Turning Outward

On Friday, we just concluded the third of three Harwood Innovation Labs, bringing to Texas a model for community engagement that has been used with dozens of organizations of all types in communities large and small across the U.S. In all, nearly 300 public and academic librarians from across Texas attended these three three-day sessions. I had attended the first two days of the Lab in Arlington two weeks ago but had to leave for day three. I was so intrigued with the content and to see how it wrapped up and the reaction of the participants, I returned on Friday for day 3 of the Lab in Houston.

In offering the Harwood Labs to the statewide library community, we hoped to stimulate new ways of thinking about how we approach our work in providing library services to our communities. The Harwood model focuses on the concept of “turning outward,” in other words, spending more time focused on how we can make our libraries more vital to the individuals and communities we serve. The idea is tied to developing a deeper understanding of the stages of development of communities and the individual and collective aspirations of persons in our communities.

It is a more difficult concept to grasp than it appears at first glance. We are deeply invested in analyzing our programs, focused on how many people walk through the door, how many times the services we offer are used, in conversation with staff and boards about the new ideas we have or how to sustain the funding we need to survive. Compared to those considerations, we tend to spend less time in dialogue with the community about whether the services we offer are in alignment with their hopes and aspirations for the type of place they want to live in.

The good news is that this model is not highly resource-intensive. It doesn’t take additional equipment or staff or supplies. It requires, however, that we begin to shift—in large and small ways—our thinking toward a more outward focus. I will be considering how we at the State Library can apply that thinking to both our direct services to the public as well as the services we provide to libraries, archives, and local governments across the state.

We hope that as the nearly 300 participants in the Harwood Labs return to their libraries to apply this model, we hear about their successes. In this way we will develop a set of best-practice examples of how to make our library services more outward turning.

See Richard Harwood’s great blog post about spending time with Texas libraries and the importance of libraries on the Harwood site: http://www.theharwoodinstitute.org/2015/05/libraries-protectors-of-the-common-good/

And many thanks to our Community Engagement Administrator, Jennifer Peters for her hard work in organizing the Harwood Labs in Texas with support from many others in the Library Development and Networking division. And great thanks as well to Cheryl, Carlton, David, and Richard for your outstanding presentations over the last three weeks.

Status of our budget request

In the last post, I reported on our legislative appropriations requests. I am happy to provide an update on a favorable outcome for our agency and the clients and customers we serve. In action taken by the House/Senate budget conference committee last week, significant new funding was appropriated for our agency. Here is the summary:

  • Texas Digital Archive – We requested $900,000 for the biennium to begin the long-overdue process of archiving state agency archives of enduring value in digital format. The conference committee allocated $706,593 to launch this important new project in 2016.
  • Shared digital content via TexShare and TexQuest – We sought an additional $6.4 million to purchase additional TexShare and TexQuest database resources. The conference committee provided an additional $6 million, $3.5 for TexShare resources and $2.5 for TexQuest for the 2016-2017 biennium.
  • Targeted market salary adjustments – In an effort to be able to effectively recruit and retain qualified staff to support the key mandates of the agencies to serve libraries, archives and the public, we sought $900,000 to provide targeted adjustments to specific positions in the agency. The conference committee allocated $400,000 to TSLAC to address this critical need.
  • Government Information Analysts – We requested $400,000 to hire two additional staff to provide support in records management to state and local agencies. This item was not adopted in either the House or Senate budgets.
  • CAPPS – CAPPS is an internal system for accounting and payroll from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. We requested $500,000 for this project and that request was fully funded.
  • Libraries supporting workforce – We requested $550,000 to provide training and technical assistance to libraries to support workforce and economic development in their communities. This item was not adopted in either the House or Senate budgets.

Of the $9.6 million requested in supplemental funding items this session, $7.6 million was funded, or approximately 80% of our request. We are very pleased to have the resources to effectively serve the information needs of Texans in this increasingly information-based economy. TSLAC experienced deep cuts in state funding in 2011, but two sessions of positive growth have brought us back to about 76% of the state funding level and 87% of the total funding level of 2010-11. Our gains would not have been possible without support from the Texas Library Association, the Texas State Historical Association, and many other groups and individuals across the state who spoke up for the importance of quality library, archives, and records services.

