A few weeks ago I reported on our pending 2016-2017 budget request as the House and Senate Budget Conference Committee worked through their options. This weekend Governor Abbott signed House Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act into law and with it, a healthy increase in funding for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
In all, our state appropriation increased by $7.6 million. The majority of this increase was $6 million for expansion of shared access to online information via the extremely popular and well-used TexShare and TexQuest database services. These resources—TexShare for users of academic and public libraries and TexQuest for K-12 library users—provide millions of Texans access to highly authoritative and valuable information in online commercial databases. These resources receive over 100 million accesses a year and save public, academic, and school libraries many millions of dollars through statewide purchasing arrangements. The information in these databases supports education, workforce development, research, professional growth, and personal enrichment for Texans of all ages and in all parts of the state.
Also included in the budget increases was nearly $707,000 to establish the Texas Digital Archive. This project—which we had requested in the last five budget cycles—will allow us to preserve and make available state government archival materials in electronic format. Until now, there has been no process for centralizing the collection and maintenance of these materials of enduring value to the public and state government. This new project will ensure that these crucial materials are protected and made available for generations of users just as we have always done for hard-copy materials.
Also in this budget, we received $400,000 for targeted market salary adjustments to help us recruit and retain qualified staff. TSLAC’s salaries for positions such as librarians and archivists are much lower than other similar positions in state government or in the area market. Consequently, we have difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified staff in these positions. In fact, nearly 90% of the staff of the agency are below the mid-point of the state salary range for their positions. While the amount appropriated is only about 45% of what was requested, we are very grateful to have any assistance at all to address agency salaries.
We are extremely grateful to the Legislature for the additional funds to our agency. Inclusion of these funds indicates a recognition of the importance of library, archives, and records services in an information-based economy. These resources bring us up to approximately 87% of our 2010-2011 budget prior to the deep cuts in the 2011 session. We thank the many individuals and organizations who spoke up in favor of our appropriations request, including the Texas Library Association, the Texas State Historical Association—your support was critically important.
We are already planning to make a fast start of implementing these new services in 2016-2017. Stay tuned for more details on these and other projects coming up soon.