Celebrating 10 years of The Texas Record

By guest columnist, Megan Carey, Manager, Records Management Assistance

This past May SLRM’s popular blog, The Texas Record, quietly turned 10 years old amidst a pandemic. When the Records Management Assistance (RMA) unit staff realized this milestone was coming up, they quickly jumped into action, arranging for a bespoke blog banner and looking to the blog’s history for key indications of how it began. The Texas Record was “born” in May 2010 as RMA staff transitioned away from communicating with their customers via semiannual newsletters (The Local Record and The State Record). The format and manner of delivery may have changed, however, the goal was the same: to create an RMA hub where customers could just as easily learn about training opportunities and FAQs as they could about current events in the records management field and meet new government information analysts (GIA).

Not much has changed in 10 years except…

  • The Texas Record now entertains over 3,000 monthly subscribers and in its 10 year tenure has shared 625 articles to its followers.

    The reach of the blog has grown over the past few years as is evidenced by the number of hits to the blog. Even as recently as Fiscal Year 2018, The Texas Record received more than 142,000 hits. In Fiscal Year 2019 that was surpassed by more than 150,000 hits, and now, right at the end of Fiscal Year 2020, the blog has more than 191,000 hits. Even in the beginning, email management was a hot topic. The very first blog post shared by The Texas Record was “FAQ: How long do I keep my email?” written by Angela Ossar on May 11, 2010. Among the top 20 blog posts accessed in August 2020 were topics of disposition, using retention schedules, and determining retention periods; not surprising given it’s the end of the fiscal year!

  • It is still the one-stop-shop for training announcements and new concepts in the RM field.

    Although analysts have come and gone, RMA staff brainstorm, research, and author the posts. The maintenance and growth of The Texas Record is very much a group effort; the team crowdsources potential ideas and topics to explore and draws inspiration from webinars watched, consulting completed, and plumbing the depths of an analyst’s mind and creativity. From there all topics are fair game.

The Texas Record is excited about more milestones to come and promises to continue providing content that encourages improvement of records management programs (“How to Approach an Office Records Management Overhaul”) and shares emerging topics in the field (“Off the Record: Unlawful Disposition”), while also reminding everyone that records management may be their job, but it also often permeates our lives, including the media we consume (“RIM-brain in Movies and TV”).

Links in this post:

The Texas Record Blog, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/

“How to Approach an Office Records Management Overhaul, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/2020/07/how-to-approach-an-office-records-management-overhaul/

“Off the Record: Unlawful Disposition,” https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/2020/08/off-the-record-unlawful-disposition/

“RIM-brain in Movies and TV,” https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/2020/08/rim-brain-in-movies-and-tv/

TSLAC and digital access

Last time I wrote about the TSLAC’s history of providing e-resources to millions of Texans via library access to TexShare and TexQuest resources, a key component of TSLAC services since the mid-1990s.

As important as they are, TexShare and TexQuest are only part of TSLAC’s commitment to digital inclusion for all Texans. As we prepare our Legislative Appropriations Request for the 2022-2023 biennium, we will be telling the legislature and state leadership about the important programs that have many thousands of users across the state:

Talking Book Program – This service, which has been an integral part of TSLAC since the 1920s, provides books and other recorded materials to persons who cannot read standard print, usually due to a visual impairment or physical disability. In other words, it is a lifeline for persons who are already isolated and who now, due to the pandemic, are at an even greater disadvantage. The Talking Book Program circulates over 700,000 items to these Texans each year, the increasing majority of which are in digital format. Many readers now access these materials by direct download to their devices.

E-Read Texas – In August 2019 we launched this program to provide e-books to Texans via a platform known as Simply E that allows the public to stream e-books purchased for the state by TSLAC alongside those purchased by local libraries. To-date several dozen Texas public libraries in small communities in all parts of the state have adopted E-Read Texas as a way to bring more materials to their customers at a time when their libraries have been closed or services limited due to the pandemic.

The Texas Digital Archive – Texas leads the nation in this repository of state archival information in digital format which has created an unprecedented access to the archival record of Texas for persons in communities of all sizes in all parts of the state. Currently there are over 5.4 million historical documents, photographs, maps, and other materials in the Texas Digital Archive.

