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.

Archivists’ choice

This week we presented a special program at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to celebrate the opening of our new lobby exhibit, Archives a la Carte. In putting this exhibit together, State Archivist Jelain Chubb had the idea to ask each of our archivists to select two items from the collection that they found particularly interesting and that they would like to curate as part of the exhibit.

From left to right, TSLAC Archives and Information Services staff Tonia Wood, Tiffany Criswell, Mackenzie Ryan, Maria Barker, and Angela Kent.

I loved the idea immediately. Our vision for the archives is that they become better known to researchers and the general public as the vast treasure that they truly are. Who better than the archivists to point us to the best stories, the hidden gems, the episodes that make up the varied and complex history that is Texas?

But our professional archivists took this project to an even more interesting outcome. To their knowledge of the collection, they added their own experience and perspective and judgement, their compassion, sometimes their own family stories, to create a truly multi-faceted examination of Texas history.

The result is an exhibit that includes very well-known treasures such as the famous Journeay violin – by legend fashioned from the wood of Santa Ana’s chair and played for the hapless survivors of the benighted Mier Expedition of 1842 and the original 1839 drawing of the Texas Flag and seal by Peter Krag.

Assistant State Archivist Laura Saegart (center) describes a historic map of Austin and a wanted poster for Clyde Barrow to visitors to TSLAC.

And there are also documents of the notable events in Texas history, such as the photograph of Governor Preston Smith presenting Texas Medals of Honor to Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldin, Jr. Or the poignant dinner program to welcome President John F. Kennedy to Austin on November 22, 1963.

But perhaps most fascinating of all are the artifacts of ordinary people caught up in the big events of history, such as studio portrait of the famed fugitive Gregorio Cortez, whose 10-day run from the Texas Rangers in 1901 sparked a famous ballad. Or the photos of Jewish immigrants arriving in Galveston Island. Or the passport of African-American Freewoman and Texas Revolution heroine Emily West.

What our archivists have helped us to see is that the story of Texas, as reflected in its primary source material, is more immediate and more personal than we guessed – and more powerful. This is the value of an educated, experienced, and talented staff, and it is not something that is available for free on the Internet.

The following are the Archives and Information Services staff who worked on this exhibit:

  • State Archivist Jelain Chubb
  • Assistant State Archivist Laura Saegart
  • Senior Reference Archivist Tonia Wood
  • Head Reference Librarian Angela Kent
  • Conservator Sarah Norris
  • Archivists Caitlin Burhans, Tiffany Criswell, Halley Grogan, Anna Reznik, Rebecca Romanchuk, and Jessica Tucker
  • Reference Archivists Richard Gilreath and Caroline Jones
  • Reference Librarians Sandra Bailey, Taylor Fox, and Mackenzie Ryan
  • Cataloguer Naomi Frantes
  • Digital Archivists Mark Myers and Brian Thomas
  • Library Assistants Stephanie Andrews, Maria Barker, and Andrew Glass
  • Research Assistant Sergio Velasco

Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz expertly managed all phases of the development of the exhibit and the program. The lobby exhibit also features a case describing the history and impact of TSLAC’s Talking Book Program curated by TBP Public Awareness Coordinator Jacklyn Owusu.

I hope you have a chance to visit our agency and see this exhibit in the coming months.

 

The importance of K-12 libraries

This week the Texas State Library and Archives Commission met at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas. One important item of business before the commission was to adopt revised standards for K-12 public school libraries. This small step for the commission is a giant leap for school libraries and the millions of Texas students who use them, and it was also a long time in the making.

In 1995, the legislature gave TSLAC the authority to set voluntary school library standards “in consultation with the State Board of Education.” The first standards were adopted in 1995 and a revision was completed in 2005. But it has been 13 years since the last revision and much has changed in that time, especially in regard to technology and the way that the state measures education programs.

