The Need for Library Facilities

San Marcos Public Library Director Diane Insley cuts the ribbon to dedicate the new library while Congressman Lloyd Doggett and other dignitaries look on.

By Mark Smith

Today I attended the dedication of the newly expanded San Marcos Public Library. Aside from the fact that this was the first library event I have attended since February 2020, it was very exciting for other reasons. Not only was I able to see the beautiful library designed by PGAL Architects, I was able to meet Mayor Jane Hughson, hear comments from Congressman Lloyd Doggett, and also enjoy a poem by poet and staff member E.D. Watson.

In my comments at the dedication ceremony, which I will include below, I shared my thoughts about why library openings are such an encouraging reaffirmation of the power of libraries to transform individuals and communities. I also thanked Congressman Doggett for his co-sponsorship of the Build America’s Libraries Act, pending federal legislation that would appropriate $5 billion for library construction and modernization projects across the U.S. Texas’s share of these funds would be over $373 million. And while our needs for library facilities run easily into the billions, this amount of funding would certainly allow more communities to experience the huge economic and educational benefits that accrue from new library facilities. 

Here are my comments from today’s event:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is such an honor and privilege to be with you on this important day. Thank you to Director Diane Insley for inviting me here today. And a huge thank you to Congressman Lloyd Doggett. We thank Congressman Doggett for his service representing us in the U.S. Congress in these very trying times and for the tireless support that he and his wife Libby have given education and libraries over the years, including his current co-sponsorship of the Build America’s Libraries Act, which would ensure that hundreds of other communities across Texas and the U.S. could enjoy the huge benefits of new library facilities.

This is truly a joyous day. In fact, I tell you in all sincerity that dedication ceremonies for new library facilities are my favorite of all public occasions. I say that because every new library is an affirmation of our collective belief in the power of libraries to change lives.

A new library affirms our belief that children who have access to books and reading at an early age are more successful in school and later life.

A new library affirms our vision that public spaces like this one will bring the community together in civic engagement and break down divisive barriers between people.

And a new library represents our shared aspiration for the growth of our communities, support for entrepreneurship and economic success, and for the potential for personal growth and enrichment through equal access to information and opportunity.

I applaud the people of San Marcos for your vision in making the dream of this beautiful library a reality. I understand that this project was paid for with a 2017 bond that passed by 77 percent of the voters. I invite you all to stop for a moment and contemplate the significance of that. In this day and age, when we are so divided on so many issues, when we can’t even often agree about what our problems are so that we can start to fix them, the prospect of a new library was approved by over three quarters of the voters in this city! How encouraging is that!

And those funds were supplemented by a generous donation from Friends of the Library and a grant from the Burdine Johnson Foundation.

Thank you to the City of San Marcos for your support and leadership for making this project a reality. I know that the City Council has been very supportive of the library and has extended free service to all students in the San Marcos School District regardless of where they live. And thanks also to Hays County for arranging with the City to have free access extended to all residents of the County. These types of partnerships are so important in leveraging your investment to increase opportunity and quality of life for the entire area. 

The improvements in this library sound amazing and I can’t wait to see them. The new children’s room, story hour space in an enclosed courtyard, and teen room to encourage youth literacy and engagement; a new makerspace to help build STEM skills; and an expanded local history area, including a generous donation of 3,500 items from Texas author Mike Cox.

I understand from Diane that there are also improvements in the HVAC and other infrastructure to keep people comfortable, socially distanced, and fully enjoying this beautiful library.

While most of us already knew that libraries were important, the pandemic really brought home to a lot of people how essential libraries really are. During the pandemic, libraries, including this one helped Texans across the state get to information resources they needed while they were working at home and attending school remotely. Wireless around libraries helped people get online even when the library was closed. And libraries were among the first services to reopen and offer curbside pick-up, grab and go, and even limited on-site use.

Post pandemic, libraries will be a key to helping their communities find the resilience they need to recover and get back on track. So, it is fitting that we come together here today to celebrate and dedicate this re-imagined San Marcos Public Library. I urge you all to be very frequent visitors here, bring your families, your children, your friends, and yourselves to visit the library often and discover all the ways it can enhance your lives and the life of your community.

