Good News on the TSLAC Budget

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.

Libraries as community technology hubs

We were glad to see this article in Government Technology last week: http://www.govtech.com/data/Data-Reinvents-Libraries-for-the-21st-Century.html

Bibliotech

The Bexar County BiblioTech all digital library.

The article and two related pieces in the same issue, highlight the important role that libraries play as community technology hubs. We will forgive the author the clichéd comments about how surprising it is to find that the library is not the tired dusty “retro institution” that everyone thinks it is. Actually, no one who has actually been in a library anytime in the last several years will harbor that misconception. Libraries, as all who use them on a regular basis–and Texans log about 75 million visits to public libraries each year–know, are the go-to places to explore new technology, get online if you don’t have access, complete job applications, learn computer skills, and access digital resources. The article cites the 2013 Digital Inclusion Survey by American Library Association that found that “97.5 percent of libraries help visitors complete online government forms, 74.1 percent support e-government and civic engagement programs, 98 percent offer technology training.”

Libraries have long been early adopters of technology as one of the first institutions to automate access to collections starting in the 1970s, to provide access to online information since the 1980s, to provide access to the Internet in the 1990s. In the new millennium, libraries are technology training using projects like maker spaces to encourage exploration of new technologies such as applications development and robotics.

Libraries in Texas today have an added tool to help ensure their role as a technology hub in their communities. Since last year, TSLAC has been providing access to a project called Edge, which offers libraries a toolkit and framework to help them assess their readiness to serve the technology needs of their communities. To-date, 273, or about half of the public libraries in Texas have registered to participate in Edge and 207 have completed the self-assessment process. The Edge model is designed to help libraries improve their public technology services by enhancing the community value of technology, engaging the community and decision makers, and effectively managing resources. We believe libraries can and should assume the role suggested by the Government Technologies article a leader of technology access and innovation in their communities.

For public libraries that are not yet participating, we urge you to consider it. Visit our Edge page at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/edge for more details.