Many of us were saddened with the news last week that James Stewart, former director of the Victoria Public Library, TLA President, and TSLAC Commissioner, had died. Those of us who had the privilege to know James over many years, respected and appreciated him as a unique and powerful presence in Texas libraries, and the source of huge energy, creativity, and fun. Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz was responsible many years ago with organizing the TLA archives, which are now a part of the TSLAC collection. I asked Gloria to comment on one particular holding of that archive of which James was particularly proud.
Here is Gloria’s James story:
James Stewart knew a thing or two about having fun and supporting creative expression. In his long and significant career, James made Texas libraries and librarians all the better for his energy and skill. I have many great memories of James.
As many of you know, James and company created the Doo-Wop Interest Group (which is now the Intergalactic Dance Club Round Table) back in 1996 to “bring enlightenment and to restore pitch, harmony, and majesty to TLA.” The initial petition to create the interest group was written on a bar napkin – a prized archival document that James and Steve Brown protected like the Magna Carta. I, a young archivist at the time, was tasked with organizing TLA’s files. I received several helpful calls from said pair to ensure that that the serviette was appropriately preserved. After several assurances on my part that the thing was safe, I finally had to produce the document…napkin…to verify its safekeeping.
This round of good-natured back-and-forth was my introduction to an incredible librarian who supported me and the members of TLA. James enveloped me in the folds of the Doo-Wop trust and stood ready to help in any way he could. Thank you, James, for rushing up to Austin so many times to attend hearings or anything else TLA needed!
It is with great respect that I celebrate James and herein show proof that the Doo-Wop petition is safely preserved at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. There are many signatories – look to see all the names you recognize. I’ll note that two state librarians (current and former) must have also been at the bar that evening.
— Gloria Meraz
As we near the end of another year, the TSLAC team is looking back on a strong year of accomplishments in meeting our agency mission to provide “Texans with the information they need to lead informed and productive lives.” Our Strategic Plan contains 8 specific goals for our agency as set by our Commission. Following is a summary of those goals and the services, new projects, and progress of our staff in addressing each of the goals.
Goal 1: To articulate and advance the value of Texas libraries as essential to our communities and state.
- TexShare and TexQuest: In FY 2017, 119 million resources were accessed by users of TSLAC-provided online services in Texas.
- Library staff training: in FY 2017, 42,013 librarians were trained and assisted through TSLAC webinars and training series such as Small Library Management and You Can Do IT.
- Sharing expertise: Nearly one-third (31%) of webinars delivered last year featured Texas librarians presenting on best practices.
- Competitive grants: TSLAC funded 73 grants to libraries totaling $2.1 million for innovative projects.
- Interlibrary Loan: Libraries extended the reach of their collections by providing 162,822 items to patrons via TSLAC-sponsored ILL and courier systems.
- Early literacy: 42 librarians from 21 libraries participated in the Family Place™ program in FY2017, receiving expert training in early childhood development and family engagement.
- Public Library Accreditation: 515 Texas public libraries met TSLAC minimum criteria for public library accreditation in 2017 and 517 will be accredited in FY 2018.
- EDGE: Over 200 libraries have used this tool to assess their technology capability and benchmark their programs against other libraries across the state and nationally.
- Community Engagement: TSLAC promoted libraries through partnerships with the Texas Workforce Commission, Literacy Texas, Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning at Texas A&M, Humanities Institute at UT Austin, and the Texas Veterans Commission.
- Digital literacy for Workforce development: TSLAC partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission to enhance the role of public libraries as a key provider of workforce skills.
- Read Across Texas, The Veteran Experience: Over 60 Texas public libraries convened civic discussions around the experience of Texas veterans.
- United for Libraries: TSLAC provided membership to all Texas public libraries to ensure library trustees and friends have access to materials for board development and management.
- School Library Standards: Throughout 2017, TSLAC worked with librarians and educators across the state to draft and refine public K-12 library standards for Texas, the first revision since 2005.
- Rebuilding Texas Libraries grants provided over $194,000 to 25 libraries in the disaster area to help rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
Goal 2: To recruit and retain the knowledge-based workforce necessary to discharge the agency’s duties.
- Salary adjustments: Using special appropriations for the FY2016-2017 biennium, about 60 TSLAC staff received salary equity adjustments, moving those employees closer to the median.
- Archivist series: At TSLAC request, the State Auditor created additional steps in the Archivist series to match the Librarian series, creating a career ladder for advancement.
- LAR request for Government Information Analysts: Request for authority to add two analyst positions approved without funding.
- Successfully recruited for several positions, however some key positions could not be filled due to a hiring freeze between February and August.
