TSLAC CARES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links in this post:

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

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

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

Rangers, Archives, and Discovering Texas History

We are always honored when researchers use the State Archives housed at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to further their writing. TSLAC is often credited and cited by the authors of books and articles on a wide variety of subjects.

We were particularly interested when one recently published book citing the TSLAC archives garnered national attention. Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers by Doug J. Swanson is a retelling of the story of the Texas Rangers. Swanson describes in painstaking detail how behind the romantic portrayal of the Rangers in books, films, and television, lurks a darker history of persecution of Native Americans, Mexicans and Tejanos, and Black Texans at the service of the state. Swanson credits the current-day Rangers as being a modern law enforcement agency and he does not deny the valor of many of its most famous figures of the past, but he is uncompromising in his examination of the full story of the Rangers throughout much of Texas history.

Douglas Brinkley, a Rice University professor of history, reviewing Cult of Glory in the New York Times Book Review (June 9, 2020), writes, “Swanson, a prodigious researcher, recounts how in their nearly 200-year ‘attention-grabbing’ history, Rangers burned peasant villages, slaughtered innocents, busted unions and committed war crimes.”

A fair chunk of that prodigious research was conducted in the State Archives. In his acknowledgements, Swanson states, “I extend special thanks to archivist Tony Black and the staff at the Texas State Library and Archives, who endured my many questions and requests with patience and professionalism. The TSLA is a state treasure.” (We especially appreciate the mention of the late archivist and historian Tony Black, a gentleman and true scholar of Texas history.) It is true that the Archives holds a substantial body of records relating to the Texas Rangers and has often been cited in other books in relation to the Rangers. Notably, the bestselling Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (Doubleday, 2017) cites TSLAC files in telling the story of the Rangers’ investigation of the deaths of oil-wealthy Osage Indians in Oklahoma in the 1920s.

Swanson’s book is not the first re-examination of the history of the Rangers to make use of the rich holdings of the State Archives at TSLAC. As long ago as the 1950s, University of Texas folklorist Américo Paredes accessed the TSLAC archives for his landmark history, “With His Pistol in His Hand”: A Border Ballad and Its Hero (University of Texas Press, 1958) which challenged the seminal Rangers history of his senior UT colleague Walter Prescott Webb. And former TSLAC Historian Donaly Brice and co-author Bob Alexander grappled with the mixed history of the Rangers in their 2017 account, Texas Rangers: Lives, Legend and Legacy (University of North Texas Press, 2017).

The deep truth of history lives in primary source materials. Researchers willing to apply the time and industry to explore them will be rewarded. Cult of Glory contains a chapter on the alleged mass murderer Henry Lee Lucas, the investigation of whose crimes was handled and–according to Swanson–botched by the Rangers. The chapter is based largely on records of the Lucas investigation contained in files from the Texas Department of Public Safety in the TSLAC Archives. Swanson comments that he appeared to be the first researcher to access the files after they were transferred to TSLAC.

The archivists and librarians at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission stand ready to assist researchers in discovering the historical record of Texas. Much of that material is available online via the Texas Digital Archive at https://tsl.access.preservica.com and online collections and guides such as the recently posted guide, “In Recognition of Texans Who Worked for Equality,” (https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/workforequality) detailing the contribution of Tejanos, Blacks, and other marginalized groups to the history and accomplishments of Texas. 

We invite you to discover the history of Texas in the State Archives.

We feel your pain

It is a hard time to be library worker.

When much of society went home to shelter in place in mid-March, most library staff did the same. By late March, most Texas libraries were closed. TSLAC closed its public reading rooms on Tuesday, March 17.

Since then, libraries have struggled with multiple challenges in their valiant efforts to serve the public. Many instituted curbside pick-ups, others ramped up their online offerings, while others boosted their wifi signals, even taking wifi into the communities or onto vehicles. Some libraries circulated devices or wifi hotspots and many offered virtual story hours, summer reading programs, and other online programming.

