Speaking up for Texas libraries

Last Tuesday, September 18, the New York Times ran a very positive article about the Sacramento (CA) Public Library. The article talked about the many ways that libraries have changed and the many exciting new services that they now offer. These new services include lending objects and offering maker spaces. These new services—which are well known to library customers and staffs—are the hook of the article. The article begins, “Libraries aren’t just for books, or even e-books, anymore” Okay, well, that is not exactly a news flash for anyone that has been in a library anytime since, say, the last 20 years, and especially the last five years.

But it was a nice article and we appreciate the coverage for libraries in general. And I am glad to see my former colleague from California, Sacramento Public Library Executive Director Rivkah Sass, one of the most creative library leaders in the country, get the notice in the “newspaper of record.” And other public libraries were also featured in the article, including those in Mesa, Arizona; New Haven, Connecticut; Philadelphia; and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I only wish one of our Texas libraries had also been included. Or for that matter, many of our Texas libraries, where the same types of creative programs are being offered every day. All across Texas, our libraries are helping create resilient cities, providing links to workforce training, serving as technology hubs, and engaging early learners. I was in the Dallas Public Library last week learning about their Homeless Engagement initiative (funded by an LSTA grant from TSLAC), their GED training program (also supported by LSTA grant funds from TSLAC), their summer nutritious lunch program in 11 branches, and their bicycle repair program at the central libraries. Not just about books, to be sure.

The Times reporter writes, “The Sacramento Public Library is one of a few dozen libraries in the country to embrace the ‘maker movement’”. A few dozen? A few hundred would probably be more accurate. In the last round of competitive grants approved by our Commission for FY 2016, there were maker projects and STEM projects in numerous libraries including El Paso, Frisco, Dallas, and university libraries such as UNT and Southwest Adventist. In other competitive grants, we supported wonderful projects in workforce support in Balch Springs, Bryan-College Station, and Bullard, technology hub projects in Nueces County and Schulenburg, and even a food security project at the El Paso Public Library that will encourage residents to grow their own food and eat a more healthy diet.

So I call on librarians across Texas to speak up about your creative projects. Publicize what you do with your own local media and others. And send your best practices to me and others at the State Library so that we can help tell the world about the great projects you are all doing. Consider nominating your library or another for recognition by an IMLS National Medal or for the Library Journal Best Small Library in America award.

Texas libraries are doing programs that are every bit as innovative as any in the country—and it’s up to us Texans to tell them.

Patricia Leigh Brown, “These Libraries Are for Snowshoes and Ukuleles.” New York Times, September 15, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/15/us/these-public-libraries-are-for-snowshoes-and-ukuleles.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0.

Welcome college and university librarians

This week in Austin marks the annual meeting of the Texas Council of Academic Librarians (TCAL). I will welcome the opportunity to bring greetings and a brief update on TSLAC activities to the TCAL attendees. Like all other segments of the library world, college and university libraries face their own unique set of challenges. Enrollment at Texas institutions continues to increase rapidly while resources often remain flat or declining. Library staffs run to keep ahead of student and faculty expectations and needs for data while the cost of information resources continues to increase. Students and faculty need ongoing instruction in the use of rapidly evolving technology.

We at the State Library are pleased to support a number of projects that serve college and university library users. Our TexShare program which provides access to online commercial databases for students, faculty, and directly to the public, logs around 100 million uses per year, most from academic library users. This program–which boasts an ROI of nearly 10-to-1–got an infusion of funding in the last legislative session so that we look to being able to add one or two more statewide information resources in the next few months.

We provide grant funding to academic libraries and our Commission recently approved awards for several such projects, including a number of TexTreasures grants to digitize special collections so that they can be used online and accessible by persons throughout the state.

I look forward to discussing with college and university librarians a variety of other projects, including open content to information supported by public funds, platforms to allow easier access to archival collections across multiple institutions, and access to e-books and other digital content.

In other news, Texas libraries were featured in an excellent article in the latest edition of PM, the magazine of the International City Managers Association (ICMA). The article speaks of the strategic importance of libraries in meeting critical technology needs in libraries across the country. As the article discusses, the Edge program–a project of the Urban Libraries Council and a partner of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission–is helping libraries develop models for assessing and strengthening their roles as technology providers in their communities. The article can be found online at http://www.urbanlibraries.org/filebin/pdfs/Edge_PMCoverFeature_Sept2015.pdf.