Volume, Velocity and Variety

Yesterday was a big day for TSLAC and one that brought home to me that the two sides of our agency’s house are not all that far apart.

TSLAC Electronic Records Specialist Mark Myers describing the Texas Digital Archive project at the 2015 E-Records conference.

TSLAC Electronic Records Specialist Mark Myers describing the Texas Digital Archive project at the 2015 E-Records conference.

The day for me started at the 2015 E-Records Conference, an annual event hosted by TSLAC in partnership with the Texas Department of Information Resources. The theme of this year’s conference was V3: Volume Velocity Variety. Our staff, led by Program Planning and Research Specialist Nanette Pfiester, does an outstanding job of organizing this event which explores state-of-the-art practices in the management of electronic records. This year, we had a record attendance of 420 persons representing 150 state agencies, local governments, and exhibitors.

The growing success of this conference indicates the degree to which records managers need tools and techniques to ensure that they can maintain control and transparency of these vital public records. The keynote speaker, Paul Taylor of Governing Magazine, described the ways in which government is racing to keep up with the volume, velocity and variety of the data explosion and the public’s need to access that data.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the entire conference because I was due in Frisco north of Dallas at 6 p.m. Chairman Michael Waters, Commissioner Lynwood Givens, and I participated in a check presentation for a grant to the Frisco Public Library at the Frisco City Council meeting. The grant supports an exciting new program developed by director Shelley Holley and her staff to build a collection of maker kits and STEM backpacks to circulate to children and teens. As I told the Council, this is exactly the kind of project that we love to see in libraries and that demonstrates the margin of library innovation that the federal LSTA funds allow us to encourage.

Frisco Public Library Director Shelley Holley, TSLAC Commissioner Lynwood Givens and the Library's LSTA grant funded collection of STEM backpacks.

Frisco Public Library Director Shelley Holley, TSLAC Commissioner Lynwood Givens and the Library’s LSTA grant funded collection of STEM backpacks.

Through this program, children can check out a variety of exciting maker kits and STEM materials ranging from Raspberry Pi’s and Arduinos to materials exploring anatomy, physics, mathematics, and other aspects of science. As society as a whole races to keep our citizens competitive with the same world that is delivering the technology and  information explosion that we explored in the morning, libraries like Frisco PL are proving that they have a vital role as learning and technology hubs offering fun, exciting, and cutting edge tech learning resources to young people. Visiting Frisco was a great learning experience for everyone involved including the Council, myself and our Commissioners in just how much libraries can offer.

The publics that we serve and even sometimes those of us in our agency think the records and archives side of our house is distinct and separate from the library side of the house. Like the name of our agency and the two doors leading into our lobby, one that says Archives and one that says Library. But those two doors lead to a common lobby and the same building. Like the librarians and the records managers we serve, all parts of our agency are racing to keep up with the ways that the public demands and urgently needs access to information in a highly technological world. Our government information analysts, our archivists, and our librarians are all working hard to help their professional colleagues across the state and the public find the tools they need to remain informed and competitive in the face of the volume, velocity and variety of information around us.

The importance of broadband in libraries

As we approach our next round of strategic planning, we are beginning to have a series of conversations with our various stakeholder groups about their aspirations for their institutions and how TSLAC can support them. One area that is emerging as a key area of focus for the library community is the availability of broadband statewide. Or should I say the lack of availability.

Broadband access is a major economic development issue for much of the state. As commerce, government, and education come to rely more intensively on the Internet and ever larger files are streaming across those networks, it is vital that Texans have the capacity to participate in that information flow. In many places, their participation is limited to what is offered by their telecom providers. In many communities the limitation is simply that the connectivity does not go to the community. Indeed, many have observed the similarity of broadband to the need for rural electrification of 75 years ago, a basic infrastructural gap.

And libraries might be in a position to help. Because of the availability of e-rate funding, libraries can secure discounts of 20-80% for the cost of ongoing service, and 10% of the cost of construction before applying the discount. And because so many people turn to libraries for Internet access, they are a natural entry point for broadband entry to the community. And don’t just take our word for it, consider this recent blog post from the National League of Cities that says the same:

http://citiesspeak.org/2015/11/03/how-public-libraries-can-support-broadband-adoption/

For these reasons, we are exploring how TSLAC could help libraries to secure the broadband they need to provide this vital link in their communities. The Texas House is considering the same question. In an interim charge asks the House Committee on Public Education to “Examine the accessibility to broadband services for schools, libraries, and  institutions of higher education” (my emphasis).

It might be costly at the front end, but library broadband access can be the key to a much higher level of economic development and access to educational resources for Texans in all parts of the state.