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.

Rediscovering the Sam Houston Center

Among the many amazing hidden gems of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, certainly the largest is the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center.

The Jean and Price Daniel House is a replica of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin built by former Governor Price Daniel.

And it is almost literally hidden. The facility is located on a small farm-to-market road on the outskirts of the town of Liberty, Texas, about 45 miles east of Houston. The Center consists of six structures on a 127-acre parcel of land that was donated to TSLAC by former Texas Governor Price Daniel. The centerpiece of the campus is a library and archives center that houses a collection of historical materials related to the 10-county region of southeast Texas.

Also on the campus of the Sam Houston Center (affectionately known as the “Sam Center” among TSLAC employees), is a replica of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin built by Gov. and Mrs. Daniel in the early 1980s. The Daniels never lived in the home and eventually donated it to the state. The campus also encompasses four other historical structures that were brought to the property over the last 30 years, including a historical church, two houses dating to the mid-19th Century, and a structure that served as a Rotary Club headquarters.

The lobby of the Sam Houston Center as seen from the conference room, the reading room is to the right and the museum exhibit entrance is opposite.

For many years, available funding did not allow for the proper care of the Sam Houston Center. But that changed in 2012 when the Texas Legislature began appropriating $1 million each biennium — or $500,000 per year — to address maintenance and safety issues. The result is that since 2012, under the guidance of State Archivist Jelain Chubb, and with the hard work of Center Manager Alana Inman and her dedicated team, the Sam Houston Center is now a totally renovated, reimagined, and modernized facility, a true jewel in which the state and the region can take great pride.

The changes include ones that a visitor would not notice such as new fire suppression and security systems, drainage systems to keep damaging water flow away from the structures, and many structural repairs and updates to the facilities. But some are much more noticeable such as the addition of a new classroom in the Center, updated furnishings in the reading room, and a revamped lobby display area.

Inside “Atascosito,” the museum exhibit in the Sam Houston Center.

One of the most spectacular changes is the addition of the permanent museum display called “Atascosito: The History of Southeast Texas.” The exhibit is a brand new and highly interactive exhibit that explores the history, culture, and economy of the 10-county region. The exhibit offers much to discover from a life-sized mammoth and hundreds of projectile points as much as 13,000 years old to exhibits exploring regional industries such as timber, oil and maritime commerce. The exhibits also explore the extensive participation and contributions of African Americans, Native Americans, and other ethnic groups in the region.

The Center is open and ready to receive visitors. Classes and individuals are encouraged to visit the excellent museum exhibits and researchers and historians are urged to stop and learn about the unique holdings in the Sam Houston Center.

You will find it well worth the drive.

The Sam Houston Center is at 650 FM 1011, Liberty, Texas, 77575 and is open Tuesday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Library E-Book Action Plan

A few days ago, I posted to this blog about libraries and the e-book market. In that post I suggested that libraries should be grateful to Macmillan and other publishers for giving us an opportunity to consider new models for acquiring and promoting e-books in libraries.

I think I might have overstated the “being grateful” thing. One person who read the blog commented that I was advocating that librarians be passive in the e-book market. I can see how she read it that way, but that was the opposite of my intention.

Upon further reflection, I want to suggest what I think are the actions librarians can take to, as I previously stated, consider new models, to flex our collective muscle in the ecosystem, to make purposeful use of our collection dollars, and to take a more active role in influencing the reading choices of our customers.