Broadband services. TSLAC actively works to ensure that libraries across Texas are able to serve as an access point to high-speed internet for their communities. Over the last three years, Texas has assisted over 150 public libraries in acquiring broadband at affordable prices and that effort is continuing with further support through the U.S. CARES Act.

Managing state and local electronic records. Our Records Management Assistance Unit provides guidance to state and local governments in the effective management of their electronic records and sponsors the annual E-Records Conference each fall to provide state of the industry guidance in storing and managing e-government records.

• Uniform Electronic Legal Materials. As a result of legislation last session, TSLAC partnered with the Office of the Secretary of State and the Tarlton Law Library to create a framework for ensuring that the public seeking legal materials is using the most current and authorized version.

• And of course, TexShare and TexQuest. These programs combined receive over 100 million information requests each year and are a source of vital information for students at all levels, professionals, researchers, and regular Texans who have a broad range of needs.

These resources and services have always been important and valued by Texans, but during the pandemic, that need has grown significantly more acute. As schools are holding virtual classes, libraries are closed, and people are working from home, the need to access online resources has never been greater.

In my last blog post, I anticipated we would receive instructions to reduce our budget. That did not turn out to be the case. State agencies have not been instructed to prepare reduction plans, however, we have been instructed to prioritize our programs. Our biennial budget request to the state will speak of the high priority for all Texans to be able to continue to rely on remotely accessed resources and services. The pandemic has highlighted the need to move workers to an information-based economy supported by remote access via broadband networks. Our commission has set digital inclusion as a key operational goal of our agency because we recognize that TSLAC and libraries in all Texas communities have a key role to play in supporting cost-effective remote access to information and broadband internet service.

We will approach the legislative session confident that our client groups and legislative decision makers will agree.

Links included in this post:

Talking Book Program
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/gstarted.html

E-Read Texas
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/ebooks

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

Broadband and digital inclusion
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/tech/digitalinclusion

Managing state and local records
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/training

E-Records Conference
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/training/erecords

TexShare
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/texshare/index.html

TexQuest and other K-12 library services
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/landing/educators.html

The importance of resource sharing–now more than ever

Today I presented closing comments at the Texas ILL/TexShare Virtual Conference organized by our resource-sharing team — special shout-out to Danielle Plumer, Sara Hayes, and Russlene Waukechon — exploring the amazing universe of resources available to libraries across the state via resource sharing. The conference was great with many very valuable presentations. I was honored to be able to make closing remarks. I wanted to share those remarks here on my blog. 

 

Good afternoon, everyone. I am so glad that you were able to attend this day of wonderful presentations and very glad also to be able to provide closing remarks. I want to thank all the presenters today, especially my excellent colleagues Danielle Plumer and Sara Hayes who were our lead staff in planning this conference as well as Russlene Waukechon who also participated in the planning. I want to thank all our resource sharing partner companies and organizations, many of whom were represented in the program today, and especially our friends at Amigos who helped organize and present today’s conference, especially our E-Read Texas project manager and former TSLAC colleague, Christine Peterson.

When I was considering what to say to you today, I was looking back over my over 35 years of professional work and it occurred to me that there are not many enduring aspects of library work about which I can say that I was present at the creation.

But when it comes to TexShare, I am honored to say that I was present at the creation.

Governor George W. Bush signing HB 2721, the TexShare bill, May 27, 1997.

Now, I was not present when the late great Dr. S. Joe McCord first approached Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock with his brainchild idea of creating a statewide shared digital network, which I think occurred around 1995. But as the Director of Communications for the Texas Library Association in 1997, I was directly involved in working to pass HB 2721 by Rep. Bob Hunter of Abilene that established TexShare in statute and permanently located the function at TSLAC (It had previously been with the Higher Education Coordinating Board). And the only bill signing that I have ever had the privilege to attend was when Governor Bush signed HB 2721 into law on May 27, 1997.

In the next session two years later, library leaders were successful in working for the passage of HB 1433, again by Rep. Hunter, to expand TexShare participation to Texas public libraries.

To be sure, those were proud accomplishments for Texas libraries and represented the culmination of much hard work by Dr. McCord, State Librarian Bob Martin, the Texas Library Association, and many other Texas library leaders.

