TSLAC Year in Review: 2022

As we approach the end of the year, I wanted to take a moment to review the work our agency has done in 2022, a year of outstanding achievement for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the communities and customers we serve. Despite the many challenges of 2022, our staff, partners, and information professionals statewide rose to the occasion.

Let me give you just a taste of what has been achieved this year.

  • TSLAC leadership, working with the guidance and support of the Commission, completed the agency’s strategic plan and legislative appropriations request, which prioritizes our public programs and services, as well as staff.
  • Capital improvements, including construction started for HVAC upgrade and fire system expansion, began at our Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty.
  • TSLAC opened the Promontory Point State Records Center Annex facility in south Austin, greatly increasing the agency’s total state records management storage capacity.
  • We hired a new records management officer who is reenergizing the agency’s records management program and working across divisions on information governance.
  • The Texas Center for the Book coordinated the designation and celebration of five new national Literary Landmarks across the state.
  • We released a monthly e-newsletter for patrons, customers, and stakeholders.
  • TSLAC welcomed two new commissioners and met in Liberty in November.
  • We brought on a new Assistant State Librarian and division directors for LDN and TBP!

Library Development and Networking

  • The agency awarded approximately $1.16 million in grants to Texas libraries through its annual competitive grants programs, as well as an additional $1.8 million to libraries across the state with federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, as appropriated through the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
  • The Library Development and Networking Division (LDN) established the agency’s new Office of Statewide Digital Inclusion, which submitted a grant proposal (called the Infrastructure and Facility Access Improvement Grant) to request approximately $8 million to support broadband development initiatives and programs for libraries.
  • LDN’s continuing education and consulting team developed and implemented training for new public library directors.
  • The resource sharing unit completed solicitation for approximately $85 million in e-resources contracts for over the next 5 years to provide access to libraries.
  • The agency accredited 498 public libraries—a year-long process.
  • LDN also oversaw the completion of a Digital Literacy Study by the IC2 Institute at UT-Austin. The report, Texas Public Libraries: Serving Communities to Enhance Digital Literacy, contains information from 300 participating librarians that contributed time, thoughts, and information to help benchmark library digital literacy across the state. This report will help inform TSLAC priorities and partnerships in the coming years.
  • In total, LDN exceeded its target by 17% for number of resources provided to Texans.

State and Local Records Management

  • Our State and Local Records Management Division (SLRM) held the first annual Local Government Records Management Officer Zoom meeting and will plan to continue it annually in April as part of Records and Information Month.
  • The Report of Reports was published once again with its usual excellence.
  • SLRM held the statewide e-Records Conference virtually for last two years and was back in person this November, with 340 people in attendance!
  • Records management assistance staff consulted with or trained more than 12,700 state and local officials by the end of fiscal year 2022 in August and interacted with approximately 10,000 units of government. This exceeded the target for training and assisting government employees in SLRM by 22%.
  • Staff updated the University Records Retention Schedule and began work on updating all 12 local government schedules.
  • State Records Center staff added many new customers in Imaging this year, including several divisions from the Board of Nursing, City of Cedar Park, and new divisions of the Secretary of State’s Office.
  • Staff brought in an increase of 113% in imaging revenue for fiscal year 2022 and continue to outpace projections in the first few months of fiscal year 2023.

Archives and Information Services

  • The Archives and Information Services Division (ARIS) accomplished the receipt, ingest, processing, and description of Texas Attorney General’s Office open records letter rulings, 1997-2003, 2007, available in the Texas Digital Archive and described on TARO. The receipt of these records, totaling 55,127 electronic files, is the result of a successful negotiation and partnership with the Texas Attorney General’s Office to transfer its archival electronic records to the State Archives, with ongoing transfers of similar rulings expected as well as transfers of other archival electronic records series from the OAG.
  • Archives staff completed the revision and import of 448 EAD finding aids into ArchivesSpace, representing 53% of our EAD finding aids. That project is now 75% complete. The division also completed ingest of nearly all our legacy accession data, with 1,500 accessions imported this year. These are both major milestones in our goal to have all legacy accessions and finding aid data in ArchivesSpace for easier staff access and more efficient description of our archival holdings.
  • Archives staff also completed processing and descriptive work that resulted in the creation or revision of 38 finding aids published on TARO.
  • TSLAC’s continuing partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation for archival transfers of that agency’s Right of Way Division records resulted in publishing 60,488 electronic files from the Laredo, Lubbock, Pharr, San Angelo districts, on the TDA. Our custom search page makes accessing these records much more efficient and highlights our ability to provide information in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
  • Information Services resumed full public services, including walk-in access to both reading rooms and interlibrary loan.
  • ARIS curated and opened two exhibits in the lobby and online. A Home for Texas History and Texas Governors and their Times, 1846-1946.
  • Sam Houston Center in Liberty opened the newly renovated Hull-Daisetta Rotary Building to the public, including unveiling a permanent exhibit designed by ARIS and traveling exhibit from the Bob Bullock State History Museum.

