Progress Report: Texas Center for the Book

12809534_964059276998266_8426480073537870446_n[1]Last October, we celebrated the arrival of the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives with an event on the front portico of our building. It was a nice event during the Texas Book Festival and we were joined by writers Carmen Lomas Garza, Sarah Bird, and Pat Mora. The Texas Center for the Book, an affiliate of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, had been operated by the Dallas Public Library since 1987, but by mutual agreement, we and DPL felt that it more rightly belonged with a state agency. We took on the work of the Center for the Book to support our broader agency interests of encouraging reading, literacy, and library use.

But to tell the truth, we were a bit unsure what we were getting into. We set modest goals and thought that during the first year, we might promote Letters about Literature, a statewide reading/writing contest for school students, and perhaps one or two other projects. We greatly underestimated two factors: the intense interest that the program would generate among librarians, teachers, authors, and the public, and also the creativity and determination of our Center for the Book Coordinator, Rebekah Manley, who joined our staff in December 2015. Over the last eight months,

Texas Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley (left) with author Pat Mora (in red) cast of the play "Tomás and the Library Lady" and members of the family of Tomás Rivera at the Zach Theater in February 2016.

Texas Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley (right) with author Pat Mora (in red) cast of the play “Tomás and the Library Lady” and members of the family of Tomás Rivera at the Zach Theater in February 2016.

fueled by Rebekah’s energy and supported by Communications Officer Stephen Siwinski and many other TSLAC staff, and encouraged by active librarians, community members, and others, the Texas Center for the Book has accomplished far more than we expected.

The Texas Center for the Book continued the Letters about Literature project, increasing participation by 10% over the previous year. In this project, school children in grades 4 to 12 write letters to their favorite authors—living or dead—about a book that has changed their lives. Our three winners read their essays at the Texas Library Association annual conference in April.

The Center also sponsored Lone Star Día, the Texas celebration of the 20th anniversary of Children’s Day, Book Day / El día de los niños, el día de los libros,lonestar_banner supporting programs in Austin and at the TLA conference, and distributing posters about the event to every public library and thousands of school libraries across the state. The Center partnered with Little Free Libraries to hold builds of the tiny libraries in four cities as a way to highlight the positive work of libraries and engage a new audience in the work. The Center held meet-ups in Austin and other cities to bring librarians and others together to network and share ideas. The Center has launched a $1,000 award to honor literacy organizations in the state with an emphasis on library partnerships.

The Center has networked with Texas writers groups to engage them with the work of the Center and TSLAC. Rebekah has opened dialogues and partnerships with a wide range of organizations such the Texas Book Festival, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, BookSpring, Society of Book Writers and Illustrators, Literacy Texas, and the Texas Veterans Commission.

For the next year, in addition to continuing these activities, Rebekah and the Center are planning to roll out a statewide reading program featuring books that explore the topic of veterans’ experiences. We will release information on that program this fall.

And in September, Rebekah and Stephen will represent Texas at the National Book Festival in Washington. For this event, each year, every state selects a “Great Reads” book that highlights their state. For Texas this year, the book is Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin. This magical book for young adults is set in the Central Texas hill country and Ms. Loftin has been very supportive of the Center, as the excellent video featured above indicates.

So it has been a successful first year and we very much appreciate the active participation in activities of our Center for the Book by so many librarians and educators and authors and community leaders statewide, and by our always-supportive Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas.

It is more important than ever to develop strong reading and library habits, literacy skills, and a love of books. We think we are off to a great start in using the Texas Center for the Book to help Texans discover the joy and benefits of reading.

For more information, see the Texas Center for the Book page on the TSLAC website:

And follow the Center on Facebook at:

Leadership Library

I was privileged last week to be invited to participate in a panel discussion at the first annual Texas Library Association Executive Leadership Immersion. This week-long event was aimed at seasoned library professionals looking to further hone their leadership skills. At the helm for the presentations was Dr. Julie Todaro, Dean of Library Services at Austin Community College and President of the American Library Association.

Dr. Julie Todaro, left, presiding over the graduation ceremony for participants at the first annual 2016 Leadership Immersion.

Julie Todaro, left, presiding over the graduation ceremony for participants at the first annual 2016 TLA Leadership Immersion.

My panel mates were Sheila Henderson, Head Librarian at Austin Community College and longtime Texas library leader; and Darryl Tocker, Executive Director of the Tocker Foundation which provides much-needed philanthropic support to small community libraries across Texas. Our topic was to discuss the books and literature we turn to for our own personal inspiration and guidance on the topic of leadership and also how to draw from the huge amount of material published on leadership to create a toolkit for our organizations.

On the former question, I puzzled for days (Julie asked that we not confer with our colleagues so that our answers would be unique). I found as I puzzled that a truth emerged. While I find many books about leadership published to be useful and motivational, I seldom find them to be deeply inspirational. For inspiration I go to other books. I considered the qualities that I believe define leadership: Courage, Compassion, Honesty, Humility, and Vision. And I find that I draw true inspiration from reading about persons who deeply understand or exemplify those traits. As examples, for lessons in courage, I mentioned I am Malala, by Malala Yousefzai, who at the age of 12 and despite death threats spoke out about the importance of education for girls in Pakistan and who was subsequently shot by the Taliban, and at age 17 delivered a Nobel Peace Prize speech before the world’s leading political and intellectual figures. For compassion, I noted the book Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Compassion by Father Gregory Boyle whose organization Home Boy Industries works with L.A. gang members trying to escape from their cycle of violence.

And so on. It seems important to me to consider who we as leaders look to for our guidance and inspiration and consider who those that we admire as leaders look for theirs.

On the latter question of how we make sense of the huge array of materials available on the topic of leadership, or put another way, what is in our tool kit, I suggested a few areas that I felt were important to cover, as follows:

  • Organizational analysis and continuous quality improvement – I suggested Baldrige Excellence Framework: A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization’s Performance (National Institute of Standards and Technology, US Department of Commerce, 2015). This is a resource we have used at TSLAC to investigate key quality process areas for improvement.
  • Ethics – Because of the importance of being ethical as a foundational quality, I suggested The Ethical Executive by Robert Hoyk and Paul Hersey (Stanford University Press, 2008).
  • Inspiration – Because leaders are expected to consider new ways of thinking and inspire others to follow, there are many to choose from, but I suggested Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek (Portfolio, 2011).
  • Motivation – Employees are an organization’s greatest asset and keeping them motivated is crucial to success. I suggested Drive by Daniel Pink (Riverhead Books, 2011), which reminds us that intrinsic rewards are often more important to motivation than extrinsic rewards.
  • Change management – Because change is a daily part of our work, especially in the information business, there are many sources, but I suggested a classic, Leading Change by John Kotter (Harvard Business Review, 2012).
  • Trending – Because understanding how trends can and cannot be predicted and influenced, I recommended The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Random House, 2010) and also The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown and Company, 2002).

I could go on. Like many others I have greatly relied on the wisdom contained in Good to Great by Jim Collins (Harper Collins, 2001), understood the importance of organizational humility from The Courageous Follower by Ira Chaleff (Barret-Koehler Publishers, 2003), and The Servant Leader by James Autry (Three Rivers Press, 2001), and learned to analyze how we process information from Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013).

And finally, I advised the Leadership Immersion attendees not to overlook the great online resources such as TED Talks, YouTube videos, blogs, and podcasts.

Thank you to Dr. Julie Todaro and TLA Executive Director Pat Smith for inviting me to participate in the event and for continuing to provide excellent models of library leadership.