Day 77 and a big week ahead

Today is day 77 of the 86th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature and this is a big week for several items that impact TSLAC and libraries, archives, and records programs across the state.

Concerning our budget, so far the House budget contains a number of items in our legislative appropriations request, including funding to allow the agency to continue to store records on contract for other state and local agencies. Without that funding, TSLAC will be out of storage space by the end of 2019. The House budget also includes funding requested for cybersecurity upgrades to safeguard online resources and personally identifiable information. We were also very happy to see the House adopt our recommendation for targeted salary increases to allow us to remain competitive in recruitment and retention of qualified staff to discharge our core mandates.

So far, the Senate budget includes none of these items, however, this Thursday, the Senate Finance committee will be hearing recommendations from their budget subcommittees, so we will see if any of our requested items are adopted. If not, the resolution of our request will be up to the budget conference committee that will be created in a few weeks.

Our Sunset bill progresses. We anticipate a committee vote on HB 1962 by Rep. Lambert in tomorrow’s meeting of the House Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism. We are anticipating a committee substitute that will ensure that our agency is able to continue to monitor and assist local governments in the management of their public records.

Also this week, several bills that we have been following are coming up for consideration in committee. Today, the House State Affairs Committee is taking up three bills related to broadband policy in Texas. HB 1960 by Rep. Price would create a statewide broadband council in the Governor’s Office, which I and others have often stated would be a great advance for the future of broadband development in Texas. Interestingly, HB 2423 by Rep. Anderson has recommended the creation of a broadband office at the Public Utility Commission so it will be interesting to see how the committee resolves these two bills. HB 2422 also by Rep. Anderson would implement a “one-dig” policy in Texas to facilitate broadband deployment with other utility development.

We look forward to updating everyone as the session continues. For those of you who are going to the Texas Library Association Annual Conference this year, we hope you will join us for our program updating you on the session in progress on Wednesday, April 17, 9:45 to 10:45. We should have plenty more to report by then!

A sweet victory

The statewide library community was thrilled this week when Senator Jane Nelson announced from the floor of the Texas Senate that her SB 3, providing a permanent $5,000 per year pay increase to classroom teachers, would be extended to include K-12 librarians. A collective cheer went up across the state among librarians of all types for this hard-won victory.

The Texas Library Association led the charge to include school librarians in SB 3. TLA President Jennifer LaBoon and Frisco ISD librarian Nancy Jo Lambert delivered very eloquent and emotional testimony February 25 to the Senate Finance Committee. The same day, an editorial ran in the Texas Tribune titled “Librarians are Teachers.” In that column, author Sara Stevenson outlines the many ways librarians are not only teachers but “literacy leaders” on their campuses. A few days later, Jennifer LaBoon was featured on the widely-heard “Texas Standard” radio program on NPR speaking about why librarians should be included. And on March 10, an editorial by a prominent university librarian, Lorraine Harricomb at UT Austin, ran in the Austin American Statesman extolling the vital and unique role of K-12 libraries.

In fact, the question of including librarians so came to dominate the story that much of the coverage of the pay raise measure featured librarians as much as teachers. “Senate passes teacher pay raise, adds librarians,” read the Austin American-Statesman headline on March 5. “Texas Senate unanimously passes $5,000 teacher pay raises, adding librarians,” said the Texas Tribune.

The victory is more than just the pay raises. It is a validation–long overdue–of the role of K-12 libraries in student success. That role has been documented repeatedly in dozens of studies in many states. Unfortunately for our students, it is a message that many school administrators and policy makers have been slow to understand and accept. Meanwhile, K-12 librarians work tirelessly to improve reading skills (one of Governor Abbott’s initiatives), raise STAAR test scores, and otherwise prepare students with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in work and life.

Congratulations to the K-12 librarians of the state for your huge success!

 

Articles cited above:

“Texas Senate unanimously passes $5,000 teacher pay raises, adding librarians,”Texas Tribune, March 4, 2019. https://www.texastribune.org/2019/03/04/texas-senate-passes-5000-teacher-pay-raises-adding-librarians/?utm_campaign=trib-social-buttons&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

“Librarians are Teachers,” Sara Stevenson, Texas Tribune, February 25, 2019. https://www.tribtalk.org/2019/02/25/librarians-are-teachers/

“School librarians say they should be included in the proposed $5K teacher pay raise,” Texas Standard radio program, February 28, 2019.  https://www.kut.org/post/school-librarians-say-they-should-be-included-proposed-5k-teacher-pay-raise

53 down, 87 to go!