Talking Book Program

  • The Talking Book Program (TBP) exceeded its target outcome measure by 11%, serving 5% of the eligible Texas population, exceeded the annual target for the number of TBP items circulated (929,963 total!) by 3%.
  • TBP cataloged more than 20,000 digital, braille, and large print titles; added over 700 large new print titles to the collection; and added over 125 new braille titles to the collection.
  • Readers’ Services registered 4,088 new patrons, added 2,465 BARD accounts, jumped to 235,787 BARD downloads, and served 380 Summer Reading Program participants.
  • TBP piloted easing access to NLS for people with reading disabilities and signed up more than 7,000 patrons.
  • The TBP Volunteer Recording Studio uploaded 58 titles to BARD.
  • The studio currently has more than 1,800 books on the BARD site, and NLS has confirmed that Texas has more books on the site than any other state program.
  • And as of October 2022, there has been a total of 435,289 downloads of TBP-recorded books!
  • TBP participated in 21 outreach opportunities in 2022—a mix of virtual and in-person events across Texas.
  • TBP circulation is planning the imminent addition of braille e-reader machines, iPads, and DA-2 machines in the machine area. 2023 and beyond will be very busy for machine lending.
  • The TBP circulation facility inspection area at the State Records Center was upgraded.

Now, looking forward to 2023, our work is equally vital. In the new year, TSLAC will be continuing its key role supporting state government through the 88th Legislative Session; spearheading major digital inclusion projects; releasing updated standards for libraries; increasing records and archival storage; building upon our existing infrastructure; and undertaking more digitization efforts.

This is just a snapshot of the incredible work done by our team in 2022 and a sneak peek of some of the great things coming in the new year. We remain committed to serving our diverse public and welcoming people to our agency and programs—both in person and virtually.

On behalf of the staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

 

Thank You to the Texas Library and Archives Foundation

This week is National Friends of Libraries Week, October 16-22, 2022, and I would like to acknowledge the important work of our very own Texas Library and Archives Foundation (TxLAF). TxLAF is a statewide nonprofit organization chartered to support the work of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. In so doing, TxLAF helps bring an awareness of Texas history and educational resources to Texans.

foundation logoCreated by state law in the late 1990s, the longstanding friends group rechartered as a foundation in 2020, increasing the number of board members, revamping its website, and doing more outreach statewide. TxLAF in its previous and current form has served as a focal point for charitable contributions and advocacy for the important work of the Commission.

TxLAF members work tirelessly to promote TSLAC’s vital role supporting learning at all levels, literacy initiatives, and the preservation of Texas history. During 2022 alone, TxLAF helped make possible many outstanding statewide programs:

  • Forty Texas 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.
  • Hundreds of students in grades 4 to 12 across the state wrote letters about books that touched their lives in the annual Letters About Literature Texas The winners read their letters aloud and received their prizes and certificates at the Texas Library Association Conference in Fort Worth in April.
  • A grand opening event was held in conjunction with the TSLAC lobby exhibit, A Home for Texas History, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the dedication of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building in 1962.
  • Three Texas scholars received $2,000 TSLAC Research Fellowships in Texas History in partnership with the Texas State Historical Association.
  • Teen Bookfest by the Bay received the 2022 Texas Center for the Book Literacy Award.
  • Five new Texas Literary Landmarks have been announced since 2021, with three new unveiling ceremonies happening in 2022, including the upcoming Larry McMurtry Literary Landmark, opening in Archer City in November. This doubled the number of Literary Landmarks in Texas.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission and its staff are profoundly grateful to the Texas Library and Archives Foundation for its invaluable support. Join me, along with everyone at TSLAC, as well as our patrons, customers, and friends, in expressing our sincere thanks to TxLAF for its continuing vision and ongoing work in support of Texas libraries and archives! Happy National Friends of Libraries Week.

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

Introducing Tim Gleisner: Interview with New Assistant State Librarian

Photo of Tim Gleisner working at his deskI am delighted to announce that Tim Gleisner assumed the position of Assistant State Librarian of Texas on August 22. Tim comes to Texas from Michigan, where his most recent position was Manager of Special Collections at the State Library of Michigan.