Here is that e-book action plan:

  1. Buy from library-friendly publishers. We at TSLAC cannot tell libraries to boycott any specific publisher, though there are libraries in Texas and across the nation that are not buying from Macmillan because of their embargo on selling new e-books to libraries. But I can say that as custodians of public funds, libraries and state agencies should make smart decisions about how those funds are used. One would be to buy books from vendors that give libraries the best terms. And in my mind that does not mean to buy books that are sold at several times the price that the same book is sold to an individual consumer, or that have limitations on the number of circulations, or that expire after a certain period of time. At the Texas State Library and Archives Commission we are, in most cases, purchasing e-books for statewide access with a strong preference for library-friendly terms, whenever possible, a perpetual access license.
  2. Create interest in authors and titles from library-friendly publishers. Some libraries might then say, okay, but my readers mostly want the New York Times bestsellers or the books recommended by celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey. To that I say, let’s change that paradigm. No offense to Reese or Oprah or the Times, but there is a huge universe of books on the market from other publishers that readers would like just as much as those ones if only they knew about them. So let’s tell them. Let’s start crowdsourcing reviews and recommendations from librarians about great books from library-friendly publishers. Some libraries are doing this, and there are lists of independent authors built into Overdrive and Access 360 and other vendors. Some libraries might want to follow the lead of Kelvin Watson, director of the Broward County, Florida, Public Library, and create a book club to discuss and promote independent authors.
  3. Join E-Read Texas. If you are a Texas Public Library using Biblionix Apollo for your integrated library system, you are eligible to join E-Read Texas and get free assistance in integrating the SimplyE e-book application with your Apollo system. This will allow your patrons to access—in just three clicks—content purchased by TSLAC alongside the content you are already purchasing from Overdrive and other vendors. Using SimplyE via the E-Read Texas project is a great way to guide the public to more diverse and independent content and to discover a much wider world of great authors. TSLAC has purchased perpetual access licenses to collections from over 20 independent publishers, totaling over 2,000 titles and plan to purchase more. These titles are available to anyone in Texas: just visit https://e-readtx.biblioboard.com/home. Libraries interested in E-Read Texas should contact simplye@amigos.org or texshare@tsl.texas.gov.
  4. Discover the Indie Author Project. Last week, TSLAC and the Texas Center for the Book sponsored an event at which two Texas authors, Michelle Rene and Scott Semegran, received the Texas Author Award, an award given in several states and sponsored by the Indie Author Project. The Indie Author Project is an activity of BiblioBoard, a vendor who specializes in independent local and regional authors and who sells e-books to libraries with perpetual access and simultaneous use.
  5. Prize independent authors. Like the Indie Author Project, there are many ways that library-world prizes can honor independent authors. An excellent example is the inaugural 2019 E-book Award of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association which went to Ran Walker for his book, Daykeeper (45 Alternate Press, 2018), a book that has also won other literary and library awards.Librarians have a role in many literary awards and it is time that independent press books begin to be recognized.
  6. Seek policy remedies to library-unfriendly terms. In a number of states, legislation is being introduced to require publishers to sell to libraries on more friendly terms. Legislators in other states have recognized that if libraries are to serve their customers equally, they need to have equitable access to e-books, while also recognizing that publishers have legitimate concerns about protections from violations of copyright and unfair access. Alan Inouye of the ALA, wrote eloquently this week in The Hill about the need to ensure our copyright laws permit fair and open access to e-books and other content.
  7. Work with publishers to consider mutually beneficial models for sale and distribution of e-books. Several members of COSLA, the association of state librarians, most notably Washington State Librarian Cindy Aden, are working hard to develop models that will find a common ground between the needs of publishers to protect their content and their authors, and of libraries to serve their users. We will continue to work actively and in good faith to seek models that will continue the long and productive partnership between publishers and libraries.

There is much to be done in the e-book arena and we look forward to actions by libraries in Texas and nationally to change the dymanic around public access to e-books.