The public have used these services fully, especially remote access to online services while they too are home, often with children who they are trying to keep entertained and tracking to reading and learning.

These services have proven the value of the library as an essential service, even when closed to walk-in patrons. But this effort has taken its toll on library workers. Library directors and their staffs had to pivot literally overnight to new ways of providing services under emergency conditions. For many, the demand increased dramatically. Those who remained open, or in some way interacting with the public, had to scramble to find the PPE necessary to keep staff and the public safe.

On April 27, Governor Abbott declared that libraries and museums could open at 25 percent capacity. He emphasized that his guidance would be permissive for city and county libraries but required for state libraries. That order began the process of many libraries returning to some on-site services. That movement has left many libraries with dilemmas regarding how far to push face coverings. Librarians in some locations face a choice of hostility from customers who feel face coverings limit their individual liberties and legitimate worries about keeping staff and the public safe from the virus.

On May 4, TSLAC began accepting researchers in the Archives reading room at the downtown Austin Lorenzo De Zavala Building and at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty. TSLAC is the only library operated by the state that has opened to visitors and throughout May and June staff have served a succession of researchers in the reading room. TSLAC strongly encourages – but cannot require – the use of face coverings by patrons. To-date, all researchers coming to the De Zavala building have been willing to wear masks and observe our safety and distancing protocols as a matter of mutual consideration and respect between the public and our staff.

Even as library staffs continue to cope through the crisis, the next hurdle looms: budget reductions. We fully expect that the economic impact of the virus on cities, counties, and the state will be huge. TSLAC, along with all other agencies, has been asked to make a five percent reduction to the current biennium with further reductions all but certain for the future. Being as essential to Texans – as libraries are in both good and difficult times – should ensure that they are the last cut, but we all know that it doesn’t work out that way. Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz is currently at work on a document that will provide strategies for library directors and managers facing the looming specter of funding reductions.

TSLAC feels the pain of local library managers and workers who have valiantly and selflessly served their communities throughout the Coronavirus epidemic. We are struggling with the same challenges that you all are, both in terms of maintaining public service while also preparing ourselves for inevitable budget cuts.

It is a challenging time to be in public service. But we will get through this together and we will survive. I am confident that while we may take more than our share of the impact of societal crises and funding reductions, the public has an enduring need for what libraries offer: a stable and beloved social institution, open to all on equal terms, providing authoritative access to life-saving, life-affirming information.

Please let me know how the Texas State Library and Archives Commission can help your library as we navigate together through these difficult times.

Resources for libraries:

Library Developments Blog: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/librarydevelopments/

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

Resources for records managers:

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

General resources:

TSLAC Plan for Services during the COVID-19 Health Situation: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/services



TSLAC reaffirms its longstanding commitment to equality and opposing racism

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has by practice, tradition, and professional ethics long stood for racial equality, tolerance, and democratic ideals. In the 1920s, State Librarian Elizabeth Howard West, the first woman to run a state agency in Texas, opened the library’s reading room to Blacks and Latinos and introduced services to the blind. West’s actions—at a time of widespread discrimination and segregation–recognized the right of persons of all races and abilities to equally access library books and information.*

West understood, as have generations of librarians and archivists that have followed her, the vital need of all persons, regardless of circumstance, to avail themselves of information resources in books and historical records that have the power to transform and enrich their lives.

Even before West’s tenure, this understanding caused the Texas State Library to partner with the Texas Library Association as long ago as 1909 to begin pushing to form local libraries in all parts of the state. That conviction later drove decision making in the 1970s that created library systems to support, develop, and encourage those libraries;  in the 1980s to introduce grant programs to address underserved populations; and in the 1990s to create shared access to online information available to virtually every person in the state. From 1931, when the State Library became one of the first to join the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (now the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled), until today, TSLAC has actively worked to ensure access for persons with disabilities to reading and information resources. 

