Next month marks a full year since the pandemic forced TSLAC, along with many other organizations, to shift from normal operations to delivering services via a combination of telework and on-site service. The last 11 months have been trying for everyone and a year of tragedy and severe hardship for many.
Throughout the pandemic, TSLAC has doubled down on our mandate and mission to keep Texans connected to information and resources they need for work, home, and school and to maintain key services for libraries, state agencies, local governments, Texans with disabilities, and the general public. The agency focused on meeting the pressing demand for services while keeping staff safe and healthy.
Immediately following the Governor’s March 19 Executive Order declaring a state of emergency, TSLAC operations went remote, with most staff delivering key services from their homes. The State Records Center, however, never closed, and continued throughout even those early days in March and April 2020 to deliver vital state records to agencies on request and to transfer state records to the Records Center. On May 4, in response to the Governor’s call for state agency libraries to open at 25 percent capacity, TSLAC opened its Archives Reading Room on an appointment basis and has remained available ever since. To date, TSLAC is the only library by a Texas state agency to be open to the public.
At TSLAC, our team knew that in times of crisis people need libraries more than ever. That proved especially true during the pandemic when the public found the remote access to information offered by libraries to be especially important. Adults and college students working from home were able to use the electronic resources of TexShare, e-books provided through E-Read Texas, and other library online resources. K-12 students who were attending school remotely were able to access the rich information and curriculum support materials of TexQuest from their homes.
TSLAC staff met the COVID challenge by ensuring that Texans continued to have the services they needed during the emergency period.
- Staff of the Library Development and Networking Division tripled its outreach to librarians.
- The TexShare/TexQuest/E-Read Texas team secured access to hundreds of thousands of additional free educational resources and e-books.
- The Talking Book Program ensured that persons with disabilities that keep them from reading print – a group of people who are often isolated even in the best of times – continued to receive reading materials either through physical delivery or download.
- Government Information Analysts in the State and Local Records Management Division continued to provide consultation and training in management of public records to state agencies and local government entities.
- In Liberty, the staff of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center were on-site throughout the pandemic to greet researchers and visitors to the museum facility.
In April, TSLAC learned that it would receive $2.6 million in U.S. CARES Act funds to assist libraries in COVID response and relief efforts as well as digital literacy to help keep Texans connected to vital information resources. The TSLAC grants team quickly rose to the occasion and turned around $1.6 million in competitive grants of up to $50,000 each to nearly 59 libraries in all parts of the state. The remaining funds will be used to ensure access to high-speed internet for a group of small community libraries across the state.
TSLAC also worked to provide information related to the COVID emergency.
- The Services During COVID-19 web page went up early in the pandemic and has been regularly updated providing information on how to access TSLAC services.
- The COVID-19 Information and Resources for Library Workers page has been regularly updated throughout the pandemic to provide access to support materials for library services during the emergency period.
- The Texas Library Status Project provides a real-time interactive map that allows libraries to tell the public and others what services are available and their reopening status.
- And the Texas Free Wifi Map provides interactive access to libraries and other organizations that offer free WiFi in hundreds of locations across the state, is constantly updated, and is available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
While we all may wish that the pandemic will be over soon and we can all go back to our normal pre-COVID lives, we may be in for a few more months of this. So, we hope that all of you stay safe and stay healthy. However long it lasts, the TSLAC team will continue to provide the information and resources that Texans need to live productive and fulfilled lives.
Links in this post:
E-Read Texas: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/ebooks
Talking Book Program: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/aboutus
State and Local Records Management Division: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/contact
Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/shc/index.html
TSLAC Services During COVID-19: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/services
COVID-19 Information and Resources for Library Workers: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/covid-19
Texas Library Status Project:
(press release): https://www.tsl.texas.gov/node/67727
Texas Free Wifi Map: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/tech/wifimap