TSLAC 2020-2021 Legislative Appropriation Request

It is once again budget time and visitors to our agency lately might have seen some rather dazed senior staff wandering the halls, including our Chief Operations and Fiscal Officer, Donna Osborne, who is the point person on pulling this monster document together. Every two years we are called on to submit our Legislative Appropriations Request. This year we were happy to see that we were not instructed to start at an automatic reduction (though we were directed to produce a 10 percent reduction plan should it be needed).

We also were not directed not to submit additional funding requests. So we have and they are rather large this time. On Wednesday of this week our commission met (with three new members: Commissioners Darryl Tocker, Arthur Mann, and David Garza) and prioritized the so-called exceptional items, or additional funding items, as follows:

  1. Storage for State Records – $36,016,600 – No, there isn’t an extra zero in this item. It is a very large request, but the need is huge also. This item represents both a short- and long-term solution to the fact that we are running out of space for the storage of records and archives, a situation made immediate and much worse because of several factors. This item will allow retrofitting of a site in South Austin for a short-term solution and the construction of an expansion of the Records Center on Shoal Creek for a 25-year solution. Without some funding for this item we will be of room to store state records by the end of fiscal year 2019.
  2. Cybersecurity for State Resources – $1,209,942 – For the second biennium, we are requesting the resources to adequately protect our automated systems.
  3. TexShare and TexQuest E-Book Resources – $4,545,988 – Providing access to online information through these signature programs continues to be the number one priority for our library clientele statewide. This item would expand the availability of e-book resources to public, K-12 and college and university library users across Texas.
  4. Targeted Salary Increases – $400,000 – For the third biennium in a row, we are asking for additional funds to help us bring our salaries to levels that will allow us to recruit and retain a qualified agency workforce. When we first asked for this in 2015, 89% of our staff were working below the mid-point of their salary range. That number has dropped to 71%, which is an improvement, but we still have a long way to go.
  5. InfoPower for Texas Communities – $554,524 – This is a new request that would allow our agency to conduct a more concerted and coordinated plan of outreach to take our information, training, and services to libraries, local governments, and citizens in all parts of the state. This project would provide a coordinator for this project and a driver for a vehicle we plan to purchase in FY 2019 to travel the state disseminating our services.
  6. Agency General Counsel for PIA Requests and Contracts – $484,184 – Between our much-higher-than-average PIA requests and our extensive contracts, we really need a dedicated attorney to assist our agency. We are a large agency not to have our own General Counsel. This item would streamline our processes and take burden off of staff who are currently managing PIA responses and contracts.

As always, we look forward to keeping our stakeholder groups apprised of the progress of these items. We will have our first hearing before the Joint Budget Committee on September 6. And we look forward to an important session for our agency as we approach reauthorization and these many important projects bringing information resources to Texans in all parts of the state.

Good news from the Sunset Commission staff

Last week TSLAC got some very good news in the form of the Sunset Commission Staff Report. Among other recommendations, the Report stated that “The State has a continuing need for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission” and that the agency should be continued for another 12 years.

Every dozen years, all state agencies must be reviewed and specifically reauthorized or they will cease to exist. Our turn is up in 2019. Preparatory to that, the Sunset Commission conducts a months-long review and study of the agency. In connection with that process, Sunset staff spoke to many TSLAC stakeholders across the state in libraries, archives, and local government. They conducted surveys, they met with staff, they attended our conferences and meetings, and they paid attention to what they do.

Apparently, and for the most part, they liked what they saw. The Staff Report starts with this statement: “The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) zealously performs its mission to provide Texans with the information needed to lead informed, productive lives. The agency’s professional and dedicated staff support libraries throughout the state, manage the state archives, help government agencies properly manage records, and directly circulate audiobooks to thousands of Texans with disabilities.”

The report is not without constructive criticism. In particular, the report focuses on several aspects of archival management, in particular, the large backlog of archives, as needing strategic direction and planning. The report also makes recommendations about the management of legislator records, public information requests, and competitive grants. We gratefully accept the suggestions and will take the opportunity to strengthen our operation in those key areas.

In late August, we will appear before the Sunset Commission to answer questions about our agency and to speak to the report. We expect that in the opening days of the session, legislation will be introduced to reauthorize the agency. We are very grateful to the many people across Texas who took the time to express their thoughts about TSLAC to the Sunset Commission. We were proud and humbled by the many statements of support that came from librarians and library supporters, the historical and research community, from state and local records managers, and from the general public. We look forward to being reauthorized and continuing to providing access to information to Texans in all parts of the state.

