E-Read Texas – TSLAC E-book project

I am excited to announce the launch of E-Read Texas, a new statewide initiative to bring E-books to Texans through libraries, starting with small community libraries in all parts of the state.

The E-Read Texas program will provide e-book content via an easy-to-use platform that will allow readers to simultaneously see TSLAC content alongside any provided by their local libraries.

TSLAC has signed an agreement with Amigos Library Services to implement SimplyE, an open source e-book application, in small community libraries across the state, starting with those using the Biblionix Apollo integrated library system. In July and August, Amigos will work with those libraries to make the application available to their customers. In September, TSLAC will make e-books available to libraries and readers across Texas. Any library that has enabled the SimplyE application will be able to easily offer E-Read Texas content alongside whatever e-books they are currently offering through other providers.

SimplyE is an open source e-book application developed by the New York Public Library and is available for mobile devices running iOS and Android. SimplyE offers a “three-click” approach to e-books: patrons browse the e-book bookshelf, click to select a title, click again to check it out, and click to open and read it. Existing library e-books from OverDrive, RBDigital, Baker & Taylor, Bibliotheca and other vendors can be made available within the SimplyE app. Amigos will work with libraries and their vendors to simplify the setup process.

With the E-Read Texas project, TSLAC will become one of about five state libraries nationally to use the SimplyE application to facilitate statewide access to e-book content. E-Read Texas will be a multi-phased project with an ultimate goal of wide adoption of the SimplyE application in all types of Texas libraries to access an ever-growing library of E-book materials.

To assist libraries that have little or no e-book content, TSLAC also plans to purchase e-books that libraries can lend to their patrons.

Beginning in September, the E-Read Texas collection will offer adult leisure reading e-books from the Digital Public Library of America’s Exchange program that can be accessed using the SimplyE application. TSLAC does not plan to purchase bestsellers, but the collection will be chosen to include titles that will be popular with patrons, with enough copies to keep hold lists short.

This project is being made possible with federal funding. Texas librarians have long told us that their highest priority is to get more e-book content. In response, TSLAC has requested funds from the Legislature in the last two biennia to introduce a statewide E-book project, but those funds have not been provided. E-Read Texas is a strategic effort to meet the statewide demand for e-books through Texas libraries in a phased approach using available funds.

Many people worked to make E-Read Texas a reality, but special thanks go to Danielle Cunniff Plumer, Statewide Resource Sharing Administrator, for her work designing and launching this project. You can read a more detailed description of the project from Danielle on the Library Developments Blog.

Marching orders from the 86th

We had thought that the end of the legislative session would bring at least a short cool-down period where we could catch our collective breath before moving forward. No chance of that. TSLAC staff have pivoted quickly from the session to implementing the provisions passed by the 86th Legislature as they pertain to our agency.

Here is a sample of items from our post-session in-basket:

Agency General Counsel – The Legislature gave us funds and authority to hire a General Counsel and the position is currently open. If you know any lawyers with experience in state government, especially with Public Information Act requests and contract management, send them our way!

New records storage space – We asked the Legislature for short-term and long-term solutions to the acute shortage of space for records storage. The Supplemental Appropriations Bill (SB 500) provided $4.4 million for the short-term solution of retrofitting 20,000 square feet of space in a state-owned building in Southeast Austin to allow for 60,000 cubic feet of storage. This will allow TSLAC to continue to be a solution for state agency records storage for another five years. We are considering options to get the renovation done as quickly as possible.

Records storage study – And as for the long-term solution, the Legislature did not approve our funding request to expand the State Records Center on Shoal Creek and allow a 20 to 25-year solution to archives and records storage. However, the Legislature did direct TSLAC to study alternatives for storage outside the downtown Austin area. We are working with the Texas Facilities Commission to complete that report which is due December 1.

Salary increases – We received an additional $200,000 per year for targeted increases for specific positions working below the median of their state salary range. We are working on a total TSLAC compensation plan to present to our Commission at their August 12 meeting.

Construction grants – Our budget included two riders for library projects in two local areas: $750,000 for a project in Arlington and $1.9 million for construction projects in the Rio Grande Valley region. We are working with the sponsors of those riders to determine their intentions for those funds.

Legislative records – Two separate bills – HB 1962 (our Sunset bill) and HB 4181 – contain changes in how legislative records are managed. Both bills shift the ownership of legislative records from TSLAC to the Legislative Reference Library. Because HB 4181 was effective immediately, TSLAC staff are working with the Legislative Reference Library to implement these provisions in ways that have the least impact on researchers and the public.

Advertising services – Our Sunset bill, HB 1962, gives TSLAC the authority to advertise services, which will be especially important for our Talking Book Program, an extremely valuable service which currently reaches only about 4% of the eligible population statewide.

Changes in local records management – Our Sunset bill directs TSLAC to make a couple of small but important change regarding local records management. Local governments will be required only to indicate compliance with minimum retention schedules for local records. Also, Regional Historical Records Depositories (RHRDs) can now petition to transfer local records to their ownership.

Implementing these and other changes brought by the 86th Legislature will occupy TSLAC’s work for the coming months. We are grateful to the Legislature for reauthorizing TSLAC to continue in operation for another 12 years and the Commission and the dedicated TSLAC staff look forward to ensuring that Texans have the information they need to lead informed and productive lives.