Leadership Library

I was privileged last week to be invited to participate in a panel discussion at the first annual Texas Library Association Executive Leadership Immersion. This week-long event was aimed at seasoned library professionals looking to further hone their leadership skills. At the helm for the presentations was Dr. Julie Todaro, Dean of Library Services at Austin Community College and President of the American Library Association.

Dr. Julie Todaro, left, presiding over the graduation ceremony for participants at the first annual 2016 Leadership Immersion.

Julie Todaro, left, presiding over the graduation ceremony for participants at the first annual 2016 TLA Leadership Immersion.

My panel mates were Sheila Henderson, Head Librarian at Austin Community College and longtime Texas library leader; and Darryl Tocker, Executive Director of the Tocker Foundation which provides much-needed philanthropic support to small community libraries across Texas. Our topic was to discuss the books and literature we turn to for our own personal inspiration and guidance on the topic of leadership and also how to draw from the huge amount of material published on leadership to create a toolkit for our organizations.

On the former question, I puzzled for days (Julie asked that we not confer with our colleagues so that our answers would be unique). I found as I puzzled that a truth emerged. While I find many books about leadership published to be useful and motivational, I seldom find them to be deeply inspirational. For inspiration I go to other books. I considered the qualities that I believe define leadership: Courage, Compassion, Honesty, Humility, and Vision. And I find that I draw true inspiration from reading about persons who deeply understand or exemplify those traits. As examples, for lessons in courage, I mentioned I am Malala, by Malala Yousefzai, who at the age of 12 and despite death threats spoke out about the importance of education for girls in Pakistan and who was subsequently shot by the Taliban, and at age 17 delivered a Nobel Peace Prize speech before the world’s leading political and intellectual figures. For compassion, I noted the book Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Compassion by Father Gregory Boyle whose organization Home Boy Industries works with L.A. gang members trying to escape from their cycle of violence.

And so on. It seems important to me to consider who we as leaders look to for our guidance and inspiration and consider who those that we admire as leaders look for theirs.

On the latter question of how we make sense of the huge array of materials available on the topic of leadership, or put another way, what is in our tool kit, I suggested a few areas that I felt were important to cover, as follows:

  • Organizational analysis and continuous quality improvement – I suggested Baldrige Excellence Framework: A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization’s Performance (National Institute of Standards and Technology, US Department of Commerce, 2015). This is a resource we have used at TSLAC to investigate key quality process areas for improvement.
  • Ethics – Because of the importance of being ethical as a foundational quality, I suggested The Ethical Executive by Robert Hoyk and Paul Hersey (Stanford University Press, 2008).
  • Inspiration – Because leaders are expected to consider new ways of thinking and inspire others to follow, there are many to choose from, but I suggested Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek (Portfolio, 2011).
  • Motivation – Employees are an organization’s greatest asset and keeping them motivated is crucial to success. I suggested Drive by Daniel Pink (Riverhead Books, 2011), which reminds us that intrinsic rewards are often more important to motivation than extrinsic rewards.
  • Change management – Because change is a daily part of our work, especially in the information business, there are many sources, but I suggested a classic, Leading Change by John Kotter (Harvard Business Review, 2012).
  • Trending – Because understanding how trends can and cannot be predicted and influenced, I recommended The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Random House, 2010) and also The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown and Company, 2002).

I could go on. Like many others I have greatly relied on the wisdom contained in Good to Great by Jim Collins (Harper Collins, 2001), understood the importance of organizational humility from The Courageous Follower by Ira Chaleff (Barret-Koehler Publishers, 2003), and The Servant Leader by James Autry (Three Rivers Press, 2001), and learned to analyze how we process information from Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013).

And finally, I advised the Leadership Immersion attendees not to overlook the great online resources such as TED Talks, YouTube videos, blogs, and podcasts.

Thank you to Dr. Julie Todaro and TLA Executive Director Pat Smith for inviting me to participate in the event and for continuing to provide excellent models of library leadership.

Hard choices for 2018-2019

I have been absent from my blog for a few weeks because the TSLAC staff and I have been working hard on the preparation of our 2018-2019 Legislative Appropriation Request (LAR). The LAR is a massive undertaking that requires many long hours of number crunching, data entry, and soul searching. Most of this work is done by our division directors and our Chief Operations and Financial Officer, Donna Osborne.