The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature is in full swing and we are watching their progress with great interest.

The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days at the beginning of every odd-numbered year. We are now 53 days in with 87 to go (not that we are counting). It is a busy session so far and TSLAC has a number of matters of interest under consideration in this session.

Budget – As is the case every session, we are following the progress of our budget request as it is considered by both the House and Senate. Included in our budget is a very large request for new funding–nearly $38 million. Of that figure, $30.8 million is for expansion of storage space to allow us to continue to store records for state agencies, one of the most important services that TSLAC offers to the state. Without new funding, we will be completely out of records storage capacity by the end of 2019. That request is currently included in the House version of the budget, but not the Senate version. We have also asked for funding to add much more e-book content to our very popular and heavily used TexShare and TexQuest online information services. That item was not included in either budget, but has been pended for further consideration in the House version. Other exceptional funding requests for TSLAC include hiring an agency  general counsel, providing for cybersecurity needs, conducting a statewide outreach program, and securing salary increases to recruit and retain agency staff.

Sunset bills – Every twelve years, most state agencies have to go through a reauthorization process known as sunset review. This session TSLAC is up for reauthorization and two bills have been filed to maintain the agency until 2031. SB 618 by Senator Hall, and HB 1962 by Representative Lambert are identical and would continue the agency with no loss of authority and with a number of statutory changes that will strengthen our work. Further, the legislation would expand our authority to allow the agency to purchase advertising to promote agency services, most notably the Talking Book Program, and would also allow us to sell educational materials such as reproductions of archival materials.

Other bills – We are following a number of other bills in this session that either name TSLAC directly or would impact our work. Such bills include:

  • HB 679 by Rep. Guillen that would also give us the ability to advertise services and sell educational materials.
  • HB 700 by Rep. Guillen that would add libraries and schools to eligibility to participate in a skills development fund.
  • HB 703 by Rep. Harris that would extend the date at which birth and death records are made available to the public from 75 to 125 years.
  • HB 1960 by Rep. Price that would establish a Governor’s Broadband Council.
  • HB 1784 by Rep. Capriglione that would codify recommendations contained in the Texas Digital Storage Study published in 2018, including to create at TSLAC the new position of State Information Governance Coordinator.
  • HB 2422 by Rep. Anderson relating to the coordination of broadband projects by the Texas Facilities Commission.

We will continue to monitor the progress of our budget, our sunset bills and these other bills as the session continues. Be sure to let us know if you have any questions about any of these issues.

Libraries Cultivating Communities of Compassion

Our Center for the Book, under the confident and enthusiastic leadership of Rebekah Manley, is launching today the second Read Across Texas effort entitled, “Know Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion.” This program will feature four books – a novel, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman; a non-fiction book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle; a picture book, Dreamers by Yuyi Morales; and a graphic novel, The Strange by Jérôme Ruillier — to explore the themes of civility, compassion, and community engagement.

When Rebekah asked me to write a letter to Texas libraries encouraging participation in Read Across Texas, I readily agreed and wrote the letter below. I think it is so important in this era where there are such profound divisions in our country to offer libraries as a place of social healing, community cohesion, and civic engagement. Libraries are uniquely positioned to be the safe place for conversations about shared values and we hope that these books will provide starting points for those interactions. Sometimes that interaction might be tense, emotional, or even painful, but it is so important that we start the process and that libraries be front and center in that effort.

Rebekah and our great communications team have launched a rich and helpful page on our website with much information about how to access free sets of the books for your library and resource materials for leading the discussions at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas

Here is my letter to the state. I hope you will participate and I look forward to hearing about your successes.

 

 

Dear Texas Library Colleagues,

I am very pleased to introduce Know Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion, the 2019 theme for Read Across Texas, a project of the Texas Center for the Book. We intend for this exciting project, which suggests four profoundly moving books in each of four genres, to provide the basis for a series of community conversations about how to encourage civility, compassion, and stronger communities.

We hear much nowadays about the divisions in our society that keep people from coming together and interacting as neighbors and fellow citizens. Libraries are key elements of a social infrastructure that provide a valuable place for social engagement and interaction. The titles we are encouraging communities to read in this year’s statewide reading program explore ideas of how to overcome our divisions and connect with our neighbors on a sustaining, human level.