I have been thinking about that accomplishment now going on 25 years ago, as well as the creation of TexQuest, which levels the playing field of digital inclusion for over 90 percent of all K-12 students across Texas, and our statewide interlibrary loan system for public libraries that makes the physical resources of all of our libraries available to patrons wherever they live. And by the way, ILL is consistently ranked one of the most—if not the most—critical service we offer, especially for public libraries.

I have been musing on why Joe McCord and others thought this idea was so important, so worth pursuing. That is, what was the specific value they saw in libraries sharing resources in order to achieve statewide access not only to traditional library services but also to online databases filled with proprietary content? Further, what was that vision at a time when library access to the Internet was still new — and the potential of that medium to create equitable access to information for persons who never before could have enjoyed that –was just being explored?

But while the technology has evolved and the resources have become much more sophisticated, the basic concept is the same. We cannot have a fully functional competitive modern educational system — not to mention economy — in Texas without a level playing field of access to information. What Joe McCord and other library leaders realized in 1995 and 1997 was that shared access to information and particularly to digital information unlocks an ever-expanding universe of resources that are absolutely fundamental to building a progressive modern society in Texas. For the last 25 years, TexShare, and a little later TexQuest, have put libraries in the exact center of that flow of information, made libraries vital to providing the public a gateway to the riches of those shared online resources. And by harnessing the purchasing power of the state, those resources have flowed to Texans in all parts of the state for pennies on the dollar what they would have cost if those libraries had to buy them—as Danielle detailed earlier. Every year, those resources receive over 100 million uses, which means that over the last 25 years, TexShare and TexQuest materials have been consulted literally billions of times by Texans. The investment has paid off. TexShare and TexQuest resources have immeasurably helped the citizens of Texas while putting the libraries of Texas in their rightful place in the driver’s seat of providing public access to information in all its many formats.

Now fast forward to 2020. The outlook is suddenly clouded with uncertainty. The economic crisis that has been born of the coronavirus pandemic threatens to erode much of the amazing progress of library resource sharing in Texas over these nearly two and a half decades. While we have not received our budget instructions yet, we are anticipating a reduction of up to 20 percent or more in our state funding. And while those reductions will be spread across agency functions, because TexShare and TexQuest electronic resources comprise the single largest purchase of our agency and account for over one-third of our state funding, they will by necessity take the brunt of the reductions. We believe we will be able to maintain the core TexShare and TexQuest electronic resources, but we may well be forced to eliminate a number of the individual products you and your patrons and students rely on.

That would be tragic, not just for the libraries, but more importantly for the citizens of Texas. Online resources are needed now more than ever, especially as students grapple with remote learning and the public is forced to remain home and sheltered and many libraries remain closed. In fact, one of the huge lessons of the pandemic is that the public’s ability to access information remotely has been one of the most crucial lifelines offered by libraries. Libraries proved key to the public’s ability to stay connected and informed during the pandemic through access to online resources, including those provided via TexShare, as you saw from Kate Reagor’s analysis. And libraries that had signed up last fall to participate in our E-Read Texas e-book program found that as they had to close their doors, content provided via the Simply-E app integrated with their ILS offered yet another source of materials for their homebound customers. Patrons of libraries that had made that move to E-Read Texas before the pandemic were rewarded for that initiative and several others contacted us to get on board after the lockdown started.

People trust the information they receive via the library. Surveys by groups such as Pew and the Knight Foundation have consistently found that while the public mistrusts both government and the media, they have a high confidence in the authority of information they get through the library. In an era where a significant percentage of the population says it gets its news and information via social media, TexShare, TexQuest — not to mention other library materials available widely through ILL — offer information of high authenticity and accuracy. I believe the public desperately craves that level of authenticity in information sources.

And the difficulty of a potential reduction of TexShare resources is compounded by the fact that local budgets are also likely to get slammed. Public library budgets will probably take a hit from a downturn in revenue for cities and counties. And higher ed libraries might also feel the pain as parent institutions see a decrease in tuition revenue and state support. It is a bad time to try to locally backfill resources lost from reductions in TexShare and TexQuest.

But I don’t want to end your great day today with a bleak downer message. You get enough of that in the news every day. I believe we collectively have the ability to resist and roll back some of these potential reductions. So, I am going to suggest a few ways that you can be prepared to help with this situation.