Why do I say soul searching? Because this year’s budget instructions issued by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) with a cover policy letter from the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Speaker of the House, instruct agencies to prepare their base budget requests at a 4% overall reduction. The instructions also require–as has been the practice in previous LARs–a contingency plan to reduce funding by a further 10% on top of the 4% reduction, or 14% overall. These instructions require our staff and Commission to make hard choices, not the least of which because TSLAC is still recovering from the 65% cut in state funding that our agency took in 2011. Despite generous appropriations by the Legislature in the 2013 and 2015 sessions, our state general revenue funding is still 22% below the agency’s funding in 2010-2011.

In considering the reduction, we will weigh whether to reduce our very popular and heavily used TexShare and TexQuest online information services, reduce the work on our new Texas Digital Archive, funded in the last session, to collect, protect, and make available, archival resources of the state in digital format, or to reduce funding for projects such as the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, or the Talking Book Program, a lifeline to books and information for persons in all parts of the state who cannot read standard print due to visual impairments or physical disabilities.

Our reductions are being formulated now and Commission will meet on August 2 to consider and approve the LAR. We are committed to following the spirit of the instructions from our state leadership in making the most sound and sensible reductions that we can. It will not be our goal to impact popular programs in order to create controversy. To the contrary, our goal will be to make reductions that have the least impact possible on the information resources that Texans need to live informed and productive lives.

I look forward to reporting in the next blog in more detail on our LAR after it is finalized and submitted on August 5.

Welcoming Gloria Meraz

GM-5I am very pleased to announce that Gloria Meraz has been appointed Assistant State Librarian at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Gloria has served for the last 17 years as the Director of Communications for the Texas Library Association. Gloria enjoys a statewide reputation as a passionate and articulate advocate of the power of libraries and archives to change lives. She is well known both to librarians and archivists, but also to elected officials and decision-makers in Austin and across the state. Gloria is a trained librarian and archivist who understands the transformative value of our work and knows how speak “truth to power” in communicating that value.

Gloria will build on a tradition of excellence at the Texas State Library. She succeeds Ed Seidenberg who retired last year after serving the agency admirably in a variety of capacities for over 40 years. Prior to Ed, the Assistant State Librarian was Raymond Hitt, who was in turn preceded by William Gooch, who succeeded Dorman Winfrey as State Librarian in 1987. Mr. Gooch joined the staff of the State Library in the early 1970s.

That makes Gloria the first Assistant State Librarian in 45 years to join the staff from outside the agency. She will bring new insights and thinking to TSLAC and I look forward to collaborating with her to guide the agency through the coming legislative session and our subsequent agency sunset review. It is an absolutely vital moment in the history of TSLAC and for libraries and archives statewide. We are pivoting from questions about sustainability to a growing awareness that libraries, archives, and records programs are a vital source of information in an economy that thrives on information. Our ability to support efficient and cost-saving access to information in digital, print, and media formats is fundamentally important to the economic growth of Texas.

Gloria says, “I am thrilled and honored to join the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The agency delivers an impressive array of resources and services to state and local government, researchers, communities, and people across the Texas. I look forward to working with the talented team at TSLAC and to support the efforts of the state’s libraries, archives, and records services organizations. The future holds unlimited potential for the agency, and I am excited about all the wonderful opportunities ahead.”

We will welcome Gloria on our team starting August 8 and will appreciate her assistance in achieving our agency mission “To provide Texans access to information needed to be informed, productive citizens.”

If you don’t ask. . .

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission met last week and among the several items they discussed was the agency’s funding request for the 2018-2019 biennium. By all accounts, the next session is going to be tough. Energy revenues are down and we have indications that funds will be tight. However, despite gains in the last two sessions, TSLAC’s state general revenue funding is still 23% below what it was five years ago (in 2010-2011) and meanwhile the needs of the agency and of library and archives users statewide have not decreased. During the spring, in a variety of forums, we heard those needs expressed loud and clear many times.

