Passing the MLSA–Ending 2018 on a high note

On Wednesday night, the U.S. Congress passed S. 3530, the Museum and Library Services Act, on a vote of 327-28. The Senate had passed the bill several days earlier, but until Wednesday, it appeared the chances for passage were slipping away in the last days of this Congress. The MLSA reauthorizes the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the federal agency that sets national library policy and administers Library Services and Technology Act Funding. Texas receives about $11.4 million in LSTA funding each year and we use those funds to support Interlibrary Lending, Library consulting and continuing education programs, competitive grants, and about 25% of TexShare funding.

Key to the passage of this bill was Representative Will Hurd (R, TX-23), who co-sponsored the legislation and worked strategically for its passage. We are grateful to Rep. Hurd and the other sponsors and members of Congress who recognize the value that libraries contribute to building the social infrastructure that leads to strong, sustainable communities and engaged, educated citizens.

With the passage of the MLSA, and pending the president’s signature, we look forward to continuing to communicate with Congress the importance of support for libraries in Texas and across the nation to fully activate their potential as engines of education, economic development, and civic engagement.

TSLAC 2018 Accomplishments

TSLAC Staff from all locations gathered together for the first-ever all-staff training on March 9, 2018.

Every year this time I like to take a moment to review what our agency has accomplished over the last year. It is important for every organization to occasionally pause and reflect on its successes and major projects. The following is not an exhaustive list of all work done by TSLAC, but features highlights from the year. And other than the few general items at the top, it is arranged by the operational goals contained in our strategic plan.

Many thanks to our commission for their support and guidance, to our amazing staff for their tireless work in providing Texans with the information they need to lead informed and productive lives, and to our stakeholders across the state who use our services and advocate for our success.

2018 TSLAC Accomplishments

Organizational

  • Successful outcome of our agency Sunset Review
  • Onboarding of three new commissioners: David Garza, Arthur Mann, and Darryl Tocker
  • TSLAC Strategic Plan and 2020-2021 LAR submitted
  • TSLAC Biennial Report completed

Goal 1: To articulate and advance the value of Texas libraries as essential to our communities and state

  • TexShare core database renewal
  • Completed with Lee+ a study of West Texas library systems
  • Adoption new K-12 School Library Standards and distribution to every district
  • Future of Rural Symposium livestream to Texas libraries
  • Library Technology Academy debut

Goal 2: To recruit and retain the knowledge-based workforce necessary to discharge the agency’s duties

  • Staff Development Day – First time all staff have come together for total agency training
  • Full staffing of the Information Technology Services Department
  • State Auditors Office adoption of TSLAC recommendation for new Records Analyst Series
  • Salary request included in 2020-2021 Legislative Appropriations Request
  • 40th Anniversary of the Talking Book Program Volunteer Recording Studio

Goal 3: To safeguard, preserve, and provide access to informational and historic assets

  • Sam Houston Center Museum remodel and launch
  • 30 Terabytes of information in the Texas Digital Archive
  • First two Fellowships in Texas History Research (a “scholar-in-residence” program) funded
  • Setting the Texas Table Exhibit launched
  • Archives a la Carte Exhibit launched
  • 2019 Report of Reports completed
  • Another successful E-Records Conference, November 16
  • Work begun on the historic buildings at the Sam Houston Center
  • Multi-year Texas Department of Transportation digital imaging project launched
  • Adoption of amendments to School District retention schedules
  • Proposed amendments to Juvenile Records schedules
  • Collaborated with the Department of Information Resources in completing the Texas Digital Storage Study

Goal 4: To acquire the technology necessary to effectively, securely, and efficiently manage agency resources

  • Go-live of our new TBP automation system, WebReads (replacing our last major legacy software system)
  • New Duplication on Demand system for TBP materials requests
  • Completion of the Information Resources Deployment Review (IRDR)
  • Implemented electronic packets for TSLAC commission meetings
  • Expansion of imaging technology in our State and Local Records Management program: rotary scanner, digital archive writer, Digitech software
  • Added wireless network to our Shoal Creek facility
  • Bandwidth increase for Sam Houston Center

