adopter of Edge, used the resource to evaluate its effectiveness in serving the community, a process that led to expanding services to key clientele such as disabled persons and eventually doubling the library’s bandwidth. In Pottsboro, Library Director Dianne Connery used Edge to demonstrate that the library is an essential service and stimulated the library to think about ways it could align its services with community priorities. These and many other success stories can be found on the Edge site.

Edge includes a toolkit of resources, assessment tools that are keyed to benchmarks in three key strategy areas, and a range of other resources geared to help libraries advance their technology as a critical element of the overall library program.

We offer Edge as part of an overall suite of services and tools libraries can use to both manage their services and to also talk about what they do and advocate for their programs. I hope that you will take time to explore Edge today and consider the many ways it can be of service to helping tell your library story.

Libraries Past, Present and Future, and the Upcoming TLA

A few days ago, because it is National Library Week, I did an interview for the public radio show The Texas Standard. They were nice and the piece came out well. The topic was what was the oldest library in Texas. (There were three contenders and all three have a claim to being the oldest in a category, but you’ll have to listen to the segment to find out.)

While we always appreciate the coverage, and as much as I like to talk about the history of libraries, what I would much rather talk about is the future of libraries. As we move toward the end of the second decade of this century, we have demonstrated that far from obsolete, libraries have re-invented themselves as vibrant hubs of learning, technology, and community engagement. A recent article in the Dallas Morning News and Austin American Statesman by Texas Library Association President-Elect Ling Hwey Jeng nicely describes by investments in libraries pay off huge dividends for communities. The recently published study on the economic value of libraries by the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Texas quantifies that every dollar invested in public libraries returns $4.64 in value to Texas communities.

Next week, the Texas Library Association annual conference will be held in San Antonio. TSLAC is looking forward to participating both as we attend exciting programs by library experts from across the country, but also as presenters. TSLAC is presenting or sponsoring 33 programs at the conference. TSLAC is proud to be a sponsor of the program, “Big Idea: Artificial Intelligence–Out of Science Fiction and into Daily Life” presented by Anita Brede, CEO and co-founder of Iris AI.

TSLAC staff are presenting sessions that range over a wide variety of topics, including Power Up TexQuest! Hands On Lab by Liz Philippi (April 19, 2:45-3:45 p.m.), Top Tech Trends presented by Kyla Hunt (April 20, 4:15-5:15 p.m.), and Edge Initiative and Enhanced Public Services by Jennifer Peters (April 21, 8:30 – 9:30 a.m.).

We also urge librarians to attend two sessions where we are soliciting feedback on two very important processes related to TSLAC continuing to plan for the future development of Texas libraries. On Thursday, April 20 from 11:15 to 12:15 a.m. Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and I will be leading a discussion of the agency sunset review. And later that day, April 20, from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m., Library Development and Networking Director Deborah Littrell will be leading a discussion of priorities for the next five-year plan for federally-funded LSTA projects in Texas. We urge you to attend both of these programs to let us know your thoughts on how TSLAC can assist in creating strong future libraries in Texas.

And also please come visit us in the exhibit hall at the TSLAC booth #2409.

We look forward to meeting and conferring with all our colleagues to discuss the exciting world of libraries today and into the future.

The importance of IMLS for Texas library services

The President’s budget released a few days ago eliminates a number of federal agencies. Among those is the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Since then, we have received a number of questions about what the impact of eliminating that agency would be on Texas libraries. The impact would be significant. Every year, Texas receives nearly $11 million in federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds that come to Texas via the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

We produced a short video that details how the funds are spent in Texas. I urge you to take a moment to view the video as it provides a good visual on the wide distribution of these federally funded services.

Over 90% of these funds pay for library services that directly benefit local communities all over the state. The major programs funded with federal dollars are:

  • TexShare resources. Nearly every public and university library in the state accesses online information via TexShare. Federal funds supply about 25% of the annual cost of TexShare online resources. Federal funds are also used to support TexQuest resources used by K-12 students across the state.
  • Interlibrary loan. Thanks to federal LSTA funds Texans in over 500 communities borrow needed library materials from any other library in the state. ILL service is funded 100% with federal dollars.
  • Grants to local libraries. LSTA funds pay for grants for innovative library services in hundreds of communities large and small across Texas.
  • Summer reading program. Across Texas, public libraries keep children reading through the summer months with federal LSTA funds.
  • Continuing education for library staff. Thousands of library staff across the state, especially smaller community libraries, benefit from training and technical assistance provided through federal funds.
  • Edge technology assistance. Federal LSTA funds allow over 200 Texas public libraries to improve the quality of their technology via the Edge program.

In addition to these projects, we use about $900,000 annually to support TSLAC’s state archival projects as well as the Talking Book Program which provides recorded books and other materials to thousands of persons with visual impairment or physical disability across the state.

