Introducing Tim Gleisner: Interview with New Assistant State Librarian

Photo of Tim Gleisner working at his deskI am delighted to announce that Tim Gleisner assumed the position of Assistant State Librarian of Texas on August 22. Tim comes to Texas from Michigan, where his most recent position was Manager of Special Collections at the State Library of Michigan.

Tim has a long and impressive tenure in libraries, archives, and special collections. The whole team at TSLAC is eager to work with Tim, and I know he is excited to join the Texas library community. Our Communications Officer Susan Floyd sat down with Tim to learn more about his background and vision for the field and Texas knowledge institutions.

Tim Gleisner’s professional highlights include:

  • 2017-2022: Manager of Special Collections, Library of Michigan
  • 2016-2017: Assistant Director, Herrick District Library, Holland, Michigan
  • 2004-2016: Head of Special Collections, Grand Rapids Public Library
  • Native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Undergraduate degree in History/Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Master of Library and Information Science with Graduate Certificate in Archival Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Questions

You’ve been in libraries and archives for more than 25 years, and your broad experience spans work as a librarian at the New York Public Library and as head of special collections at multiple institutions. Describe one change that excites you and one thing that hasn’t changed but that still excites you about libraries and archives.

One change that excites me about libraries and archives is the ability to make materials accessible to anyone throughout the state and the world. With digitization, libraries and archives have been able to bring their collections to anyone at any time. When I started as a librarian there was just talk about this change, and during my career, I have seen this change grow into the digital collections that help libraries and archives better tell their stories.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the ability for libraries and archives to help people change their lives. As a public librarian I would help people obtain study materials for their GED, or in some cases help others find materials to learn English. As a special collections librarian, it was helping patrons find the history of their community and watching them be amazed at the history of their place. In all these situations it was the ability to help people discover new insights in themselves and their place that excited and still excites me.

You said that you knew you wanted to work in administration early in your career. What did your prior management work entail, and how will you build upon it as you begin your tenure as Assistant State Librarian?

I started as a manager at the Grand Rapids Public Library in Michigan. While there I managed the Reference and Adult Services and the Special Collections areas. In that role, I supervised more than 300 archival collections (including a collection of more than one million photographs), the Furniture Design, Rare Book, and the Michigan History Collections. To help with this, I supervised numerous staff, volunteers, and student workers while there.

After 12 years at the Grand Rapids Public Library, I went on to the Herrick District Library of Holland, Michigan. There I supervised a staff of 80 people and helped to manage all the programming, facilities, and security of the library. In this role I was also in charge of the budgeting for all the departments of the library, as well.

For the last five years I have been the manager of all the collections at the State Library of Michigan. In this role I supervised staff in reaching out to and serving a statewide audience. We accomplished this by increasing programming and services to our core audiences throughout the State of Michigan.

TSLAC has a complex set of responsibilities to the people of Texas. In addition to preserving the State Archives, the agency provides guidance and leadership in the areas of statewide library development, state and local records management, providing library service to readers with disabilities, and preserving the State Archives. What about these diverse functions drew you to the agency?

What drew me to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission were all the services that are provided through the agency. Specifically, that all the services reside under one agency in state government. This is not the case in many states, and especially Michigan. This is something that really drew me to Texas and its State Library.

What agency projects or priorities do you intend to focus on at the beginning of your tenure at TSLAC?

My focus right now is to learn all I can about TSLAC. This agency is incredibly rich in resources and talent, and I want to learn as much as I can.

On a lighter note…

TSLAC has a large collection of Texana. As a Wisconsinite bringing a valued perspective to a new state, what is your favorite part of Texas history? What are you looking forward to learning more about?

I really would love to learn more about the Spanish Colonial period. I am a history nerd, and, while in Michigan, I loved learning about the French Colonial period in that state’s history.

What books on your shelf or e-reader are begging to be read?

Right now, the main thing that is begging to be read on my shelf is a book by the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, The Books of Jacob. I started this book and am a third of the way through it. It is a fascinating work centered on the Jewish community of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire during the 1700s. It is incredibly large and dense, and I am committed to finishing it.

What’s your all-time favorite town or city? Why? What other places in Texas are you looking forward to visiting for the first time?

