Libraries have been getting some great press coverage lately. Ironically some of it started with a piece in Forbes magazine all about how libraries are obsolete and all anyone ever needs is on Amazon (I always wonder when I hear someone say that type of thing if they have actually been in a library anytime in the last 20 years). The article drew such a huge avalanche of negative reaction, that Forbes actually pulled it from their website, which magazines and newspapers seldom do.
In the meantime, in reacting to the article, a number of people came across our Return on Investment Report for Public Libraries in Texas, the one that demonstrates that every one dollar invested in public libraries yields $4.64 in investment. That report is on our website at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/roi. In fact, an article in the widely circulated U.K. newspaper, The Guardian, about the Forbes article, cited the TSLAC ROI study: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jul/23/twaddle-librarians-respond-to-suggestion-amazon-should-replace-libraries?CMP=share_btn_tw
On August 7, the Texas Tribune ran my article also referencing the Forbes article, titled, “Public Libraries Offer a Great Return for Texas Taxpayers”: https://www.tribtalk.org/2018/08/07/public-libraries-offer-a-great-return-for-texas-taxpayers/ Thanks to our amazing Communications Officer Macy Hurwitz for placing this article in the Texas Tribune, a source widely read by Texas decision makers in state and local government.
Earlier this week, the Texas Observer ran a tribute about the late great Texas Senator Babe Schwartz who died a few days ago at the age of 92. https://www.texasobserver.org/stalwart-battler-for-justice-remembering-babe-schwartz-1926-2018/ This article contains a nice audio clip of Senator Schwartz in his typically sharp and entertaining style provided courtesy of TSLAC’s Texas Senate Recordings (available on our website at: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ref/senaterecordings/about.html.)
And then today USA Today published an article that extolls the virtues of the modern public library: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/komando/2018/08/17/free-ebooks-audiobooks-wi-fi-how-get-more-your-library/1009853002/ This article does not directly mention Texas libraries, but it certainly pertains to the wonderful range of services and materials available at public libraries in Texas and across the country.
It is once again budget time and visitors to our agency lately might have seen some rather dazed senior staff wandering the halls, including our Chief Operations and Fiscal Officer, Donna Osborne, who is the point person on pulling this monster document together. Every two years we are called on to submit our Legislative Appropriations Request. This year we were happy to see that we were not instructed to start at an automatic reduction (though we were directed to produce a 10 percent reduction plan should it be needed).
We also were not directed not to submit additional funding requests. So we have and they are rather large this time. On Wednesday of this week our commission met (with three new members: Commissioners Darryl Tocker, Arthur Mann, and David Garza) and prioritized the so-called exceptional items, or additional funding items, as follows:
- Storage for State Records – $36,016,600 – No, there isn’t an extra zero in this item. It is a very large request, but the need is huge also. This item represents both a short- and long-term solution to the fact that we are running out of space for the storage of records and archives, a situation made immediate and much worse because of several factors. This item will allow retrofitting of a site in South Austin for a short-term solution and the construction of an expansion of the Records Center on Shoal Creek for a 25-year solution. Without some funding for this item we will be of room to store state records by the end of fiscal year 2019.
- Cybersecurity for State Resources – $1,209,942 – For the second biennium, we are requesting the resources to adequately protect our automated systems.
- TexShare and TexQuest E-Book Resources – $4,545,988 – Providing access to online information through these signature programs continues to be the number one priority for our library clientele statewide. This item would expand the availability of e-book resources to public, K-12 and college and university library users across Texas.
- Targeted Salary Increases – $400,000 – For the third biennium in a row, we are asking for additional funds to help us bring our salaries to levels that will allow us to recruit and retain a qualified agency workforce. When we first asked for this in 2015, 89% of our staff were working below the mid-point of their salary range. That number has dropped to 71%, which is an improvement, but we still have a long way to go.
- InfoPower for Texas Communities – $554,524 – This is a new request that would allow our agency to conduct a more concerted and coordinated plan of outreach to take our information, training, and services to libraries, local governments, and citizens in all parts of the state. This project would provide a coordinator for this project and a driver for a vehicle we plan to purchase in FY 2019 to travel the state disseminating our services.
- Agency General Counsel for PIA Requests and Contracts – $484,184 – Between our much-higher-than-average PIA requests and our extensive contracts, we really need a dedicated attorney to assist our agency. We are a large agency not to have our own General Counsel. This item would streamline our processes and take burden off of staff who are currently managing PIA responses and contracts.
As always, we look forward to keeping our stakeholder groups apprised of the progress of these items. We will have our first hearing before the Joint Budget Committee on September 6. And we look forward to an important session for our agency as we approach reauthorization and these many important projects bringing information resources to Texans in all parts of the state.