On July 20, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission met in a special meeting and approved TSLAC CARES grants totaling $1,063,469 to 38 libraries in all parts of the state. TSLAC has issued a press release that contains further information about these grants and the types of projects funded. 

These grants were made possible by an appropriation from the federal government as part of the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. TSLAC received the funds from the Institute for Museum and Library Services according to the same formula that allocates funds via the annual Grants to States program. Because that formula is based largely on population, Texas gets the second most funds in the country after California. In this case, Texas received $2.6 million in CARES Act funds, of which at least half will be distributed in direct grants to libraries.

Our grants team, led by Grants Coordinator Bethany Wilson and assisted by LSTA Coordinator Erica McCormick, put the awarding of these funds on a fast track and issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity in early May with grant applications due on May 31. Bethany and an internal grants review panel prioritized the process of scoring the applications and the Commission was able to approve these grants last week, two weeks earlier than the next scheduled commission meeting. 

The funded grants of up to $50,000 address Covid relief efforts and digital inclusion. But that short description covers a wide range of needs from equipment and supplies to facilitate contactless services to patrons to devices and e-content to support remote patron access to library services. Libraries of all sizes in all parts of the state were funded.The Kaufman County Library will use laptops and other devices to provide more online learning capability while maintaining social distancing. The Little Elm Public Library, Marathon Public Library, Gatesville Public Library, and several others, will use TSLAC CARES funds to provide mobile hotspots for check out to patrons. Libraries such as Pottsboro and Johnson City will enter into creative partnerships with local organizations to further digital inclusion and remote access to information. And the Tom Green County Library in San Angelo will use grant funds to install permanent hot spots throughout the community with special emphasis on rural, outlying communities.

Libraries are endlessly creative in finding ways to serve the needs of their communities and most are fierce advocates when it comes to seeking funding opportunities to benefit their cities and counties. Unfortunately, need far outstripped available TSLAC CARES funds. Libraries submitted more than 100 applications totaling well over $2.5 million, or two and a half times the amount awarded. Libraries clearly need support and assistance as they struggle with the costs of responding to the Covid emergency and meeting the demand of their communities for remote access to information and library services. 

We hope more funding for libraries may be on the way. As Congress debates the next coronavirus relief bill, library advocates are boldly asking for $2 billion to address library needs. While this may seem like a large number, it is probably not nearly enough. We fear that as local governments seek to address a budget emergency caused by the economic effects of the pandemic, libraries may once again be among the first to be cut. Such action would be short-sighted and self-defeating. The pandemic has demonstrated that in times of crisis, libraries are even more essential than ever in addressing the needs of their communities for information, education, economic growth, and social cohesion. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, while schools, businesses, and other services have been closed, libraries have provided a crucial remote link to vital information for students, government, business, and the general public. 

TSLAC will be stretching the remainder of its CARES funds to provide more direct grants to libraries and also expanding library participation in high-speed broadband networks across the state. But much more is needed and if you have an opinion about how further relief funding should be allocated, you can share those thoughts with your elected federal representatives

Meanwhile, congratulations to the 38 Texas libraries that will receive TSLAC CARES grant funding.

Links in this post:

TSLAC Press Release on the TSLAC CARES grants: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/node/67656

Information on the Library Stabilization Act Fund:

Sharing your thoughts with your U.S. representatives:

Rangers, Archives, and Discovering Texas History

We are always honored when researchers use the State Archives housed at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to further their writing. TSLAC is often credited and cited by the authors of books and articles on a wide variety of subjects.

We were particularly interested when one recently published book citing the TSLAC archives garnered national attention. Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers by Doug J. Swanson is a retelling of the story of the Texas Rangers. Swanson describes in painstaking detail how behind the romantic portrayal of the Rangers in books, films, and television, lurks a darker history of persecution of Native Americans, Mexicans and Tejanos, and Black Texans at the service of the state. Swanson credits the current-day Rangers as being a modern law enforcement agency and he does not deny the valor of many of its most famous figures of the past, but he is uncompromising in his examination of the full story of the Rangers throughout much of Texas history.

Douglas Brinkley, a Rice University professor of history, reviewing Cult of Glory in the New York Times Book Review (June 9, 2020), writes, “Swanson, a prodigious researcher, recounts how in their nearly 200-year ‘attention-grabbing’ history, Rangers burned peasant villages, slaughtered innocents, busted unions and committed war crimes.”

A fair chunk of that prodigious research was conducted in the State Archives. In his acknowledgements, Swanson states, “I extend special thanks to archivist Tony Black and the staff at the Texas State Library and Archives, who endured my many questions and requests with patience and professionalism. The TSLA is a state treasure.” (We especially appreciate the mention of the late archivist and historian Tony Black, a gentleman and true scholar of Texas history.) It is true that the Archives holds a substantial body of records relating to the Texas Rangers and has often been cited in other books in relation to the Rangers. Notably, the bestselling Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (Doubleday, 2017) cites TSLAC files in telling the story of the Rangers’ investigation of the deaths of oil-wealthy Osage Indians in Oklahoma in the 1920s.

Swanson’s book is not the first re-examination of the history of the Rangers to make use of the rich holdings of the State Archives at TSLAC. As long ago as the 1950s, University of Texas folklorist Américo Paredes accessed the TSLAC archives for his landmark history, “With His Pistol in His Hand”: A Border Ballad and Its Hero (University of Texas Press, 1958) which challenged the seminal Rangers history of his senior UT colleague Walter Prescott Webb. And former TSLAC Historian Donaly Brice and co-author Bob Alexander grappled with the mixed history of the Rangers in their 2017 account, Texas Rangers: Lives, Legend and Legacy (University of North Texas Press, 2017).

The deep truth of history lives in primary source materials. Researchers willing to apply the time and industry to explore them will be rewarded. Cult of Glory contains a chapter on the alleged mass murderer Henry Lee Lucas, the investigation of whose crimes was handled and–according to Swanson–botched by the Rangers. The chapter is based largely on records of the Lucas investigation contained in files from the Texas Department of Public Safety in the TSLAC Archives. Swanson comments that he appeared to be the first researcher to access the files after they were transferred to TSLAC.

The archivists and librarians at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission stand ready to assist researchers in discovering the historical record of Texas. Much of that material is available online via the Texas Digital Archive at https://tsl.access.preservica.com and online collections and guides such as the recently posted guide, “In Recognition of Texans Who Worked for Equality,” (https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/workforequality) detailing the contribution of Tejanos, Blacks, and other marginalized groups to the history and accomplishments of Texas. 

We invite you to discover the history of Texas in the State Archives.