Links in this blog:

Broward County Library, Director’s Book Club: https://www.broward.org/Library/Events/Pages/DirectorsBookClub.aspx

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

BiblioBoard content on E-Read Texas: https://e-readtx.biblioboard.com/home

Indie Author Project: https://indieauthorproject.com/

Texas Author Awards: https://indieauthorproject.com/2019-texas-author-project-awards/

Scott Semegran: https://scottsemegran.com/

Michelle Rene: https://www.michellereneauthor.com/

Ran Walker: http://www.ranwalker.com/

New York Senate Bill S7576: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s7576

Alan Inouye, Bring back equitable access for the digital age: https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/482840-bring-back-equitable-access-for-the-digital-age-congress-must

Salute to Pattie Mayfield and small community librarians across Texas

I got surprising news today that Pattie Mayfield was retiring earlier than expected as director of the Honey Grove Library & Learning Center in Honey Grove, Texas. I called Pattie right away to tell her how much we have admired the many contributions she has made during her remarkable tenure at that library. She thanked me and assured me that she would still be active in Texas libraries, which I was happy to hear.

In a state with many wonderful librarians making a difference every day in communities of all sizes, on campuses of higher education, and in K-12 schools, Pattie is special. She is a prime example that the power of the library is not dependent on the size of your library or community or budget. Pattie has demonstrated time and again that small community libraries can be vital links to education and information resources for people of all ages, for families, for businesses, for students, entrepreneurs, and job seekers. Pattie takes advantage of literally every opportunity she can to make the library vital to STEM initiatives, early literacy, workforce and economic development, and technology access. She also tirelessly encourages, supports, and champions her colleagues in other small community libraries through Northeast Texas Libraries, an informal group that grew up after the end of the systems program in 2012, and across Texas through her work on the Tocker Foundation Board.

Pattie is an outstanding librarian and she will be missed in Honey Grove. But she is not the only one. Across the state, we have many small community librarians who work very long hours for little pay against daunting odds and discouraging indifference to prove that libraries can transform communities. Thanks to Pattie and other dedicated librarians in small and rural communities, we have ample evidence that with even a modest investment from their cities and counties, and with a little help from grants and other programs from TSLAC and other organizations, libraries can fulfill a unique and vital role in the lives of people in those communities. And often, there is no other place for people to turn to find the resources they need to learn to read, to succeed in school, to prosper in their work, and to enrich their lives.

TSLAC is proud to do whatever we can to support the work small community libraries and we salute Pattie Mayfield on her last day as director of the Honey Grove Library & Learning Center.

Libraries and the e-book market–where do we stand?

I am currently attending the American Library Association Midwinter conference in Philadelphia. This morning I sat in on a meeting with Mr. John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan Publishing and a room full of librarians in various states of anger and frustration. The reason for their ire is Macmillan’s policy, which went into effect in November, to embargo (Macmillan calls it windowing) the sale of new e-book titles to libraries following publication.

In early November in Hartford, Conn., several of my state librarian colleagues and I attended a meeting with Mr. Sargent that I wrote about in this blog. At that meeting Mr. Sargent defended his decision and explained that library e-book reads were skyrocketing and taking royalties away from authors and publishers. His embargo, or windowing (I think of it as a black-out period) of library sales, is an attempt to alter the “ecosystem” of libraries, publishers, authors, readers and e-books.

Mr. Sargent’s comments to the librarians today in Philadelphia sounded very much the same as what he said to the state librarians in November with a couple of very significant new bits of information. In today’s meeting he divulged that 55% of “reads” of e-books are by library borrowers. And, most importantly, he acknowledged that eight weeks into this model, the data indicated that Macmillan was losing money on e-book sales. Mr. Sargent was quick to say that he expected that and that the next eight weeks would be critical. In Hartford in November, Mr. Sargent said that his action was based on an assumption that if library customers could not check out an e-book, at least some of them would buy the titles. Today he indicated that he never expected that, which left me puzzled as to what he did expect. The state librarians knew, and tried to tell him, that most library customers don’t operate that way. If they can’t get the e-book they will (a) try to get the print version or, (b) read something else that they can get.