In 2014, the Commission adopted operational goals for the agency that speak to the need of all Texans for library and information services, and in 2019, the agency created the position of Inclusive Services Consultant. The TSLAC mission is to “provide Texans access to information needed to be informed, productive citizens.” Implicit is that all Texans regardless of their race, whether they live in an urban or rural area, their abilities or disabilities, sexual orientation, or any other factor, have the right to and need for these services.

This is in our DNA as librarians and archivists. Our partners and colleagues at the Texas Library Association this week adopted a resolution that “condemns racism and violence against black people and all people of color.” That statement calls on “library and information services leaders, staff and advocates of all races and backgrounds to abolish racism against people of color.”

State Librarian West, a former president of the Texas Library Association, would approve of that statement. Current administration of TSLAC will continue to make the internal and external progress necessary to ensure that our services are fairly and equitably delivered and that we do our part to ensure that all Texans are treated equally and fairly.


* For the full history of Elizabeth Howard West’s efforts to democratize the services of the Texas State Library, see David B. Gracy’s excellent history of the agency, The State Library and Archives of Texas: A History,1835-1962 (University of Texas Press, 2010), pp 40-41, as well as West’s papers in the State Archives at TSLAC.

TSLAC Rises to the Occasion

The dedicated staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission have continued to serve the public throughout the coronavirus emergency period.

A researcher accessing TSLAC archival holdings online on May 12.

The archives reading room is the only library facility in state government currently welcoming the public to conduct research on site. Since May 4, researchers seeking to access TSLAC’s rich archival holdings on Texas history and government have been able to make an appointment for a personal visit. The public services staff have been available to welcome researchers and offer professional assistance in use of the collection.

TSLAC Digital Asset Coordinator Steve Kantner prepares archival records for digitization and remote access.

Throughout the pandemic, far more inquiries for information have been handled via e-mail and by phone, with most requests satisfied with resources provided electronically, many from the over 50 terabytes of information contained in the Texas Digital Archive, or via the TSLAC website.

The staff of the State Records Center have been on hand throughout the period when most other Texas government functions have been closed, meeting the need of agencies to deliver documents to offices, or to receive transfers of records from state agencies.

Talking Book Program Service Clerk Bo Cao pulls materials to send to TBP customers throughout Texas.

The Talking Book Program (TBP) serves persons with visual and physical disabilities who are particularly disadvantaged and isolated by the current crisis. The TBP circulation staff are working on-site to mail out materials that meet the reading and information needs of residents in all parts of the state. TBP staff are also available by phone to help readers find the materials they need.

Since mid-March, libraries across Texas have been grappling with how to fulfill their essential role of information providers to their communities while many have been closed. The staff of the TSLAC Library Development and Networking (LDN) division have been on hand to provide a steady flow of supporting materials to libraries of all types and sizes in all parts of the state. A resources page established at the beginning of the crisis has continued to grow with materials on communications strategies for libraries and how to safely reopen services to the public. The LDN team is also currently receiving applications for TSLAC CARES grants to assist libraries in addressing community needs for digital inclusion and COVID-19 prevention, response, and recovery. Libraries have also been able to offer their customers remote access to a huge range of online information via the TexShare and TexQuest shared online infomration programs and the E-Read Texas statewide e-book project. And thanks to TSLAC’s efforts to bring broadband services to Texas libraries — which have increased internet speeds by over 1,000 percent in over 150 locations across the state — library customers can access those resouces more quickly and efficiently.

TSLAC takes seriously its mission to “provide Texans with the information they need to lead informed and productive lives.” That need does not stop in times of crisis (in fact, it only increases) and neither does the work of the TSLAC team to meet that need.

Links to TSLAC resources mentioned in this post:

For more information on how to access TSLAC services during the emergency period, see this link: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/services

To contact the TSLAC archives staff, please e-mail archinfo@tsl.texas.gov. 