Tim has a long and impressive tenure in libraries, archives, and special collections. The whole team at TSLAC is eager to work with Tim, and I know he is excited to join the Texas library community. Our Communications Officer Susan Floyd sat down with Tim to learn more about his background and vision for the field and Texas knowledge institutions.

Tim Gleisner’s professional highlights include:

  • 2017-2022: Manager of Special Collections, Library of Michigan
  • 2016-2017: Assistant Director, Herrick District Library, Holland, Michigan
  • 2004-2016: Head of Special Collections, Grand Rapids Public Library
  • Native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Undergraduate degree in History/Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Master of Library and Information Science with Graduate Certificate in Archival Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Questions

You’ve been in libraries and archives for more than 25 years, and your broad experience spans work as a librarian at the New York Public Library and as head of special collections at multiple institutions. Describe one change that excites you and one thing that hasn’t changed but that still excites you about libraries and archives.

One change that excites me about libraries and archives is the ability to make materials accessible to anyone throughout the state and the world. With digitization, libraries and archives have been able to bring their collections to anyone at any time. When I started as a librarian there was just talk about this change, and during my career, I have seen this change grow into the digital collections that help libraries and archives better tell their stories.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the ability for libraries and archives to help people change their lives. As a public librarian I would help people obtain study materials for their GED, or in some cases help others find materials to learn English. As a special collections librarian, it was helping patrons find the history of their community and watching them be amazed at the history of their place. In all these situations it was the ability to help people discover new insights in themselves and their place that excited and still excites me.

You said that you knew you wanted to work in administration early in your career. What did your prior management work entail, and how will you build upon it as you begin your tenure as Assistant State Librarian?

I started as a manager at the Grand Rapids Public Library in Michigan. While there I managed the Reference and Adult Services and the Special Collections areas. In that role, I supervised more than 300 archival collections (including a collection of more than one million photographs), the Furniture Design, Rare Book, and the Michigan History Collections. To help with this, I supervised numerous staff, volunteers, and student workers while there.

After 12 years at the Grand Rapids Public Library, I went on to the Herrick District Library of Holland, Michigan. There I supervised a staff of 80 people and helped to manage all the programming, facilities, and security of the library. In this role I was also in charge of the budgeting for all the departments of the library, as well.

For the last five years I have been the manager of all the collections at the State Library of Michigan. In this role I supervised staff in reaching out to and serving a statewide audience. We accomplished this by increasing programming and services to our core audiences throughout the State of Michigan.

TSLAC has a complex set of responsibilities to the people of Texas. In addition to preserving the State Archives, the agency provides guidance and leadership in the areas of statewide library development, state and local records management, providing library service to readers with disabilities, and preserving the State Archives. What about these diverse functions drew you to the agency?

What drew me to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission were all the services that are provided through the agency. Specifically, that all the services reside under one agency in state government. This is not the case in many states, and especially Michigan. This is something that really drew me to Texas and its State Library.

What agency projects or priorities do you intend to focus on at the beginning of your tenure at TSLAC?

My focus right now is to learn all I can about TSLAC. This agency is incredibly rich in resources and talent, and I want to learn as much as I can.

On a lighter note…

TSLAC has a large collection of Texana. As a Wisconsinite bringing a valued perspective to a new state, what is your favorite part of Texas history? What are you looking forward to learning more about?

I really would love to learn more about the Spanish Colonial period. I am a history nerd, and, while in Michigan, I loved learning about the French Colonial period in that state’s history.

What books on your shelf or e-reader are begging to be read?

Right now, the main thing that is begging to be read on my shelf is a book by the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, The Books of Jacob. I started this book and am a third of the way through it. It is a fascinating work centered on the Jewish community of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire during the 1700s. It is incredibly large and dense, and I am committed to finishing it.

What’s your all-time favorite town or city? Why? What other places in Texas are you looking forward to visiting for the first time?

My favorite city of all time is Washington, DC. The history, culture, and politics is very fascinating, and I just love to visit there anytime I get a chance.

I really want to visit Big Bend National Park. I am hoping in the next year or two to drive out there.

Do you have a catchphrase?

My favorite catchphrase is: “Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.”

Our thoughts are with Uvalde

As I type these words, I understand that the staff of the El Progreso Memorial Library in Uvalde are holding their regularly scheduled storytime. A safe space for children and families. That shouldn’t be difficult. Though today it seems remote, it is needed more than ever.