First, use the heck out of TexShare. One of the ways that we can ensure that we keep these resources is to use them. We have uncommonly high use already, but it would be very helpful to demonstrate that use is increasing, especially in the time of Covid. And in addition to using the resources, let your patrons know how valuable they are and keep seeking creative ways to integrate the content into your ongoing programs and services.

Second, tell your elected leaders at the state level how you feel about TexShare and TexQuest. Thank them for supporting these services over the years. Let them know that your patrons find these resources extremely valuable for school, business, and personal use and the hardship that loss of those resources would cause. If you have them, convey anecdotes of how they have helped people in your communities, how crucial remote access was during Covid, and tell them you’d like to see more money for these resources, not less.

Be ready to support TLA as they advocate for the TSLAC budget. Our intention, if they let us, is to request immediate reinstatement of any funding cuts to our budget, especially for shared digital resources. TLA will coordinate support for that ask, but if you find these resources useful, spring of 2021 will likely be the time to start telling the legislature. Let them know that this is exactly the wrong time to deprive people of access to online resources. Now more than ever people in all parts of the state need to be connected to authoritative information delivered remotely through broadband networks.

And finally, and more broadly speaking, keep the hope and dream alive of the power of sharing resources among libraries. 25 years on from the creation, when electronic resources are so ubiquitous and have become so routine, it is hard to remember the bad old days. Hard to remember when people could not sit at home and pull up the information they need for school, work, and home. Hard to remember when interactive service for people in rural areas meant getting in a car and driving for hours to get to a major city. Hard to remember that information that people needed to grow their businesses or get legal forms or research their family history depended on where they happened to live or whether their local library could afford to acquire all those resources.

What Joe McCord and others knew in the 1990s was that libraries working together, combined with the power of statewide purchasing, has the potential to erase all kinds of barriers that keep people from the information they need. That core model has not changed. In fact, in the age of Covid, it has become even more glaringly obvious. Libraries can and should be one of the central institutions moving Texas in the direction of a sustainable, information-based economy delivered remotely to every citizen via high-speed networks.

It will take effort by every one of us, but I am confident we have the power to go forth from here today and continue to make that dream a reality.

Thank you so much for participating in the conference today and for what you do to serve your communities. I wish you the best of luck in all your programs.

TSLAC CARES

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:
http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/libfunding/LSFA_Summary_Final.pdf

Sharing your thoughts with your U.S. representatives:
https://cqrcengage.com/ala/app/write-a-letter?3&engagementId=508533

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.

We feel your pain

It is a hard time to be library worker.

When much of society went home to shelter in place in mid-March, most library staff did the same. By late March, most Texas libraries were closed. TSLAC closed its public reading rooms on Tuesday, March 17.

Since then, libraries have struggled with multiple challenges in their valiant efforts to serve the public. Many instituted curbside pick-ups, others ramped up their online offerings, while others boosted their wifi signals, even taking wifi into the communities or onto vehicles. Some libraries circulated devices or wifi hotspots and many offered virtual story hours, summer reading programs, and other online programming.

The public have used these services fully, especially remote access to online services while they too are home, often with children who they are trying to keep entertained and tracking to reading and learning.

These services have proven the value of the library as an essential service, even when closed to walk-in patrons. But this effort has taken its toll on library workers. Library directors and their staffs had to pivot literally overnight to new ways of providing services under emergency conditions. For many, the demand increased dramatically. Those who remained open, or in some way interacting with the public, had to scramble to find the PPE necessary to keep staff and the public safe.

On April 27, Governor Abbott declared that libraries and museums could open at 25 percent capacity. He emphasized that his guidance would be permissive for city and county libraries but required for state libraries. That order began the process of many libraries returning to some on-site services. That movement has left many libraries with dilemmas regarding how far to push face coverings. Librarians in some locations face a choice of hostility from customers who feel face coverings limit their individual liberties and legitimate worries about keeping staff and the public safe from the virus.

On May 4, TSLAC began accepting researchers in the Archives reading room at the downtown Austin Lorenzo De Zavala Building and at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty. TSLAC is the only library operated by the state that has opened to visitors and throughout May and June staff have served a succession of researchers in the reading room. TSLAC strongly encourages – but cannot require – the use of face coverings by patrons. To-date, all researchers coming to the De Zavala building have been willing to wear masks and observe our safety and distancing protocols as a matter of mutual consideration and respect between the public and our staff.

