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.