The unbearable loss of all those precious lives in Uvalde yesterday reminds me of the incredible responsibility we have for one another – to protect each other and nurture our sense of community and safety. We each have a duty to live respecting the life and rights of others; and we have a duty to shape a society that affirms this duty by creating a culture that values all our fellow citizens, calls out actions and behaviors that work against that value, and provides the tools and resources to help people participate holistically and productively within our society.

And here is where libraries have a special role. As organic bodies borne out of and for a community, libraries are a place of refuge, learning, and healing. They are places to find community and hope. I am not one bit surprised at the commitment and dedication of the staff of the El Progreso Memorial Library.

I cannot imagine the grief of our colleagues in Uvalde. Staff made the difficult choice to stay open today because they wanted to offer the community, parents, and children – children especially – a sense of normalcy. They wanted parents to know there was an option for them today, as school has been concluded for the rest of the year.

Mendell Morgan, the library director in Uvalde, told me that even if folks are unable to get to the library, staff wanted the community to know they were there for them, now and always. Some structures cannot be torn down by even the most heinous acts.

I realize that the community and our colleagues there are still in shock. These are the early days of what will be a lifelong burden. They will need support and kindness, as well as respect for what they are experiencing. I know all of my colleagues throughout the state join me in extending our bone-deep condolences to all of the people of Uvalde. We are all the less for this inexplicable loss of children and educators.

The staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission extend our hearts to the people of Uvalde.

Heavy Lifting… It’s What Builds Tomorrow

Computer terminals lined up in technology room in Brownsville Public Library

Brownsville Public Library Public Computing Center

Libraries are at time of incredible possibilities and incredible strain. The influx of attention and funding for broadband, infrastructure, digital inclusion and equity, and digital literacy is phenomenal—a major area of need for which the library community has been calling for investment for years. With great thanks to our federal partners at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), who awarded Texas $8.4 million to support pandemic relief and undertake digital inclusion projects, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has been moving forward with many programs, including grants and training.

One new project we are happy to announce is a study to better understand digital literacy in Texas public libraries. We are excited to work with librarians and library workers across the state to identify, assess, and showcase the incredible value and role of libraries in supporting Texans’ robust and meaningful engagement in today’s digital world.

We are collaborating with IC² Institute at the University of Texas at Austin for this research project, Texas Public Libraries: Serving Communities to Enhance Digital Literacy. The purpose of this study is to

  • Collect data on the current practices of Texas public libraries in offering digital literacy training;
  • Assess the barriers to, and necessary resources for, expanded training and support of community digital literacy;
  • Develop cost estimates for enhancing digital literacy services;
  • Document digital literacy collaborations between libraries and community partners such as schools, institutions of higher education, local workforce development boards, and chambers of commerce; and
  • Identify areas of strength in digital literacy training and areas in need of support and programming.

We believe this research will provide much-needed, data-driven benchmarks to help us understand and communicate the work of libraries in this area; identify and articulate areas of need; and aid local and state stakeholders in assessing the impact and potential of this work. We expect the report and findings to be completed by the end of this summer, and we will make the information available to the public.

We need the help and participation of Texas libraries! Our partners at IC2 will be reaching out to libraries statewide to gather information. I urge you to participate in data gathering activities, especially if you have an existing program focused on digital literacy or if you have particular needs you want to share.

With many new funding sources for technology projects, infrastructure, and digital equity activities (which includes digital literacy), we want to ensure that TSLAC and your library are positioned with the data and assessment needed to move forward and make the case for libraries.

In Gratitude

We close 2021 with many of the same challenges as 2020 and some new ones. We are all united in our wish for healthy and healing communities, despite the many circumstances and issues that confront us.

For my own part, I garner strength and inspiration from those around me. I know I cannot solve problems alone; none of us can. But in the information field—libraries, archives, records management, and more—we have some of the very best professionals—individuals who are passionate about and committed to the public good.

Color photo of one of TSLAC's front doors, with the word "Library" above and a red banner with the shape of Texas and the words "Read, Y'all!"Today, I am especially grateful for librarians—for their no-nonsense approach to problems and their absolute and unstinting commitment to serve their students and communities. You all resolve to undertake hard processes few others would undertake, and you do it because you care about people and you want to make a difference. The only personal agenda you have is other people’s success.

Here is what I know about you all.

School librarians – I don’t believe I have ever met a school librarian who was not dedicated to the success, education, and safety of their students. You (often alone) serve the entirety of your campus and keep sight of the absolute need to foster lifetime literacy and a love of reading.