For more information or to apply for a TSLAC CARES grant, visit https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/cares

Explore the vast historical resouces contained in the Texas Digital Archive at https://tsl.access.preservica.com/

To find out more about the Talking Book Program, visit https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/index.html

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

For information on the TexShare program serving public and academic librareis, see https://www.tsl.texas.gov/texshare/index.html

Information regarding TexQuest e-resources for K-12 students can be found at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/landing/educators.html

For more on the E-Read Texas e-book program, see https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/ebooks

Reopening library services

On Monday of this week, Governor Abbott identified libraries and museums in his announcement of the businesses and services that would begin to reopen in Texas May 1. The governor specified that local libraries and museums would open at 25 percent capacity at the discretion of their local governments. The directive specifies that interactive components of libraries and museums can remain closed to the public.

Since Gov. Abbott’s order was released Monday, we have received many contacts from libraries with questions such as, how can a library open in a manner that is safe? What does 25 percent capacity mean? Are ordinary books on the shelf considered interactive? 

In response to those many contacts and questions by local librarians, Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and staff of the Library Development and Networking Division developed a resource guide to reopening libraries which can be found on the COVID-19 Resources Page developed by the LDN team.

The Resource Guide answers many questions pertaining to Governor Abbott’s order (GA-18). It is important to note the following components of that order:

  • libraries may only open if allowed to do so by their local governing authority
  • the threshold for occupancy is set at the “up to” 25 percent mark, and
  • interactive functions or exhibits, including child play areas, must remain closed.

The Resource Guide provides sample reopening plans, questions to consider in reopening, and lists of materials and resources helpful to libraries planning to reopen. Among the questions that library directors can discuss with their governing authorities are whether the library’s hours can be limited or changed? Does time need to be allowed to disinfect materials and surfaces? Could the library maintain special hours for at-risk populations? What should be considered “interactive” and not made available to the public?

These are complex decisions that will require discussion with local governments. And they are questions that we at TSLAC have been grappling with along with all other libraries. We look forward to resolving these questions and eventually beginning to provide services while observing social distancing, face coverings, and other ways to ensure the safety of our staff and our public as they access these services that the governor has acknowledged as one of the most important services in our society.

Links in this post:

Governor Abbott’s Open Texas Plan (libraries and museums, see pp. 35-36) –  https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/orgnization/opentexas/OpenTexas-Report.pdf

TSLAC Reopening Libraries: Resource Guide – https://www.tsl.texas.gov/sites/default/files/public/tslac/ld/ldn/COVID/TSLAC_Return_to_Work_Libraries_Resources_2020.pdf

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

Bracing for the budget impact and, while we wait, a little good news

Every day we get some variation of this question from someone: “Has the state notified you yet that you will have to cut your budget?”

I most recently received this question on Friday from members of our commission in their regularly scheduled meeting (the first ever TSLAC commission meeting conducted via teleconference).

The answer is, as of today, no. The state has not notified us that we will have to cut our budgets in the current biennium. The most we know is that we believe that in preparing the Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for the next session, we will be required to identify a contingency cut of 20 percent.

But we don’t kid ourselves that that will be the extent of the pain. In the commission meeting, Commissioner Bradley Tegeler commented that his sources in the legislature are predicting that the next session will be a repeat of the grim 2005 and 2011 sessions. Not good news: in 2011, TSLAC took a 65 percent cut to our state funding. That reduction caused the elimination of the Texas Library System and of Loan Star Libraries program of direct aid to libraries. Further, the reduction in 2012 was such that Texas lost maintenance of effort for federal funds and was initially denied a request for waiver in 2013, which would have resulted in a further cut of $6.5 million in federal funding. Despite some recovery over the last three biennia, the TSLAC budget is still about 20 percent below our pre-2012 level.

