The long hot summer at TSLAC

It has been a busy several weeks at TSLAC. It seems as though as soon as the legislative session ended, many other activities developed in quick succession.

As I reported in my last post, we received an additional $1 million from the Legislature to assist public libraries across the state in securing broadband connections. Our strategy is to incentivize and assist libraries in applying for E-rate discounts to bring the high cost of high-speed Internet down to affordable levels. We aspire to bringing 100 libraries to higher Internet speeds by helping them to apply for E-rate discounts in FY 2018 and paying a portion of their telecomm bills in 2019. So that we can start promptly at the beginning of FY 2018 on September 1, we have issued an RFP for a contractor to work with libraries in FY 2018 and FY 2019 to assist in applying for E-Rate discounts. If you are interested in this program for your library, please watch for announcements on the PLD listserve and elsewhere regarding participating in this opportunity.

We are also recruiting for a director of the Library Development and Networking Division. After over 17 years of faithful and dynamic service to the state, Deborah Littrell is retiring as LDN Director on August 31. We salute and honor Deborah for her commitment to Texas libraries, and her management of LDN through very tough times. We will miss Deborah’s unique blend of logic and compassion in the management of TSLAC’s extended portfolio of services to Texas public, academic and school libraries. We conducted interviews for this position last week and we look forward to making a selection in the coming days. We are confident that Deborah’s successor will carry on her great work and help guide library services in Texas to new levels.

The process to draft the next version of Texas Public School Library Standards has been proceeding under the able guidance of Standards Committee co-chairs Donna Kearley and Sonja Schulz and coordinated by our own School Library Coordinator Liz Philippi. The committees have issued three successive versions of the proposed new standards, first at TLA in April, then at the Texas Association of School Library Administrators meeting in June, and finally at the TLA Annual Assembly last week in Austin. Helped along by excellent and substantial comments from the field, these standards have evolved to the point where we feel we can send them to the Texas Education Agency for comment. Our intention is to have these formally approved by our Commission by April 2018.

In June we recognized the amazing volunteers of our Talking Book Program, in particular the narrators and monitors who work together to record hundreds of books in our recording studio for use by persons throughout Texas and even nationally. We greatly value our wonderful volunteers and honor the countless hours they devote to our agency and the folks we serve across Texas.

And the other major initiative that is occupying our time is our approach to Sunset Review, which will happen for our agency in the 2019 legislative session. Under the able guidance of Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz, we have drafted an agency self evaluation. Following submission of that document to the Sunset Commission in August, the Commission will begin reaching out to stakeholder groups across the state to collect feedback about the agency and how we serve the needs of libraries and archives of Texas. We hope and expect our agency will be recommended to continue in the 2019 session.