The new School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas are the result of over 18 months of meetings of a committee of library and education professionals led by Donna Kearley of the Denton ISD, and Sonja Schulz of the Nacogdoches ISD, and steered by TSLAC’s School Program Coordinator Liz Philippi. The committee aligned the standards with the T-TESS statewide teacher evaluation process and organized the standards into six broad areas, or strands: information literacy, inquiry, reading, digital learning, safe and nurturing environment, and leadership.

The standards provide a detailed and intentional framework to help districts understand not only where their library programs rank, but also the potential of the school library to address the districts’ learning and organizational goals. This is of utmost importance because in all-too-many districts the school library is an underutilized resource. Over many years and in multiple states, researchers (most notably Keith Lance, formerly of the Library Research Service at the Colorado State Library) have demonstrated that a properly staffed and resourced school library is a leading driver of student achievement. The evidence is unequivocal: strong school libraries will raise test scores and help children succeed in school and life.

We are proud of our Texas K-12 school libraries and librarians and applaud their valiant efforts to serve their students and their districts. We hope that the new standards will support that work and lead to even stronger Texas school libraries.

TSLAC’s Strategic Partnerships with Non-Profits

In recent months, The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has engaged in several very positive partnerships with a variety of non-profit organizations to be able to extend new support to our client groups across the state.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we were contacted by the Brownstone Book Fund, a private foundation, about donating books to libraries impacted by Harvey and its aftermath. The Brownstone Book Fund lets selected libraries select from a list of high-quality children’s books that are ordered from the Brodart Company. The books are delivered directly to the library and the library can opt for fully processed books with cataloging. Through this program, 85 Texas libraries received 100 new children’s books—8,500 brand new children’s books in all to Texas libraries.

In December, the Friends of Libraries & Archives of Texas, TSLAC’s own friends group, received a grant of $75,000 from the Still Water Foundation to conduct a consultation to assist four library systems in West Texas in moving to greater sustainability. The Friends, in consultation with TSLAC staff, have selected Lee+ Associates to work with the four West Texas library systems to provide their report on how they can move toward achieving their stated goals. Lee+ will also produce a toolkit of resources to help other library systems in Texas move from where they are to where they wish to be in terms of services and sustainability.

Another partnership with the Edouard Foundation has provided a total of $18,000 in two years to the FLAT to support two projects of the Texas Center for the Book, the statewide Read Across Texas program in 2017 and the upcoming Lone Star Día program in 2018 in partnership with another non-profit partner, First Book. Through these programs, dozens of libraries in Texas will receive books to support programs encouraging reading, literacy, library use, and community engagement for children and adults across Texas. The Edouard Foundation grants also supported the creation of the first Research Fellowships in Texas History – a “scholar-in-residence” program that provides a stipend to researchers working with TSLAC’s archival holdings. The first two Research Fellowships be announced at the upcoming annual meeting of the Texas State Historical Association, another highly valued non-profit-sector partner.

Finally, TSLAC has been a key partner of the Glasshouse Policy Institute, a non-profit organization that works to create forums for policymakers and stakeholders to develop solutions to public issues. In particular, Glasshouse is working with TSLAC to explore policies around broadband in Texas communities, a matter of high interest to the statewide library community. Glasshouse is working to plan a series of policy discussions across the state in 2018, the first of which will be held at the Hewitt Public Library on March 22.

Partnerships with these non-profit organizations have allowed TSLAC to offer services and pursue projects that would not otherwise have been possible. We are also grateful to the ongoing support of the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas for their active and enthusiastic support. We are very appreciative of the talented and committed board members of FLAT and FLAT members and donors who support TSLAC’s work in these and many other projects.

