Rediscovering the Sam Houston Center

Among the many amazing hidden gems of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, certainly the largest is the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center.

The Jean and Price Daniel House is a replica of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin built by former Governor Price Daniel.

And it is almost literally hidden. The facility is located on a small farm-to-market road on the outskirts of the town of Liberty, Texas, about 45 miles east of Houston. The Center consists of six structures on a 127-acre parcel of land that was donated to TSLAC by former Texas Governor Price Daniel. The centerpiece of the campus is a library and archives center that houses a collection of historical materials related to the 10-county region of southeast Texas.

Also on the campus of the Sam Houston Center (affectionately known as the “Sam Center” among TSLAC employees), is a replica of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin built by Gov. and Mrs. Daniel in the early 1980s. The Daniels never lived in the home and eventually donated it to the state. The campus also encompasses four other historical structures that were brought to the property over the last 30 years, including a historical church, two houses dating to the mid-19th Century, and a structure that served as a Rotary Club headquarters.

The lobby of the Sam Houston Center as seen from the conference room, the reading room is to the right and the museum exhibit entrance is opposite.

For many years, available funding did not allow for the proper care of the Sam Houston Center. But that changed in 2012 when the Texas Legislature began appropriating $1 million each biennium — or $500,000 per year — to address maintenance and safety issues. The result is that since 2012, under the guidance of State Archivist Jelain Chubb, and with the hard work of Center Manager Alana Inman and her dedicated team, the Sam Houston Center is now a totally renovated, reimagined, and modernized facility, a true jewel in which the state and the region can take great pride.

The changes include ones that a visitor would not notice such as new fire suppression and security systems, drainage systems to keep damaging water flow away from the structures, and many structural repairs and updates to the facilities. But some are much more noticeable such as the addition of a new classroom in the Center, updated furnishings in the reading room, and a revamped lobby display area.

Inside “Atascosito,” the museum exhibit in the Sam Houston Center.

One of the most spectacular changes is the addition of the permanent museum display called “Atascosito: The History of Southeast Texas.” The exhibit is a brand new and highly interactive exhibit that explores the history, culture, and economy of the 10-county region. The exhibit offers much to discover from a life-sized mammoth and hundreds of projectile points as much as 13,000 years old to exhibits exploring regional industries such as timber, oil and maritime commerce. The exhibits also explore the extensive participation and contributions of African Americans, Native Americans, and other ethnic groups in the region.

The Center is open and ready to receive visitors. Classes and individuals are encouraged to visit the excellent museum exhibits and researchers and historians are urged to stop and learn about the unique holdings in the Sam Houston Center.

You will find it well worth the drive.

The Sam Houston Center is at 650 FM 1011, Liberty, Texas, 77575 and is open Tuesday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Library E-Book Action Plan

A few days ago, I posted to this blog about libraries and the e-book market. In that post I suggested that libraries should be grateful to Macmillan and other publishers for giving us an opportunity to consider new models for acquiring and promoting e-books in libraries.

I think I might have overstated the “being grateful” thing. One person who read the blog commented that I was advocating that librarians be passive in the e-book market. I can see how she read it that way, but that was the opposite of my intention.

Upon further reflection, I want to suggest what I think are the actions librarians can take to, as I previously stated, consider new models, to flex our collective muscle in the ecosystem, to make purposeful use of our collection dollars, and to take a more active role in influencing the reading choices of our customers.

Here is that e-book action plan:

