Hard choices for 2018-2019

I have been absent from my blog for a few weeks because the TSLAC staff and I have been working hard on the preparation of our 2018-2019 Legislative Appropriation Request (LAR). The LAR is a massive undertaking that requires many long hours of number crunching, data entry, and soul searching. Most of this work is done by our division directors and our Chief Operations and Financial Officer, Donna Osborne.

Why do I say soul searching? Because this year’s budget instructions issued by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) with a cover policy letter from the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Speaker of the House, instruct agencies to prepare their base budget requests at a 4% overall reduction. The instructions also require–as has been the practice in previous LARs–a contingency plan to reduce funding by a further 10% on top of the 4% reduction, or 14% overall. These instructions require our staff and Commission to make hard choices, not the least of which because TSLAC is still recovering from the 65% cut in state funding that our agency took in 2011. Despite generous appropriations by the Legislature in the 2013 and 2015 sessions, our state general revenue funding is still 22% below the agency’s funding in 2010-2011.

In considering the reduction, we will weigh whether to reduce our very popular and heavily used TexShare and TexQuest online information services, reduce the work on our new Texas Digital Archive, funded in the last session, to collect, protect, and make available, archival resources of the state in digital format, or to reduce funding for projects such as the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, or the Talking Book Program, a lifeline to books and information for persons in all parts of the state who cannot read standard print due to visual impairments or physical disabilities.

Our reductions are being formulated now and Commission will meet on August 2 to consider and approve the LAR. We are committed to following the spirit of the instructions from our state leadership in making the most sound and sensible reductions that we can. It will not be our goal to impact popular programs in order to create controversy. To the contrary, our goal will be to make reductions that have the least impact possible on the information resources that Texans need to live informed and productive lives.

I look forward to reporting in the next blog in more detail on our LAR after it is finalized and submitted on August 5.

Welcoming Gloria Meraz

GM-5I am very pleased to announce that Gloria Meraz has been appointed Assistant State Librarian at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Gloria has served for the last 17 years as the Director of Communications for the Texas Library Association. Gloria enjoys a statewide reputation as a passionate and articulate advocate of the power of libraries and archives to change lives. She is well known both to librarians and archivists, but also to elected officials and decision-makers in Austin and across the state. Gloria is a trained librarian and archivist who understands the transformative value of our work and knows how speak “truth to power” in communicating that value.

Gloria will build on a tradition of excellence at the Texas State Library. She succeeds Ed Seidenberg who retired last year after serving the agency admirably in a variety of capacities for over 40 years. Prior to Ed, the Assistant State Librarian was Raymond Hitt, who was in turn preceded by William Gooch, who succeeded Dorman Winfrey as State Librarian in 1987. Mr. Gooch joined the staff of the State Library in the early 1970s.

That makes Gloria the first Assistant State Librarian in 45 years to join the staff from outside the agency. She will bring new insights and thinking to TSLAC and I look forward to collaborating with her to guide the agency through the coming legislative session and our subsequent agency sunset review. It is an absolutely vital moment in the history of TSLAC and for libraries and archives statewide. We are pivoting from questions about sustainability to a growing awareness that libraries, archives, and records programs are a vital source of information in an economy that thrives on information. Our ability to support efficient and cost-saving access to information in digital, print, and media formats is fundamentally important to the economic growth of Texas.

Gloria says, “I am thrilled and honored to join the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The agency delivers an impressive array of resources and services to state and local government, researchers, communities, and people across the Texas. I look forward to working with the talented team at TSLAC and to support the efforts of the state’s libraries, archives, and records services organizations. The future holds unlimited potential for the agency, and I am excited about all the wonderful opportunities ahead.”

We will welcome Gloria on our team starting August 8 and will appreciate her assistance in achieving our agency mission “To provide Texans access to information needed to be informed, productive citizens.”