It seems likely that, at least so far, Macmillan is losing money on sales of e-books to libraries that they are not offsetting with new sales to individual readers. We also observe that other publishers have not joined Macmillan in this experiment. They are happy to watch them take the brunt and see if they make or lose money. We would be in a much worse position if other Big Five publishers followed Macmillan’s lead. Truthfully, Macmillan doesn’t have that many New York Times bestsellers. One of the few is Me by Elton John, which ordinarily libraries would have bought scads of in digital format, but they could not. Another hot title, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (2020, Flatiron, a Macmillan imprint), is kicking up its own controversy among libraries and the general public.

Librarians have indicated a willingness to discuss with Macmillan other models that would be more profitable for the company and more agreeable to libraries. I think it is too early for that. Let’s see what happens. Macmillan is conducting an experiment that will ultimately indicate the leverage that libraries hold in the market. If Macmillan reverses its policy and if other publishers do not adopt similar pricing/availability models, then we will know that libraries have much more influence in the publishing market than Mr. Sargent thought they did.

At any rate, I think in many ways Macmillan has done libraries a favor. First, libraries do not have to dilute their budgets by buying these titles in two different formats. Second, they will give us an indication of our influence in the market. But third and most importantly, they give libraries an opening to experiment with other models of delivering digital content to the public. Of course the public wants the New York Times bestsellers from the Big Five publishers and every book recommended by Reese and Oprah. But there is a vast universe of very good books published by companies that want to do business with libraries. And librarians are in a position to crowdsource recommended titles that are every bit as good–often much better–than those recommended by celebrity mega-influencers.

Let’s stop fretting about Macmillan and thank them for the gift they have given us to consider new models, to flex our collective muscle in the “ecosystem,” to make purposeful use of our collection dollars, and to take a more active role in influencing the reading choices of our customers.

Changing of the guard–Farewell to Michael C. Waters and welcome to new and returning commissioners

Michael C. Waters

The new year has brought a change in the commission that governs the work of our agency. Yesterday, Governor Abbott announced appointments to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Michael C. Waters, who has been on the commission for over ten years and chair for eight will be replaced by Mr. Bradley S. “Brad” Tegeler of Austin. Commissioner Martha Wong of Houston has been appointed chair of the commission. And Commissioner David Garza of Brownsville, who had initially been appointed to fill an unexpired term, has been reappointed to a full term ending in 2025.We congratulate and welcome Mr. Tegeler to the commission, cheer the reappointment of Mr. Garza, and applaud the appointment of Madam Chair Wong. We have a strong and engaged commission and appreciate the guidance of these individuals along with Commissioners Lynwood Givens, Larry Holt, Arthur Mann, and Darryl Tocker. The State of Texas is fortunate to have this dedicated group of citizens overseeing the important work of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

That said, we will surely miss the leadership of Mr. Michael C. Waters as our chair. During his tenure, Chairman Waters presided over and helped staff navigate TSLAC through several key changes, advancements, and milestones. He helped the agency on the road to recovery after deep cuts in 2012. He guided the agency through the momentous exhibit of the Travis Letter at the Alamo in 2012. He managed the selection of a new director in late 2013, when I joined the TSLAC team. He worked to establish positive relations with key stakeholder groups such as the Texas Library Association. He attended the first meeting with Governor Perry’s staff that led to the transfer of that governor’s papers to the agency — the first governor’s papers to go to TSLAC since Gov. Mark White — a development that was critical to the establishment of the Texas Digital Archive in 2015. And Chairman Waters provided key support of the agency throughout the Sunset reauthorization process. These are but a few of the changes and developments to occur at TSLAC on his watch.

Chairman Waters was always willing to travel to Austin or Washington to meet with elected officials to describe the agency’s needs and ask for support. In 2017, following a meeting between Mr. Waters and the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, TSLAC went on to receive $1 million for broadband development in Texas public libraries. That same year, when Congress and the President were considering zero-funding federal support for libraries, the chairman flew to Washington with Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and met with staffs of Texas Senators Cruz and Cornyn. That year federal funding for libraries was restored and increased. And when TSLAC went before the Sunset Advisory Committee in August 2018, Chairman Waters compelled most of the commissioners to attend the hearing. The Sunset Committee Chairman Senator Birdwell, upon seeing six of seven commissioners present, commented that he had never seen so many members of a governing body attend a Sunset hearing and how important and positive a sign that was for our agency.

