Stay all night, stay a little longer. . .

Jason Roberts and the Jason Roberts Band play a set of outstanding western swing to warm up the crowd for Archives in ATXion, the Texas Picture Show.

Jason Roberts and the Jason Roberts Band play a set of outstanding western swing to warm up the crowd for Archives in ATXion, the Texas Picture Show.

Last night, in an event celebrating National Archives Month, we threw a party.

Now the interesting thing is that we don’t usually throw parties. We’re not the party-throwing type of agency. Programs at our place are usually pretty formal affairs held in our lobby or our reading room and feature an author or a talk on a serious subject.

Last night we broke the mold and introduced a new type of event with a program called Archives in ATXion, the Texas Picture Show. A brainchild of TSLAC Communications Officer Steve Siwinski, we invited the public to gather together on the east lawn of the capitol across the street from our building, throw down a blanket or a lawn chair, and sit and listen to some classic Texas music and watch some archival films spanning the last 100 years. The music was provided by Jason Roberts, a 20-year veteran of the legendary Texas band, Asleep at the Wheel. The songs of Bob Wills and Cindy Walker drifted across the Capitol grounds drawing in even more people.

Steve Siwinski, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and Madeline Moya, Texas Archive of the Moving Image.

Steve Siwinski, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and Madeline Moya, Texas Archive of the Moving Image.

Then came the films, a series of nuggets from the collections of TSLAC and the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI). Viewers were treated to views of Congress Avenue in 1912, Texas Highways Department travel promotions from the 1970s, A young Willie Nelson in 1973 just after he moved back to Austin, inaugural footage of Gov. Ann Richards, Art Linkletter emcee-ing a beauty contest, and even a commercial for Hot Dr. Pepper (a mercifully brief marketing campaign that some of us still remember).

The films were fun, but they also underscored an important message for Archives Month. For anyone that thinks of archives as yellowing documents on dusty shelves, these films demonstrated that archival materials take many forms and are vibrant, fascinating windows into the way that people looked at the world in decades and centuries past. They are a form of time-travel taking us back to a collective memory and shared history, speaking to us of what it means to be Texans and Americans.

So we had fun. We heard some good music, watched some cool film clips, and broadened some horizons about what we do and who we are.

All in all, a very good evening.

Welcome Texas Center for the Book

Authors Sara Bird, Carmen Lomas Garza, and Pat Mora, speakers at the TSLAC Texas Center for the Book launch on October 18.

Authors Sara Bird, Carmen Lomas Garza, and Pat Mora, speakers at the TSLAC Texas Center for the Book launch on October 18.

This weekend, during the Texas Book Festival, we held an important ceremony on the steps of our building. We inaugurated the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. A crowd of about 100 adults and children listened to three authors-novelist Sarah Bird, children’s author and literacy advocate Pat Mora, and artist and author Carmen Lomas Garza–describe their work and the importance of reading, books and libraries. Those attendees also received an autographed copy of Ms. Garza’s modern classic children’s book, Family Pictures – Cuadros de Familia to take home.

We are very excited to take on the responsibility of running the Center and to have this platform to speak about the importance of building a culture around books, to encourage reading for all ages, and to stress to parents and educators the key role reading plays in the success of young people in school and later life.

The Center for the Book will be a new project for the Texas State Library, but it is not new to Texas. The Center for the Book is a project of the Library of Congress and all states have an affiliate program. Since 1987, the Texas affiliate of the Center for the Book has been located at the Dallas Public Library. DPL has done an outstanding job of maintaining the project for the last 28 years. But by mutual agreement, Dallas Public and we have agreed that the time has come to move the project to the TSLAC.

Why are we the appropriate agency for the project? For the past 180 years, our agency has been the official library of the state of Texas. More important, we have deep ties to the work of public, school and college and university libraries across the state and the millions of people of all ages that they serve every day. Our agency is a designated National Literary Landmark, one of only five in Texas and that is symbolic of our professional and philosophical commitment to encouraging a culture of books and reading in Texas.