Best wishes to all and congratulations on this beautiful library facility.

Former San Marcos Public Library Director Stephanie Langenkamp (left) talks with poet and library staff member E.D. Watson.

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To learn more about the Build America’s Libraries Act, visit:  https://www.ala.org/advocacy/buildlibraries#:~:text=Don%20Young%20(R%2DAK),environmental%20hazards%2C%20and%20accessibility%20barriers.

 

TSLAC and the 87th Legislature–Good News for Libraries

By Mark Smith

On Monday of this week, the Texas Legislature wrapped up their 2021 session and we are assessing how TSLAC and libraries and archives fared. The answer is, we did well. 

Last summer, when we drafted our 2022-2023 Legislative Appropriations Request, we feared the worst. Due to the effects of the pandemic, state and local revenues were projected to be deeply in the red. As we moved into the fall, those fears only intensified and we expected a large reduction in our budget. Those reductions did not materialize. Beyond a five percent reduction required of most state agencies, we had no further cut to our budget.

Furthermore, we had a pleasant surprise. The Legislature approved funding for a package of four items that we grouped together under the banner of “Texans Need Strong Libraries.” When we requested these items, we had little hope that they would get funded, but we thought that they would at least give TSLAC and our friends at the Texas Library Association an opportunity to talk about the good work that libraries do for Texas communities.

The “Texans Need Strong Libraries” projects that we will receive funding are:

  • $1.5 million to support workforce programs in Texas libraries.
  • $1 million for technology support for libraries, including projects to purchase devices to extend library services into the community.
  • $1 million to support the TexShare and TexQuest e-resource programs to avoid having to increase user fees or reduce available resources. 
  • $275,000 to hire two archivists to help process the TSLAC backlog and get more items onto the Texas Digital Archive.
  • These items include 5 additional staff for TSLAC to increase capacity to serve the libraries and people of Texas.  

We are grateful to the Legislature for their support for these projects and the vote of confidence it shows in our work at TSLAC. But more than that, this funding is the direct result of the Legislature’s recognition of the outstanding services that Texas libraries performed for their communities during the pandemic. We were told by legislators how much they appreciated the work of Texas libraries and they recognized that libraries were a lifeline for many people during the pandemic. I see this funding as an acknowledgement of the many ways libraries rose to the occasion to be a crucial link to information and services for people who were otherwise isolated during the Covid-19 crisis.

Also in this budget, while TSLAC did not get the funding requested to begin planning for an expansion of the State Records Center, we did get an acknowledgement of the need for more storage space for archives and records. The Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) was directed by rider to consider options for land acquisitions for state office needs, including for archival storage for TSLAC. We look forward to working with TFC to know what our needs are in this regard. 

We appreciate the support from many quarters for this legislative session. Most particularly, we thank the Texas Library Association and the Texas Library and Archives Foundation for their advocacy for our budget in support of the libraries and archives of Texas. 

In other news:

As I wrote in an earlier post, a few weeks ago, the Texas Center for the Book rolled out Read Across Texas, our statewide reading program centered on the theme of Recovery, encompassing all of the meanings of that word. One of our four suggested titles in this year’s reading is We Fed an Island: The True Story of How We Rebuilt Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by the world-renowned celebrity chef, José Andrés. I am so excited that TSLAC was able to secure an exclusive interview with Chef Andrés about his book and the work of his organization, One World Kitchen, which has rallied his colleagues in the food industry to meet the needs of communities struggling through natural disasters and other challenges. That interview, conducted by TSLAC’s own Center for the Book coordinator Rebekah Manley, can be viewed on our website here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOPrByo7WT8

Links in this post

Texas Digital Archive: https://tsl.access.preservica.com/

Texas Library Association: https://txla.org/

Read Across Texas statewide reading program: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexasebooks

More on We Fed an Island on the Harper-Collins website: https://www.harpercollins.com/products/we-fed-an-island-jose-andres?variant=32205423837218

Link to the Center for the Book interview with José Andrés: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOPrByo7WT8