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

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: — Your participation will be very valuable to us in designing programs and services that align with your library needs.

Thank you!

TSLAC’s Strategic Goals

The members of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission met last week in a two-day strategic planning session. Every other year, all state agencies are required to create an Agency Strategic Plan. Even though this is a biennial requirement of state government, we take the process very seriously. It is an opportunity for our Commission and staff to discuss strategic direction for the agency, how we can continue to effectively discharge our mandates, and how we can better serve our customers. It is also an opportunity to hear from our customers and client groups about how we can better align our agency activities with their aspirations. The goals set by the Commission in this process provide the foundation on which we build not only our strategic plan but also our Legislative Appropriations Request for the next biennium. So these decisions have definite long-term impacts.

As they did two years ago, our commission arrived at a set of operational goals for the agency, as follows:

  • To articulate and advance the value of Texas libraries as essential to our communities and state.
  • To recruit and retain the knowledge-based workforce necessary to discharge the agency’s duties.
  • To safeguard, preserve, and provide access to informational and historical assets such as the Regional Historical Resources Depositories and the Talking Book Program.
  • To acquire the technology necessary to effectively, securely, and efficiently manage agency resources.
  • To secure the state’s official records by addressing the immediate need for additional archival storage and provide for the growth of Texas records.
  • To support efforts to ensure digital inclusion for Texas.
  • Continue to refine our response to the informational needs of the increasingly diverse Texas population.
  • Continue to develop the Texas digital archive as a vital information resource for all Texans.

These objectives are in the Commission’s priority order. The first goal speaks to a frequently heard request from libraries across the state to help describe to state and local decision makers and the public the value of libraries. The goal also speaks to the ways in which our library development projects attempt to add value to local library services as well. The second goal arises out of an ongoing challenge in our agency to recruit and retain the most talented staff possible to effectively carry out our mandated services. We have a wonderful staff, but our salaries are not fully competitive. We received partial funding for our request for equity adjustments for staff in the last session and we are grateful for that advancement, but our salaries continue to lag behind both other state agencies and the general marketplace.

The sixth bullet refers to our ongoing efforts to provide broad access to shared digital resources, but also our intensifying efforts to address the lack of broadband access for libraries across the state. Whether the broadband is not available or not affordable, the effect is that the lack of this important access in many parts of the state is a barrier to education and economic development. Libraries can and should be part of the solution to community access to broadband.

Next Tuesday, March 1, at 10 a.m., I am going to be presenting a webinar on our strategic planning process. I hope you can join us and send your comments and suggestions. You can visit this link to sign up for the webinar. We will also soon announce an online survey for you to also provide your input. And finally, you can always feel free to e-mail me your thoughts and suggestions at:

Big day for TSLAC programming

Unlike a public library that may have constant and overlapping programs for the public, our mandates and the nature of our facilities make programs for us more infrequent. However, we have been offering more outreach and activity lately and as it turns out, we have two major events scheduled for tomorrow.


TSLAC Outreach and Education Coordinator Ashley Stevens (left) speaking with a Time Warner reporter this week.

At the Zavala Building tomorrow, we have a program–which at this point is full–Black Family History Day from 12 to 3 p.m.–in which members of our Archives team guide attendees through local genealogical resources and how to research family history. Our very creative and energetic Coordinator or Outreach and Education programs, Ashley Stevens organized and has been actively promoting the event. She was even featured on Time-Warner News Channel speaking about the program. You can see that video here.

Meanwhile, at 2 p.m. at the ZACH Theatre in Austin, TSLAC will be sponsoring the kick-off of Lone Star Día, our statewide celebration of the 20th anniversary of Children’s Day, Book Day / El día de los niños, El día de los libros. The ZACH Theater is performing the play “Tomás and the lonestar_bannerLibrary Lady,” a play based on a book of the same title by author Pat Mora who also happens to be the founder of Children’s Day, Book Day. Ms. Mora will be on hand at the play–along with a number of Texas teachers, library leaders and lots of children and families–to greet the crowd and say a few words about her work, the origin of Día and the importance of books and reading. Thanks to a generous donation by the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas, we will be providing free copies of Tomás and the Library Lady to everyone attending the program. Throughout this spring we will be encouraging Texas libraries to observe this wonderful celebration that emphasizes the power of books and reading to change young lives. This project is being presented by our Texas Center for the Book, coordinated by Rebekah Manley with much planning and support from our Youth Services Consultant Christine McNew.