So for those reasons, the Commission prioritized a set of recommendations that support their own operational goals and respond to the needs of the public, state government, and the libraries and local governments we serve. The Commission approved the following items in this order (amounts are approximate pending further discussion by the Commission and are for the biennium):

  1. Strengthening agency computer and physical security – $1,621,714 – Because we must safeguard the tremendous online and physical assets of the agency, including the archival historical record of the state.
  2. Affordable e-resources for education, workforce, and lifelong learning – $8,000,000 – Because we can leverage statewide buying power to provide affordable, cost-effective access to e-book content for students, job-seekers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and lifelong learners through thousands of public, academic, and school libraries across Texas.
  3. Recruiting and retaining an agency workforce to deliver mandated services – $500,000 – Because delivering the valued services of our agency depends upon hiring and keeping qualified and educated persons whose information skills are in high demand in our information economy.
  4. Greater transparency of state and local government – $241,800 – Because the public deserves transparency in the operations of state and local government and our agency cannot ensure that transparency without sufficient trained staff to provide records management guidance and training for 157 state agencies and over 10,000 units of local government.
  5. Broadband access for Texas communities – $1,000,000 – Because the economic and educational progress of Texas depends upon the availability of high-speed Internet and public libraries could provide that access through affordable, E-rate-supported broadband access.

We look forward to taking these items forward to our elected representatives beginning now and extending through the next session. We look forward to telling our leaders how TSLAC can help Texans have access to the information they need to be informed, productive citizens.

The Case for Broadband in Libraries

Education and community leaders at all levels of government are coming to a remarkably clear consensus on the importance of access to broadband for education and economic development. In March, Governor Abbott released a statement making Internet access for schools a priority of his administration. The Governor correctly sees the correlation between access to high-speed Internet and student achievement. Broadband is equally important as a tool for economic development for job seekers, small businesses, and professional firms. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce adopted a policy brief in 2015 that states that “The Chamber views broadband as a means to stimulate jobs and foster economic growth.” And for individuals, broadband for basic functions and to connect with resources for lifelong learning is a major quality of life issue.

Unfortunately, Texas lags woefully behind the rest of the country in citizen access to broadband. A recent assessment by Strategic Network Group in partnership with the Rural Telecommunications Conference assigned Texas the lowest overall ranking of any state in the status of providing broadband access. Texas has no statewide broadband office and no committed statewide funding to broadband deployment. Broadband Now ranks Texas as the 46th most connected state. And in 2014, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance determined that Texas has five of the 25 worst connected cities for poor households, including the top two worst: Brownsville and Laredo!

Libraries are in a position to help. Because for 62% of communities, the library is the only place in town that people can to access free Internet, because libraries are the go-to place for the public for and because public libraries can participate in E-Rate discounts that can bring Internet to communities at a fraction of the full market cost. And libraries are at the forefront of efforts to provide broadband access. Consider this article that ran on KUT Radio just this morning about attempts of libraries (featuring the Pflugerville Public Library) to provide access for Texans to broadband: http://kut.org/post/pflugerville-library-wants-bridge-digital-divide-lending-out-wi-fi-hotspots

But again, Texas libraries lag behind. In a speed test conducted by TSLAC this spring, we estimate that 93% of libraries fail to meet the FCC standard for library Internet connectivity.

For these reasons, our Commission has set as a goal to support efforts to ensure digital inclusion for Texas. On June 3, commission members will entertain a discussion of priorities for the next legislative session. Among these priorities will be a discussion of how TSLAC can support greater broadband connectivity for Texas libraries. We expect that our efforts will focus on encouraging and incentivizing libraries to seek E-rate discounts to make high-speed Internet more affordable to more communities.

At the very least we hope to be able to make a case to the Legislature on the important role that libraries can play in this endeavor that has such important consequences for Texas and Texans.

Further reading:
Strategic Networks Group, “The 50 States of Broadband,” April 4, 2016: http://sngroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/50-States-of-Broadband-final-report.pdf
U.S. Chamber of Commerce policy brief on broadband: https://www.uschamber.com/issue-brief/broadband
BroadbandNow: http://broadbandnow.com/Texas
Pell Center, “State-Level Broadband Policy,” September 2015, http://pellcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/State-Level-Broadband-Policy-FINAL.pdf

Día turns 20

April 30 is a special day on the calendar of librarians, teachers, and literacy advocates across the U.S. This is the day that we have traditionally observed El día de los niños, El día de los libros, Day of the child, Day of the book. And this year’s observance of “Día” is especially important as this is the 20th anniversary of this national celebration of the power of books and reading to change young lives, with special emphasis on multicultural children and families and the materials that mirror their experience.