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

  • Development of LAR request for additional storage space
  • Many meetings with Governor’s Office, LBB, TFC, and Texas Public Finance Authority and others
  • Sunset recommendation regarding TSLAC leadership role to curatorial storage space
  • Brought in 46,225 boxes; destroyed 37,288 boxes; remaining space about 30,000 boxes

Goal 6: To support efforts to ensure digital inclusion for Texas

  • Libraries Connecting Texas – Faster broadband in 84 Texas libraries (with a second round underway)
  • Partnership with Glasshouse Policy Institute to further Texas broadband policy
  • Successful conclusion of Toward Gigabit Libraries project

Goal 7: Continue to refine our response to the informational needs of the increasingly diverse Texas population

  • 59 competitive grant projects funded
  • Positive review of TBP following NLS site visit
  • Ten new Family Place libraries added
  • Provided books for Lone Star Día projects in 40 libraries
  • Prison library services pilot project
  • Letters about Literature with two Texas students achieving national recognition

It is TSLAC’s honor and privilege to serve the people of Texas. We look forward to another successful year in 2019. Happy holidays and we look forward to seeing all of you in the New Year.

 

Libraries as social infrastructure

Where do we invest our public resources to achieve the greatest benefits to society? This is a question that our public officials constantly ask themselves and others in making the decisions necessary to fund government. As the Texas Legislature reconvenes on January 8, our state lawmakers will again be considering the Return on Investment — or ROI — of all the programs funded by state dollars.

A recently published book offers a new perspective on how to think about the investment of public funding to achieve more vibrant and sustainable communities, better educated citizens, stronger democratic institutions and greater civic engagement. The title of the book says it all: Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg (Crown, 2018).

In Palaces for the People, Klinenberg explores the concept of Social Infrastructure, that is, “the physical places and organizations that shape the way people interact.” Social infrastructure fosters contact, mutual support and collaboration. Social infrastructure leads to more resilient communities through social cohesion that addresses a broad array of challenges from crime to education to healthcare.

Sound familiar? It should come as no surprise that the first chapter of the book focuses on libraries and that libraries are prevalent throughout the book. In fact, the title is borrowed from Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist who funded the creation of hundreds of libraries across the country, who observed that the monarchs of Europe had their gilded and marble palaces, but in the United States, libraries are the palaces of the people.

Klinenberg writes that “the library is among the most critical forms of Social Infrastructure that we have” and quotes the Pew Research Center’s study that showed that more than 90 percent of Americans see their library as “very” or “somewhat” important in their community many other major institutions (government, churches, banks, corporations) have fallen in public esteem “except libraries, the military, and first responders.”

Klinenberg goes on to describe the social infrastructure represented by libraries:

“. . . in cities across the United States and around the world, neighborhood libraries and librarians do all kinds of unexpected things for surprisingly large numbers of people. Their core mission is to help people elevate themselves and improve their situation. Libraries do this, principally, by providing free access to the widest possible variety of cultural materials to people of all ages, from all ethnicities and groups.”

Klinenberg’s argument — supported by substantial evidence — is that by investing in social infrastructure via such organizations such as libraries, we have an opportunity to strengthen our communities in transformative and foundational ways. Investment in social infrastructure leads to lower crime rates, greater local economic growth, lower rates of mental illness, and other positive effects. He posits that investing in social infrastructure that brings people together and builds stronger communities is just as important as roads, bridges and other types of physical infrastructure.

TSLAC, as well as the libraries and archival institutions across Texas that we support, fall into this category of social infrastructure. By training librarians, providing shared access to online resources, delivering recorded materials to visually impaired and disabled Texans and providing access to public records and archives, we are strengthening communities, encouraging civic engagement and bringing Texans together. We have demonstrated that every dollar invested in library service yields $4.64 in return, but that ROI does not even include the incalculable benefits of access to life-changing and affirming programming, civic interaction and information for persons of all ages, in all parts of the state, and all social and economic backgrounds.

We hope the decision makers in Texas will agree.

See also: “Worry less about crumbling roads, more about crumbling libraries,” by Eric Klinenberg, in Citilab, September 21, 2018.