My favorite city of all time is Washington, DC. The history, culture, and politics is very fascinating, and I just love to visit there anytime I get a chance.

I really want to visit Big Bend National Park. I am hoping in the next year or two to drive out there.

Do you have a catchphrase?

My favorite catchphrase is: “Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.”

Our thoughts are with Uvalde

As I type these words, I understand that the staff of the El Progreso Memorial Library in Uvalde are holding their regularly scheduled storytime. A safe space for children and families. That shouldn’t be difficult. Though today it seems remote, it is needed more than ever.

The unbearable loss of all those precious lives in Uvalde yesterday reminds me of the incredible responsibility we have for one another – to protect each other and nurture our sense of community and safety. We each have a duty to live respecting the life and rights of others; and we have a duty to shape a society that affirms this duty by creating a culture that values all our fellow citizens, calls out actions and behaviors that work against that value, and provides the tools and resources to help people participate holistically and productively within our society.

And here is where libraries have a special role. As organic bodies borne out of and for a community, libraries are a place of refuge, learning, and healing. They are places to find community and hope. I am not one bit surprised at the commitment and dedication of the staff of the El Progreso Memorial Library.

I cannot imagine the grief of our colleagues in Uvalde. Staff made the difficult choice to stay open today because they wanted to offer the community, parents, and children – children especially – a sense of normalcy. They wanted parents to know there was an option for them today, as school has been concluded for the rest of the year.

Mendell Morgan, the library director in Uvalde, told me that even if folks are unable to get to the library, staff wanted the community to know they were there for them, now and always. Some structures cannot be torn down by even the most heinous acts.

I realize that the community and our colleagues there are still in shock. These are the early days of what will be a lifelong burden. They will need support and kindness, as well as respect for what they are experiencing. I know all of my colleagues throughout the state join me in extending our bone-deep condolences to all of the people of Uvalde. We are all the less for this inexplicable loss of children and educators.

The staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission extend our hearts to the people of Uvalde.

Heavy Lifting… It’s What Builds Tomorrow

Computer terminals lined up in technology room in Brownsville Public Library

Brownsville Public Library Public Computing Center

Libraries are at time of incredible possibilities and incredible strain. The influx of attention and funding for broadband, infrastructure, digital inclusion and equity, and digital literacy is phenomenal—a major area of need for which the library community has been calling for investment for years. With great thanks to our federal partners at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), who awarded Texas $8.4 million to support pandemic relief and undertake digital inclusion projects, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has been moving forward with many programs, including grants and training.

One new project we are happy to announce is a study to better understand digital literacy in Texas public libraries. We are excited to work with librarians and library workers across the state to identify, assess, and showcase the incredible value and role of libraries in supporting Texans’ robust and meaningful engagement in today’s digital world.

We are collaborating with IC² Institute at the University of Texas at Austin for this research project, Texas Public Libraries: Serving Communities to Enhance Digital Literacy. The purpose of this study is to

  • Collect data on the current practices of Texas public libraries in offering digital literacy training;
  • Assess the barriers to, and necessary resources for, expanded training and support of community digital literacy;
  • Develop cost estimates for enhancing digital literacy services;
  • Document digital literacy collaborations between libraries and community partners such as schools, institutions of higher education, local workforce development boards, and chambers of commerce; and
  • Identify areas of strength in digital literacy training and areas in need of support and programming.

We believe this research will provide much-needed, data-driven benchmarks to help us understand and communicate the work of libraries in this area; identify and articulate areas of need; and aid local and state stakeholders in assessing the impact and potential of this work. We expect the report and findings to be completed by the end of this summer, and we will make the information available to the public.

We need the help and participation of Texas libraries! Our partners at IC2 will be reaching out to libraries statewide to gather information. I urge you to participate in data gathering activities, especially if you have an existing program focused on digital literacy or if you have particular needs you want to share.

With many new funding sources for technology projects, infrastructure, and digital equity activities (which includes digital literacy), we want to ensure that TSLAC and your library are positioned with the data and assessment needed to move forward and make the case for libraries.

In Gratitude

We close 2021 with many of the same challenges as 2020 and some new ones. We are all united in our wish for healthy and healing communities, despite the many circumstances and issues that confront us.