The children’s author Pat Mora first began promoting Día on April 30, 1996, because she correctly observed that no other day existed on the calendar on which to celebrate children and reading. In the 20 years since, with the support of a wide array of literacy, library, and education groups nationally, and through Ms. Mora’s passionate dedication to this cause, Día is now celebrated in thousands of libraries and schools across the U.S. The celebration now stretches throughout April and into May and, indeed, Ms. Mora stresses that “every day is book day.”

This year in Texas, in observance of 20th anniversary of Día, the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission launched our own Texas-based “Lone Star Día” celebration, urging libraries and schools across the state to take the opportunity to hold events specifically tailored to the children of the many and varied cultures that now define the State of Texas. We hosted an appearance by Ms. Mora in Austin in February to kick off our celebration, we designed and distributed to every public library branch in Texas posters with artwork from Ms. Mora’s book “Book Fiesta!” by artist Rafael López, and we promoted the importance of Día with librarians across the state. And currently on the front of our building we are proudly waving a banner with our Lone Star Día poster design.

We hope that our efforts will prove to have renewed excitement among Texas libraries to redouble their efforts to bring literacy services–or in the more colorful words of Pat Mora–“Book Joy” to the children and families of their communities. As Pat reminds us, building literacy is important, even patriotic work, and we are uniquely positioned to make a difference in the lives of these children.

The library community speaks

Throughout the spring, the staff of TSLAC has been in dialogue with librarians of all types of libraries across the state about the strategic direction of the State Library and what the most significant needs are statewide. The outreach included a statewide resource sharing summit in December, a statewide e-resources summit in March, a webinar, and an online survey. I also attended nine meetings with library staff across the state that included public, academic, school, and special librarians. From these meetings, we can draw some initial conclusions about what librarians and library supporters across the state feel are the most significant ways TSLAC can assist libraries.

Based on my own conversations with librarians, I would characterize the priorities as follows:

  1. Help us tell our story – librarians across the state would like help from TSLAC, TLA and other library leaders to better tell the story of what libraries do for their communities, including cities and counties, but also school districts and their parent institutions of higher education. This priority surfaced in almost every conversation I had across the state, and often was the first item mentioned.
  2. Get us more resources, especially online/digital resources – librarians are struggling to have the resources they need to provide information to the public, especially with the ever-increasing demand for digital materials. This priority includes online databases such as are now provided via TexShare and TexQuest, but also include e-book access, open digital content, and open educational resources (OER).
  3. More training and technical support – librarians are hungry for training and technical assistance, both in the form of classes and instruction from the TSLAC or other organizations, but also in the form of peer-to-peer training among colleagues. A frequently heard suggestion was expertise-sharing across the state. Staff would also like to see more streaming video instruction for libraries.
  4. Greater digital inclusion – libraries want to help their communities and patrons bridge the digital divide. That is partly through access to more online content, but also includes the need for greater access to broadband statewide.

These priorities shift slightly given the forum. For example, in the online forum, access to more resources (#2 above) was the highest priority for academic and school libraries while more training and technical assistance was first for public librarians. And in the online survey, “help us tell our story” was included within a larger category of administrative support so did not surface as a high priority as it did when we met with folks individually.

But the results indicate some pretty clear preferences and they are remarkable in how they cut across library types. I look forward to discussing the results further with colleagues at the TLA Annual Conference this week in Houston. We are considering now how these results will drive our appropriations request for the next session.

Many thanks to all of you who participated in this process and attended meetings with me and others from TSLAC. We very much appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Libraries and summer nutrition

Earlier this month, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller sent a letter addressed to Texas Library Leaders to urge libraries to join the Department of Agriculture in providing summer nutrition programs.

Commissioner Miller writes: “I hope you will consider joining the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) in our efforts to provide meals to Texas children in need this summer at your library. No child should go hungry just because school is out for the summer.”

That is indeed true, and as the commissioner points out, many libraries are already offering summer nutrition programs. Several branches of the Houston and Dallas public libraries as well as many other libraries around the state are locations for free summer lunches for children. Just as libraries have always offered summer reading programs to ensure that children do not lose ground on their reading skills when school is out, similarly, summer nutrition programs ensure a bridge during months when kids aren’t able to access free or reduced lunch programs in their schools.