Even as library staffs continue to cope through the crisis, the next hurdle looms: budget reductions. We fully expect that the economic impact of the virus on cities, counties, and the state will be huge. TSLAC, along with all other agencies, has been asked to make a five percent reduction to the current biennium with further reductions all but certain for the future. Being as essential to Texans – as libraries are in both good and difficult times – should ensure that they are the last cut, but we all know that it doesn’t work out that way. Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz is currently at work on a document that will provide strategies for library directors and managers facing the looming specter of funding reductions.

TSLAC feels the pain of local library managers and workers who have valiantly and selflessly served their communities throughout the Coronavirus epidemic. We are struggling with the same challenges that you all are, both in terms of maintaining public service while also preparing ourselves for inevitable budget cuts.

It is a challenging time to be in public service. But we will get through this together and we will survive. I am confident that while we may take more than our share of the impact of societal crises and funding reductions, the public has an enduring need for what libraries offer: a stable and beloved social institution, open to all on equal terms, providing authoritative access to life-saving, life-affirming information.

Please let me know how the Texas State Library and Archives Commission can help your library as we navigate together through these difficult times.

Resources for libraries:

Library Developments Blog: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/librarydevelopments/

COVID-19 Information and Resources for Library Workers: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/covid-19

Resources for records managers:

The Texas Record Blog: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/

General resources:

TSLAC Plan for Services during the COVID-19 Health Situation: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/services



TSLAC reaffirms its longstanding commitment to equality and opposing racism

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has by practice, tradition, and professional ethics long stood for racial equality, tolerance, and democratic ideals. In the 1920s, State Librarian Elizabeth Howard West, the first woman to run a state agency in Texas, opened the library’s reading room to Blacks and Latinos and introduced services to the blind. West’s actions—at a time of widespread discrimination and segregation–recognized the right of persons of all races and abilities to equally access library books and information.*

West understood, as have generations of librarians and archivists that have followed her, the vital need of all persons, regardless of circumstance, to avail themselves of information resources in books and historical records that have the power to transform and enrich their lives.

Even before West’s tenure, this understanding caused the Texas State Library to partner with the Texas Library Association as long ago as 1909 to begin pushing to form local libraries in all parts of the state. That conviction later drove decision making in the 1970s that created library systems to support, develop, and encourage those libraries;  in the 1980s to introduce grant programs to address underserved populations; and in the 1990s to create shared access to online information available to virtually every person in the state. From 1931, when the State Library became one of the first to join the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (now the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled), until today, TSLAC has actively worked to ensure access for persons with disabilities to reading and information resources. 

In 2014, the Commission adopted operational goals for the agency that speak to the need of all Texans for library and information services, and in 2019, the agency created the position of Inclusive Services Consultant. The TSLAC mission is to “provide Texans access to information needed to be informed, productive citizens.” Implicit is that all Texans regardless of their race, whether they live in an urban or rural area, their abilities or disabilities, sexual orientation, or any other factor, have the right to and need for these services.

This is in our DNA as librarians and archivists. Our partners and colleagues at the Texas Library Association this week adopted a resolution that “condemns racism and violence against black people and all people of color.” That statement calls on “library and information services leaders, staff and advocates of all races and backgrounds to abolish racism against people of color.”

State Librarian West, a former president of the Texas Library Association, would approve of that statement. Current administration of TSLAC will continue to make the internal and external progress necessary to ensure that our services are fairly and equitably delivered and that we do our part to ensure that all Texans are treated equally and fairly.


* For the full history of Elizabeth Howard West’s efforts to democratize the services of the Texas State Library, see David B. Gracy’s excellent history of the agency, The State Library and Archives of Texas: A History,1835-1962 (University of Texas Press, 2010), pp 40-41, as well as West’s papers in the State Archives at TSLAC.

TSLAC Rises to the Occasion

The dedicated staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission have continued to serve the public throughout the coronavirus emergency period.

A researcher accessing TSLAC archival holdings online on May 12.

The archives reading room is the only library facility in state government currently welcoming the public to conduct research on site. Since May 4, researchers seeking to access TSLAC’s rich archival holdings on Texas history and government have been able to make an appointment for a personal visit. The public services staff have been available to welcome researchers and offer professional assistance in use of the collection.