So, it appears, we may be looking at similar levels of cuts this year. Like everyone else, we can read the news and know that the coronavirus epidemic has caused a dramatic loss of revenue from various sources, most notably sales tax and oil and gas revenues. Of course, as directed, TSLAC will prepare a budget with contingent cut plans. The difference from the last three biennia is that this session those cuts are much more likely to be more than just contingencies. Those budget reductions will likely impact services across the agency. And, as in 2012, a cut of over 10 percent of the budget would very likely result in a corresponding loss of federal funds. In that round, we ultimately avoided the cut because in subsequent sessions, the legislature moved to restore at least some TSLAC funding, but the warning to Texas at that time was not to expect similar waivers in the future.

Of course, many other states will be in the same situation this time so ultimately many waiver requests will be likely. The bad news is already starting to roll in from other states that have ongoing legislative sessions and their cuts are playing out in real time.

But, we do have a little good news. . .

In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress appropriated $50 million for programs targeted to libraries to be administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Of these funds $30 million will come to Texas. Last week the IMLS notified Texas that our share of these funds will be $2.6 million. The funds are targeted on a need basis to assist libraries in technology, broadband access, and Covid-19 recovery. The following are the priorities for these funds as stated by the IMLS:

a. Primarily to address digital inclusion and related technical support, using the following types of data to inform targeted efforts:

• Poverty/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
• Unemployment
• Broadband availability;

b. Secondarily to address other efforts that prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19; and

c. With respect to (a) or (b), reach museum and tribal partners, in addition to traditionally eligible library entities, where appropriate.

While we are still discussing exactly how we intend to distribute these funds in Texas, we are heavily leaning toward a combination of direct grants to libraries to address technology development, unemployment, and Covid-19 recovery, and a strategy to bring more libraries into statewide high-speed broadband networks. We look forward to having more definitive information to the statewide library community by early May.

On Thursday of this week (April 23 at 2:00 p.m.), Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and I will be discussing these and other strategic issues associated with the coronavirus crisis in a webinar entitled, “Texas Libraries: Planning and Communicating the Library Message and Services Under Covid-19.” You can register for that webinar at this link. We hope you will join us.

We look forward to continuing to communicate the value of our services and the importance of strengthening Texas libraries so they can be true community anchors in times of crisis and at all other times as well.

 

Links in this post:

Link to our webinar this Thursday at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2548786007212315917 

The importance of libraries during and after coronavirus

This week we held a webinar to reach out to the statewide library community regarding how they are coping with the Covid-19 crisis. I want to thank Katherine Adelberg, Manager of Consulting and Continuing Education and her team in Library Development and Networking – Cindy Fisher, Naomi DiTullio, Henry Stokes, Kyla Hunt, and Laura Tadena – for their outstanding work making that session a success. At one point, we had near the capacity of 1,000 attendees on the webinar. Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and I discussed suggestions to manage through the current crisis and Katherine, Laura, and Cindy provided further information on resources the LDN team is gathering for Texas libraries.

The session concluded with a lengthy question and answer period. I hope we answered some of the questions that librarians had, but I know that many questions were left unanswered. We look forward to answering those as time goes on. The Library Development and Networking Team have announced a series of similar webinars targeted to specific regions in the state.

Many of the questions asked in the call confirmed that Texas librarians are dealing with a very heavy load. They are trying to serve their communities and patrons while also holding their staffs and their own lives together during a very trying time. And I heard an understandable level of fear about what the future holds both for the duration of this crisis and also once it is over.

One question often asked of us is, how do we strike a balance between keeping ourselves and our staffs safe while trying to serve the public?

Safety of library staff and the public they serve is of key importance. TSLAC cannot recommend libraries close, though many are. If your jurisdiction has decided to keep its library open, we urge library managers to take whatever measures they can to protect their staff and patrons. Many libraries have gone to wiping down returned books, others are experimenting with curbside pickup. Encouraging as much remote access as possible is also an obvious strategy for minimizing in-person visits as well as for patrons of libraries that are closed. Online interactive story hours are rising to become a possibility as an alternative for traditional Summer Reading Programs.