We are looking forward to implementing the new programs and bringing new services to the people of Texas.

 

 

TSLAC Funding in the 84th Session

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Capitol front elevation drawing, 1883, from the collection of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

As of today, there are 17 days remaining in the 84th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. That means that it has been 123 days since the session started and about 9 months since we submitted our 2016-2017 Legislative Appropriations Request. So we have been waiting a while to find out how the legislature responds to our request for resources to support library and archives programs in Texas. The wait may soon be over. The budget conference committee is currently working to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill.

As we near the end of the session, here is a summary of our budget status at this stage, what we asked for, and how our request has fared. First, regarding the base budget, we were happy to have recommended for our base funding request of approximately $55.1 million for the 2016-2017 biennium, that is maintaining our current funding level with no cut, and including a renewal of $1M in funding to make repairs and improvements at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty.

But we also asked for six additional funding items totaling $9.6 million for the biennium to enhance and improve the services we offer to libraries archives and Texas citizens. Those items are:

  • Texas Digital Archive – We requested $900,000 for the biennium to begin the long-overdue process of archiving state agency records of enduring value in digital format. Texas is one of only eight states that do not have a comprehensive statewide plan for preserving and making available the electronic archives of state agencies. The House budget adopted the entire $900,000. The Senate budget includes about $707,000.
  • Shared digital content via TexShare and TexQuest – We sought an additional $6.4 million to purchase additional TexShare and TexQuest database resources. This highly successful and cost-effective program makes vital online information available to virtually every resident of the state. The House adopted $6 million (removing $400,000 for salaries). The Senate did not fund this item, but placed it on the Article XI wish list.
  • Targeted market salary adjustments – In an effort to be able to effectively recruit and retain qualified staff to support the key mandates of the agencies to serve libraries, archives and the public, we sought $900,000 to provide targeted adjustments to specific positions in the agency. 89% of the staff at TSLAC work below the median of their state salary range. The funds requested are sufficient to move approximately 65 positions to the mid-point of their ranges. Not adopted in either the House or Senate budgets.
  • Government Information Analysts – We requested $400,000 to hire two additional staff to provide support in records management to state and local agencies. This item was not adopted in either the House or Senate budgets.
  • CAPPS – CAPPS is an internal system for accounting and payroll from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. We would like to take advantage of the systems efficiencies to enable better use of staff time. The Senate budget contains approximately $327,000 for this item.
  • Libraries supporting workforce – We requested $550,000 to provide training and technical assistance to libraries to support workforce and economic development in their communities. A natural role for libraries and much-needed in communities across the state. This item was not adopted in either the House or Senate budgets.

We appreciate the support of the Texas Library Association, the Texas State Historical Association, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, and many other individuals and groups that have expressed to the Legislature the importance of our agency and the services we offer. We look forward to the 2016-2017 biennium and to having the resources we need to help Texans access the information resources they need to succeed in our information-based economy.

The week in round-up

This post is a round-up of four miscellaneous but related items from the last several days.