I have read all four books and I can personally recommend all of them. Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle is a sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking memoir of his work helping gang members in Los Angeles to gain employable skills—and the best book on compassion I’ve ever read. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman is a heartwarming and funny story about how people are so much more than our first impressions. The Strange, a graphic novel by Jérôme Ruiller, uses animal-like figures to explore the plight of strangers in a strange land. And Dreamers by Yuyi Morales is an award-winning picture book in which an immigrant mother and her son find a welcoming and enriching place in their local public library.

I hope you will consider participating in Know Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion to use these books to bring your community together in a discussion of our shared values as Texans and Americans. Our Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley will be providing book sets, made possible by our Friends of Libraries & Archives of Texas, to as many libraries as possible as well as a toolkit including questions that you can use to spark quality discussions. Please visit www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas to apply for books and peruse the resources.

Thank you for what you already do to cultivate compassionate communities. I look forward to hearing your success stories as you participate in this worthwhile program.
Respectfully,

Mark Smith
State Librarian

Developing communities of practice and mutual support

In 2012, with the devastating loss of 65% of state funding, the Texas Library Systems ceased to operate. For over four decades, this program had provided a platform for library cooperation, training, and sharing of expertise. When the ten regional library systems ended, libraries in remote parts of the state lost an essential platform through which to interact easily with neighboring libraries, to share information and stay connected to a larger community of libraries. Many librarians felt very much set adrift and isolated. And they still do.

It is unlikely that the systems will return in the form that we knew them in the 1970s through the 2000s. But in the wake of the systems, many libraries across the state have attempted to form themselves into groups that come together to network and share expertise. Currently in Texas a number of systems and consortia exist for a variety of purposes and in various stages of development.

For some time now, we have wanted to find ways to encourage libraries to form into grassroots systems and find ways to come together and create communities of practice and mutual support, either formal or informal. With this in mind, through the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas, we sought grant funding from the Still Water Foundation to conduct a study of four systems in West Texas that are in various stages of development. The Still Water Foundation generously supports projects that seek economic development and sustainability for rural communities in West and Central Texas. Using the grant funds, we secured the services of Lee+ associates, a highly respected organization that provides organizational development services to non-profit organizations.

Throughout most of 2018, Lee+ conducted a review of four library systems in West Texas: Small Country Libraries, West Texas Library Group, the Abilene Library Consortium, and the Harrington Library Consortium. Lee+ met with and surveyed these library systems and reported back to TSLAC and the individual systems on strategies these specific systems could use to achieve their desired goals.

The final stage of their research involved the creation of a “Tool Box” for the development of library systems and consortium. Lee+ has delivered the Tool Box – Practical Resources for Developing Library Systems and Consortia and it can be found on our website at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/system-toolbox. The idea of the Tool Box is to help library systems determine what their goals are and to place themselves on a life cycle that helps them decide what resources and strategies they need to adopt to succeed. The Tool Box contains an impressive set of resources such as sample bylaws, policy documents, statements of responsibilities of non-profit boards and much more.

We urge library systems to use the resources in the Tool Box to assess their current status, to articulate their desired goals, and develop a road map to get to those outcomes. We are grateful to Still Water for their support, for Lee+ for their great work, and to our four West Texas library systems for their time and help with this project.

Passing the MLSA–Ending 2018 on a high note

On Wednesday night, the U.S. Congress passed S. 3530, the Museum and Library Services Act, on a vote of 327-28. The Senate had passed the bill several days earlier, but until Wednesday, it appeared the chances for passage were slipping away in the last days of this Congress. The MLSA reauthorizes the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the federal agency that sets national library policy and administers Library Services and Technology Act Funding. Texas receives about $11.4 million in LSTA funding each year and we use those funds to support Interlibrary Lending, Library consulting and continuing education programs, competitive grants, and about 25% of TexShare funding.

Key to the passage of this bill was Representative Will Hurd (R, TX-23), who co-sponsored the legislation and worked strategically for its passage. We are grateful to Rep. Hurd and the other sponsors and members of Congress who recognize the value that libraries contribute to building the social infrastructure that leads to strong, sustainable communities and engaged, educated citizens.

With the passage of the MLSA, and pending the president’s signature, we look forward to continuing to communicate with Congress the importance of support for libraries in Texas and across the nation to fully activate their potential as engines of education, economic development, and civic engagement.

