The importance of K-12 libraries

This week the Texas State Library and Archives Commission met at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas. One important item of business before the commission was to adopt revised standards for K-12 public school libraries. This small step for the commission is a giant leap for school libraries and the millions of Texas students who use them, and it was also a long time in the making.

In 1995, the legislature gave TSLAC the authority to set voluntary school library standards “in consultation with the State Board of Education.” The first standards were adopted in 1995 and a revision was completed in 2005. But it has been 13 years since the last revision and much has changed in that time, especially in regard to technology and the way that the state measures education programs.

The new School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas are the result of over 18 months of meetings of a committee of library and education professionals led by Donna Kearley of the Denton ISD, and Sonja Schulz of the Nacogdoches ISD, and steered by TSLAC’s School Program Coordinator Liz Philippi. The committee aligned the standards with the T-TESS statewide teacher evaluation process and organized the standards into six broad areas, or strands: information literacy, inquiry, reading, digital learning, safe and nurturing environment, and leadership.

The standards provide a detailed and intentional framework to help districts understand not only where their library programs rank, but also the potential of the school library to address the districts’ learning and organizational goals. This is of utmost importance because in all-too-many districts the school library is an underutilized resource. Over many years and in multiple states, researchers (most notably Keith Lance, formerly of the Library Research Service at the Colorado State Library) have demonstrated that a properly staffed and resourced school library is a leading driver of student achievement. The evidence is unequivocal: strong school libraries will raise test scores and help children succeed in school and life.

We are proud of our Texas K-12 school libraries and librarians and applaud their valiant efforts to serve their students and their districts. We hope that the new standards will support that work and lead to even stronger Texas school libraries.

TSLAC’s Strategic Partnerships with Non-Profits

In recent months, The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has engaged in several very positive partnerships with a variety of non-profit organizations to be able to extend new support to our client groups across the state.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we were contacted by the Brownstone Book Fund, a private foundation, about donating books to libraries impacted by Harvey and its aftermath. The Brownstone Book Fund lets selected libraries select from a list of high-quality children’s books that are ordered from the Brodart Company. The books are delivered directly to the library and the library can opt for fully processed books with cataloging. Through this program, 85 Texas libraries received 100 new children’s books—8,500 brand new children’s books in all to Texas libraries.

In December, the Friends of Libraries & Archives of Texas, TSLAC’s own friends group, received a grant of $75,000 from the Still Water Foundation to conduct a consultation to assist four library systems in West Texas in moving to greater sustainability. The Friends, in consultation with TSLAC staff, have selected Lee+ Associates to work with the four West Texas library systems to provide their report on how they can move toward achieving their stated goals. Lee+ will also produce a toolkit of resources to help other library systems in Texas move from where they are to where they wish to be in terms of services and sustainability.

Another partnership with the Edouard Foundation has provided a total of $18,000 in two years to the FLAT to support two projects of the Texas Center for the Book, the statewide Read Across Texas program in 2017 and the upcoming Lone Star Día program in 2018 in partnership with another non-profit partner, First Book. Through these programs, dozens of libraries in Texas will receive books to support programs encouraging reading, literacy, library use, and community engagement for children and adults across Texas. The Edouard Foundation grants also supported the creation of the first Research Fellowships in Texas History – a “scholar-in-residence” program that provides a stipend to researchers working with TSLAC’s archival holdings. The first two Research Fellowships be announced at the upcoming annual meeting of the Texas State Historical Association, another highly valued non-profit-sector partner.

Finally, TSLAC has been a key partner of the Glasshouse Policy Institute, a non-profit organization that works to create forums for policymakers and stakeholders to develop solutions to public issues. In particular, Glasshouse is working with TSLAC to explore policies around broadband in Texas communities, a matter of high interest to the statewide library community. Glasshouse is working to plan a series of policy discussions across the state in 2018, the first of which will be held at the Hewitt Public Library on March 22.

Partnerships with these non-profit organizations have allowed TSLAC to offer services and pursue projects that would not otherwise have been possible. We are also grateful to the ongoing support of the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas for their active and enthusiastic support. We are very appreciative of the talented and committed board members of FLAT and FLAT members and donors who support TSLAC’s work in these and many other projects.