Bracing for Recovery

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission, in cooperation with the Texas Library Association, has been working to identify disaster recovery resources and options for use by libraries in the Houston and gulf coast area.

First, it is important to be aware that libraries are considered essential services by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and, according to FEMA Recovery Policy, they are given priority for relocation if they are severely damaged in a natural disaster. Today I spoke with Lori Foley at FEMA. Lori is the administrator of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force and is responsible for recovery of cultural heritage institutions. She was generous to allow her name and contact to be published here. To get started recovering your collections and buildings, start with Ms. Foley:

Lori Foley
Administrator, Heritage Emergency National Task Force
Office of Environmental Planning & Historic Preservation
Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration
FEMA | DHS
lori.foley@fema.dhs.gov
Mobile number: 202-826-6303

Yesterday, we had a conference call with Susan Quinn, Director of the Ocean County Library in New Jersey, and her staff along with Michele Stricker at the New Jersey State Library. Susan and her staff generously shared with us their experiences in coping with Hurricane Sandy and the aftermath. Based on that conversation, Katherine Adelberg of our staff has put together a blog post, “Lessons from Superstorm Sandy,” on our Library Developments listserv.

We are compiling a database of Harvey-related damage to Texas libraries. If you have damage to report, please send it to Valicia Greenwood at vgreenwood@tsl.texas.gov and please copy me at msmith@tsl.texas.gov.

Our State and Local Records Management Division offers webinars on disaster recovery for records managers. This will be helpful to librarians, archivists, county clerks, and others responsible for such collections. Those webinars can be accessed at: https://slrmtraining.tsl.texas.gov/course/index.php?categoryid=11

We look forward to providing more information in the coming days.

Saying goodbye to two TSLAC leaders

This month marks the retirement of two leaders at our agency who have provided outstanding service to TSLAC and the libraries and archives of Texas for many years.

Deborah Littrell

Today is the last day on the job for Deborah Littrell, Director of the Library Development and Networking Division at TSLAC. Deborah has been with the agency since 1999 and served as division director since 2000. In that time, Deborah has managed admirably through good times and lean times. She has presided over the expansion of TexShare and TexQuest resources, the addition of key projects such as community engagement, the BTOP grants, the introduction of peer-to-peer interlibrary lending, the Edge assessments, You can Do IT, and many other special projects that have expanded the capacity of Texas libraries to better serve their clientele. Following the massive budget cut in the 2012-2013 biennium, Deborah managed through painful reductions of staff and services statewide, including the elimination of the Lone Star Libraries program and the statewide library systems program. Since 2013, however, as some resources have returned, Deborah has built back services in new and strategic ways and assembled an outstanding team of professionals to help libraries take on the challenges of a new era of library and information services.

We will very much miss Deborah’s deliberate and thoughtful approach to her work and her deep commitment to the ability of libraries to help their communities. On September 1, Jennifer Peters, formerly assumes her new role as Director of Library Development and Networking and will build on Deborah’s good work to lead the agency’s support of libraries forward into the future.

Manuel Alvarez

Also this month we say goodbye to Manuel Alvarez, Director of Information Technology Services for TSLAC. Manuel may not be well known to the external customers we serve across the state, but he has been an integral element of our success. Manny’s huge technical expertise, his vision for technology services, his understanding of organizational dynamics, and his wise counsel in all matters of management have been a great benefit to us over the years. In the last year, even as health issues kept Manny from working full time, he soldiered on to provide us the guidance and structure necessary to manage through several difficult IT situations. Under Manuel’s tenure, the agency has modernized key legacy systems, updated security measures, and ensured flawless implementation of the increasingly technological applications that comprise our library and archives programs. One case in point being the many steps required to secure state approval for the launch of our Texas Digital Archive repository of state government electronic records (see post below).

Manuel will be missed by his staff, his colleagues, the commission, and many people in the field who never knew him, but enjoyed the benefit of his good work.

We are fortunate to have a very strong team at TSLAC and our directors like Manuel and Deborah have assembled talented and dedicated teams and motivated them to deliver the highest quality service. Our agency and the state of Texas owes them a debt of gratitude for their service.

Celebrating the growth of the Texas Digital Library

It is now two years since the Texas Legislature appropriated the funds to allow TSLAC to create the Texas Digital Archive. We had proposed for over a decade to create a repository for the archives of Texas government in electronic formats. When we asked the Legislature for these funds in 2015, we were one of only 8 states that did not have a program to preserve permanently valuable electronic records.

I am glad to report that in those two years, our Archives staff under the direction of State Archivist Jelain Chubb, has not only created the digital archive we proposed, but has become a best-practice example for other states in the potential for such a project.
This project, directed by Laura Saegert, Assistant Director of the State Archives, and managed by TSLAC Electronic Records Specialists Mark Myers and Brian Thomas, and Digital Asset Coordinator Steven Kantner, along with the contributions of many others on the Archives staff, have created a resource of huge potential value to the state.

And they are just getting started.

The genesis for the project were the electronic records of the office of Governor Rick Perry. Researchers and citizens can now access a number of finding aids, including for Gov. Perry’s Appointments Office records, budget and planning, and much more.

The TDA also includes a significant collection of digitized manuscripts, prints and photographs, and recordings of Senate hearings, among many other materials. The born digital records of longtime Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) are the first legislator’s records to be added. (This is especially fitting as Rep. Turner was instrumental in supporting the appropriation for the TDA in his role as Vice-Chair of the House Appropriations Committee last session).

Most recently, the TDA has begun to grow its collection of state agency archives. A particularly rich collection of such material is the file of resources for the Texas Historical Commission, specifically the History Programs Division, which includes historical marker files from 2007-2016. Other agencies in the TDA holdings include files of the Secretary of State, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and several others. These files will continue to grow as other agencies make their historically valuable electronic records available for storage in the Texas Digital Archive.

The TDA represents a huge leap forward for state government, citizens, researchers, librarians, and others across the state. This centralized repository of materials, preserved and carefully maintained, and made available to every citizen, represents a treasure trove of resources on the state of Texas. Without the TDA and the vision of the Texas Legislature in making this repository possible, these materials of permanent value to the state would be lost and scattered or, at the very least, inaccessible.
We hope you will visit the TDA, use the resources, and keep checking back to see what’s new.

Because this project really is just getting started!