As the era of Chairman Waters closes, we take a moment to consider his many contributions to our agency, his constant support, his strategic vision, and his good humor and easy-going demeanor. We thank Chairman Waters for his service to TSLAC and the libraries and archives of Texas, and we wish him and his wife Kathy all the best in their future adventures.

Pausing to reflect

As we near the end of the year, I like to pause and reflect on the work that our amazing TSLAC team has accomplished during the year. It is our pleasure and honor to, in the words of our Mission Statement, “provide Texans with the information they need to be informed, productive citizens.” 2019 has been a challenging year, but we have enjoyed progress and success in many areas.

Below are the highlights organized by categories in our TSLAC Agency Strategic Plan. This list fails to capture the work of our staff delivering the many ongoing services of the agency such daily reference services, circulation of Talking Book materials, consultation and support for records management in state and local government, and our ongoing training and consultation with the hundreds of public, school and academic libraries across the state.

Organizational

  • Sunset reauthorization of TSLAC until 2031 with new authorities
  • Addition of the position of General Counsel
  • Completion of comprehensive agency risk assessment and audit plan through 2022
  • Completion of a new events and programming space in the headquarters Lorenzo de Zavala building

Goal 1: To articulate and advance the value of Texas libraries as essential to our communities and state

  • Launched a new public library director orientation at the TLA 2019 Annual Conference
  • Awarded first-ever Library Technology Academy grants and conducted a second year of training
  • Implemented a new Grantsmanship Academy training and grants to encourage first-time participation in TSLAC competitive grants
  • Design and launch of the new Border Cities Grants as added by the Legislature
  • Redesign of the Small Library Management program and launch of two new certificate tracks
  • Onboarded new libraries to the Family Place program— a total of 79 libraries have participated in this program since 2015
  • Reimbursed Texas libraries $9 for every interlibrary loan to another Texas library

Goal 2: To recruit and retain the knowledge-based workforce necessary to discharge the agency’s duties

  • Secured legislative appropriation for TSLAC staff increases
  • Held second Learning Engagement Opportunities all-staff development day for all TSLAC staff Friday, Nov. 8
  • Internal candidates were promoted to several key leadership positions
  • Workplace upgrades for staff, including Mamava nursing station, conference pod, and phone booth

Goal 3: To safeguard, preserve, and provide access to informational and historic assets

  • Progress on preservation of historical structures at the Sam Houston Center
  • Archives staff review, ingest, management, and provide access to many thousands of records
  • Growth of the Texas Digital Archive approaching 50 terabytes of data
  • Two Fellowships in Texas History awarded in partnership with FLAT and TSHA
  • Implemented the University Records Retention Schedule, culminating a six-year effort
  • “Women’s Power, Women’s Vote” exhibit and publication of commemorative calendar
  • Continued very successful project digitizing files for the Texas Department of Transportation
  • Added more activities to Local Government training classes to make them even more interactive
  • Another successful eRecords Conference attended by over 300 people on Nov. 15
  • Several Second Saturday workshops throughout the year
  • Secure and professional transfer of custody of legislative records to the Legislative Reference Library as mandated by the Legislature

Goal 4: To acquire the technology necessary to effectively, securely, and efficiently manage agency resources

  • Added new scanning equipment for imaging services
  • Added SFTP software box
  • ITS upgrades completed at the Sam Houston Center
  • Agency web servers upgraded
  • Technology enabling duplication on demand acquired and mastered in the Talking Book Program

Goal 5: To secure the state’s official records by addressing the immediate need for additional archival storage and provide for the growth of Texas records