This activity is one more example of the ways that libraries are finding ways to align their programs with broader community aspirations to strengthening individuals and families. It is part of a wider interest of libraries in creating community sustainability, –including through food security–that brings many libraries in Texas and nationally to host community gardens, lend seed packets, and provide garden tools among other activities.

We commend Commissioner Miller for this initiative and especially for recognizing the role that libraries can play in meeting the basic needs of our children and families. We are very pleased to be able to partner with the Department of Agriculture to achieve their important goals.

For more information on this topic and how your library can be involved, please see the excellent site on this topic maintained by TSLAC Youth Services Consultant, Christine McNew at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/summerreading/summerfood.

Little Free Libraries and big library thinking

Little Free Library group

San Antonio Public Library Director Ramiro Salazar (left) was on hand with staff of SAPL and the Texas State Library at the San Antonio LFL build.

The Texas Center for the Book, a project of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, is pleased to be partnering with Little Free Libraries to launch LFL events across the state. In partnership with LFL and steered by Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley, TSLAC has planned and participated in LFL build events at the Houston Public Library on March 2, at the San Antonio Public Library on March 7, and at the Austin Public Library today, March 10. A fourth event is planned for Tuesday, March 15, at the Plano Public Library.

Little Free Libraries is a national movement started by Todd Bol have placed over 30,000 of the tiny little house-like structures in neighborhoods across the United States and urged passers-by to “take a book and leave a book.” LFL has secured funding to place 1,000 tiny libraries across Texas (currently there are only about 600 known LFLs in Texas).


Kids and adults build Little Free Libraries in the children’s room at the Austin Public Library.

Why does TSLAC want to participate this venture? After all, LFLs are about giving books away, not lending them, they are small, they are not public agencies, they are inherently limited. These things are true, but Little Free Libraries exist to promote literacy, a love of reading, a sense of community, an economy of sharing, a grounds for partnership, a common experience. These are all the things that libraries represent as well.

In addition to the very positive publicity that has accrued to public libraries in the communities where the builds have happened and where LFL will be placing the new tiny libraries, the partnership gives us an excellent platform to speak about these things that are so important to the philosophical basis of all libraries.

And plus, they are just fun. The kids, teens, and adults of all walks of life that have come to the builds have had a great time building these tiny structures that have no other purpose than to dispense books to readers.

Having fun, reading, and rading books–how can that not be a great thing? We hope you find a LFL somewhere in your community very soon.

Read more about Little Free Libraries at http://littlefreelibrary.org/.

Strategic planning tour of Texas

A hearty thank you to the folks that participated in the “Update and Strategic Planning” webinar that Katherine Adelberg and I presented today. We very much appreciate the feedback and comments from the public to help us determine strategic direction for the agency over the next biennium and beyond.

In that call, I mentioned that I would be out and around the state visiting with library groups about the strategic plan and if you are in the area, please join us. I was then asked, of course, where the list of forums and meetings was posted. I realized that it was not posted.

Here is that list of upcoming presentations. Again, I urge you to attend and continue the discussion of strategic planning for libraries:

Wednesday, March 2, 10 a.m.
Small Country Libraries
Kimble County Library
208 North 10th Street
Junction, Texas 76849

Tuesday, March 8, 5:30 p.m.
Marathon Public Library Board
106 NE 3rd Street
Marathon, TX 79842

Tuesday, March 22, 10 a.m.
Harrington Library Consortium
Amarillo Public Library
413 E. 4th Street
Amarillo, TX 79101

Thursday, March 24, 10 a.m.
PALS meeting
TLL Temple Memorial Library
300 Park Street
Diboll, TX 75941

Tuesday, March 29:

10 a.m. Texas Medical Center Library
1133 John Freeman Blvd.
Houston, TX 77030

2 p.m. Houston Public Library
500 McKinney
Houston, TX 77002

Thursday, April 7, 10 a.m.
League City Helen Hall Library
City of League City
100 W. Walker St.
League City, TX 77573

I also announced today that we have posted a survey online to collect input on priorities in five broad category areas. I hope you will take a moment to respond to the survey at: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/strategicplanldn — Your participation will be very valuable to us in designing programs and services that align with your library needs.

Thank you!