  1. Buy from library-friendly publishers. We at TSLAC cannot tell libraries to boycott any specific publisher, though there are libraries in Texas and across the nation that are not buying from Macmillan because of their embargo on selling new e-books to libraries. But I can say that as custodians of public funds, libraries and state agencies should make smart decisions about how those funds are used. One would be to buy books from vendors that give libraries the best terms. And in my mind that does not mean to buy books that are sold at several times the price that the same book is sold to an individual consumer, or that have limitations on the number of circulations, or that expire after a certain period of time. At the Texas State Library and Archives Commission we are, in most cases, purchasing e-books for statewide access with a strong preference for library-friendly terms, whenever possible, a perpetual access license.
  2. Create interest in authors and titles from library-friendly publishers. Some libraries might then say, okay, but my readers mostly want the New York Times bestsellers or the books recommended by celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey. To that I say, let’s change that paradigm. No offense to Reese or Oprah or the Times, but there is a huge universe of books on the market from other publishers that readers would like just as much as those ones if only they knew about them. So let’s tell them. Let’s start crowdsourcing reviews and recommendations from librarians about great books from library-friendly publishers. Some libraries are doing this, and there are lists of independent authors built into Overdrive and Access 360 and other vendors. Some libraries might want to follow the lead of Kelvin Watson, director of the Broward County, Florida, Public Library, and create a book club to discuss and promote independent authors.
  3. Join E-Read Texas. If you are a Texas Public Library using Biblionix Apollo for your integrated library system, you are eligible to join E-Read Texas and get free assistance in integrating the SimplyE e-book application with your Apollo system. This will allow your patrons to access—in just three clicks—content purchased by TSLAC alongside the content you are already purchasing from Overdrive and other vendors. Using SimplyE via the E-Read Texas project is a great way to guide the public to more diverse and independent content and to discover a much wider world of great authors. TSLAC has purchased perpetual access licenses to collections from over 20 independent publishers, totaling over 2,000 titles and plan to purchase more. These titles are available to anyone in Texas: just visit Libraries interested in E-Read Texas should contact or
  4. Discover the Indie Author Project. Last week, TSLAC and the Texas Center for the Book sponsored an event at which two Texas authors, Michelle Rene and Scott Semegran, received the Texas Author Award, an award given in several states and sponsored by the Indie Author Project. The Indie Author Project is an activity of BiblioBoard, a vendor who specializes in independent local and regional authors and who sells e-books to libraries with perpetual access and simultaneous use.
  5. Prize independent authors. Like the Indie Author Project, there are many ways that library-world prizes can honor independent authors. An excellent example is the inaugural 2019 E-book Award of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association which went to Ran Walker for his book, Daykeeper (45 Alternate Press, 2018), a book that has also won other literary and library awards.Librarians have a role in many literary awards and it is time that independent press books begin to be recognized.
  6. Seek policy remedies to library-unfriendly terms. In a number of states, legislation is being introduced to require publishers to sell to libraries on more friendly terms. Legislators in other states have recognized that if libraries are to serve their customers equally, they need to have equitable access to e-books, while also recognizing that publishers have legitimate concerns about protections from violations of copyright and unfair access. Alan Inouye of the ALA, wrote eloquently this week in The Hill about the need to ensure our copyright laws permit fair and open access to e-books and other content.
  7. Work with publishers to consider mutually beneficial models for sale and distribution of e-books. Several members of COSLA, the association of state librarians, most notably Washington State Librarian Cindy Aden, are working hard to develop models that will find a common ground between the needs of publishers to protect their content and their authors, and of libraries to serve their users. We will continue to work actively and in good faith to seek models that will continue the long and productive partnership between publishers and libraries.

There is much to be done in the e-book arena and we look forward to actions by libraries in Texas and nationally to change the dymanic around public access to e-books.

Links in this blog:

Broward County Library, Director’s Book Club:

E-Read Texas:

BiblioBoard content on E-Read Texas:

Indie Author Project:

Texas Author Awards:

Scott Semegran:

Michelle Rene:

Ran Walker:

New York Senate Bill S7576:

Alan Inouye, Bring back equitable access for the digital age:

Salute to Pattie Mayfield and small community librarians across Texas

I got surprising news today that Pattie Mayfield was retiring earlier than expected as director of the Honey Grove Library & Learning Center in Honey Grove, Texas. I called Pattie right away to tell her how much we have admired the many contributions she has made during her remarkable tenure at that library. She thanked me and assured me that she would still be active in Texas libraries, which I was happy to hear.

In a state with many wonderful librarians making a difference every day in communities of all sizes, on campuses of higher education, and in K-12 schools, Pattie is special. She is a prime example that the power of the library is not dependent on the size of your library or community or budget. Pattie has demonstrated time and again that small community libraries can be vital links to education and information resources for people of all ages, for families, for businesses, for students, entrepreneurs, and job seekers. Pattie takes advantage of literally every opportunity she can to make the library vital to STEM initiatives, early literacy, workforce and economic development, and technology access. She also tirelessly encourages, supports, and champions her colleagues in other small community libraries through Northeast Texas Libraries, an informal group that grew up after the end of the systems program in 2012, and across Texas through her work on the Tocker Foundation Board.

Pattie is an outstanding librarian and she will be missed in Honey Grove. But she is not the only one. Across the state, we have many small community librarians who work very long hours for little pay against daunting odds and discouraging indifference to prove that libraries can transform communities. Thanks to Pattie and other dedicated librarians in small and rural communities, we have ample evidence that with even a modest investment from their cities and counties, and with a little help from grants and other programs from TSLAC and other organizations, libraries can fulfill a unique and vital role in the lives of people in those communities. And often, there is no other place for people to turn to find the resources they need to learn to read, to succeed in school, to prosper in their work, and to enrich their lives.

TSLAC is proud to do whatever we can to support the work small community libraries and we salute Pattie Mayfield on her last day as director of the Honey Grove Library & Learning Center.