For my own part, I garner strength and inspiration from those around me. I know I cannot solve problems alone; none of us can. But in the information field—libraries, archives, records management, and more—we have some of the very best professionals—individuals who are passionate about and committed to the public good.

Color photo of one of TSLAC's front doors, with the word "Library" above and a red banner with the shape of Texas and the words "Read, Y'all!"Today, I am especially grateful for librarians—for their no-nonsense approach to problems and their absolute and unstinting commitment to serve their students and communities. You all resolve to undertake hard processes few others would undertake, and you do it because you care about people and you want to make a difference. The only personal agenda you have is other people’s success.

Here is what I know about you all.

School librarians – I don’t believe I have ever met a school librarian who was not dedicated to the success, education, and safety of their students. You (often alone) serve the entirety of your campus and keep sight of the absolute need to foster lifetime literacy and a love of reading.

Public librarians – You all are advocates down to the marrow of your bones for your communities. I see librarians working tirelessly and creatively to make libraries trusted and responsive places. You understand the power of libraries, and you take great care with that responsibility.

Academic librarians – You are the behind-the-scenes masters. Eminently skilled and efficient, higher education librarians serve faculty and students directly while helping your institutions succeed—sometimes in ways that administrators don’t see.

The world of information that our Texas librarians manage and guide patrons through is enormous, complicated, and fraught with increasing complexities. Few appreciate the scale of the work you must do to make libraries the critical centers of information and learning that they are in the 21st century; so much of serving people comes down to kind, dedicated, and compassionate customer service. That human-centered approach is paired with a deeply-informed professionalism and serious, unflagging commitment to public service.

Librarians understand this, and throughout all these years, I continue to be impressed with all you do and how much you give.

You make this world a better, more informed place. It’s hard for me to think of anything better.

Thank you for all that you do.

Message to Library, Archives, Records, and Information Professionals from the New State Librarian of Texas

Information is power. To be informed is to have agency—the ability to think and to do for oneself, to exert influence, and to shape circumstances. Places that house information, preserve knowledge, and further research and learning are among the most powerful. Libraries and our allied information institutions are as vital as ever. Though the people who work in libraries, archives, and records management organizations may not always feel powerful, history teaches us repeatedly that information—the right to access it and the responsibility to share it—is fundamental to a robust and informed citizenry.

The mission of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is to help Texans lead informed and productive lives. Indeed, I believe that all knowledge organizations share this fundamental purpose. As the new State Librarian, I am incredibly honored to be in this work alongside the talented and committed people who staff and support libraries, archives, records management, and information organizations.

We are in an especially important time. Our communities, students, researchers, and publics are demanding the best of us: facts, truth, objectivity, respect for diverse viewpoints, responsiveness to learning needs, and safe environments where all are welcomed and able to find information that is valuable and meaningful.

One might imagine that little about libraries or reading could evoke debate, but then, anything with such enormous power often draws strong passions. I keep in mind the many difficult times in history when people had to fight for access to information—everything from making sure all people (the poor, the marginalized, minority populations, and so many others) had access to reading materials to the cases in history when totalitarian regimes attempted to wipe out viewpoints and histories through book burnings and eradication of historical and archival records.

Generations of Americans have fought to preserve our right to information among our most cherished liberties. We all take special pride and responsibility in our role protecting these rights. And, in our area of work—that of libraries, literacy, reading, history, and all forms of 21st century information resources—I am thankful to work alongside all of you to ensure that we continue to serve the public and support access to a broad array of resources, technologies, and viewpoints.

Thank you for all you do!

Gloria Meraz, Director and Librarian

Congratulations, Gloria Meraz, incoming TSLAC director and Texas State Librarian.

By Mark Smith

I am very happy to announce that Gloria Meraz has been named TSLAC Director and State Librarian of Texas, effective next Wednesday, September 1.

Gloria will be an outstanding State Librarian. For the last 22 years, first as the Director of Communications at the Texas Library Association for 17 years, and as the Assistant State Librarian at TSLAC since 2016, Gloria has been a tireless and highly eloquent advocate for Texas libraries and archives and, in particular, the advancement of the Texas State Library and Archives. Gloria’s communications skills are brilliant and her political sophistication, honed over 11 sessions of the Texas Legislature, is masterful and highly effective. Her work over the last two decades has demonstrably moved libraries in Texas forward. 