Another question we hear in many different ways is, how do we remain relevant and essential, especially as many libraries are now closed?

There are many ways to remain relevant and essential. Libraries have a vital role to play in their communities as a trusted source of information, as community anchors, and as gateways to online access and community connectivity. Libraries are also have an unusually high level of public trust as an information source (See Libraries 2016 from the Pew Research Center). These roles are all much more important in the current crisis. But some libraries are learning to scramble to provide services in new ways. Libraries are exploring partnerships with community organizations to help people connect to information sources, and even devices. Cindy Fisher mentioned the National Cristina Foundation, which helps refurbish and redistribute laptops).

Beyond that, now more than ever, we need to restate, through stories and other effective messaging, the roles that libraries play now and as we emerge from this crisis. Funding for all public services is going to be very competitive, and library leaders are going to need to articulate the importance of libraries to society as a mission-critical asset for disaster management and recovery.

We learned during Hurricane Harvey why libraries are considered essential social infrastructure by the Federal Emergency Management Administration. The Coronavirus epidemic is teaching us a new lesson: that it is imperative that we accelerate our movement to a knowledge-based economy that can operate remotely via high-speed broadband connections. Libraries are uniquely situated to achieve these goals by supporting workforce development, economic sustainability, remote access to resources, and broadband access and deployment.

One very practical thing that librarians can do right now is to study the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the two-trillion-dollar stimulus bill passed by Congress last week. The bill contains over $377 billion in aid to small business, funds that will run through the Small Business Administration and can be of huge value to local communities. Libraries can be a source of information for their communities in how to access these funds and should explore partnerships with the Chamber of Commerce, Workforce Solutions, and other economic development organizations to help move those funds to their communities. Also, the CARES Act sets aside $50 million for library technology programs for projects such as device lending, wifi hotspots, and library broadband access. We will be watching closely to see how those funds can be used in Texas. I am including some citations below to sources of information on the CARES Act to get you started.

Here’s wishing safety, good health, and strength to all Texas library workers and patrons. TSLAC, and especially our LDN team, is committed to helping provide whatever support we can to allow you to serve your communities during this time of crisis. We look forward to continuing to be in touch and to provide assistance with resources and messaging during and after the crisis.

Links:

Covid-19 Statewide Discussions with Texas Library Staffs, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/regionalcheckins

Pew Research Center, “Libraries 2016,” https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2016/09/09/libraries-2016/

National Cristina Foundation, https://www.cristina.org/
Sources of information on the CARES Act:

U.S. Department of Treasury, ”CARES Act,” https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/top-priorities/cares-act

Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, “Guide to the CARES Act,” https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/guide-to-the-cares-act

National Public Radio, “What’s Inside the Senate’s $2 Trillion Coronavirus Aid Package,” https://www.npr.org/2020/03/26/821457551/whats-inside-the-senate-s-2-trillion-coronavirus-aid-package

TSLAC adapting to the coronavirus crisis

For the last few days, along with the rest of society, TSLAC has been running to keep up with the rapidly changing conditions during the developing response to the coronavirus epidemic.

Last week, TSLAC closed all facilities to the public and most staff began working from home, though we maintained some staff working in the De Zavala headquarters building in the Capitol complex in Austin. Today, the City of Austin ordered all residents to stay at home unless travel was absolutely essential. Consequently, beginning tomorrow, March 25, we are further reducing staff in our two Austin facilities to the minimum needed to maintain services online and by e-mail. Our State Records Center is a designated essential service so a minimal number of staff will rotate on site to meet requests for records deliveries to state agencies. All other services will be delivered online or by phone.

For an up-to-date report of services available during this emergency period, as well as resources for libraries and archives, please refer to the excellent Plan for Services During COVID-19 maintained by Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and the TSLAC Communications Team with input from all divisions of the agency.

