It’s that time again–the return of the Texas Legislature. It happens in January of every odd numbered year and lasts for 140 days. The 85th Regular Session convened this Tuesday.
The TSLAC display in the ground floor rotunda of the Capitol.
And there to greet House and Senate members and their families and other visitors to the Capitol was a display featuring the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in the ground floor rotunda. The display features beautifully designed panels showcasing the work of the agency, the four major divisions, and the Center for the Book. The display also included the giant postcard from our “Wish You Were Here” vintage postcard display in our lobby and all week visitors were making their own selfie postcards using the display.
This week we also welcomed about 30 staffers from legislative and policy
The Library Development and Networking banner in our display.
offices to our agency to learn about services that we offer to legislators and their staffs, including records management, archival resources, and access to TexShare online content.
We love to talk about our agency and we love to serve the public and state government. I am hopeful that we hear often from our friends in legislative offices during this session and that we can make their very difficult and challenging work a bit easier.
We look forward to a fun and frantic session. If you happen to be over at the Capitol for any reason, we hope you will stop in and visit us and learn more about our services.
Always at the end of each year, I like to pause and reflect on what we have accomplished during the last year. My TSLAC colleagues are always so busy that sometimes they don’t take time to consider the many successful projects we have undertaken and completed in the past year. So that I could remind them, I started a list. Before long it was a page and a half—over 60 discrete projects in all—most requiring many hours, staff, and phases to complete, and most representing projects beyond the daily productivity and core tasks of the agency.
I will spare you the entire list, but I will mention a few major areas that we worked on this year:
Planning and budgeting – As with all state agencies, this was a year of intensive planning as we wrote first the Agency Strategic Plan, followed by the Legislative Appropriations Request, and concluding with the first stages of the Sunset Review (TSLAC is up for Sunset Review in 2019). In the course of this planning, we met with hundreds of stakeholders, held statewide planning meetings, conducted surveys, presented webinars, and otherwise solicited input from libraries, archives, historians, and local governments across the state. Those comments were reflected in a set of 8 agency operational goals, and in our LAR, including five exceptional funding requests. The agency also revised its mission and vision statements to more succinctly and accurately reflect TSLAC purpose and direction.
Accelerating shift to electronic resources – All of TSLAC’s core programs are reflecting an ever-increasing shift to electronic resources. Using a new appropriation from the Texas Legislature, we launched the Texas Digital Archive, the first ever repository of Texas Government E-Archives. Also, with new funding from the Texas Legislature, we added many new shared online information resources available to millions of Texans through the TexShare and TexQuest services, including science and technology, legal, and language-learning resources. In the Talking Book Program, we continued the migration from analog to digital content and began uploading digital copies of books recorded at our studios to the Library of Congress BARD service for use by patrons all across the country. And in our State and Local Records program, we held the very popular annual E-Records Conference as well as the State Records Management Officers meeting to help folks learn how to more effectively manage public records in electronic format.
Legacy automation upgrades – We completed two of three planned legacy upgrades. The first was to implement the Centralized Accounting and Payroll Processing (CAPPS) system for Human Resources functions of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. This system will result in greater efficiency and make our operations consistent with those of other state agencies. The second was to update our grants management system used to manage the application, award, and reporting of TSLAC competitive and non-competitive grants, saving many hours of staff time both at TSLAC and local libraries statewide. The third project was the upgrade of our Talking Book Program automation system, which despite the hard work of our staff, was halted for technical reasons in March. However, even that restart will eventually result in a more efficient and streamline system when finally implemented in a few months.
Texas Center for the Book and other outreach efforts – This was the first full year of the Texas Center for the Book which we migrated late in 2015 from the Dallas Public Library. The Center for the Book had a very successful first year encouraging reading, literacy, and library use through a variety of programs including Letters About Literature, Lone Star Día, a statewide celebration of the 20th anniversary of Children’s Day, Book Day (El día de los niños, El día de los libros), Little Free Library builds in four cities, and exciting new partnerships with literacy, book and reading groups all across Texas. We also presented two lobby exhibits, several programs, and appeared at numerous book festivals and other events throughout the year.
The list could go on and on. We secured funding from the Texas Workforce Commission for a digital literacy program with local public libraries. We completed crucial work with school libraries around the Every Student Succeeds Act and the revision of the Texas School Library Standards. We made upgrades to our facility at Shoal Creek and completed extensive site work at the Sam Houston Center in Liberty.
And among all this, we welcomed our new Assistant State Librarian, Gloria Meraz.
We take pride in fulfilling our mission to, “To provide Texans access to information needed to be informed, productive citizens.” So, with another year behind us and a new one about to start, we will take a short holiday breath and be ready to dive back in on January 2, 2017.