TSLAC Digital Asset Coordinator Steve Kantner prepares archival records for digitization and remote access.

Throughout the pandemic, far more inquiries for information have been handled via e-mail and by phone, with most requests satisfied with resources provided electronically, many from the over 50 terabytes of information contained in the Texas Digital Archive, or via the TSLAC website.

The staff of the State Records Center have been on hand throughout the period when most other Texas government functions have been closed, meeting the need of agencies to deliver documents to offices, or to receive transfers of records from state agencies.

Talking Book Program Service Clerk Bo Cao pulls materials to send to TBP customers throughout Texas.

The Talking Book Program (TBP) serves persons with visual and physical disabilities who are particularly disadvantaged and isolated by the current crisis. The TBP circulation staff are working on-site to mail out materials that meet the reading and information needs of residents in all parts of the state. TBP staff are also available by phone to help readers find the materials they need.

Since mid-March, libraries across Texas have been grappling with how to fulfill their essential role of information providers to their communities while many have been closed. The staff of the TSLAC Library Development and Networking (LDN) division have been on hand to provide a steady flow of supporting materials to libraries of all types and sizes in all parts of the state. A resources page established at the beginning of the crisis has continued to grow with materials on communications strategies for libraries and how to safely reopen services to the public. The LDN team is also currently receiving applications for TSLAC CARES grants to assist libraries in addressing community needs for digital inclusion and COVID-19 prevention, response, and recovery. Libraries have also been able to offer their customers remote access to a huge range of online information via the TexShare and TexQuest shared online infomration programs and the E-Read Texas statewide e-book project. And thanks to TSLAC’s efforts to bring broadband services to Texas libraries — which have increased internet speeds by over 1,000 percent in over 150 locations across the state — library customers can access those resouces more quickly and efficiently.

TSLAC takes seriously its mission to “provide Texans with the information they need to lead informed and productive lives.” That need does not stop in times of crisis (in fact, it only increases) and neither does the work of the TSLAC team to meet that need.

Links to TSLAC resources mentioned in this post:

For more information on how to access TSLAC services during the emergency period, see this link: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/services

To contact the TSLAC archives staff, please e-mail archinfo@tsl.texas.gov. 

For more information or to apply for a TSLAC CARES grant, visit https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/cares

Explore the vast historical resouces contained in the Texas Digital Archive at https://tsl.access.preservica.com/

To find out more about the Talking Book Program, visit https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/index.html

COVID-19 Information and Resources for Library Workers – https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/covid-19

For information on the TexShare program serving public and academic librareis, see https://www.tsl.texas.gov/texshare/index.html

Information regarding TexQuest e-resources for K-12 students can be found at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/landing/educators.html

For more on the E-Read Texas e-book program, see https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/ebooks

Reopening library services

On Monday of this week, Governor Abbott identified libraries and museums in his announcement of the businesses and services that would begin to reopen in Texas May 1. The governor specified that local libraries and museums would open at 25 percent capacity at the discretion of their local governments. The directive specifies that interactive components of libraries and museums can remain closed to the public.

Since Gov. Abbott’s order was released Monday, we have received many contacts from libraries with questions such as, how can a library open in a manner that is safe? What does 25 percent capacity mean? Are ordinary books on the shelf considered interactive? 

In response to those many contacts and questions by local librarians, Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and staff of the Library Development and Networking Division developed a resource guide to reopening libraries which can be found on the COVID-19 Resources Page developed by the LDN team.

The Resource Guide answers many questions pertaining to Governor Abbott’s order (GA-18). It is important to note the following components of that order:

  • libraries may only open if allowed to do so by their local governing authority
  • the threshold for occupancy is set at the “up to” 25 percent mark, and
  • interactive functions or exhibits, including child play areas, must remain closed.

The Resource Guide provides sample reopening plans, questions to consider in reopening, and lists of materials and resources helpful to libraries planning to reopen. Among the questions that library directors can discuss with their governing authorities are whether the library’s hours can be limited or changed? Does time need to be allowed to disinfect materials and surfaces? Could the library maintain special hours for at-risk populations? What should be considered “interactive” and not made available to the public?

