On Friday, November 8, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission held its second Learning Engagement Opportunities, or LEO, Day, a day of in-service training and staff development for all TSLAC staff in our three locations. As with other libraries, LEO gives TSLAC staff an opportunity to come together in a day of learning, networking, and team-building.
The keynote speaker for this year’s LEO was Dr. David B. Gracy II. Dr. Gracy is one of the most famous archivists in the U.S. He is the former State Archivist of Texas and the former Director of the Archival and Records Enterprise Program at the University of Texas School of Information. He is the former President of the Society of American Archivists and the Academy of Certified Archivists.
The title of Dr. Gracy’s talk was “Nor Is This All,” which derives from comments by Cadwell Raines who was the director of the library and archives functions of Texas for eleven years from 1891-1895 and 1899-1906. Raines wrote of the state library of his day that “By its relation to the state government, the agency is the office of record for everything issued by the several departments; not only the printed books, pamphlets, maps, etc., but also the manuscript records of historical value after they are no longer necessary to the current duties of said departments.” Then Raines added the words, “Nor is this all.”
Dr. Gracy uses these words of Raines to frame the importance of the library and archives to society. “How important is having an agency of government with this mission?” asks Dr. Gracy? “In my view—essential. It couples the two information functions that form the bedrock of democracy and are the foundation upon which civilization in the age of literacy rests. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Dr. Gracy then went on to decry the erosion of archival collections and to obscure the transparency of public access to government information. “Essential to democratic government is transparency—the ability for citizens to monitor the actions taken in their behalf by government leaders. Transparency is vital to trust in government.”
Dr. Gracy went on:
“What other reason than obscuring transparency and compromising trust in government would there be for a legislative enactment excluding legislative records from being treated as all other agency records under the state records act. . .
“Archives are information as accurate, factual, truthful in historical context as we Americans, we Texans, we human beings have.”
Dr. Gracy ends with stirring praise for the work of the staff of TSLAC, and by extension, all archivists and librarians:
“In the end, your job is you—your pride in your profession, in your performance of your job, in your service to all comers. That you have this pride is a given. Without it, you wouldn’t be in this line of work. You wouldn’t be here. And no malignant action or initiative from outside can ever take it from you.”
Nor is this all: Dr. Gracy suggests that the scope of what may complete the public’s right to know will sometimes—perhaps always—extend beyond what is found in the public archives of the state.
We were grateful to Dr. Gracy for his remarks that served to remind our staff of the important service this agency has been providing for the state since its founding 110 years ago and, in fact, back to the first days of statehood. That service has been to preserve, protect, and make available to the public the archival record of the state of Texas, work that our staff has done and will continue to do with dedication and professionalism.
In other news
Last week the Texas State Library and Archives Commission began transferring to the Legislative Reference Library all legislative records of the state of Texas. These records include all bill files, committee minutes, photographs, audio files, and other documents extending from the first legislature to present, as well as the records of all members of the legislature and the Lieutenant Governor. The full transfer of these materials is expected to take until the early spring, at which time the archival record of the legislative branch of Texas will be housed at the Legislative Reference Library, which now has custody of those materials per the terms of HB 4181 as passed in the last legislative session.