Thank you for your support and we look forward to talking to all of you about how we can continue to improve our services.

Thank you, Texas Library Association

This week our staff joined librarians from across Texas at the Texas Library Association Annual Assembly meeting here in Austin. This annual meeting is an opportunity for library leaders from all parts of the state to come together to plan association activities that will advance outstanding service and resources for libraries of all types. We very much enjoy meeting our colleagues from across the state and participating in discussions about how we can strategically advance great library service for all Texans.

While at this meeting, Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and I were able to present a “Hot Topic” session regarding the TSLAC Sunset Review. In that gathering, we heard many positive and helpful ideas about how we can improve our services to libraries.

Also at this Assembly, TLA adopted two resolutions of key importance to TSLAC: to support our agency’s reauthorization in the Sunset Review and the other to support the TSLAC Legislative Appropriations Request for 2020-2021 which will be submitted on August 3. The resolution supporting our sunset review specifically speaks to the cooperative relationship between TLA and TSLAC. I appreciate this note and will say that strengthening the relationship between our organizations has been a priority of mine while at TSLAC.

We appreciate and applaud the great work that TLA does for Texas libraries and commend TLA President Jennifer LaBoon and TLA Executive Director Dana Braccia and the wonderful TLA members and staff on a very successful 2018 Annual Assembly.

Welcome New TSLAC Commissioners

Senator Brian Birdwell (l), swearing in new TSLAC Commissioner Arthur Mann of Hillsboro.

We were very excited to learn last Friday that Governor Abbott has made four appointments to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Commissioner Lynwood Givens of Plano was reappointed to a second term on the Commission. The governor also appointed three new individuals: David Garza of Brownsville, Arthur Mann of Hillsboro, and Darryl Tocker of Austin.

Commissioner Mann is the administrator of the Hillsboro Economic Development Corporation and is known to many in the Texas library community as the husband of former TLA President, library advocate, and Hillsboro Library Director Susan Mann. Commissioner Tocker is the executive director of the Tocker Foundation, which has long been a driving force in the development of small community libraries across Texas. Commissioner Garza is a law partner at Garza & Garza, LLP, has served for over 20 years on various state boards, and is a devoted fan of Texas history and a user of TSLAC information services.

Our excitement over these excellent appointments is tempered by the departure of Commissioner Sharon Carr of Katy. Commissioner Carr has served since 2005 and, as a former school library administrator, was often a valuable subject matter expert regarding library operations on our commission. We thank Commissioner Carr for her dedicated service to our agency, her leadership, and wise counsel over the past 13 years.

We journeyed to Hillsboro Wednesday afternoon for Commissioner Mann’s swearing in by Senator Brian Birdwell. Senator Birdwell welcomed our new commissioner and reminded him that he is appointed to serve the people of Texas, not the agency. It is an important point and we as TSLAC staff look forward to receiving the benefit of that valuable leadership from our new and returning commissioners.

The full press release on the TSLAC appointments can be found at: https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-appoints-four-to-texas-state-library-and-archives-commission

In memory of Peter Rogers, TSLAC mural artist

We received sad news this week that our friend, New Mexico artist Peter Rogers, who in 1964 painted the mural titled “Texas Moves Toward Statehood” in the lobby of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building, died on May 28.

Peter Rogers, left, in 1964, painting “Texas Moves Toward Statehood,” and in July 2014.

Peter Rogers returned to TSLAC 50 years later in the summer of 2014 to revisit his mural, to meet current staff, and to recount the history of painting the mural. He dispelled a number of colorful stories about the mural while relating others that we had not heard before. Over the course of a day of meetings with staff, an oral history interview, and a public lecture on July 31, 2014, Peter Rogers left a personal impression as indelible and eloquent as the painting he left on the lobby wall in 1964.

Peter Rogers was born in England in 1933. In 1963 he met his wife, Carol Hurd, in Spain. Carol is the daughter of well-known American artist Peter Hurd who was married to the daughter of another great American artist, N.C. Wyeth. Peter Hurd had received a commission from the State of Texas to paint the mural in our lobby, but he passed the commission on to his new son-in-law in 1963. Relying on a standard Texas history book — Lon Tinkle’s 13 Days to Glory — and working at the kitchen table of his parents’ home in Sussex, England, Peter Rogers created a sweeping and dramatic panorama of Texas history from the days of the conquistadors to the 20th century.