Gloria’s education and experience make her uniquely situated to address the needs of clientele on both sides of the TSLAC house. Her master’s is in Library and Information Science and she completed all coursework toward a doctorate in archival studies, studying with the late great Dr. David Gracy. So Gloria has a thorough grounding in archives and records work while much of her professional experience since 1999 has been devoted to addressing the needs of libraries of all sizes across the state of Texas.

Since joining the TSLAC team in 2016, Gloria has lent her talents in communications and her legislative acumen to further TSLAC’s public presence while working to increase the agency’s funding and authority. Gloria guided TSLAC through our successful Sunset review and reauthorization in the last session and her work with the legislature helped secure an additional $1 million in 2017 for broadband, $4.4 million in 2019 to open a new state records center annex, and, in the most recent session, $3.75 million for an array of programs to advance library services in Texas. 

Gloria is known and greatly admired by the statewide library community as well as the TSLAC staff. A native of El Paso and lifelong Texas resident, Gloria has deep ties in and love for the Lone Star State. She brings to her work humility, compassion, and an abiding belief in the work of libraries and archives to change lives. And it should be noted that she will be the first person of color and the first Hispanic woman to lead the agency since the position of State Librarian was created in 1909. 

I can’t wait to watch Gloria’s great work as she leads TSLAC forward into its next chapter.

*******

And with TSLAC in highly capable hands, I depart the scene. People have been so kind to me in noting my retirement. Over the last several days and weeks, I have had so many expressions of gratitude and appreciation for my work at TSLAC. I hope that I am worthy of at least some of that praise, but I can say without question that these years have been immensely interesting, challenging, and satisfying. With the support and guidance of the commission, the dedication and creativity of a talented and hardworking staff, and the partnership of our colleagues across the state, I believe we have made some progress. I know that there is still much more work to do, but the groundwork and momentum are in place to ensure that the future will be a bright one for TSLAC and Texas libraries and archives.

So long and best of luck to you all.

Looking Back. . .Looking Ahead

By Mark Smith

As of today, I have three weeks remaining to serve as State Librarian. Not surprisingly, I have begun to think back over the last seven years, nine months, and eleven days—what have we accomplished in that time and what remains to be done. I have enjoyed all phases of my life in library work, but serving as Director and Librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission has been the greatest honor of my career and every day has been different, interesting, and challenging.

During my tenure, the amazing and talented staff of TSLAC have delivered outstanding service to the people of Texas every single day—and made me look good in the bargain. Here are a few of the advances at TSLAC over the last almost eight years:

  • Between the 2014-15 biennium and the 2022-23 biennium, the TSLAC appropriation grew from $45 million to $74 million, of which, the state funding portion increased from $23 million to $33 million.
  • The Library Development and Networking Division added many new programs, including Family Place, the Grantsmanship Academy, the Technology Academy, and reboots of key programs such as Interlibrary Loan, Small Library Management, and K-12 Library Standards.
  • The hugely important TexShare and TexQuest shared digital resource programs have been complemented with E-Read Texas, a new statewide e-book program.
  • We have connected over 180 mostly small rural libraries to affordable high-speed internet.
  • The Texas Digital Archive was launched and has grown to over 70 terabytes and is now a national model for preserving and making available state archival records in digital format.
  • Meanwhile the rest of the Archives and Information Team have continued to work through the backlog, making thousands of archival documents and government publications more accessible.
  • The Talking Book Program—a lifeline for blind and disabled Texans–has evolved from analog to digital to streaming content while also migrating from a legacy software to a national standard enterprise software.
  • Last week we opened our fourth TSLAC facility, the new State Records Center Annex in southeast Austin, providing a short-term solution to meet the state’s records storage needs.
  • Meanwhile, the rest of the Records team continues to assist state and local government to ensure the preservation and transparency of their public records.
  • The Texas Center for the Book moved to TSLAC to become a dynamic and public-facing program to promote books, reading, literacy and library use across Texas.
  • We made major improvements at our Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, including to completely reinvent the Center’s museum exhibit space as a beautiful and entertaining source of education and instruction about the history and culture of southeast Texas.
  • Internally, we reorganized to strengthen business procedures and processes from accounting to human resources to information technology, added the position of general counsel, introduced all-TSLAC staff days, and launched an internal equity, diversity, and inclusion effort.
  • And most recently, we have managed through the pandemic to continue to serve the public while also keeping staff safe. Over the 17 months of COVID, we have had only six positive cases among staff and no workplace transmissions.

