TSLAC represents at TLA 2015

Texas librarians stop by to recharge and grab a t-shirt at the TSLAC booth at TLA.

Texas librarians stop by to recharge and grab a t-shirt at the TSLAC booth at TLA.

Today marks the last day of the Texas Library Association 2015 Annual Conference in Austin. TLA is unparalleled among state library associations for the depth and quality of programming including the dozens of sessions, hundreds of speakers and authors, the huge range of products in the exhibit hall and the many networking and social opportunities. The conference is a recharging experience, no matter how exhausted you might feel at any given moment.

This year’s conference included powerhouse general session speakers mega-bestselling author David Baldacci and television/radio journalist Cokie Roberts. Ms. Roberts surprised us pleasantly by ending her talk with a call to librarians to advocate for the resources they need to better serve their communities and clienteles. We were thrilled when she mentioned the importance of the TexShare program in particular.

TSLAC staff represented the agency capably and professionally in a number of workshops on topics including workforce programs, transitioning students from high-school to college, TexShare and TexQuest updates, distance learning, and fundraising for library foundations. And our booth in the exhibit hall this year was lively, inviting, informative, and exciting.

TSLAC values its partnership with TLA and applauds TLA leadership and Pat Smith and the TLA staff for presenting this important learning and networking opportunity to the Texas library community. We also appreciate TLA’s ongoing advocacy for library issues, including our agency appropriations requests.

Great conference and we’ll see everyone again in Houston in 2016.

Books and reading: Alive and well in Texas

I had a great day Saturday attending the 3d Annual San Antonio Book Festival presented by the San Antonio Public Library Foundation. Rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of readers who browsed booths set up outside the Central Library and who moved between author talks and other events at the library and other close-by locations.

I moderated a panel titled “No Country for Old Men: Men and Violence in East Texas and West” (a provocative titled that I somewhat disowned) featuring two outstanding 98f5b648dbf3339447bedb91d99aef5d[1]Texas authors Patrick Dearen and J.dearen-big-drift R. Helton. Dearen is the author of 21 fiction and non-fiction titles and his new book, The Big Drift, won the 2015 Spur Award for traditional western from the Western Writers of America, the pre-eminent award for westerns which has been won in the past by Elmer Kelton, Larry McMurtry, and Louis L’Amour. Helton is the author of a modern classic about working in the film industry called Below the Line and several other books including his new fictional memoir called The Jugheads. Though their writing is very different from each other, both authors were very interesting and we had a good audience.

Dozens of other authors for children, young adults and adults were in attendance speaking and reading at the festival. I also had occasion to attend other events, including a great discussion by the author Luis Alberto Urrea, as well as the Literary Death Match later that evening at the Empire Theater. The book sale area was packed with people all day purchasing hard-copy books. The books represented a rich and varied tapestry of history, naturalism, memoir, picture books, novels, YA books, social topics, arts and culture, fiction, science—in short, something for all ages and interests.

If there is a decline in reading in the U.S., or if the public has lost interest in books and reading in the low-attention-span era of distracting gadgets and streaming content, it was not evident at this event. I ended the day energized and more confirmed than ever in my appreciation for the power of books and reading to excite people, the ongoing need for civic engagement around ideas found in books, and the rich contribution of Texas to the world of arts and letters.

Bravo to the San Antonio Public Library and the SAPL Foundation for presenting this great event. I am already looking forward to attending next year as well as our own Texas Book Festival October 17-18 here in Austin.

Re-envisioning library services

In May, TSLAC will host three Harwood Public Innovators Labs in Arlington, Houston, and San Angelo. The labs provide a framework for a fundamental re-examination of the way that libraries work to more effectively ground their services in the context of their communities. Approximately one hundred persons will attend each of the three sessions where they will consider new strategies for serving their clienteles. This national workshop, developed in consultation with the American Library Association, seeks to place libraries at the center of civic efforts to convene groups to solve problems and be “change-leaders in their communities,” in the words of Rich Harwood, founder and president of the Harwood Institute.

Why is TSLAC offering these workshops? Because libraries are in the process of a transformational change from storehouses of information to centers of learning and community engagement. Our commission has set as a strategic goal to “articulate and facilitate a future vision of Texas libraries as central to the informational, economic, and technological needs of their communities.”

Most of us who work with libraries have had to defend questions about why our institutions are still relevant in the age of the Internet. We take a deep breath and start to explain about the evolving roles of libraries as community hubs for civic engagement, lifelong learning, trans-literacy, technology access, and workforce development. But I’ve noticed that I haven’t heard that question in a while. It might just be me, but I have this dawning awareness that we might be moving beyond that question. That finally people are noticing that libraries aren’t just defined by what’s available to check out or download, but access to a place where the information content combines with the synergies of professional staff, community resources, technology, and shared spaces to make possible new models of learning, access and discovery. This view is supported by a recent study of public libraries by the Aspen Institute that focuses library future planning around three strategic assets: people, place, and platform.

I am confident that the Harwood Labs will offer a significant number of public and academic librarians in Texas an opportunity to focus the elements of these newfound models toward building a new vision of library services in their communities and institutions.

Check out http://www.theharwoodinstitute.org/ To read more about the Harwood Public Innovation Labs or this article from Library Journal about applying the Harwood model to libraries: http://bit.ly/1Frevkm.

Slots are still available for public and academic librarians the Harwood Lab in San Angelo, May 20-22 (register at http://sgiz.mobi/s3/Harwood-Institute-Public-Innovators-Lab-Registration-San-Angelo)

and in Houston, May 27-29 (register at http://sgiz.mobi/s3/Harwood-Institute-Public-Innovators-Lab-Registration-Houston).

The Aspen Institute report, “Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries,” by Amy Garmer (who will be presenting on a panel at TLA on future visioning for libraries), can be found at: http://www.aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/content/docs/pubs/AspenLibrariesReport.pdf. Obtain PDF Reader here if needed.