And why is reading so important? We believe–and there is ample evidence to support the contention–that a culture based on books and reading not only supports individual growth and success, but also leads to greater civic engagement, builds strong public institutions, and supports workforce success and economic development. And for children, there is ample evidence that children who start school reading or ready to read will have higher rates of academic achievement and greater success in later life. And not to mention, reading is fun!

Our Center for the Book will support a variety of projects, starting with continuing the project Letters About Literature, a statewide reading and writing project for students in grades 4-12, and Lone Star Día, a statewide celebration of Children’s Day, Book Day – El Día de los Niños, El Día de los Libros, encouraging reading for children of all backgrounds. We are currently recruiting for a coordinator for this program and will be creating an advisory board so there will be other projects to be announced in the coming months.

We hope you will follow our work on this project, and keep on reading!

Road trip! Texas rural and small librarians go to ARSL

Texas librarians arrive at the ARSL conference in Little Rock. L to R: Russell Keelin, Hillsoboro P.L.; Mark Smith, TSLAC; Katherine Adelberg, TSLAC; Melissa MacDougal, Buchanan Dam P.L.; Debra Bashaw, Lufkin P.L.; Jennifer Peters, TSLAC; Kerry McGeath, DeSoto P.L.; Dona Weisman, consultant; Dianne Connery, Pottsboro P.L.; and Chris Woodrow, New Boston P.L.

Texas librarians arrive at the ARSL conference in Little Rock (l to r):  Russell Keelin, Hillsboro P.L.; Mark Smith, TSLAC; Katherine Adelberg, TSLAC; Melissa MacDougal, Buchanan Dam P.L.; Debra Bashaw, Lufkin P.L.; Jennifer Peters, TSLAC; Kerry McGeath, DeSoto P.L.; Dona Weisman, consultant; Dianne Connery, Pottsboro P.L.; and Chris Woodrow, New Boston P.L.

Yesterday, ably assisted by Jennifer Peters and Katherine Adelberg from our Library Development and Networking Division, I drove a 15-seat van from Austin to Little Rock Arkansas, picking up seven other librarian passengers along the way. The 11-hour journey started at 7:30 a.m. in Austin with stops in Hillsboro, De Soto, Longview and New Boston. By the time we arrived in Little Rock, we were ten tired, cramped, but happy library folks ready to participate in the annual conference of the Association of Rural and Small Libraries, ARSL.

This conference is a gathering of over 500 (a record attendance) people, most of whom are valiant and dedicated individuals responsible for running small libraries across the country. Some are well supported, but the majority struggle to survive against overwhelming odds. Many have only one or two staff members (sometimes leaving a volunteer behind to maintain service). Many get along on donations and by scrimping, saving, and stretching a dollar. Most have to continually justify their existence to decision makers in the communities they are trying to serve. Why do they do it? Because they believe that it is important that even people who live small towns and rural areas–perhaps especially those people–have access to the educational, informational, cultural, and technological resources they need to live productive, fulfilled lives.

Stopping at the New Boston Public Library near Texarkana on the way to Little Rock.

Stopping at the New Boston Public Library near Texarkana on the way to Little Rock. Librarian Chris Woodrow on the far left.

These people are the true heroes of their communities. I heard today from a librarian in a small town in New York state that provides a full range of literacy from early childhood education to ESL to GED to adult literacy for her community, as do many small community libraries in Texas. One of our Texas community librarians–Patty Mayfield at the Bertha Voyer Library in Honey Grove–tirelessly pursues every grant and training opportunity she can to bring improved services to her community. We stopped in the tiny town of New Boston on the way to Little Rock where librarian Chris Woodrow provides a full range of library service from a storefront facility that might look modest from the sidewalk, but opens up into a clean, well-lighted space featuring a large collection of materials, an inviting children’s room, meeting rooms and quiet reading areas.

As one of the speakers today–a television newscaster from Little Rock–pointed out, we ought to let small community librarians run all of government. After all, he pointed out, who else could get so much value from such minimal investments of public support? Amen to that, brother.