Top 10 Hopeful Signs for Librarians

Last year provided librarians, archivists, and information professionals with plenty of reasons to be concerned. We faced alarming threats to funding, devastation brought by hurricanes, and an unsettled social and political environment. But I also found a number of reasons to be hopeful. I spoke to a couple of groups recently and shared what I consider to be the top 10 reasons to be excited about what we as librarians do, and places to look for encouragement as we get to work in this new year. Here is that Top-10 list for your consideration:

10. Millennials – According to the Pew Research Institute, the group most likely to have visited a public library in the last year. Half of all millennials have visited a library in the last year. And most Americans, especially millennials feel libraries help people find trustworthy information. See http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/30/most-americans-especially-millennials-say-libraries-can-help-them-find-reliable-trustworthy-information/
9. “Ex Libris” – This is a 3-hour, 17-minute film released in late 2017 by the noted documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman about the New York Public Library and the new role of public libraries in our culture. The movie has even shown up some critics’ lists as one of their top films of the year. My favorite line from the trailer: “We do mind-building, soul-affirming, life-saving work.” Watch Ex Libris Trailer.
8. The Aspen Institute – This non-profit research institute, in collaboration with the library community, has articulated a new vision for the public library in the 21st Century complete with an action guide and a series of community dialogues. If you are not already familiar with this, Google Re-Envisioning Public Libraries and download all this material for free at http://www.libraryvision.org/.
7. Broadband – This is a rare item of completely bipartisan consensus and libraries are increasingly recognized as being vital to this conversation. We are approaching this from several angles and the result will be a recognition of libraries as a key to broadband access in communities. (And by the way, our Libraries Connecting Texas project is going well, but all you libraries that have been contacted, please act now to secure your E-Rate discounts for high-speed internet service in FY 2019 and beyond.)
6. Open Data Movement – including such phenomena as Digital Public Library of America, the Internet Archive, Open Education Resources, Open Content, and MOOCs. These movements have huge potential for libraries to be at the crossroads of various movements to access information and shape the future of information delivery.
5. Center for the Future of Libraries – A project of the American Library Association, if you haven’t visited the website, it is a great way to learn about new and promising trends in library work and especially in the context of the larger society. Required reading. Online at: http://www.ala.org/tools/future
4. Fake News – The focus on “fake news” in the public dialogue over the past year has focused attention on how to be sure information found in media and online is reliable and trustworthy. This discussion has allowed library leaders to rightly remind the public that libraries have long been at the forefront of media literacy and a trusted and reliable source of information. The Knight Foundation is the source of much good thinking right now about the role of libraries and other cultural institutions in addressing community and societal challenges. Knight also sponsors the Knight News Challenge on Libraries grants to answer the question, “How might libraries serve 21st Century information needs?” And see this recent AP article on libraries helping students to distinguish real from fake news: https://apnews.com/64b5ce49f58940eda86608f3eac79158
3. Library Freedom Project – A partnership of librarians, publishers, and others who endorse and actively protect the privacy of library users from intrusion and surveillance of library users by government or corporations. Alison Macrina, founder of the Library Freedom Project will speak at the Texas Library Association annual conference in April in Dallas. Online at libraryfreedomproject.org/
2. LSTA funding – When the President zero-funded IMLS and LSTA, Congress not only pulled us back from the brink, they gave us an extra million. Why? Because libraries are an always have been good politics. LSTA is not much money, but it demonstrates huge positive work in virtually every congressional district in the country. Here’s hoping it stays that way.
1. Hurricane Harvey – While Hurricane Harvey was without question one of the most devastating natural disasters to strike Texas and the U.S. in recent years, and one that caused extensive damage to many Texas libraries and special collections, there was a hint of a silver lining. Harvey provided an opportunity for libraries to show why they are designated an essential service by FEMA. Up and down the Texas coast from Port Aransas and Rockport up through Houston to Port Arthur near the Louisiana border, Texas libraries opened their doors to their communities in their time of need. Library workers, who themselves were often impacted by the storm, exhibited dedication bordering on heroic to get their facilities open and available to citizens in need. Soon after the storm, with several of her libraries still closed, Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Lawson, wrote the following eloquent lines in an e-mail, reflecting on the power of libraries in times of crisis:
“We recognize that during catastrophic times libraries are even more essential as people need a trusted familiar anchor and touchstone in the community to remind them that everything will be all right again. But most all – our mission right now is to restore the joy in the eyes of children and adults who have seen so much destruction, and experienced so much fear and uncertainty.”