Peter Rogers speaking at TSLAC, July 31, 2014.

While visiting with TSLAC staff, Peter dispelled some myths such as that the eyes of Sam Houston are painted so as to follow you as you walk through the lobby, or that he had painted his wife (the pioneer woman with the baby) and himself (the fallen Alamo defender) into the mural. All false, said Peter, and mostly the product of the “fertile imagination” of one Mrs. Golden who presided over the lobby in the building’s early years.

Peter also related a particularly vivid story that did in fact happen. Having intentionally left Mirabeau B. Lamar out of the mural, he found himself besieged by the Daughters of the

Peter Rogers signing prints of his mural with Archivist Rebecca Romanchuk.

Republic of Texas, one of whom appeared at the foot of his scaffold and pleaded tearfully to restore Lamar to his rightful place beside Anson Jones, third of the presidents of the Republic. “How could I not put him in,” said the artist and Lamar was eventually included.

Much of Peter Rogers’ later artwork was quite different from the mural, but it is the mural for which we and many Texans will remember him. To have Peter visit us and tell the story of the mural was to have a nearly mythological figure appear in our midst. He was a unique, fascinating, and thoroughly enjoyable gentleman. We will cherish our meeting with him and the part of him that will permanently remain central to the experience of all who work in or visit our building.

The obituary of Peter Rogers in the Santa Fe New Mexican: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/english-painter-became-part-of-new-mexico-tradition/article_da238d1f-fa24-5f15-a793-7d37236a9ff6.html

Planning season at TSLAC

The commission and staff at TSLAC are well into the planning and budgeting season. This week we are submitting our Agency Strategic Plan for 2019-2023, which provides the basis of our Legislative Appropriations Request for 2020-2021. We met with our commission on Monday to discuss our plan for that budget request.

While we know it will be a challenging budget cycle, we have ongoing agency needs that we need to articulate. At present we are seeing several critical needs that will likely become exceptional item requests–state budget speak for additional funding requests– to the Legislature:

  • Archives and records storage – We are quickly running out of space to store state records and archives, a situation accelerated by a combination of factors. To address the need in the short-term, we need an estimated $4.4 million, but to provide a more long-term solution (up to 25 years), we need an anticipated $26.4 million. It’s a big ask, but Texas is a big state and its citizens depend on open access to government information.
  • Access to E-Resources – Based on our conversations with the statewide library community, the need for current, authoritative information in digital formats — especially E-Books — is still the most important statewide need and one that TSLAC is uniquely qualified to serve in a cost-effective way. We anticipate asking approximately $4.6 million to access to E-resources for users of public, academic and K-12 libraries across the state.
  • Taking TSLAC to Texas communities – We are developing a proposal to conduct a statewide outreach of agency services to communities across the state. As part of this project, we are working on plans for a TSLAC-mobile that will be serve as a training site, best-practice demonstration, information technology showcase, and tour of our services. And in times of crisis, it could be equipped to serve as a disaster recovery unit to be deployed to libraries and other locations damaged by hurricanes and other natural disasters.
  • Other agency needs – We anticipate other requests to address agency needs such as salary increases so that we can continue to recruit and retain great staff (we have made some progress, but 75% of our staff remain below the median of their state salary range); cybersecurity to ensure the safety of the state’s information and resources under our custody; and staff to assist with the growing boom in Public Information Act requests of which TSLAC by its nature has an inordinately high number.

Many thanks to all our stakeholders for your ongoing input on our planning and budget request. We look forward to working with our constituent groups of librarians, archivists, researchers, state and local government, and persons with disabilities to ensure that we have the resources to fulfill our mission to ensure that Texans have access to the information they need to lead informed, productive lives.

Georgetown Public Library, IMLS Medal Library

Georgetown PL Library Director Eric Lashley (center with tie) and Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross (center with jacket) celebrate the IMLS medal with the staff and supporters.

On May 1 the Institute of Museum and Library Services announced that the Georgetown Public Library was one of five libraries and five museums in the United States to win the National Medal for Library and Museum Services.

This is a very big deal.

In the first place, this is the highest award that a library in the United States can win. And Texas is very overdue: despite having several outstanding Texas libraries on the longer list of finalists in recent years, no Texas library has won since 2006. What’s more, Georgetown is only the third Texas library and only the second Texas public library to ever win the award in its over 20-year history (the other Texas winners were San Antonio Public in 2006 and the UT Health Sciences Library in 2004). Also, notably, the El Paso Museum of Art also won this year in the museum category–a good year for Texas!

