Read Across Texas: Recovery

This week we are excited to be launching our third Read Across Texas statewide reading program presented by our Texas Center for the Book. This year’s theme of Recovery provides an opportunity to use one or more of our four suggested books to spark challenging, probing, and renewing conversations about profound experiences, both shared and individual. We envision these conversations as a way for libraries to be at the center of important community dialogue about common concerns and values.

If “Recovery” sounds like a broad theme, that is intentional. We hope that communities will approach the theme as inclusive of various perspectives, from personal recovery from tragic or challenging individual circumstances, to recovery on a broad societal level. Some communities might explore recovery from a natural disaster, while others might consider recovery from traumatic events at the national or state levels. After a year like no other in our memory, engaging in a discussion of recovery seemed appropriate. We hope these conversations may provide a context to help individuals, families, and communities to find paths back to normalcy, stability, and relative tranquility.

The conversations might be difficult, maybe at times uncomfortable, but that is part of the process and should be embraced rather than feared. The books offer the starting point for discovery. I have read all four works and was moved by the power of each one:

I hope you will consider participating in Read Across Texas: Recovery and use these inspiring books to start a process of civic dialogue in your community. Our Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley will be providing resources to help frame your local discussions and make this statewide read a success.

On March 25, I will be presenting the next #TXBookChat with Rebekah to discuss how libraries can participate in Read Across Texas. Please join us for tips on how you can use this statewide read to put your library at the center of meaningful community discussions on the topic of Recovery. Click here to register for this great program: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJApcOGurDIqGNUTKfqkClHWbPMsJMwdVF8a

Thank you for your work building strong Texas communities. I look forward to hearing your success stories as you participate in this unique program.

Links in this post:

Read Across Texas: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas

Texas Center for the Book: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/centerforthebook

More information on Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here by Nancy Wayson Dinan: https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/things-you-would-know-if-you-grew-up-around-here-9781635574449/

More information on All of a Sudden and Forever by Chris Barton and Nicole Xu: https://lernerbooks.com/shop/show/19414

More information: We Fed an Island by José Andrés. https://www.harpercollins.com/products/we-fed-an-island-jose-andres?variant=32205423837218

More information on: What Unites Us by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner: https://www.workman.com/products/what-unites-us-1 

Information on #TXBookChat: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/txbookchat/rat

 

 

Libraries and the American Rescue Plan Act

This was an important week for libraries and the millions of people they serve. Possibly one of the most important ever. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the $1.9 Trillion stimulus plan which was passed by Congress this week, included $200 million in funding for U.S. libraries. Those funds will come to the states via the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Texas’ share of those funds will be nearly $8.4 million. This is the largest single infusion of federal funds for libraries in decades, and probably ever.

We are not yet sure what the requirements on these funds will be, but we expect that the purposes will be similar to funds received from the first U.S. CARES Act in April 2020. Those funds could be used to assist libraries in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and for digital inclusion efforts. In Texas, we used the $2.6 million to fund $1.6 million in grants to 59 libraries as well as $1 million to bring broadband internet to small community libraries in rural areas of the state.

Throughout the pandemic, the public has turned to libraries to provide remote access to collections, programs, and other library services when they have most needed to keep in touch with information resources. These new federal funds will be extremely useful in continuing to extend library services to adults, families, and students via broadband networks and to helping libraries cope with the extraordinary demands they face in serving their communities. 

We look forward to providing more information to the library community about how these funds will be used to support community libraries across Texas in the coming weeks and months. 

Libraries once again rise to the occasion

The snowpocalypse of 2021 was a shock to the state of Texas. Many TSLAC staff, like many other people across the state and in neighboring states faced the worse winter weather in several generations. Temperatures in Austin went to 7 degrees, the coldest since 1949, and we had more than 140 consecutive hours of sub-freezing temperatures, a new record. But the real ordeal for most was not the weather, but the power and water outages. And many people were out of power or water for days.

Yet once again, libraries rose to the occasion.

The Austin Public Central Library, like many libraries across the state, served as a warming center for people who needed to come in out of the cold. And in Pottsboro, Texas, in far north Texas near the Red River, the library and their dynamic Special Projects Librarian, Dianne Connery organized a drive to get drinking and flushing water to residents across the town. That library also put a porta-potty in its parking lot and distributed more than 130 hot meals to residents.

This is a typical reaction for Pottsboro where Ms. Connery led the library’s response to the pandemic by expanding WiFi access for residents, including in the library parking lot and via WiFi in a car parked in another part of town. In Pottsboro, as in other towns and cities in Texas, the library has served as a convener, connecting people and resources, and bringing groups together to create a collective impact to moving the community forward.

But while Pottsboro is always a leader in these types of acts of community sustainability in times of crisis as well as more normal times, many libraries across the state have risen to the challenge.

The snowpocalypse was a crisis within a crisis, a lockdown within a lockdown. And throughout the pandemic, libraries have repeatedly demonstrated that they are essential services even when they are closed. Three weeks ago, I delivered testimony on the TSLAC budget to the Texas Senate Finance Committee and told them this:

The pandemic has demonstrated that in times of crisis, people need libraries more than ever. Throughout the COVID crisis, libraries provided remote access to online information and services that sustained millions of Texans at home, as well as students attending school remotely.

As I pointed out in my last blog, at TSLAC, our staff have been welcoming researchers both at the headquarters building in Austin and at our Sam Houston Center in Liberty, since early May. TSLAC is still the only library operated by a state agency that has been open to the public during the pandemic. And TSLAC programs such as TexShare, TexQuest, E-Read Texas, the Texas Digital Archive, and the Talking Book Program, ensure that throughout the pandemic–as always–Texans are able to remotely access the information they need for school, work, and personal enrichment.

We are nearing one year of working remotely, but TSLAC, like most libraries and archives across Texas, has continued to bring services to patrons in both traditional and innovative ways. The pandemic–and more recently, the snowpocalypse–have tested the readiness of certain aspects of the infrastructure to withstand times of crisis, but they have also demonstrated that libraries are a part of the infrastructure that have provided a vital link to key information and resources for Texans, even in the most challenging of circumstances.