We applaud Dr. Lawson and her team at HPL, along with all the other librarians across Texas who serve their cities and counties so valiantly, even in the face of daunting odds. I am certain with that strength of character and determination, libraries are going to succeed and prevail as vital to their communities in 2018 and for many years to come.

With thanks and in celebration of James Stewart

Many of us were saddened with the news last week that James Stewart, former director of the Victoria Public Library, TLA President, and TSLAC Commissioner, had died. Those of us who had the privilege to know James over many years, respected and appreciated him as a unique and powerful presence in Texas libraries, and the source of huge energy, creativity, and fun. Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz was responsible many years ago with organizing the TLA archives, which are now a part of the TSLAC collection. I asked Gloria to comment on one particular holding of that archive of which James was particularly proud.

Here is Gloria’s James story:

James Stewart knew a thing or two about having fun and supporting creative expression. In his long and significant career, James made Texas libraries and librarians all the better for his energy and skill. I have many great memories of James.

As many of you know, James and company created the Doo-Wop Interest Group (which is now the Intergalactic Dance Club Round Table) back in 1996 to “bring enlightenment and to restore pitch, harmony, and majesty to TLA.” The initial petition to create the interest group was written on a bar napkin – a prized archival document that James and Steve Brown protected like the Magna Carta. I, a young archivist at the time, was tasked with organizing TLA’s files. I received several helpful calls from said pair to ensure that that the serviette was appropriately preserved. After several assurances on my part that the thing was safe, I finally had to produce the document…napkin…to verify its safekeeping.

This round of good-natured back-and-forth was my introduction to an incredible librarian who supported me and the members of TLA. James enveloped me in the folds of the Doo-Wop trust and stood ready to help in any way he could. Thank you, James, for rushing up to Austin so many times to attend hearings or anything else TLA needed!

It is with great respect that I celebrate James and herein show proof that the Doo-Wop petition is safely preserved at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. There are many signatories – look to see all the names you recognize. I’ll note that two state librarians (current and former) must have also been at the bar that evening.

— Gloria Meraz

2017 TSLAC Accomplishments

As we near the end of another year, the TSLAC team is looking back on a strong year of accomplishments in meeting our agency mission to provide “Texans with the information they need to lead informed and productive lives.” Our Strategic Plan contains 8 specific goals for our agency as set by our Commission. Following is a summary of those goals and the services, new projects, and progress of our staff in addressing each of the goals.

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

  • TexShare and TexQuest: In FY 2017, 119 million resources were accessed by users of TSLAC-provided online services in Texas.
  • Library staff training: in FY 2017, 42,013 librarians were trained and assisted through TSLAC webinars and training series such as Small Library Management and You Can Do IT.
  • Sharing expertise: Nearly one-third (31%) of webinars delivered last year featured Texas librarians presenting on best practices.
  • Competitive grants: TSLAC funded 73 grants to libraries totaling $2.1 million for innovative projects.
  • Interlibrary Loan: Libraries extended the reach of their collections by providing 162,822 items to patrons via TSLAC-sponsored ILL and courier systems.
  • Early literacy: 42 librarians from 21 libraries participated in the Family Place™ program in FY2017, receiving expert training in early childhood development and family engagement.
  • Public Library Accreditation: 515 Texas public libraries met TSLAC minimum criteria for public library accreditation in 2017 and 517 will be accredited in FY 2018.
  • EDGE: Over 200 libraries have used this tool to assess their technology capability and benchmark their programs against other libraries across the state and nationally.
  • Community Engagement: TSLAC promoted libraries through partnerships with the Texas Workforce Commission, Literacy Texas, Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning at Texas A&M, Humanities Institute at UT Austin, and the Texas Veterans Commission.
  • Digital literacy for Workforce development: TSLAC partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission to enhance the role of public libraries as a key provider of workforce skills.
  • Read Across Texas, The Veteran Experience: Over 60 Texas public libraries convened civic discussions around the experience of Texas veterans.
  • United for Libraries: TSLAC provided membership to all Texas public libraries to ensure library trustees and friends have access to materials for board development and management.
  • School Library Standards: Throughout 2017, TSLAC worked with librarians and educators across the state to draft and refine public K-12 library standards for Texas, the first revision since 2005.
  • Rebuilding Texas Libraries grants provided over $194,000 to 25 libraries in the disaster area to help rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