Libraries and Archives and the 85th Session

Those of us who work in state government expect the 140 days of our biennial legislative session–which started January 10 and go to the end of May–to be a hectic time. But this session so far has been particularly active for our agency. Here are a few highlights so far:

  • The TSLAC budget has now been heard in the Senate Finance and the House Appropriations Committees. We have also had our mark-up hearing in the Appropriations subcommittee that covers our agency. In that meeting held on Tuesday of this week, the committee adopted our item to help libraries provide broadband to their communities. Yesterday, the committee reconvened and moved it from “adopted” to “Article XI,” a wish-list category that includes many millions of dollars worth of items that will ultimately go unfunded. But they also pended our TexShare, cybersecurity, and staff

    TSLAC staff Ashley Stevens with Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and the Texas Declaration of Independence.

    increases items in a way that suggests they could get a good second look.

  • Two bills have been introduced that pertain to open content and open education resources, topics of interest to the library community. SB 810 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham would encourage the greater use of open education resources (OERs) and directs TSLAC to study the feasibility of establishing a repository for OERs from participating Texas institutions. SB 803 by Seliger of Amarillo would study the feasibility of collecting and making available publicly funded research, so-called open content. Both bills have been referred to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
  • Senator Brian Birdwell of Granbury has introduced SB 902 that would prohibit TSLAC from adopting minimum criteria for public library accreditation in four areas, two of which–local support and staffing–are fundamental to the criteria. The Texas Library Association has taken an oppose position to this bill based on their assessment that it would “diminish the quality of library services throughout the state.” The bill has been referred to the Senate Business and Commerce committee chaired by Sen. Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills.
  • On Wednesday, March 1, we were invited by Senator Kolkhorst to come to come to the floor of the Senate with a historical document to mark Texas

    State Archivist Jelain Chubb and Senator Royce West of Dallas.

    Independence Day (March 2, however, the Senate was not in session that day). We took to the Senate our two very rare and valuable versions of the Texas Declaration of Independence, the handwritten version of which five were created and ours is the only remaining, and the printed broadside, 1,000 copies of which were printed at San Felipe de Austin and only 15 remains. Our copy was acquired in the papers of Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas. The senators enjoyed viewing the documents and we were honored to share them.

We look forward to updating you as the session continues. And hang onto your hats: it’s sure to be a wild ride as usual.

My photo op with the entire Texas Senate and the broadside version of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

Christine McNew and the importance of library service for children

Christine McNew

This week we had the sad task of announcing the death of a wonderful TSLAC colleague and extremely devoted professional, Christine McNew, Youth Services Consultant. Christine dedicated her life to the advancement of excellence in library services to children. Following our post on the Library Developments blog, many expressions of sympathy and disbelief poured in from across the state and nation. These individuals understood the outstanding work that Christine has done over the last 17 years at the Texas State Library and throughout her career.

Christine left the agency following the disastrous budget reduction in the 2012-2013 biennium. We felt extremely lucky to be able to hire her back two years ago and since rejoining the staff, Christine worked very hard to re-establish TSLAC’s support of library services for children in all parts of the state. She produced new workshop series, both in person and by webinar, she supported more robust adoption of summer reading programs in Texas libraries, she worked to revive TSLAC support of El día de los niños, día de los libros, Day of the child, day of the book, and she led the charge to get libraries to adopt summer nutrition programs.

Among her many remarkable achievements, Christine’s work with Family Place in Texas could rank as her greatest and most enduring accomplishment. Over the past two years, Christine has assisted 55 Texas public libraries to receive training in the Family Place model of library services to children. With TSLAC sponsorship, using federal LSTA funding, staff from these libraries have travelled to the Middle Country Library in New York State to learn about this total approach to serving children from learning about brain development, to selecting children’s room furniture, materials selection, and modeling reading behavior for children.

Dedication of the Family Place children’s program at the Bee Cave Public Library.

Last Friday I attended the dedication of the new Family Place children’s room at the Bee Cave Public Library. On hand were dignitaries including the mayor and others to celebrate this achievement. Kathleen Deerr of Family Place explained how children who enter school reading or ready to read will be more successful in school and more productive, and civically engaged adults. The investment that we make in the intellectual development of the preschool child in our public libraries is not just a nice luxury, it is a down payment on citizens who will contribute to our economy and engage in our civic institutions.

Christine McNew understood these truths and she worked tirelessly to advance these programs in hundreds of libraries across the state. Through the Family Place program, 55 libraries statewide are now strongly focused on effective methods of ensuring that generations of young Texans will have the tools they need to succeed in life.

That is a legacy worthy of our appreciation and celebration.

Welcome back, Texas Legislature

It’s that time again–the return of the Texas Legislature. It happens in January of every odd numbered year and lasts for 140 days. The 85th Regular Session convened this Tuesday.