Goal 3: To safeguard, preserve, and provide access to informational and historical assets.
- Archival preservation: TSLAC accessioned over 3,000 cubic feet of state archival resources in FY 2017.
- Staff of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center accessioned resources, served visitors in person and by phone.
- Public service: over 7 million assists with information resources; another 2 million searches of online resources via the TSLAC website.
- Records Management Assistance: During 2017, Records Analysts provided consultation and training to 9,486 state and local agency staff.
- Records retention schedules: TSLAC published major revisions to the Electronic Records Rules, and the retention schedules for Public School Districts, and Public Safety Agencies.
- Completed substantial upgrades at the Sam Houston Center, including beginning work on the installation of a major permanent museum exhibit of historical materials and interpretation.
- The TSLAC conservator conducted preservation work on several dozen items in the agency’s conservation lab.
- Exhibits, programs and online exhibits highlighted materials and provided background interpretation of the collection.
- Texas Authors Summit: This second annual event showcased for Texas writers the materials available for research in the Texas state archives.
- During 2017, TSLAC recovered several valuable historical documents through replevin efforts and in cooperation with the Office of the Attorney General.
- Research Fellowship established in cooperation with the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas and the Texas State Historical Association.
Goal 4: To acquire the technology necessary to effectively, securely, and efficiently manage agency resources.
- TSLAC staff have implemented measures to safeguard agency resources and is actively investigating other more cost-effective means to further ensure security.
Goal 5: To secure the state’s official records by addressing the immediate need for additional archival storage and provide for the growth of Texas records.
- Archival and records storage is the agency’s most acute short- and long-term priority.
- Staff have developed plans for expansion of the Zavala facility and continue to consult with the Texas Facility Commission to seek a solution to the need for both short-term lease space for records storage and long-term permanent storage space for archives and records.
Goal 6: To support efforts to ensure digital inclusion for Texas.
- Broadband project: TSLAC successfully requested $1 million to increase broadband connectivity for Texas public libraries by incentivizing participation in E-Rate funding.
- Toward Gigabit Libraries: Texas was chosen as a pilot state participating in this IMLS-funded project to develop a toolkit to assist small and rural libraries in improving their broadband speeds and network infrastructure. Ten Texas libraries will test the toolkit in FY2018.
- Broader access to online resources: TSLAC brings statewide access to online resources via TexShare, TexQuest, and online collections such as the Texas Digital Archive.
- Makerspaces: Via grant funding, TSLAC supported the growing maker movement to establish STEM programs for children of all ages in public and academic libraries across the state.
- E-Resource grants: Through our Impact grants, TSLAC supported several grants to expand the availability of electronic resources in communities across the state.
- Developed partnerships with the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Still Water Foundation, and Glasshouse Policy Group to explore opportunities to raise awareness of broadband needs in Texas communities and the role of libraries in responding to that need.
- Basic Computer Skills Curriculum: TSLAC created a free Digital Literacy Toolkit available on the TSLAC website, and provided training on use of the Toolkit throughout the state.
- Over 2 million web-based resources in the TSLAC collection were used in 2017.
Goal 7: Continue to refine our response to the informational needs of the increasingly diverse Texas population.
- The Talking Book Program circulated 770,201 items to 15,123 persons with vision impairment or physical disability across the state of Texas in FY 2017.
- The Disability Information Service of the Talking Book Program provided information and referral to persons with disabilities across the state of Texas.
- Through grant funding, TSLAC supported projects to encourage library use by such groups as English-language learners, rurally isolated persons, the homeless, prisoners, veterans, and multicultural communities.
- Lone Star Día: Each year, the Texas Center for the Book supports libraries across the state to participate in El día de los Niños, El día de los libros – Day of the Child, day of the book.
- Sponsored statewide Letters about Literature writing contest for students in grades 4 to 12 to encourage reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.
- Ensured the availability of non-English language materials through TexShare and TexQuest.
- Provided Spanish and Vietnamese translations of the Digital Literacy Toolkit.
Goal 8: Continue to develop the Texas Digital Archive as a vital information resource for all Texans.
- The Texas Digital Archive continued its growth as a means of preserving state government archives in electronic format.
- Worked with legislative offices to codify TDA in statute. (This effort was unsuccessful in the 85th Legislature, but we will explore again in the next session.)
- Worked to increase public awareness of the resources and to reach out to agencies to arrange to bring more of their archival materials into the archive.
- Major new initiative with the Texas Department of Transportation will bring thousands of materials into the TDA.
TSLAC staff look forward to another year of serving the public in 2018. As we move toward Sunset Review, we will enjoy describing the various ways we serve the information needs of all Texans.