TSLAC 2018 Accomplishments

TSLAC Staff from all locations gathered together for the first-ever all-staff training on March 9, 2018.

Every year this time I like to take a moment to review what our agency has accomplished over the last year. It is important for every organization to occasionally pause and reflect on its successes and major projects. The following is not an exhaustive list of all work done by TSLAC, but features highlights from the year. And other than the few general items at the top, it is arranged by the operational goals contained in our strategic plan.

Many thanks to our commission for their support and guidance, to our amazing staff for their tireless work in providing Texans with the information they need to lead informed and productive lives, and to our stakeholders across the state who use our services and advocate for our success.

2018 TSLAC Accomplishments

Organizational

  • Successful outcome of our agency Sunset Review
  • Onboarding of three new commissioners: David Garza, Arthur Mann, and Darryl Tocker
  • TSLAC Strategic Plan and 2020-2021 LAR submitted
  • TSLAC Biennial Report completed

Goal 1: To articulate and advance the value of Texas libraries as essential to our communities and state

  • TexShare core database renewal
  • Completed with Lee+ a study of West Texas library systems
  • Adoption new K-12 School Library Standards and distribution to every district
  • Future of Rural Symposium livestream to Texas libraries
  • Library Technology Academy debut

Goal 2: To recruit and retain the knowledge-based workforce necessary to discharge the agency’s duties

  • Staff Development Day – First time all staff have come together for total agency training
  • Full staffing of the Information Technology Services Department
  • State Auditors Office adoption of TSLAC recommendation for new Records Analyst Series
  • Salary request included in 2020-2021 Legislative Appropriations Request
  • 40th Anniversary of the Talking Book Program Volunteer Recording Studio

Goal 3: To safeguard, preserve, and provide access to informational and historic assets

  • Sam Houston Center Museum remodel and launch
  • 30 Terabytes of information in the Texas Digital Archive
  • First two Fellowships in Texas History Research (a “scholar-in-residence” program) funded
  • Setting the Texas Table Exhibit launched
  • Archives a la Carte Exhibit launched
  • 2019 Report of Reports completed
  • Another successful E-Records Conference, November 16
  • Work begun on the historic buildings at the Sam Houston Center
  • Multi-year Texas Department of Transportation digital imaging project launched
  • Adoption of amendments to School District retention schedules
  • Proposed amendments to Juvenile Records schedules
  • Collaborated with the Department of Information Resources in completing the Texas Digital Storage Study

Goal 4: To acquire the technology necessary to effectively, securely, and efficiently manage agency resources

  • Go-live of our new TBP automation system, WebReads (replacing our last major legacy software system)
  • New Duplication on Demand system for TBP materials requests
  • Completion of the Information Resources Deployment Review (IRDR)
  • Implemented electronic packets for TSLAC commission meetings
  • Expansion of imaging technology in our State and Local Records Management program: rotary scanner, digital archive writer, Digitech software
  • Added wireless network to our Shoal Creek facility
  • Bandwidth increase for Sam Houston Center

Goal 5: To secure the state’s official records by addressing the immediate need for additional archival storage and provide for the growth of Texas records

  • Development of LAR request for additional storage space
  • Many meetings with Governor’s Office, LBB, TFC, and Texas Public Finance Authority and others
  • Sunset recommendation regarding TSLAC leadership role to curatorial storage space
  • Brought in 46,225 boxes; destroyed 37,288 boxes; remaining space about 30,000 boxes

Goal 6: To support efforts to ensure digital inclusion for Texas

  • Libraries Connecting Texas – Faster broadband in 84 Texas libraries (with a second round underway)
  • Partnership with Glasshouse Policy Institute to further Texas broadband policy
  • Successful conclusion of Toward Gigabit Libraries project

Goal 7: Continue to refine our response to the informational needs of the increasingly diverse Texas population

  • 59 competitive grant projects funded
  • Positive review of TBP following NLS site visit
  • Ten new Family Place libraries added
  • Provided books for Lone Star Día projects in 40 libraries
  • Prison library services pilot project
  • Letters about Literature with two Texas students achieving national recognition

It is TSLAC’s honor and privilege to serve the people of Texas. We look forward to another successful year in 2019. Happy holidays and we look forward to seeing all of you in the New Year.

