What a difference Día makes

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting a webinar with my good friend and inspiration, author and literacy advocate Pat Mora. The topic was Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros (Day of the Child/Day of the Book), the annual celebration of the power of books and reading to change children’s lives that Pat founded in the U.S. in 1996. We had a great conversation and I hope that listeners were inspired to start planning their own Día events for this year. (April 30 is the traditional date of this event, but we encourage celebrations anytime in April and to promote reading throughout the year).

TSLAC is promoting Día this year: that is, we are reviving the work of promoting Día that began under the direction of Jeanette Larson in cooperation with the Texas Library Association in the late 1990s. We are promoting Día because it is a wonderful way to acknowledge, serve, and respect children from multicultural backgrounds. But as I pointed out on our webinar, I have ulterior motives: the demographics of Texas are rapidly changing. We are already a minority majority state where more than 50% of our population is non-white. By 2020, the Latino population of Texas will outnumber non-Hispanic whites. And communities across the state from Amarillo to Houston are seeing greater diversity of immigrants from Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. We are a changing state and if our library services do not reflect the changes, we will very quickly find ourselves irrelevant to the majority of the people that live and work in our communities.

So our staff, led by Jennifer Peters of our Library Development and Networking staff, have been working on a plan to promote Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros to the libraries of Texas. Our webinar was a kick-off and on February 10, Jeanette Larson will present a webinar in which she provides very practical advice for planning and presenting a Día event in your library. And attendees registered for the actual webinar (not the archived version) will receive a copy of Jeanette’s book, El día de los ninos/El día de los libros: Building a Culture of Literacy in Your Community Through Día.

If you would like to read more about Pat Mora and Día, please see this article in the current newsletter of the Association of Library Services for Children (ALSC):

I urge all public and school libraries to consider hosting at least a small Día event this year, and, as Pat would say, “Celebrate Bookjoy.”

TSLAC to receive Governor Perry’s records

As of today, Texas has a new governor. I was part of a very large crowd gathered on a beautiful Texas day to listen to Governor Abbott’s inaugural speech from the south steps of the Texas capitol.

But we have some work ahead of us regarding the administration of outgoing Governor Rick Perry as we prepare to receive the records of his office into the State Archives. This is an important advancement for our collection and for the state of Texas. Governor Perry is the longest-serving governor in Texas history and the archives of his 14-year administration will be an important resource for researchers in Texas. This will be the first governor’s records since Mark White’s in the 1980s to be housed in the State Library.

Of particular significance, the Perry files include a huge component of materials in electronic format. In fact, over 6 terabytes of digital files. A terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes of data. In other words, a lot of material.

And it is material that will be in demand, especially if Gov. Perry decides to seek higher office. In that case we would anticipate receiving a high volume of public information requests for governor’s materials. To be able to do that, we will ingest the archives via a software solution that allows for the preservation of electronic records so that they can be easily managed, searched, and retrieved.

This is a huge turning point for the State Library and Archives and the state of Texas. While we have always had a mandate for preserving archival records of enduring value to the state regardless of format, we have lacked resources and framework until now to be able to actually take in electronic records. The addition of this preservation system to manage Gov. Perry’s archives will allow us a platform to look ahead to building an archive of state agency e-records.

Full realization of this vital project—to be called the Texas Digital Archive—will require additional resources for staffing and storage. For this reason, we are requesting $450,000 per year in new funding in our 2016-2017 appropriations request to bring in important digital archives from state agencies. Because of the potential impact and the urgent need to preserve e-archive materials, creation of the Texas Digital Archive is TSLAC’s number legislative funding priority.

Texas has been one of only nine states that does not have a process to preserve electronic archives. With the Perry papers coming in, we have an important opening to build the Texas Digital Archive. Ultimately creating that important resource to ensure transparency of state government for all citizens will depend on that additional appropriation.

Libraries support workforce and economic development

I was very happy to be in Wolfforth, Texas, outside Lubbock this week for the dedication of their new Job Resource Center created in part with a grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Present at the dedication ceremony was not just the library director, Kimberly Brown, and staff and library supporters, but also the city manager, Darrell Newsome, the entire city council, and the director of the area workforce solutions board, Danny Soliz.


Wolfforth Public Library Director Kim Brown (right) with community supporters at the launch of their Job Resource Center this week.

These community leaders were present because they have the vision to understand–along with an increasing number of cities across Texas–the powerful impact that libraries can have in the area of workforce and economic development. A reporter from the Lubbock Avalanche Journal asked me if we had any idea how many people could get jobs through the program. I responded that we knew of a library branch in the Fort Worth Public Library System that has documented a 70% success rate in helping users get jobs or get better jobs. 70%!

Libraries are natural players in this effort and in fact, every day thousands of people visit their local libraries to seek jobs, fill out job applications, attend literacy and life-skills classes, find materials to help them in their professional lives, and utilize test-taking and other resources using such programs as Learning Express via the TexShare database program.

We are seeking an exceptional funding item in our current budget request to provide training and technical assistance to Texas libraries in creating jobs programs. For this effort, Wolfforth and other cities are pointing the way with their innovative and visionary commitment to this service.

Welcome to my new blog!

Welcome! I am excited to launch this new blog of the Texas State Librarian, otherwise known as the Director and Librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. It is a fancy title, and to be sure, I take the role seriously and am honored to serve in this position. But I also try to have fun and enjoy the wonderful work this agency does. So if you expect this blog to be a dry report of agency business, I sincerely hope you’ll be disappointed.

But being that TSLAC maintains the historical record of the State of Texas, a historical note is in order. I like Simon Sinek’s idea of “Starting with Why” (for his great TED talk on this concept see: http://bit.ly/16vWLIe). So what is the WHY of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission? Simply put, state leaders over 100 years ago created our agency to ensure that citizens have access to the information they need to lead informed, productive, and fulfilled lives.

In the first agency biennial report in 1911, State Librarian E. W. Winkler wrote the following: “The State Library is a place for information. . .It should have the information needed by the historian to portray truthfully the history. . .of this state.” Two years later in 1914, Winkler quoted another librarian in saying, “The state Library is a business institution with a missionary spirit. . .It seeks to extend the benefits of great and well classified collections of books to the greatest number of people and to encourage them to take advantage of the knowledge thus to be obtained. . .It should send out library organizers to hold library institutes for the stimulation of interest in libraries and to assist in the training of librarians.”

There you have it: virtually all our priorities 100 years later expressed in the first five years of the agency. With very little change, these statements of why we exist would encompass our four areas of work: archives and information services, library development and networking, state and local records management, and the Talking Book Program.

We live in an information-based economy and, in a very real way, the continued success of the state depends on the access to information that is provided through these four programs for virtually every citizen in the state of Texas regardless of age, geographic location, or physical ability.

Unfortunately, a 65% cut to our state funding in 2011 compromised our ability to deliver our core services. We recovered some ground in 2013 but we are still over 40% below our 2011 state appropriation. In the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature, we are looking forward to arguing for an increase of nearly $10 million to help us meet our mandate to help Texans find the information they need to be successful.

In future installments of this blog, I will be discussing various topics such as our specific appropriations requests; exciting new programs at TSLAC; innovative projects supported by TSLAC grants; success stories and best practices from Texas libraries and archives; and ideas and developments from the world of information, books, reading, and history.

Thank you for reading!