These are complex decisions that will require discussion with local governments. And they are questions that we at TSLAC have been grappling with along with all other libraries. We look forward to resolving these questions and eventually beginning to provide services while observing social distancing, face coverings, and other ways to ensure the safety of our staff and our public as they access these services that the governor has acknowledged as one of the most important services in our society.

Links in this post:

Governor Abbott’s Open Texas Plan (libraries and museums, see pp. 35-36) –  https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/orgnization/opentexas/OpenTexas-Report.pdf

TSLAC Reopening Libraries: Resource Guide – https://www.tsl.texas.gov/sites/default/files/public/tslac/ld/ldn/COVID/TSLAC_Return_to_Work_Libraries_Resources_2020.pdf

COVID-19 Information and Resources for Library Workers – https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/covid-19

Bracing for the budget impact and, while we wait, a little good news

Every day we get some variation of this question from someone: “Has the state notified you yet that you will have to cut your budget?”

I most recently received this question on Friday from members of our commission in their regularly scheduled meeting (the first ever TSLAC commission meeting conducted via teleconference).

The answer is, as of today, no. The state has not notified us that we will have to cut our budgets in the current biennium. The most we know is that we believe that in preparing the Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for the next session, we will be required to identify a contingency cut of 20 percent.

But we don’t kid ourselves that that will be the extent of the pain. In the commission meeting, Commissioner Bradley Tegeler commented that his sources in the legislature are predicting that the next session will be a repeat of the grim 2005 and 2011 sessions. Not good news: in 2011, TSLAC took a 65 percent cut to our state funding. That reduction caused the elimination of the Texas Library System and of Loan Star Libraries program of direct aid to libraries. Further, the reduction in 2012 was such that Texas lost maintenance of effort for federal funds and was initially denied a request for waiver in 2013, which would have resulted in a further cut of $6.5 million in federal funding. Despite some recovery over the last three biennia, the TSLAC budget is still about 20 percent below our pre-2012 level.

So, it appears, we may be looking at similar levels of cuts this year. Like everyone else, we can read the news and know that the coronavirus epidemic has caused a dramatic loss of revenue from various sources, most notably sales tax and oil and gas revenues. Of course, as directed, TSLAC will prepare a budget with contingent cut plans. The difference from the last three biennia is that this session those cuts are much more likely to be more than just contingencies. Those budget reductions will likely impact services across the agency. And, as in 2012, a cut of over 10 percent of the budget would very likely result in a corresponding loss of federal funds. In that round, we ultimately avoided the cut because in subsequent sessions, the legislature moved to restore at least some TSLAC funding, but the warning to Texas at that time was not to expect similar waivers in the future.

Of course, many other states will be in the same situation this time so ultimately many waiver requests will be likely. The bad news is already starting to roll in from other states that have ongoing legislative sessions and their cuts are playing out in real time.

But, we do have a little good news. . .

In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress appropriated $50 million for programs targeted to libraries to be administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Of these funds $30 million will come to Texas. Last week the IMLS notified Texas that our share of these funds will be $2.6 million. The funds are targeted on a need basis to assist libraries in technology, broadband access, and Covid-19 recovery. The following are the priorities for these funds as stated by the IMLS:

a. Primarily to address digital inclusion and related technical support, using the following types of data to inform targeted efforts:

• Poverty/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
• Unemployment
• Broadband availability;

b. Secondarily to address other efforts that prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19; and

c. With respect to (a) or (b), reach museum and tribal partners, in addition to traditionally eligible library entities, where appropriate.

While we are still discussing exactly how we intend to distribute these funds in Texas, we are heavily leaning toward a combination of direct grants to libraries to address technology development, unemployment, and Covid-19 recovery, and a strategy to bring more libraries into statewide high-speed broadband networks. We look forward to having more definitive information to the statewide library community by early May.

On Thursday of this week (April 23 at 2:00 p.m.), Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and I will be discussing these and other strategic issues associated with the coronavirus crisis in a webinar entitled, “Texas Libraries: Planning and Communicating the Library Message and Services Under Covid-19.” You can register for that webinar at this link. We hope you will join us.

We look forward to continuing to communicate the value of our services and the importance of strengthening Texas libraries so they can be true community anchors in times of crisis and at all other times as well.

 

Links in this post:

Link to our webinar this Thursday at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2548786007212315917