 

Libraries as social infrastructure

Where do we invest our public resources to achieve the greatest benefits to society? This is a question that our public officials constantly ask themselves and others in making the decisions necessary to fund government. As the Texas Legislature reconvenes on January 8, our state lawmakers will again be considering the Return on Investment — or ROI — of all the programs funded by state dollars.

A recently published book offers a new perspective on how to think about the investment of public funding to achieve more vibrant and sustainable communities, better educated citizens, stronger democratic institutions and greater civic engagement. The title of the book says it all: Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg (Crown, 2018).

In Palaces for the People, Klinenberg explores the concept of Social Infrastructure, that is, “the physical places and organizations that shape the way people interact.” Social infrastructure fosters contact, mutual support and collaboration. Social infrastructure leads to more resilient communities through social cohesion that addresses a broad array of challenges from crime to education to healthcare.

Sound familiar? It should come as no surprise that the first chapter of the book focuses on libraries and that libraries are prevalent throughout the book. In fact, the title is borrowed from Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist who funded the creation of hundreds of libraries across the country, who observed that the monarchs of Europe had their gilded and marble palaces, but in the United States, libraries are the palaces of the people.

Klinenberg writes that “the library is among the most critical forms of Social Infrastructure that we have” and quotes the Pew Research Center’s study that showed that more than 90 percent of Americans see their library as “very” or “somewhat” important in their community many other major institutions (government, churches, banks, corporations) have fallen in public esteem “except libraries, the military, and first responders.”

Klinenberg goes on to describe the social infrastructure represented by libraries:

“. . . in cities across the United States and around the world, neighborhood libraries and librarians do all kinds of unexpected things for surprisingly large numbers of people. Their core mission is to help people elevate themselves and improve their situation. Libraries do this, principally, by providing free access to the widest possible variety of cultural materials to people of all ages, from all ethnicities and groups.”

Klinenberg’s argument — supported by substantial evidence — is that by investing in social infrastructure via such organizations such as libraries, we have an opportunity to strengthen our communities in transformative and foundational ways. Investment in social infrastructure leads to lower crime rates, greater local economic growth, lower rates of mental illness, and other positive effects. He posits that investing in social infrastructure that brings people together and builds stronger communities is just as important as roads, bridges and other types of physical infrastructure.

TSLAC, as well as the libraries and archival institutions across Texas that we support, fall into this category of social infrastructure. By training librarians, providing shared access to online resources, delivering recorded materials to visually impaired and disabled Texans and providing access to public records and archives, we are strengthening communities, encouraging civic engagement and bringing Texans together. We have demonstrated that every dollar invested in library service yields $4.64 in return, but that ROI does not even include the incalculable benefits of access to life-changing and affirming programming, civic interaction and information for persons of all ages, in all parts of the state, and all social and economic backgrounds.

We hope the decision makers in Texas will agree.

See also: “Worry less about crumbling roads, more about crumbling libraries,” by Eric Klinenberg, in Citilab, September 21, 2018. 

TSLAC Passes Sunset Review

After months of study of our agency, the Sunset Advisory Commission yesterday made final decisions on the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The panel—which is comprised of five state senators, five representatives, and two public members—made several recommendations, the most important of which is that TSLAC continue to operate for another 12 years. There is no recommendation for any loss of authority or any combination with another agency.

In addition, the Sunset Commission also recommended that we:

  • Have specific permission to advertise services and to sell reproductions of archival materials the proceeds of which will benefit preservation and digitization efforts as well as educational operations
  • Work with other agencies to explore options for sharing space for curatorial operations as part of our requested expansion of the State Records Center on Shoal Creek
  • Develop a strategic plan for managing the state archives with particular emphasis on the processing backlog
  • Clarify processes for how we handle the transfer and confidentiality of legislator records
  • Discontinue the requirement that TSLAC approve local government retention schedules
  • Make changes to our grants management procedures to remove perceived conflicts of interest and to ensure broader participation

The Sunset recommendations represent a welcome vote of confidence by the state in the work TSLAC performs for the state. The Sunset Commission staff report spoke about the value of the agency to the state and the commission’s recommendations today underscore their appreciation of the importance of TSLAC’s work and the integrity of our staff and our processes in delivering that work.

I want to thank Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz for being the lead staff person in writing our agency self-evaluation and in leading our very strategic approach to the Sunset process. But this was a team effort that took work by many people inside and outside the agency including our commissioners, our division directors, and many of our staff.  We are also very grateful to support we received throughout process from key stakeholders such as the Texas Library Association, the Texas State Historical Association, and the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board.