  • Secured $4.4 million appropriation to add 20,000 square feet of records storage space
  • TSLAC working with the Texas Facilities Commission to complete that additional storage at Promontory Point
  • Completion of study of archives and records storage alternatives as mandated by the Legislature

Goal 6: To support efforts to ensure digital inclusion for Texas

  • Launched E-Read Texas statewide e-book program to provide e-book access to public libraries across Texas starting with small community libraries
  • Libraries Connecting Texas—Increasing broadband speeds by over 1000% in another 61 library locations
  • Implementation of over 80 new or renewing TexShare and TexQuest e-resources, with over 100 million uses per year
  • TBP continues transition to digital download and duplication on demand
  • Governor’s Broadband Council created with library representation
  • TSLAC co-presents K-12 Open Education Resource conference

Goal 7: Continue to refine our response to the informational needs of the increasingly diverse Texas population

  • Addition of new Inclusive Services Consultant position
  • TBP implements SB 2075 expanding access to students with reading disabilities
  • 53 libraries across Texas participate in “Know Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion” statewide reading program
  • 45 competitive grant projects funded
  • Hundreds of students statewide participating in Letters About Literature writing contest
  • Texas Center for the Book Literacy Awards to Books are GEMS and two other groups
  • TCFB secures Library of Congress literacy award for Women’s Storybook Project

We wish all of you a very happy, relaxing, and safe holiday season and we look forward to the opportunity to serve you in 2020.

Realizing the importance of K-12 libraries

In 1995, the Legislature added a provision to the Texas Education Code, section 33.021, that directs the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, “in consultation with the State Board of Education, to adopt standards for school library services.” The statute goes on to say that districts “shall consider the standards in developing, implementing, or expanding library services.”

The School Library Standards have been revised twice since they were first created in 1997, most recently in 2017, when many school librarians from across the state, led by Sonja Schulz of the Nacogdoches ISD and Donna Kearley of the Denton ISD and coordinated by TSLAC K-12 School Program Coordinator Liz Philippi, completed a major update and overhaul of the standards: School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas.

While the standards are voluntary, there is ample anecdotal evidence that they are used widely across the state and over the past two decades, have been a driving force for better K-12 library services in many districts. Still, the standards are voluntary, and the State of Texas has seldom spoken forcefully to say that the standards should be considered a key guideline in developing excellent school services.

That all changed last month with the publication of a report by the Legislative Budget Board that contained a lengthy section about the TSLAC School Library Standards. The report, Houston Independent School District Management and Performance Review, is an overall assessment of school services in the Houston ISD. On page 59 of the report and following, the report discusses the TSLAC K-12 Library Standards and systematically measure Houston ISD performance regarding library services against the TSLAC Standards.

This in itself is a welcome validation of the value of the Standards. But the report does something even more exciting: it goes on to state the importance of school libraries to student achievement:

Libraries are considered effective and efficient resources in improving student achievement. Campuses that do not have high-quality library programs are not providing the same opportunities for students to learn as campuses that do. (p. 61)

The report also states:

Nationwide, research suggests that reading, writing, and graduation rates improve where campuses employ certified school librarians. (p. 61)

And finally:

Library variables, including library staffing and items per student, outweighed the effects of other campus variables, including computers per student, teacher experience, and even teacher turnover rates.(p. 61)

These are evidence-based conclusions that school library advocates have been trying for years to impart to school administrators. There are ample studies (see in particular the many school library impact studies of researcher Keith Curry Lance) that consistently demonstrate the positive correlation between full-time, qualified school librarians and higher student achievement on standards-based tests in reading, writing, and language-arts, even after correcting for socio-economic variables.

This has been a message that too often has fallen on deaf ears as school librarians have seen their programs be the first cut, school library budgets reduced, and library staff positions eliminated.

We hope that with this important recognition by the Texas Legislative Budget Board, more districts will understand the key role that libraries dedicated K-12 librarians can play in student achievement and meeting district goals.