Happy holidays to all our many customers, friends, and colleagues across the Texas.
Today I am participating in a panel on the topic of “Rural Broadband Access in an Ever-More Connected World.” I will share the stage at the City Summit gathering in Austin with State Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin) and Mark Strama, CEO of Google Fiber. I am very glad to have a “seat at the table” in this forum to be able to make the case for adequate broadband connectivity in libraries.
Libraries are proud to be the digital safety net for the Internet access that all persons need for education, employment opportunity, health information, civic engagement, and personal growth.
As has been widely stated, providing broadband connectivity to all communities in our state is the most important public infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century, easily rivaling the importance of rural electrification 80 years ago. Internet access is not a luxury, it is a fundamental need that supports economic development, education, health services, public safety and citizen engagement.
And where do citizens go if they do not have access at home? The library.
In 62% of U.S. communities with libraries, the library is the only source of free Internet access for those who do not have Internet at home. But people turning to the library for access often find frustratingly slow connections. In Texas, according to TSLAC research, 94% of public libraries fail to meet the FCC standard for recommended access for libraries. Admittedly, the standard of 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps, based on population served, is a high bar, but the majority of our libraries don’t even meet the much lower FCC minimum individual standard. Over 60% of Texas public libraries are below the standard of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. That 60% represents mostly rural libraries serving approximately 8 million Texans. Arguably the 8 million Texans with the most acute need as they have few other options for Internet access in their communities.
To cite only one issue close to home, TSLAC spends approximately $10 million per year on TexShare and TexQuest databases, which receive over 100 million uses and 37 million downloads each year. But slow Internet speeds hinder the ability of the public to fully utilize this incredibly valuable resource.
The main obstacle is cost. The market rate for high-speed Internet is approximately $3,000 per month per library location in Texas. This is far beyond the budget capability of cash-strapped Texas public libraries. With E-Rate discounts, this figure could be reduced by as much as 90%, but only 23% of Texas public libraries participate in E-Rate (compared to a national rate of about 65%). Why so few? Mainly we believe it is because the application process is so very burdensome.
In this legislative session, TSLAC is asking for $1 million to assist approximately 100 libraries to secure E-Rate discounts totaling an estimate $2.5 million per year. This small investment would yield great results both in real dollars returned to Texas but also in the much greater measure of Texans’ access to the online information they need to be productive, active, informed citizens.
Last weekend, TSLAC participated in the 21st annual Texas Book Festival. Once again this year the agency had a booth in the festival exhibit tents, showcasing the many services and resources provided by TSLAC to individuals, state government, libraries, and local governments across the state. We are grateful to both staff and members of
TSLAC staffers (from left) Steve Siwinski, Jennifer Peters, Rebekah Manley, and Mark Smith at the TSLAC booth at the Texas Book Festival.
the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas for working the booth.
On the Thursday evening before the start of the Festival, TSLAC and the TBF collaborated on an exciting new program called the Texas Authors Summit. This event invited Texas authors to come together for an evening in Zavala building and to learn about the resources that TSLAC offers to authors in researching their books. Several dozen authors attended the event, mingled, networked, met staff, and toured the stacks.
Authors Caroline Gnagy (left) and Nikki Loftin speak about their work at the Texas Authors Summit.
I was honored to moderate a panel at the Summit with two authors, Nikki Loftin, author of Wish Girl, a novel for young adults set in the Texas hill country, and our Texas Great Read for the National Book Festival, and Caroline Gnagy, author of Texas Jailhouse Music: A Prison Band History. Both authors shared information about their research and the background for their books.
The event was organized by the Texas Center for the Book and coordinator Rebekah Manley, who also presented the first annual Center for the Book Literacy Award of $1,000 to Midland Need to Read at the event.
TSLAC and the Texas Center for the Book appreciates the close partnership with the Texas Book Festival. The TBF staff under the leadership of Executive Director Lois Kim, are responsible for one of the most successful and vibrant book festivals in the U.S. Those of us in Texas and in Austin, are fortunate to be able to participate in this event each year the proceeds from which have benefitted hundreds of Texas public libraries as well as the TBF signature program, Reading Rock Stars.
TSLAC participation in the Texas Book Festival extended to a Lit Crawl event called “Band Books: Libraries Rock” held Saturday evening at the Terrazas Branch of the Austin Public Library, in partnership with APL and the Texas Library Association. The event featured Echo and the Bats, a great band comprised of APL youth services staff, and appearances by two notable authors, Yuyi Morales, who provided a spirited reading of her book, Niño Wrestles the World, and R.L. Stine of Goosebumps fame who read a very spooky—and funny—story to the adoring crowd.