Sunset review has been a long road over many months and the process is not over yet. The most important steps lie ahead in introducing and passing legislation to reauthorize TSLAC for another 12 years. But with these recommendations we will approach the session with confidence and an expectation of a favorable outcome.

All decision documents for yesterday’s meeting, including for TSLAC, can be found here.

Reading, libraries, thinking, and reliable information

Many apologies for my lengthy absence from this blog. I took an involuntary hiatus owing to October being a very busy month. Our team opened a new exhibit, presented two programs during the month, participated in Archives Month, prepared for the Texas Book Festival, the Legislative Session, the Sunset Commission meeting in November, and several other major activities.

But I have also been doing some thinking and reading about topics that reflect on the value of what we do as libraries and archives. Over the two days of the Texas Book Festival we watched as thousands of people gathered on the grounds of the Texas Capitol to attend dozens of author sessions, visit book vendors and other exhibitors, purchase books, and otherwise celebrate the power of the printed word. Every author program I attended was completely full with standing room only. I watched at the Gala as contributors donated over $108,000 in less than 20 minutes to support book grants to libraries and the Reading Rock Stars program. The ongoing overwhelmingly positive response to the Texas Book Festival speaks to the power of books and reading and a hunger for authentic information, thoughtful writing, and a faith in libraries as a catalyst and contact point for people seeking access to reliable information and the regenerative practice of reading.

Thursday evening before the Festival, we held our third annual Celebration of Texas Authors and presented the Texas Center for the Book Literacy Award to the Women’s Storybook Project of Texas, an amazing program that allows incarcerated women in Texas to record themselves reading stories for their children. That an act as simple and genuine and basic as reading to your child is so restorative and foundational for these women is further evidence of the power of books and reading to bind families and communities and to create lifelong opportunities for children exposed to books and reading at early ages.

Why are people turning to books and reading and libraries so enthusiastically? Perhaps part of the answer can be found in a report published this month by the Knight Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to exploring journalism and civic engagement. The report, entitled “Disinformation, ‘Fake News,’ and Influence Campaigns on Twitter,” provides the results of a highly granular study of the ways in which Twitter bots are employed to generate automatic posts. The slick interactive presentation of the report online belies the troubling implications for society, especially when, according to the Pew Research Center, 38 percent of people get their news online, including from social media and apps. Fortunately, only 4 percent of people trust the accuracy of news from social media. By comparison, also according to Pew, 74 percent of the public say they see public libraries as a place that helps them decide what information they can trust.

Also in October, I read a book that helped me understand how we interact with information and why it might be a good idea to rethink some of those patterns. Bored and Brilliant: How spacing out can unlock your most productive and creative self, by Manoush Zomorodi (whose excellent podcasts “Note to Self” and “Zig Zag” might be the subject of a later blog post), explains how Americans’ obsessive use of cell phones, screens, apps, and other conveniences of the modern world, is disrupting not only our relationships with other people and our environment, but even the way we read and take in information. Zomorodi describes how many people have trouble even reading a book because online apps train the eye to hop around the page so that the linear act of reading becomes much more difficult. This writer is not anti-online-information (after all, she hosts podcasts), but she does see problematic implications for a loss of sustained reflection, thinking, and deeper understanding.

Libraries and archives offer a path out of the confusion, distraction, and craziness. Through books, reliable online sources, or even something as refreshingly analog as a print newspaper (favored now by only 20 percent of the public, according to Pew), people are finding a way to disconnect with the frantic, stressful, and often unreliable deluge of online information and connect to information sources that encourage thoughtful reflection.

URLs included in this post:

The Women’s Storybook Project of Texas can be found here at https://storybookproject.org/

The Knight Foundation report, “Disinformation, ‘Fake News,’ and Influence Campaigns on Twitter,” can be found at: https://knightfoundation.org/

The Pew Research report on journalism can be found at: http://www.journalism.org/2016/07/07/pathways-to-news/

The Pew Research “Libraries 2016” report can be found at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/09/09/americans-attitudes-toward-public-libraries/

“Bored and Brilliant” was featured on an episode of the NPR program All Tech Considered. That program can be found here: https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/01/12/376717870/bored-and-brilliant-a-challenge-to-disconnect-from-your-phone