Links included in this post:

Education Code, Section 33: https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/ED/htm/ED.33.htm

School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas (TSLAC, 2017): https://www.tsl.texas.gov/sites/default/files/public/tslac/ld/schoollibs/sls/Texas%20School%20Library%20Standards%20E-Version%20FINAL.pdf

Houston Independent School District Management and Performance Review (Legislative Budget Board, 2019):  http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Documents/Publications/School_Performance_Review/SPR/houston/4986_Houston_ISD.pdf

Keith Curry Lance and Debra E. Kachel. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan (March 26, 2018): https://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/ 

Nor Is This All

On Friday, November 8, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission held its second Learning Engagement Opportunities, or LEO, Day, a day of in-service training and staff development for all TSLAC staff in our three locations. As with other libraries, LEO gives TSLAC staff an opportunity to come together in a day of learning, networking, and team-building.

The keynote speaker for this year’s LEO was Dr. David B. Gracy II. Dr. Gracy is one of the most famous archivists in the U.S. He is the former State Archivist of Texas and the former Director of the Archival and Records Enterprise Program at the University of Texas School of Information. He is the former President of the Society of American Archivists and the Academy of Certified Archivists.

The title of Dr. Gracy’s talk was “Nor Is This All,” which derives from comments by Cadwell Raines who was the director of the library and archives functions of Texas for eleven years from 1891-1895 and 1899-1906. Raines wrote of the state library of his day that “By its relation to the state government, the agency is the office of record for everything issued by the several departments; not only the printed books, pamphlets, maps, etc., but also the manuscript records of historical value after they are no longer necessary to the current duties of said departments.” Then Raines added the words, “Nor is this all.”

Dr. Gracy uses these words of Raines to frame the importance of the library and archives to society. “How important is having an agency of government with this mission?” asks Dr. Gracy? “In my view—essential. It couples the two information functions that form the bedrock of democracy and are the foundation upon which civilization in the age of literacy rests. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Dr. Gracy then went on to decry the erosion of archival collections and to obscure the transparency of public access to government information. “Essential to democratic government is transparency—the ability for citizens to monitor the actions taken in their behalf by government leaders. Transparency is vital to trust in government.”

Dr. Gracy went on:

“What other reason than obscuring transparency and compromising trust in government would there be for a legislative enactment excluding legislative records from being treated as all other agency records under the state records act. . .

“Archives are information as accurate, factual, truthful in historical context as we Americans, we Texans, we human beings have.”

Dr. Gracy ends with stirring praise for the work of the staff of TSLAC, and by extension, all archivists and librarians:

“In the end, your job is you—your pride in your profession, in your performance of your job, in your service to all comers.  That you have this pride is a given.  Without it, you wouldn’t be in this line of work.  You wouldn’t be here.  And no malignant action or initiative from outside can ever take it from you.”

Nor is this all: Dr. Gracy suggests that the scope of what may complete the public’s right to know will sometimes—perhaps always—extend beyond what is found in the public archives of the state.

We were grateful to Dr. Gracy for his remarks that served to remind our staff of the important service this agency has been providing for the state since its founding 110 years ago and, in fact, back to the first days of statehood. That service has been to preserve, protect, and make available to the public the archival record of the state of Texas, work that our staff has done and will continue to do with dedication and professionalism.

Dr. Gracy’s entire speech to the staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission can be read here.

In other news

Last week the Texas State Library and Archives Commission began transferring to the Legislative Reference Library all legislative records of the state of Texas. These records include all bill files, committee minutes, photographs, audio files, and other documents extending from the first legislature to present, as well as the records of all members of the legislature and the Lieutenant Governor. The full transfer of these materials is expected to take until the early spring, at which time the archival record of the legislative branch of Texas will be housed at the Legislative Reference Library, which now has custody of those materials per the terms of HB 4181 as passed in the last legislative session.