These types of fun events spread information about the services offered at TSLAC, as well as generating excitement for the wonderful work that libraries across Texas do to promote literacy and a love of books and reading. We can’t wait to return to next year’s Texas Book Festival.
This week the Texas State Library and Archives Commission will hold its regularly scheduled meeting at the beautiful new Stephens (Tom Green County) Central Library in San Angelo. Each fall, the commission meets in a different location around the state. Last year, the commission met at the Lamar University Library in Beaumont, and two years ago in Rio Grande City, home of the Starr County Library.
Our commission—a seven member governing board comprised of citizens from across the state appointed by the Governor—likes to meet in different locations so that members can observe library operations first hand, and meet and be accessible to local and state officials, the public, librarians and library supporters.
By meeting in San Angelo, the Commission will have the opportunity to visit not only the Stephens library, but the Porter Henderson Library at Angelo State library, the West Texas Collection archives, and the San Angelo Data Center.
While in San Angelo, the commission will present a ceremonial grant check to the Tom Green County Library for $80,000 for two creative projects. Of this amount, $75,000 will fund STEAM Central, an innovative technology program that will create a new makerspace area in the library where young people can come to explore, experiment, and learn vital science, technology, engineering, arts and math skills that will help them be competitive in our high-tech economy.
In conjunction with our meeting in San Angelo, Jaclyn Owusu, Public Awareness Coordinator in our Talking Book Program, will be meeting with various individuals and organizations to spread the word about the books and information that make available free of charge to Texans who cannot read standard print due to a visual or physical disability.
In advance of our visit, the San Angelo Standard-Times ran an article last week that I wrote to call attention to the important role that libraries play in our society. I made the case that in our deeply divided country where there is little agreement anything, Americans are in agreement that libraries are a key resource for early learning, workforce, technology, and much more. While Americans are mistrustful of government, they trust the information they receive from libraries. And at a time when Americans are tribal and wary of one another, they are comfortable coming together to interact with one another in the safe environment of the library.
In this way, I have argued, that libraries may be in a unique position to help heal the deep divisions in our society and help connect people with each other and the resources they need for their individual goals, and to develop strong, vibrant, resilient communities.
Can libraries save America? The answer is yes and the effort is already afoot in San Angelo and hundreds of other communities across Texas and the nation. We need to acknowledge it and get to work. Our country needs us.
October is Archives Month and there is a lot going on.
Last week the Austin City Council held a ceremony to proclaim that October is Archives Month, celebrating the value of archival collections to preserving and making available the records of our shared heritage. We were glad to have members of our Texas Historical Resources Advisory Board on hand to attend the event. The THRAB is comprised with experts from across Texas who advise the State Archivist, Jelain Chubb, on matters relating the archival collections of TSLAC and in other archives across the state.
Each year, TSLAC produces an Archives Month poster to share with other libraries and archives across Texas and the nation. This year’s poster (pictured at left)—“Archives Have the Answers! You Provide the Questions”—celebrates the important role that archives and libraries play in making historical records available to researchers and the general public. These collections are a source of information that Texans use every day to “unlock stories of the past,” including genealogies, social narratives, and community history.
On Sunday, October 16, TSLAC will again be attending the Austin Archives Bazaar to be held from 2 to 6:00 p.m. at Saengerrunde Hall, 1607 San Jacinto Boulevard in Austin. The event provides an opportunity for attendees to learn about the many resources and services to be found at Austin-area archives. Similar events are held in other cities in Texas and across the country during Texas and American Archives Month.
And at TSLAC, we continue to seek ways to extend the value of our collections and make them more accessible to the public. Our project, the Texas Digital Archive, launched early this year, continues to grow and expand, with ever increasing collections of digital archival materials added every week. Over the coming months and years, the Texas Digital Archive will continue to grow and become an ever-more useful repository of the digital archives of Texas state government. We hope you will visit the TDA today to see what is new and continue to return to see what is added.
We urge you to celebrate Texas Archives Month by visiting our agency to start your genealogy research, carry on your research, or even just visit our fascinating lobby exhibit on the history of Texas parks and their creation by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Or visit an archive near you to discover the wonderful range of information and services available in Texas archives.
Today is Power Up at Your Library Day all across Texas. Libraries are celebrating and demonstrating the many ways in which they have become vibrant learning and technology hubs. The Powered Libraries Facebook Page has been busy all day documenting dozens of exciting projects in which libraries are platforms for learning. Using library resources in maker spaces and through other projects, kids and adults are acquiring new skills, experimenting with technology, learning to write programs, building robots, designing prototypes for entrepreneurial projects, printing designs on 3-D printers, learning about science and math through creative games, tech back-packs, and other fun devices.