Public librarians – You all are advocates down to the marrow of your bones for your communities. I see librarians working tirelessly and creatively to make libraries trusted and responsive places. You understand the power of libraries, and you take great care with that responsibility.

Academic librarians – You are the behind-the-scenes masters. Eminently skilled and efficient, higher education librarians serve faculty and students directly while helping your institutions succeed—sometimes in ways that administrators don’t see.

The world of information that our Texas librarians manage and guide patrons through is enormous, complicated, and fraught with increasing complexities. Few appreciate the scale of the work you must do to make libraries the critical centers of information and learning that they are in the 21st century; so much of serving people comes down to kind, dedicated, and compassionate customer service. That human-centered approach is paired with a deeply-informed professionalism and serious, unflagging commitment to public service.

Librarians understand this, and throughout all these years, I continue to be impressed with all you do and how much you give.

You make this world a better, more informed place. It’s hard for me to think of anything better.

Thank you for all that you do.

Message to Library, Archives, Records, and Information Professionals from the New State Librarian of Texas

Information is power. To be informed is to have agency—the ability to think and to do for oneself, to exert influence, and to shape circumstances. Places that house information, preserve knowledge, and further research and learning are among the most powerful. Libraries and our allied information institutions are as vital as ever. Though the people who work in libraries, archives, and records management organizations may not always feel powerful, history teaches us repeatedly that information—the right to access it and the responsibility to share it—is fundamental to a robust and informed citizenry.

The mission of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is to help Texans lead informed and productive lives. Indeed, I believe that all knowledge organizations share this fundamental purpose. As the new State Librarian, I am incredibly honored to be in this work alongside the talented and committed people who staff and support libraries, archives, records management, and information organizations.

We are in an especially important time. Our communities, students, researchers, and publics are demanding the best of us: facts, truth, objectivity, respect for diverse viewpoints, responsiveness to learning needs, and safe environments where all are welcomed and able to find information that is valuable and meaningful.

One might imagine that little about libraries or reading could evoke debate, but then, anything with such enormous power often draws strong passions. I keep in mind the many difficult times in history when people had to fight for access to information—everything from making sure all people (the poor, the marginalized, minority populations, and so many others) had access to reading materials to the cases in history when totalitarian regimes attempted to wipe out viewpoints and histories through book burnings and eradication of historical and archival records.

Generations of Americans have fought to preserve our right to information among our most cherished liberties. We all take special pride and responsibility in our role protecting these rights. And, in our area of work—that of libraries, literacy, reading, history, and all forms of 21st century information resources—I am thankful to work alongside all of you to ensure that we continue to serve the public and support access to a broad array of resources, technologies, and viewpoints.

Thank you for all you do!

Gloria Meraz, Director and Librarian

Congratulations, Gloria Meraz, incoming TSLAC director and Texas State Librarian.

By Mark Smith

I am very happy to announce that Gloria Meraz has been named TSLAC Director and State Librarian of Texas, effective next Wednesday, September 1.

Gloria will be an outstanding State Librarian. For the last 22 years, first as the Director of Communications at the Texas Library Association for 17 years, and as the Assistant State Librarian at TSLAC since 2016, Gloria has been a tireless and highly eloquent advocate for Texas libraries and archives and, in particular, the advancement of the Texas State Library and Archives. Gloria’s communications skills are brilliant and her political sophistication, honed over 11 sessions of the Texas Legislature, is masterful and highly effective. Her work over the last two decades has demonstrably moved libraries in Texas forward. 

Gloria’s education and experience make her uniquely situated to address the needs of clientele on both sides of the TSLAC house. Her master’s is in Library and Information Science and she completed all coursework toward a doctorate in archival studies, studying with the late great Dr. David Gracy. So Gloria has a thorough grounding in archives and records work while much of her professional experience since 1999 has been devoted to addressing the needs of libraries of all sizes across the state of Texas.

Since joining the TSLAC team in 2016, Gloria has lent her talents in communications and her legislative acumen to further TSLAC’s public presence while working to increase the agency’s funding and authority. Gloria guided TSLAC through our successful Sunset review and reauthorization in the last session and her work with the legislature helped secure an additional $1 million in 2017 for broadband, $4.4 million in 2019 to open a new state records center annex, and, in the most recent session, $3.75 million for an array of programs to advance library services in Texas. 