The TSLAC display in the ground floor rotunda of the Capitol.

The TSLAC display in the ground floor rotunda of the Capitol.

And there to greet House and Senate members and their families and other visitors to the Capitol was a display featuring the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in the ground floor rotunda. The display features beautifully designed panels showcasing the work of the agency, the four major divisions, and the Center for the Book. The display also included the giant postcard from our “Wish You Were Here” vintage postcard display in our lobby and all week visitors were making their own selfie postcards using the display.

This week we also welcomed about 30 staffers from legislative and policy

The Library Development and Networking banner in our display.

The Library Development and Networking banner in our display.

offices to our agency to learn about services that we offer to legislators and their staffs, including records management, archival resources, and access to TexShare online content.

 

We love to talk about our agency and we love to serve the public and state government. I am hopeful that we hear often from our friends in legislative offices during this session and that we can make their very difficult and challenging work a bit easier.

We look forward to a fun and frantic session. If you happen to be over at the Capitol for any reason, we hope you will stop in and visit us and learn more about our services.

2016 – A year of planning and progress

Always at the end of each year, I like to pause and reflect on what we have accomplished during the last year. My TSLAC colleagues are always so busy that sometimes they don’t take time to consider the many successful projects we have undertaken and completed in the past year. So that I could remind them, I started a list. Before long it was a page and a half—over 60 discrete projects in all—most requiring many hours, staff, and phases to complete, and most representing projects beyond the daily productivity and core tasks of the agency.

I will spare you the entire list, but I will mention a few major areas that we worked on this year:

Planning and budgeting – As with all state agencies, this was a year of intensive planning as we wrote first the Agency Strategic Plan, followed by the Legislative Appropriations Request, and concluding with the first stages of the Sunset Review (TSLAC is up for Sunset Review in 2019). In the course of this planning, we met with hundreds of stakeholders, held statewide planning meetings, conducted surveys, presented webinars, and otherwise solicited input from libraries, archives, historians, and local governments across the state. Those comments were reflected in a set of 8 agency operational goals, and in our LAR, including five exceptional funding requests. The agency also revised its mission and vision statements to more succinctly and accurately reflect TSLAC purpose and direction.

Accelerating shift to electronic resources – All of TSLAC’s core programs are reflecting an ever-increasing shift to electronic resources. Using a new appropriation from the Texas Legislature, we launched the Texas Digital Archive, the first ever repository of Texas Government E-Archives. Also, with new funding from the Texas Legislature, we added many new shared online information resources available to millions of Texans through the TexShare and TexQuest services, including science and technology, legal, and language-learning resources. In the Talking Book Program, we continued the migration from analog to digital content and began uploading digital copies of books recorded at our studios to the Library of Congress BARD service for use by patrons all across the country. And in our State and Local Records program, we held the very popular annual E-Records Conference as well as the State Records Management Officers meeting to help folks learn how to more effectively manage public records in electronic format.

Legacy automation upgrades – We completed two of three planned legacy upgrades. The first was to implement the Centralized Accounting and Payroll Processing (CAPPS) system for Human Resources functions of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. This system will result in greater efficiency and make our operations consistent with those of other state agencies. The second was to update our grants management system used to manage the application, award, and reporting of TSLAC competitive and non-competitive grants, saving many hours of staff time both at TSLAC and local libraries statewide. The third project was the upgrade of our Talking Book Program automation system, which despite the hard work of our staff, was halted for technical reasons in March. However, even that restart will eventually result in a more efficient and streamline system when finally implemented in a few months.

Texas Center for the Book and other outreach efforts – This was the first full year of the Texas Center for the Book which we migrated late in 2015 from the Dallas Public Library. The Center for the Book had a very successful first year encouraging reading, literacy, and library use through a variety of programs including Letters About Literature, Lone Star Día, a statewide celebration of the 20th anniversary of Children’s Day, Book Day (El día de los niños, El día de los libros), Little Free Library builds in four cities, and exciting new partnerships with literacy, book and reading groups all across Texas. We also presented two lobby exhibits, several programs, and appeared at numerous book festivals and other events throughout the year.

The list could go on and on. We secured funding from the Texas Workforce Commission for a digital literacy program with local public libraries. We completed crucial work with school libraries around the Every Student Succeeds Act and the revision of the Texas School Library Standards. We made upgrades to our facility at Shoal Creek and completed extensive site work at the Sam Houston Center in Liberty.

And among all this, we welcomed our new Assistant State Librarian, Gloria Meraz.

We take pride in fulfilling our mission to, “To provide Texans access to information needed to be informed, productive citizens.” So, with another year behind us and a new one about to start, we will take a short holiday breath and be ready to dive back in on January 2, 2017.

Happy holidays to all our many customers, friends, and colleagues across the Texas.