For our part, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission has provided many grants to libraries to experiment with maker spaces and other technology projects for all ages. Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz is observing Power Up at Your Library Day by presenting a TSLAC grant in the amount of $10,259 to the Flower Mound Public Library in North Texas. These funds will be used to purchase a minimum of 60 STEM kits for circulation to its patrons under the age of 18. The Library hopes to foster interest in STEM topics as early as preschool and continuing through high school.
We wish all our libraries statewide the utmost success in supporting technology education and exploration in their communities.
Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress.
We were also very excited yesterday to watch the confirmation of Dr. Carla Hayden as the 14th Librarian of Congress. Dr. Hayden was formerly the Executive Director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library of Baltimore, a former president of the American Library Association, and one of the most respected librarians in the country. She is the first woman to occupy the post and the first African American. She was introduced by House Speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan, and sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts. Dr. Hayden’s appointment is so exciting because she understands the valuable role that libraries of all types can play in creating sustainable communities, safeguarding cultural heritage, and promoting educational and technological growth in our society. We will be cheering her on in her role as the nation’s most prominent librarian. For more background on this important story, see the excellent front-page article on Dr. Hayden in today’s New York Times.
Last October, we celebrated the arrival of the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives with an event on the front portico of our building. It was a nice event during the Texas Book Festival and we were joined by writers Carmen Lomas Garza, Sarah Bird, and Pat Mora. The Texas Center for the Book, an affiliate of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, had been operated by the Dallas Public Library since 1987, but by mutual agreement, we and DPL felt that it more rightly belonged with a state agency. We took on the work of the Center for the Book to support our broader agency interests of encouraging reading, literacy, and library use.
But to tell the truth, we were a bit unsure what we were getting into. We set modest goals and thought that during the first year, we might promote Letters about Literature, a statewide reading/writing contest for school students, and perhaps one or two other projects. We greatly underestimated two factors: the intense interest that the program would generate among librarians, teachers, authors, and the public, and also the creativity and determination of our Center for the Book Coordinator, Rebekah Manley, who joined our staff in December 2015. Over the last eight months,
Texas Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley (right) with author Pat Mora (in red) cast of the play “Tomás and the Library Lady” and members of the family of Tomás Rivera at the Zach Theater in February 2016.
fueled by Rebekah’s energy and supported by Communications Officer Stephen Siwinski and many other TSLAC staff, and encouraged by active librarians, community members, and others, the Texas Center for the Book has accomplished far more than we expected.
The Texas Center for the Book continued the Letters about Literature project, increasing participation by 10% over the previous year. In this project, school children in grades 4 to 12 write letters to their favorite authors—living or dead—about a book that has changed their lives. Our three winners read their essays at the Texas Library Association annual conference in April.
The Center also sponsored Lone Star Día, the Texas celebration of the 20th anniversary of Children’s Day, Book Day / El día de los niños, el día de los libros, supporting programs in Austin and at the TLA conference, and distributing posters about the event to every public library and thousands of school libraries across the state. The Center partnered with Little Free Libraries to hold builds of the tiny libraries in four cities as a way to highlight the positive work of libraries and engage a new audience in the work. The Center held meet-ups in Austin and other cities to bring librarians and others together to network and share ideas. The Center has launched a $1,000 award to honor literacy organizations in the state with an emphasis on library partnerships.
The Center has networked with Texas writers groups to engage them with the work of the Center and TSLAC. Rebekah has opened dialogues and partnerships with a wide range of organizations such the Texas Book Festival, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, BookSpring, Society of Book Writers and Illustrators, Literacy Texas, and the Texas Veterans Commission.
For the next year, in addition to continuing these activities, Rebekah and the Center are planning to roll out a statewide reading program featuring books that explore the topic of veterans’ experiences. We will release information on that program this fall.
And in September, Rebekah and Stephen will represent Texas at the National Book Festival in Washington. For this event, each year, every state selects a “Great Reads” book that highlights their state. For Texas this year, the book is Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin. This magical book for young adults is set in the Central Texas hill country and Ms. Loftin has been very supportive of the Center, as the excellent video featured above indicates.
So it has been a successful first year and we very much appreciate the active participation in activities of our Center for the Book by so many librarians and educators and authors and community leaders statewide, and by our always-supportive Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas.
It is more important than ever to develop strong reading and library habits, literacy skills, and a love of books. We think we are off to a great start in using the Texas Center for the Book to help Texans discover the joy and benefits of reading.
For more information, see the Texas Center for the Book page on the TSLAC website:
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.
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.
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.