Gloria is known and greatly admired by the statewide library community as well as the TSLAC staff. A native of El Paso and lifelong Texas resident, Gloria has deep ties in and love for the Lone Star State. She brings to her work humility, compassion, and an abiding belief in the work of libraries and archives to change lives. And it should be noted that she will be the first person of color and the first Hispanic woman to lead the agency since the position of State Librarian was created in 1909. 

I can’t wait to watch Gloria’s great work as she leads TSLAC forward into its next chapter.

*******

And with TSLAC in highly capable hands, I depart the scene. People have been so kind to me in noting my retirement. Over the last several days and weeks, I have had so many expressions of gratitude and appreciation for my work at TSLAC. I hope that I am worthy of at least some of that praise, but I can say without question that these years have been immensely interesting, challenging, and satisfying. With the support and guidance of the commission, the dedication and creativity of a talented and hardworking staff, and the partnership of our colleagues across the state, I believe we have made some progress. I know that there is still much more work to do, but the groundwork and momentum are in place to ensure that the future will be a bright one for TSLAC and Texas libraries and archives.

So long and best of luck to you all.

Looking Back. . .Looking Ahead

By Mark Smith

As of today, I have three weeks remaining to serve as State Librarian. Not surprisingly, I have begun to think back over the last seven years, nine months, and eleven days—what have we accomplished in that time and what remains to be done. I have enjoyed all phases of my life in library work, but serving as Director and Librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission has been the greatest honor of my career and every day has been different, interesting, and challenging.

During my tenure, the amazing and talented staff of TSLAC have delivered outstanding service to the people of Texas every single day—and made me look good in the bargain. Here are a few of the advances at TSLAC over the last almost eight years:

  • Between the 2014-15 biennium and the 2022-23 biennium, the TSLAC appropriation grew from $45 million to $74 million, of which, the state funding portion increased from $23 million to $33 million.
  • The Library Development and Networking Division added many new programs, including Family Place, the Grantsmanship Academy, the Technology Academy, and reboots of key programs such as Interlibrary Loan, Small Library Management, and K-12 Library Standards.
  • The hugely important TexShare and TexQuest shared digital resource programs have been complemented with E-Read Texas, a new statewide e-book program.
  • We have connected over 180 mostly small rural libraries to affordable high-speed internet.
  • The Texas Digital Archive was launched and has grown to over 70 terabytes and is now a national model for preserving and making available state archival records in digital format.
  • Meanwhile the rest of the Archives and Information Team have continued to work through the backlog, making thousands of archival documents and government publications more accessible.
  • The Talking Book Program—a lifeline for blind and disabled Texans–has evolved from analog to digital to streaming content while also migrating from a legacy software to a national standard enterprise software.
  • Last week we opened our fourth TSLAC facility, the new State Records Center Annex in southeast Austin, providing a short-term solution to meet the state’s records storage needs.
  • Meanwhile, the rest of the Records team continues to assist state and local government to ensure the preservation and transparency of their public records.
  • The Texas Center for the Book moved to TSLAC to become a dynamic and public-facing program to promote books, reading, literacy and library use across Texas.
  • We made major improvements at our Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, including to completely reinvent the Center’s museum exhibit space as a beautiful and entertaining source of education and instruction about the history and culture of southeast Texas.
  • Internally, we reorganized to strengthen business procedures and processes from accounting to human resources to information technology, added the position of general counsel, introduced all-TSLAC staff days, and launched an internal equity, diversity, and inclusion effort.
  • And most recently, we have managed through the pandemic to continue to serve the public while also keeping staff safe. Over the 17 months of COVID, we have had only six positive cases among staff and no workplace transmissions.

Concerning these accomplishments, I offer two major disclaimers. First, I didn’t do any of these things. I cheered them on, sometimes helping to secure the funding or authority and in whatever other ways I could. But all these and hundreds of other tasks were done by the amazing teamwork of TSLAC staff working tirelessly, creatively, and with heartfelt dedication to meeting the information needs of all Texans.

Second, all these projects—every single one—is ongoing. None are complete. The work of the agency goes forward into the future evolving these and many other programs to provide the most effective use possible of state funds to serve people of all ages in all parts of the state, including library patrons and workers, state and local government, researchers, historians, genealogists, and Texans with disabilities.

I am so excited to know this work will continue long after my tenure is over just as it did for over a hundred years before I returned to lead TSLAC in 2013. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is vital to the ongoing success of Texas and Texans—long may it continue.

Libraries and Archives: the Cure for Misinformation and Disinformation

By Mark Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links

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

Knight Foundation – https://knightfoundation.org/

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

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

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

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

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