As you may have heard, many libraries across the state of Texas have closed during the current crisis. In some states, the Governor or the State Library have issued statements urging libraries to close. This has not been the case in Texas. The Governor has not ordered statewide closures and TSLAC does not take a position on whether a library should cease services to the public. The Texas Library Association, however, has issued a statement urging libraries to close for the health of employees and the public.

Even closed, libraries provide a huge wealth of materials to the public that can be accessed 24-7. These online resources are of key importance in finding information or even just relieving the stress of long hours spent at home. We urge you to visit your library’s website to discover the fun, interesting, and informative materials they offer online such as e-books, movies, audiobooks, and e-resources available from the library, many of which are provided via our TexShare program. And for those of you interested in Texas history, we urge you to explore online TSLAC archival resources and the vast collection in the Texas Digital Archive.

To all our patrons, clients, and partners, we wish you health and safety. We look forward to continuing to serve you as we can during this emergency period and to seeing you in person in a few weeks.

Links in this article:

TSLAC Plan of Service during COVID-19: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/services

TLA Statement regarding closure of libraries: https://txla.org/news/tla-recommends-closure-of-texas-libraries/

TSLAC Archives & Manuscripts page: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/index.html

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

TSLAC prepares for COVID-19

Like all other public agencies, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission has been preparing for the advancing coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic. Along with other state and local agencies, we have been making our best judgments about what steps we should take to maintain services while also doing our part to break the cycle of transmission of the disease and minimize risk of exposure by our staff and our clienteles.

Last week we took the step of cancelling all in-person TSLAC workshops, presentations, and tours. This week, starting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17, TSLAC will close until further notice all public services desks at our headquarters Lorenzo de Zavala building in Austin, and at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas.

Further, we will be directing staff to telework when possible, maintaining a minimal rotating staff in our facilities, though agency services will be available to the public via phone and e-mail, and contacts are provided below. (Please note also that the State Records Center is deemed an essential service by the State and in our agency Continuity of Operations Plan and will, therefore, be fully operational regardless of any called closures by the state. We will maintain deliveries of requested records to state agencies unless specifically directed not to do so by state leadership.)

We are reviewing our staff schedule to comply with direction received on Friday from the Office of the Governor to cancel all non-essential travel and meetings. Most meetings will be conducted remotely. Most conferences that TSLAC staff would have traveled to have been cancelled such as the Texas Library Association Annual Conference, The Texas Conference on Digital Libraries, the Annual Best Practices gathering, National Library Legislative Day, and the Western Council of State Library Agencies.

We also continue to provide information to our various client groups about the virus. Last week, our Library Developments blog carried an outstanding list of resources with information and official guidance for use by libraries and other clients across the state. You can access that blog post at this link: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/librarydevelopments/2020/03/12/resources-for-workplace-preparedness/

Soon we will have a link on the front page of our website that collects information and recommended sites in one location.

Even though our physical doors may be temporarily closed to the public, our virtual doors are open to serve. Please note the following ways to reach us:

  • Customers needing assistance with the archives, genealogy, or other reference services are encouraged to contact us by phone or e-mail. Our reference contacts are located at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/reference.
  • Libraries needing assistance can continue to call upon our staff in the Library Development and Networking Division. Our LDN contact page is located at this link: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/directory
  • Readers using our Talking Book Program can continue to call as they normally have. And if you would like to register for the service, you can visit this page: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/application/index.html or call 1-800-252-9605.
  • State and local agencies using our records storage and imaging services can continue to contact us as normal, and access accounts via TexLinx as always. Questions directed at our Records Management Assistance team can be directed to 512-463-7610 or by e-mail to slrminfo@tsl.texas.gov

Thank you for your patience during this difficult period. We know that you and your families are also coping with these strange times. If we can be of assistance in connecting you with the information you need to better manage through the crisis, please reach out to us. We wish you all safety and good health.