I will be privileged and very excited to be in Washington D.C. on May 24 to see Georgetown Public Library win this award. They will be honored for their extraordinary level of responsiveness to their community, for their forward-looking programs, for creating a library that epitomizes the transformational library as learning center, technology hub, and center of civic and cultural engagement. Director Eric Lashley and his outstanding library team–with wholehearted support from the City and the Friends of the Library–have created a library that is popular, engaged, energetic, and relevant.

The medal is confirmation that while Texas libraries lag behind expenditures of most other states, our library staffs continue to do more with less, creating library services that is every bit as innovative and transformational as any other state. Congratulations and thank you to Georgetown for bringing this medal to Texas, and thank you to all the libraries and museums of Texas that provide great service everyday without national recognition.

The importance of small community libraries

It has been a very busy few weeks so I got behind on my blog. But a comment to me this week brought me back. This week three friends — longtime Texas library leaders — were visiting in my office. Knowing that they were particularly concerned with the plight of small community libraries, I made a comment that of course small community libraries are our most important clientele. It was a little joke because all of our client groups — which include libraries of all types and sizes, this historical community, local government, researchers, persons with disabilities, the general public, and state agencies — are really of equal importance and are equally valued.

My guests laughed, but it is true to say that small community libraries do occupy a very important position in terms of our array of services and many of the resources that we provide–particularly through our Library Development and Networking Division–are geared to benefit small community libraries. I thought it might be a useful to review a few of those:

  • Continuing Education – through programs such as the Small Library Management program, which has been in operation for over 20 years, the Family Place program, and youth services workshops we devote significant resources to ensuring that libraries of all sizes, but especially small community libraries, have the training and grounding they need to provide the best possible library service. Our online webinars are particularly suited to librarians who do not have the funds or the back-up staff available to travel.
  • Technology Support – TSLAC supports small library technology challenges in a variety of ways such as in-person training via the You Can Do IT Technology Training program, online training WebJunction, support for E-Rate access, and through our broadband project, Libraries Connecting Texas. See our Library Technology Resources page at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/tech for more information.
  • TexShare – This longstanding program has the capability to level the playing field and deliver to the smallest and most geographically isolated areas the same information resources enjoyed by large academic and urban public libraries. And for folks with few other ways to access these resources, access via their local libraries is more crucial than in more populous areas.
  • Interlibrary loan – Via statewide ILL, it no longer matters that the book that a customer needs is not on the shelf. It is available for loan from another library somewhere in the state or nation.
  • Edge – TSLAC purchases membership in Edge for every public library in the state. This is an outstanding tool that allows libraries to assess their technology readiness, benchmark against other libraries of similar size, and identify the gaps that need to be addressed.
  • United for Libraries – TSLAC also purchases a membership for every library in Texas to United for Libraries. Formerly known as Friends of Libraries USA, UFL is a division of the American Library Association that provides training and assistance to library board members and Friends groups and contains much very interesting material about library management and operation for involved laypeople and staff.
  • Library grants – Every year, TSLAC gives between $1.6 and $2 million in competitive grants for a variety of projects such as early literacy, STEM, workforce development, and digital preservation. Each year many of the libraries that participate in the competitive grants program are small community libraries.
  • Library Science Collection – This longstanding program is Texas’ premier “Library for Librarians” providing access to professional reading and technical support materials for continuing education and to help with any project.
  • Public Library Accreditation – The accreditation process for Texas public libraries has set minimum criteria for their operation, creating a floor upon which to build local service and support, which has been of particular value to small community libraries. Approximately 93% of Texas public libraries meet the minimum criteria and are accredited public libraries.

We salute the small community librarians of Texas who work valiantly against sometimes overwhelming odds and overcome great obstacles to bring library services to their communities. The work you do is so important and we will continue to seek ways to support what you do.