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

  • Salary adjustments: Using special appropriations for the FY2016-2017 biennium, about 60 TSLAC staff received salary equity adjustments, moving those employees closer to the median.
  • Archivist series: At TSLAC request, the State Auditor created additional steps in the Archivist series to match the Librarian series, creating a career ladder for advancement.
  • LAR request for Government Information Analysts: Request for authority to add two analyst positions approved without funding.
  • Successfully recruited for several positions, however some key positions could not be filled due to a hiring freeze between February and August.

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

  • Archival preservation: TSLAC accessioned over 3,000 cubic feet of state archival resources in FY 2017.
  • Staff of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center accessioned resources, served visitors in person and by phone.
  • Public service: over 7 million assists with information resources; another 2 million searches of online resources via the TSLAC website.
  • Records Management Assistance: During 2017, Records Analysts provided consultation and training to 9,486 state and local agency staff.
  • Records retention schedules: TSLAC published major revisions to the Electronic Records Rules, and the retention schedules for Public School Districts, and Public Safety Agencies.
  • Completed substantial upgrades at the Sam Houston Center, including beginning work on the installation of a major permanent museum exhibit of historical materials and interpretation.
  • The TSLAC conservator conducted preservation work on several dozen items in the agency’s conservation lab.
  • Exhibits, programs and online exhibits highlighted materials and provided background interpretation of the collection.
  • Texas Authors Summit: This second annual event showcased for Texas writers the materials available for research in the Texas state archives.
  • During 2017, TSLAC recovered several valuable historical documents through replevin efforts and in cooperation with the Office of the Attorney General.
  • Research Fellowship established in cooperation with the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas and the Texas State Historical Association.

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

  • TSLAC staff have implemented measures to safeguard agency resources and is actively investigating other more cost-effective means to further ensure security.

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.

  • Archival and records storage is the agency’s most acute short- and long-term priority.
  • Staff have developed plans for expansion of the Zavala facility and continue to consult with the Texas Facility Commission to seek a solution to the need for both short-term lease space for records storage and long-term permanent storage space for archives and records.

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

  • Broadband project: TSLAC successfully requested $1 million to increase broadband connectivity for Texas public libraries by incentivizing participation in E-Rate funding.
  • Toward Gigabit Libraries: Texas was chosen as a pilot state participating in this IMLS-funded project to develop a toolkit to assist small and rural libraries in improving their broadband speeds and network infrastructure. Ten Texas libraries will test the toolkit in FY2018.
  • Broader access to online resources: TSLAC brings statewide access to online resources via TexShare, TexQuest, and online collections such as the Texas Digital Archive.
  • Makerspaces: Via grant funding, TSLAC supported the growing maker movement to establish STEM programs for children of all ages in public and academic libraries across the state.
  • E-Resource grants: Through our Impact grants, TSLAC supported several grants to expand the availability of electronic resources in communities across the state.
  • Developed partnerships with the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Still Water Foundation, and Glasshouse Policy Group to explore opportunities to raise awareness of broadband needs in Texas communities and the role of libraries in responding to that need.
  • Basic Computer Skills Curriculum: TSLAC created a free Digital Literacy Toolkit available on the TSLAC website, and provided training on use of the Toolkit throughout the state.
  • Over 2 million web-based resources in the TSLAC collection were used in 2017.

