This week and last week we attended two hearings at the Capitol that represent milestones for TSLAC. Last week, on August 29, the Sunset Commission (the governing board of which is comprised of five senators and five representatives) held a hearing to discuss agencies under review. As most of our stakeholder groups know, TSLAC has been undergoing a Sunset Commission review for the past several months. In July, the Sunset Commission Staff issued their Report on TSLAC. That report contained a number of recommendations including that the agency should continue to operate for another 12 years and should not be combined with another agency.
At the August 29 hearing, TSLAC Chairman Michael Waters, Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz, and I testified on behalf of the agency and answered the Commission’s questions. Chairman Brian Birdwell and other committee members asked a number of questions about various topics, including how we manage the records of state legislators and how we ensure equity in the award of competitive grant funds. Chairman Birdwell also asked questions regarding the accreditation of public libraries in Texas and expressed a concern that local governments be able to retain maximum flexibility in determining how the locality taxes itself for library service.
Senator Dawn Buckingham asked about the Talking Book Program and any impediments to the service. I described the program and noted as a significant impediment that we lack the authority to advertise the service and, as a result, not enough eligible Texans are aware of and use the service. She noted that should be an easy fix.
Six of the seven TSLAC commission members were present and Chairman Birdwell thanked and praised the commission for being in attendance and for their careful stewardship of the agency on behalf of the people of Texas. Also in attendance were Texas Library Association members Leah Mann, Edward Smith, and Susan Mann who spoke about the value of the services provided by TSLAC. We are very grateful of the support that TLA and other stakeholder groups have given TSLAC throughout the Sunset process.
The next step in the Sunset process is the Commission’s decision meeting on November 14 and 15 when they meet to take action on TSLAC and other agencies.
Yesterday we presented our 2020-2021 Legislative Appropriations Request before the Joint Budget Hearing, a meeting of staff representing the Legislative Budget Board, the office of the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house, and the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees. We described our budget and our seven exceptional items, including funding for a two-part facilities project that will ensure the agency will have adequate room to store materials for up to the next 25 years.
We are also requesting $4.2 million for new funds for TexShare and TexQuest to purchase e-book materials to complement the resources in those very heavily used and much-beloved services.
We are looking forward to the start of the legislative session and the conversation about the resources we need to best serve the information needs of all Texans in all parts of the state.