TSLAC at TLA

We are excited to be attending the annual Texas Library Association 2018 Annual Conference next week in Dallas. TSLAC is sponsoring and/or presenting a number of programs at the conference. We hope those of you attending will join us for these important topics:

Tuesday, April 3

Texas State Library and Archives Commission meeting, 9 am – 1 pm, Omni Hotel, Greenville Room, Level 2

Wednesday, April 4

Show Me the Money! Tips for Winning State & National Grants, 10:00 – 11:00 am, Room C155
Lending Mobile WiFi Hotspots in Rural Communities, 10 – 11 am, Room C 147
School Administrators Conference, 10:30 am – 2:00 pm
Digital Inclusion: Libraries, Access, and Equity, 1:45 – 2:45 pm, Room C154
Introducing the New Texas School Library Program Standards, 3 – 4 pm, Room C 146
Buying in Bulk: The Value of Consortia, 4:15 – 5:15 pm, Room A 302/303

Thursday, April 5

Stranger than Fiction: Adult Nonfiction Readers Advisory, 8:30 – 9:30 am, Room C 148
Two for One: Dual Credit & Early College High School Programs, 8:30 – 9:30 am, Room A 305
The 60x30TX Initiative: Roles for Libraries, 9:45 – 10:45 am, Room A 305
Extend Your Storytelling with Art and Creativity, 11:00 – 12:00 pm, Room C2
Weeding the Library Collection, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm, Room C3
Connect Your Community with Broadband, 1:30 – 2:30 pm, Room A 305
TexShare & TexQuest Updates, 1:30 – 2:30 pm, Room C2
Libraries Engaging Families, 2:45 – 3:45 pm, Room C 155

Friday, April 6

How Books Change Lives (Letters About Literature contest), 9:15 – 11:30 am, Ballroom A2
Building an Educated Community with OERs, 10:30 – 11:30 am, Room C147
Community Coalition Building Where Everyone Leads, 10:30 – 11:30 am, Room C 154
Engaging with the New Adult Now and in the Future, 10:30 – 11:30 am, Room A 302/303
Support the Team with Your Winning Storytelling/Writing Activities! 10:30 – 11:30 am, Room A 308

Libraries Connecting Texas

Last Thursday was the deadline for E-Rate applicants to submit their Form 471 to ensure their participation in this federal telecommunications discount program. And thanks to a $1 million appropriation from the Texas Legislature and a lot of hard work by our project partner, E-Rate Central, and TSLAC staff, primarily Technology Consultant Henry Stokes, we may have several dozen new libraries participate in that program. Taking advantage of assistance from E-Rate Central in submitting applications and our subsidies to cover the non-discounted portion of their higher rates in 2019, we have 75 additional libraries that will be participating in E-Rate in Texas. That is a jump of statewide participation from 23% to 36% and overall Internet speeds for these libraries will more than double, and for many will increase by many times. And we will bring in over half a million dollars in federal discounts to Texas.

Why is this important? Because access to high-speed Internet is increasingly recognized by elected officials and policy makers as an essential component of education, economic development, and community sustainability. This is especially important in rural areas of the state. Take for example, the town of Honey Grove, Texas, where residents depend on broadband connectivity at the Bertha Voyer Library to provide GED training, search and apply for jobs, access health information, or get a tax form. Until recently, even with E-Rate, the library’s access consisted of only two T-3 lines delivering 3 megabits per second and at a cost of nearly $900 after discount. Under Libraries Connecting Texas, access at the library will improve to 50 megabits per second. Bertha Voyer Library Director Pattie Mayfield has commented on the challenge of rural connections in her customarily eloquent and direct manner:

“Internet connectivity in small, rural towns is outrageously priced and even at best slow and often cumbersome. Until the AT&T’s and Verizon’s are forced to provide the same type and quality of service at the same affordable price offered in urban settings – internet connectivity in small rural libraries must remain a concern of policy and lawmakers. Cutting off services such as this will be one more blow to rural populations – those who grow the food and work with the land and provide for all those who can’t provide for themselves and do so while barely making ends meet. People who choose to work hard and are the heartland of America have been forgotten long enough!”

We heard similar comments last week at a community forum on broadband convened by the Glasshouse Policy Institute. Community leaders and residents alike voiced their frustration at the lack of availability and affordability of broadband service in rural areas. State Representative Doc Anderson gave generously of his time to discuss the matter with the community and to consider constructive ways the state can support progress in Broadband.

In other news, like the rest of the statewide library community, we are looking forward to participating in the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Dallas next week. Many TSLAC staff will be presenting topics and greeting the public at our booth (# 2406) in the exhibit hall. On Tuesday, our commission will be meeting at 9 a.m. at the Omni Hotel, the agenda to include consideration of contracts for TexShare and TexQuest online information services.

We look forward to seeing many of our library colleagues next week in Dallas.