The importance of IMLS for Texas library services

The President’s budget released a few days ago eliminates a number of federal agencies. Among those is the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Since then, we have received a number of questions about what the impact of eliminating that agency would be on Texas libraries. The impact would be significant. Every year, Texas receives nearly $11 million in federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds that come to Texas via the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

We produced a short video that details how the funds are spent in Texas. I urge you to take a moment to view the video as it provides a good visual on the wide distribution of these federally funded services.

Over 90% of these funds pay for library services that directly benefit local communities all over the state. The major programs funded with federal dollars are:

  • TexShare resources. Nearly every public and university library in the state accesses online information via TexShare. Federal funds supply about 25% of the annual cost of TexShare online resources. Federal funds are also used to support TexQuest resources used by K-12 students across the state.
  • Interlibrary loan. Thanks to federal LSTA funds Texans in over 500 communities borrow needed library materials from any other library in the state. ILL service is funded 100% with federal dollars.
  • Grants to local libraries. LSTA funds pay for grants for innovative library services in hundreds of communities large and small across Texas.
  • Summer reading program. Across Texas, public libraries keep children reading through the summer months with federal LSTA funds.
  • Continuing education for library staff. Thousands of library staff across the state, especially smaller community libraries, benefit from training and technical assistance provided through federal funds.
  • Edge technology assistance. Federal LSTA funds allow over 200 Texas public libraries to improve the quality of their technology via the Edge program.

In addition to these projects, we use about $900,000 annually to support TSLAC’s state archival projects as well as the Talking Book Program which provides recorded books and other materials to thousands of persons with visual impairment or physical disability across the state.

Libraries and Archives and the 85th Session

Those of us who work in state government expect the 140 days of our biennial legislative session–which started January 10 and go to the end of May–to be a hectic time. But this session so far has been particularly active for our agency. Here are a few highlights so far:

  • The TSLAC budget has now been heard in the Senate Finance and the House Appropriations Committees. We have also had our mark-up hearing in the Appropriations subcommittee that covers our agency. In that meeting held on Tuesday of this week, the committee adopted our item to help libraries provide broadband to their communities. Yesterday, the committee reconvened and moved it from “adopted” to “Article XI,” a wish-list category that includes many millions of dollars worth of items that will ultimately go unfunded. But they also pended our TexShare, cybersecurity, and staff

    TSLAC staff Ashley Stevens with Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and the Texas Declaration of Independence.

    increases items in a way that suggests they could get a good second look.

  • Two bills have been introduced that pertain to open content and open education resources, topics of interest to the library community. SB 810 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham would encourage the greater use of open education resources (OERs) and directs TSLAC to study the feasibility of establishing a repository for OERs from participating Texas institutions. SB 803 by Seliger of Amarillo would study the feasibility of collecting and making available publicly funded research, so-called open content. Both bills have been referred to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
  • Senator Brian Birdwell of Granbury has introduced SB 902 that would prohibit TSLAC from adopting minimum criteria for public library accreditation in four areas, two of which–local support and staffing–are fundamental to the criteria. The Texas Library Association has taken an oppose position to this bill based on their assessment that it would “diminish the quality of library services throughout the state.” The bill has been referred to the Senate Business and Commerce committee chaired by Sen. Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills.
  • On Wednesday, March 1, we were invited by Senator Kolkhorst to come to come to the floor of the Senate with a historical document to mark Texas

    State Archivist Jelain Chubb and Senator Royce West of Dallas.

    Independence Day (March 2, however, the Senate was not in session that day). We took to the Senate our two very rare and valuable versions of the Texas Declaration of Independence, the handwritten version of which five were created and ours is the only remaining, and the printed broadside, 1,000 copies of which were printed at San Felipe de Austin and only 15 remains. Our copy was acquired in the papers of Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas. The senators enjoyed viewing the documents and we were honored to share them.

We look forward to updating you as the session continues. And hang onto your hats: it’s sure to be a wild ride as usual.

My photo op with the entire Texas Senate and the broadside version of the Texas Declaration of Independence.