  • Last Sunday evening, “60 Minutes” aired a fascinating story about billionaire philanthropist David Rubenstein. Mr. Rubenstein has donated many millions of dollars to projects that preserve historical resources in the United States. Projects that he has supported include restoration of the Washington Monument, purchasing the British Magna Carta for display at the National Archives, the Robert E. Lee memorial home at Arlington National Cemetery among many others. When asked by Morley Safer why he provided money that the government should be providing, he responded, “Well, the government doesn’t have the resources it used to have. We have gigantic budget deficits and large debt. And I think private citizens now need to pitch in.” (We might have a project or two that we could pitch to Mr. Rubenstein.) You can see the entire interview online at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/patriotic-philanthropist-david-rubenstein-morley-safer-60-minutes/
  • I travelled to Abilene this week to speak to the spring meeting of The High Ground of Texas, a group comprised mainly of economic development directors, city managers, and other local officials from a wide swath of the west Texas area. My topic was “Re-envisioning Community Libraries” and I shared with the group my thoughts about how libraries have evolved to become learning centers, community hubs for technology and civic engagement, and potential drivers of workforce and economic investment in communities large and small across Texas. We had a great conversation and I am hopeful that some of those hard-working individuals will take away a thought to include libraries in discussions of local economic and workforce development. My presentation can be viewed online at http://prezi.com/xsz4ezyd9iwm/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy
  • Similarly, National Public Radio this week ran a great story titled “Do We Really Need Libraries?” marking the 114th anniversary of the gift of Andrew Carnegie of 60 branch libraries to the New York Public Library system and the request of the NYPL, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queensboro Public Library for $1.4 billion in city funds to renovate and expand library branches. In answering the title question, the article, quoting Tony Marx of NYPL, make a case that libraries are more needed now than ever:
    “Public libraries are arguably more important today than ever before,” Marx says. “Their mission is still the same — to provide free access to information to all people. The way people access information has changed, but they still need the information to succeed, and libraries are providing that.” Or as Andrew Carnegie said many years ago: “A library outranks any other thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”
    The NPR article (with great pictures) can be found at: http://n.pr/1IVFYxQ
  • We are nearing the end of the 84th Regular Legislative Session. We are waiting to hear the outcome of our agency’s requests for resources to better serve the people of Texas by providing improved access to library and archival resources that are vital to our information economy. It looks like we may receive funding to create the Texas Digital Archive and address the longstanding need to archive state agency records of enduring value in electronic format just as we have always done in paper. And we might just get some resources to expand the extremely popular and very effective TexShare and TexQuest programs to provide access to shared digital content for virtually every Texan through public, academic and school libraries in Texas. We are hopeful that conferees on the budget conference committee recognize the needs for Texans to have access to quality information resources. I will detail our budget requests and status in my next blog post. Meanwhile we thank the many individuals and organizations in Texas such as the Texas Library Association and the Texas State Historical Association that have spoken up in favor of our budget request this session.

Observing National Preservation Month

CAREMay 1 is Disaster Preparedness Day, April 26 to May 2 is Preservation Week, and May is Preservation Month. These designations present the opportunity to focus on the importance of protecting our heritage whether that be our historical archives, buildings and sites, or even our own personal collections. Preservation of archival and public records is a major focus of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Our agency is mandated to maintain and protect the historical record of Texas. We take that role seriously and employ a full-time preservation officer and conservator to advise on the protection of archival documents, photographs, artifacts, and other materials of enduring, indeed, priceless value to the people of Texas. You can read about the fascinating work performed by our conservator, Sarah Norris, on her blog at https://tslacconservation.wordpress.com.

Meanwhile, our State and Local Records Management Division works with FLOODgovernment agencies to advise on the proper retention and preservation of records of active administrative value and archival documents maintained by local governments such as in county courthouses. Many records are also maintained by local government agencies across the state. As I wrote a few weeks ago in this blog, those records are too often at risk of damage from water, mold, pests and other threats arising from poor storage conditions and neglect. You can read more about the services of the SLRM division on their blog, the Texas Record at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/.

Even our Library Development and Networking division is involved in protecting local collections of permanent interest via our TexTreasures grant program, which over the years has been responsible for digitizing many notable local collections including newspapers, historical photographs, maps, scrapbooks and much more. For a look at the TexTreasures grants libraries are working on this year, visit our grants page at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/funding/lsta/recipients15.html.

sunPreserving Texas history through our priceless collections is an obligation of librarians and archivists across Texas. The ability to digitize much of these materials to be available through our sites and other such as the Portal of Texas History at the University of North Texas http://texashistory.unt.edu, provides all citizens with immediate access to the record of our past and ensures that it will be preserved for generations to come.

And individuals can participate, too. Preservation Month is a great time to review your family heirloom photographs and records and make sure they are safely stored away from possible damage from water and the elements. Your family’s future generations will be glad you did.