Pausing to reflect

As we near the end of the year, I like to pause and reflect on the work that our amazing TSLAC team has accomplished during the year. It is our pleasure and honor to, in the words of our Mission Statement, “provide Texans with the information they need to be informed, productive citizens.” 2019 has been a challenging year, but we have enjoyed progress and success in many areas.

Below are the highlights organized by categories in our TSLAC Agency Strategic Plan. This list fails to capture the work of our staff delivering the many ongoing services of the agency such daily reference services, circulation of Talking Book materials, consultation and support for records management in state and local government, and our ongoing training and consultation with the hundreds of public, school and academic libraries across the state.

Organizational

  • Sunset reauthorization of TSLAC until 2031 with new authorities
  • Addition of the position of General Counsel
  • Completion of comprehensive agency risk assessment and audit plan through 2022
  • Completion of a new events and programming space in the headquarters Lorenzo de Zavala building

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

  • Launched a new public library director orientation at the TLA 2019 Annual Conference
  • Awarded first-ever Library Technology Academy grants and conducted a second year of training
  • Implemented a new Grantsmanship Academy training and grants to encourage first-time participation in TSLAC competitive grants
  • Design and launch of the new Border Cities Grants as added by the Legislature
  • Redesign of the Small Library Management program and launch of two new certificate tracks
  • Onboarded new libraries to the Family Place program— a total of 79 libraries have participated in this program since 2015
  • Reimbursed Texas libraries $9 for every interlibrary loan to another Texas library

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

  • Secured legislative appropriation for TSLAC staff increases
  • Held second Learning Engagement Opportunities all-staff development day for all TSLAC staff Friday, Nov. 8
  • Internal candidates were promoted to several key leadership positions
  • Workplace upgrades for staff, including Mamava nursing station, conference pod, and phone booth

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

  • Progress on preservation of historical structures at the Sam Houston Center
  • Archives staff review, ingest, management, and provide access to many thousands of records
  • Growth of the Texas Digital Archive approaching 50 terabytes of data
  • Two Fellowships in Texas History awarded in partnership with FLAT and TSHA
  • Implemented the University Records Retention Schedule, culminating a six-year effort
  • “Women’s Power, Women’s Vote” exhibit and publication of commemorative calendar
  • Continued very successful project digitizing files for the Texas Department of Transportation
  • Added more activities to Local Government training classes to make them even more interactive
  • Another successful eRecords Conference attended by over 300 people on Nov. 15
  • Several Second Saturday workshops throughout the year
  • Secure and professional transfer of custody of legislative records to the Legislative Reference Library as mandated by the Legislature

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

  • Added new scanning equipment for imaging services
  • Added SFTP software box
  • ITS upgrades completed at the Sam Houston Center
  • Agency web servers upgraded
  • Technology enabling duplication on demand acquired and mastered in the Talking Book Program

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

  • Secured $4.4 million appropriation to add 20,000 square feet of records storage space
  • TSLAC working with the Texas Facilities Commission to complete that additional storage at Promontory Point
  • Completion of study of archives and records storage alternatives as mandated by the Legislature

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

  • Launched E-Read Texas statewide e-book program to provide e-book access to public libraries across Texas starting with small community libraries
  • Libraries Connecting Texas—Increasing broadband speeds by over 1000% in another 61 library locations
  • Implementation of over 80 new or renewing TexShare and TexQuest e-resources, with over 100 million uses per year
  • TBP continues transition to digital download and duplication on demand
  • Governor’s Broadband Council created with library representation
  • TSLAC co-presents K-12 Open Education Resource conference

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

  • Addition of new Inclusive Services Consultant position
  • TBP implements SB 2075 expanding access to students with reading disabilities
  • 53 libraries across Texas participate in “Know Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion” statewide reading program
  • 45 competitive grant projects funded
  • Hundreds of students statewide participating in Letters About Literature writing contest
  • Texas Center for the Book Literacy Awards to Books are GEMS and two other groups
  • TCFB secures Library of Congress literacy award for Women’s Storybook Project

We wish all of you a very happy, relaxing, and safe holiday season and we look forward to the opportunity to serve you in 2020.

Realizing the importance of K-12 libraries

In 1995, the Legislature added a provision to the Texas Education Code, section 33.021, that directs the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, “in consultation with the State Board of Education, to adopt standards for school library services.” The statute goes on to say that districts “shall consider the standards in developing, implementing, or expanding library services.”

The School Library Standards have been revised twice since they were first created in 1997, most recently in 2017, when many school librarians from across the state, led by Sonja Schulz of the Nacogdoches ISD and Donna Kearley of the Denton ISD and coordinated by TSLAC K-12 School Program Coordinator Liz Philippi, completed a major update and overhaul of the standards: School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas.

While the standards are voluntary, there is ample anecdotal evidence that they are used widely across the state and over the past two decades, have been a driving force for better K-12 library services in many districts. Still, the standards are voluntary, and the State of Texas has seldom spoken forcefully to say that the standards should be considered a key guideline in developing excellent school services.

That all changed last month with the publication of a report by the Legislative Budget Board that contained a lengthy section about the TSLAC School Library Standards. The report, Houston Independent School District Management and Performance Review, is an overall assessment of school services in the Houston ISD. On page 59 of the report and following, the report discusses the TSLAC K-12 Library Standards and systematically measure Houston ISD performance regarding library services against the TSLAC Standards.

This in itself is a welcome validation of the value of the Standards. But the report does something even more exciting: it goes on to state the importance of school libraries to student achievement:

Libraries are considered effective and efficient resources in improving student achievement. Campuses that do not have high-quality library programs are not providing the same opportunities for students to learn as campuses that do. (p. 61)

The report also states:

Nationwide, research suggests that reading, writing, and graduation rates improve where campuses employ certified school librarians. (p. 61)

And finally:

Library variables, including library staffing and items per student, outweighed the effects of other campus variables, including computers per student, teacher experience, and even teacher turnover rates.(p. 61)

These are evidence-based conclusions that school library advocates have been trying for years to impart to school administrators. There are ample studies (see in particular the many school library impact studies of researcher Keith Curry Lance) that consistently demonstrate the positive correlation between full-time, qualified school librarians and higher student achievement on standards-based tests in reading, writing, and language-arts, even after correcting for socio-economic variables.

This has been a message that too often has fallen on deaf ears as school librarians have seen their programs be the first cut, school library budgets reduced, and library staff positions eliminated.

We hope that with this important recognition by the Texas Legislative Budget Board, more districts will understand the key role that libraries dedicated K-12 librarians can play in student achievement and meeting district goals.

Links included in this post:

Education Code, Section 33: https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/ED/htm/ED.33.htm

School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas (TSLAC, 2017): https://www.tsl.texas.gov/sites/default/files/public/tslac/ld/schoollibs/sls/Texas%20School%20Library%20Standards%20E-Version%20FINAL.pdf

Houston Independent School District Management and Performance Review (Legislative Budget Board, 2019):  http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Documents/Publications/School_Performance_Review/SPR/houston/4986_Houston_ISD.pdf

Keith Curry Lance and Debra E. Kachel. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan (March 26, 2018): https://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/