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

  • The Talking Book Program circulated 770,201 items to 15,123 persons with vision impairment or physical disability across the state of Texas in FY 2017.
  • The Disability Information Service of the Talking Book Program provided information and referral to persons with disabilities across the state of Texas.
  • Through grant funding, TSLAC supported projects to encourage library use by such groups as English-language learners, rurally isolated persons, the homeless, prisoners, veterans, and multicultural communities.
  • Lone Star Día: Each year, the Texas Center for the Book supports libraries across the state to participate in El día de los Niños, El día de los libros – Day of the Child, day of the book.
  • Sponsored statewide Letters about Literature writing contest for students in grades 4 to 12 to encourage reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.
  • Ensured the availability of non-English language materials through TexShare and TexQuest.
  • Provided Spanish and Vietnamese translations of the Digital Literacy Toolkit.

Goal 8: Continue to develop the Texas Digital Archive as a vital information resource for all Texans.

  • The Texas Digital Archive continued its growth as a means of preserving state government archives in electronic format.
  • Worked with legislative offices to codify TDA in statute. (This effort was unsuccessful in the 85th Legislature, but we will explore again in the next session.)
  • Worked to increase public awareness of the resources and to reach out to agencies to arrange to bring more of their archival materials into the archive.
  • Major new initiative with the Texas Department of Transportation will bring thousands of materials into the TDA.

TSLAC staff look forward to another year of serving the public in 2018. As we move toward Sunset Review, we will enjoy describing the various ways we serve the information needs of all Texans.

Aspen comes to Houston Public Library

We all go to a lot of meetings. We sit in dark rooms sneaking glances at our phones and e-mail while someone runs through a power point deck and then we go back to work, hopefully with some new information to help justify the time away.

Participants in the Houston Dialogue on Public Libraries held at Houston Public Library, Thursday, November 16, 2017.

But this week I participated in a totally different type of meeting. All day Thursday at the Houston Public Library, the Aspen Institute under the leadership of Amy Garmer, convened a powerful group of community stakeholders from organizations across the city and county. The topic of conversation at this Aspen Dialogue, was how the library can be a catalyst to help create the building blocks of a resilient city. This was a particularly timely task as the City of Houston and Harris County along with other communities along the coast continue to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. In fact, in September, Aspen convened a meeting in Houston to bring local agencies and organizations together just two weeks after the floods, to consider and process what had happened. It was a powerful moment that led to intense conversation about the need for cities to work through a process that moved along a line of “Recovery, Rebuilding, and Resurgence.” That first dialogue also revealed what many already knew, that in times of crisis, it is the most vulnerable — including the poor, the elderly, and those with physical disabilities — who will be most impacted and who need the most help.

This week’s dialogue featured the broad range of exciting and transformational services offered by HPL Director Dr. Rhea Lawson and her outstanding team of professionals. The stakeholders present — representing city agencies, the K-12 community, business leaders, philanthropic groups, and others — acknowledged the great work that the library is already doing, and worked together to generate ideas to offer Dr. Lawson and staff in how to leverage those services in ways that help build partnerships for new services and help create the building blocks for a resilient city.

It was a day of affirmation for the power of libraries, confirmation of the great work already being done by Houston Public Library and other Texas libraries, and an expression of confidence that the library is very much part of the solution for creating sustainability and resilience to help communities better prepare for and cope with future challenges.

As HPL Assistant Director for Community Education, Outreach and Cultural Initiatives Nicole Robinson so eloquently stated, “It’s not enough to just BE at the table, we need to OWN the table.” Yesterday all day long, the library literally owned the table.

And no one was reading their e-mail.