Concerning these accomplishments, I offer two major disclaimers. First, I didn’t do any of these things. I cheered them on, sometimes helping to secure the funding or authority and in whatever other ways I could. But all these and hundreds of other tasks were done by the amazing teamwork of TSLAC staff working tirelessly, creatively, and with heartfelt dedication to meeting the information needs of all Texans.

Second, all these projects—every single one—is ongoing. None are complete. The work of the agency goes forward into the future evolving these and many other programs to provide the most effective use possible of state funds to serve people of all ages in all parts of the state, including library patrons and workers, state and local government, researchers, historians, genealogists, and Texans with disabilities.

I am so excited to know this work will continue long after my tenure is over just as it did for over a hundred years before I returned to lead TSLAC in 2013. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is vital to the ongoing success of Texas and Texans—long may it continue.

Libraries and Archives: the Cure for Misinformation and Disinformation

By Mark Smith

Last week the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murphy, issued a formal advisory to declare that misinformation represents “a serious threat to public health.” The report states that “the rapidly changing information environment has made it easier for misinformation to spread at an unprecedented speed and scale.” The advisory is focused on the impact of misinformation on public health, but the concerns are much broader.

And they have been widely stated. The Knight Foundation, which supports study and research around issues of media and society, has thoroughly documented both the extent and the impact of misinformation and the loss of confidence in traditional news outlets.

The Pew Research Center has explored the impact of 2016 and 2020 election cycles occasioned much concern about the impact of misinformation on the democratic process. They document that 48 percent of Americans are very concerned about the influence of made-up news on the 2020 election and 72 percent saw news about the 2020 election that “seemed completely made-up.”

And in the area of health information, the promulgation of such false or misleading information during a pandemic even has a name: “infodemic.”

Libraries and archives are uniquely positioned to provide a cure for the infodemic. A recent article in Library Journal describes the work of libraries in the U.S. and around the world in attempting to fight misinformation and disinformation. The article begins by pointing out that “providing accurate and reliable information is a cornerstone of public librarianship.” The article explores how through programming, partnerships, and redoubling our professional commitment to providing authoritative information, libraries will continue to be a trusted source of information of all kinds. To formally examine these ideas, the Digital Public Library of America will be convening a group of “library leaders, scholars, journalists, and civic leaders to talk about the role of libraries in combating misinformation.”

Archives are a critical part of this equation. Archives hold the primary source record and, when that record is a public record and accessible via public information request, citizens can be assured that they will always have recourse to “what really happened.” TSLAC ensures the transparency of the executive and judicial branches of state government in Texas. (As of the 85th session, the legislative records of the state were relocated from TSLAC to the Legislative Reference Library and some legislative communications exempted from the Texas Open Records Act.)

The work of librarians and archivists stand in opposition – institutionally, operationally, and philosophically – to insidious effects of misinformation and disinformation. TSLAC, along with the libraries, archival institutions, and public records officers in Texas and across the nation, are committed to providing Texans of all ages with the most accurate, authoritative, and thorough information possible.

Links

“Confronting Health Misinformation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Healthy Information Environment” – https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-misinformation-advisory.pdf

Knight Foundation – https://knightfoundation.org/

Pew Research Center – https://www.pewresearch.org/

Pew Research Report: “Misinformation and competing views of reality abounded throughout 2020” – https://www.journalism.org/2021/02/22/misinformation-and-competing-views-of-reality-abounded-throughout-2020/

World Health Organization article on Infodemic – https://www.who.int/health-topics/infodemic#tab=tab_1

Mahnaz Dar. “To Tell the Truth: Public Libraries in the Fight Against Misinformation, Disinformation,” Library Journal, March 15, 2021 – https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=To-Tell-the-Truth-Public-Libraries-in-the-Fight-Against-Misinformation-Disinformation

Digital Public Library of America joins national effort to combat misinformation – https://dp.la/news/digital-public-library-of-america-joins-national-effort-to-combat-misinformation

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