Unfortunately, both of these programs are full, however, we look forward to continuing to present as programming to help ensure that Texans of all ages have access to the information resources they need to live productive, informed lives.

Launching the Texas Digital Archive

We were very excited to announce a few days ago that The Texas Digital Archive is now officially opened to the public on our website. The TDA can be accessed at The TDA is live at this point with the first set of documents from Governor Rick Perry as well as some historical photographs and other materials from our collection. Staff are working with the three target state agencies (Texas Historical Commission, Office of the Attorney General, and the Railroad Commission) to bring their materials into the archive as promised to the Legislature during this biennium.

The launch was reported in both Library Journal and American Libraries magazines as well as in several Texas newspapers. And indeed this is big news for us and for the state. The launch of the Texas Digital Archive is a significant milestone for the agency and for researchers, state government, libraries and archives, and information seekers everywhere. This is the first time a centralized depository of state agency digital resources has been available in Texas and over time we expect it will grow to be a very important resource for the state on a level of the physical archives housed in our building. The project was the effort of many people at TSLAC, including our state archivist Jelain Chubb, Assistant State Archivist Laura Saegert, Electronic Records Specialist Mark Myers, and many of our archivists, technical, and administrative staff who worked on various aspects of the project. We look forward to providing more information and updates on this important project as it progresses.


The cover for “The Inferno” by Dante for the Recovering the Classics project.

In other news, our Texas Center for the Book is now working on a number of very interesting projects to promote books, reading, literacy and library use statewide. Recently we were approached by a university librarian in West Texas, Cynthia Henry, who as a personal project not affiliated with her institution, wanted to purchase poster versions of the 50 striking new book covers recently completed for the Recovering the Classics project and make them available in a touring exhibit. We thought the idea was exciting and innovative and we have the capability in-house to print 20 of the posters. Cynthia has found other backers to help purchase the rest of the posters and we look forward to hearing from her when the exhibit will first be appearing. This is just the sort of project that we love–one that combines an excitement about books and reading, encourages a rediscovery of the classics, reaffirms the link between libraries, books and reading, and leverages small investments from several organizations to make a creative librarian’s idea a reality. A big thank you to Cynthia for bringing this project to us. You can see the all the covers at Recovering the Classics at

And in a teaser for later, I will mention we are at work on another interesting project in partnership with the organization Little Free Libraries (, that has placed many thousands of these little libraries across the country. I look forward to telling you more soon about a partnership between the Texas Center for the Book and Little Free Libraries to place these libraries in Texas while promoting books, reading, literacy, and library use.

Adventures in Texas History

Donaly Brice speaking about his book, The Governor's Hounds, at TSLAC.

Historian and author Donaly Brice speaking about his book, The Governor’s Hounds, at TSLAC.

Last night at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, we welcomed back a distinguished alumnus, Donaly Brice, for a very interesting and informative lecture on his book, The Governor’s Hounds: The Texas State Police, 1870-1873. Donaly worked for TSLAC for 37 years as Historian, or, as we thought of him, our walking encyclopedia of Texas history. We estimate that during his tenure, Donaly answered more than 50,000 reference questions–many of them by mail–about concerning the archives and Texas history.

The Governor’s Hounds recounts the short but controversial history of the Texas State Police, created in 1870 during Reconstruction by Governor Edmund Davis. The Texas State Police were intended to restore order to what was largely a lawless state. Murder was rampant and crimes against African-American Texans were particularly widespread, heinous, and mostly unpunished. But the Texas State Police were despised by many Texans who accused the Republican Governor of creating51ziJn1N-WL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ an expeditionary force of blacks to take their toll on whites. The Governor’s Hounds is a revisionist history that dispels many of the stories that surround the Texas State Police. This is a fascinating read and one that resonates with themes that have echoed through Texas history such as race relations, violence, uses of authority, and individual rights.

The Governor’s Hounds was meticulously researched over 20 years by Donaly and his late co-author, Barry A. Crouch, a professor at Gallaudet University. The book reminds us why it is so important preserve, maintain, and make available the resources in the State Archives as well as other public archives and libraries across Texas and the nation. And we are reminded why it is so important to have scholars, writers, and researchers like Donaly Brice to examine the historical records and to reveal to us the importance of these resources in understanding our past and our present.

A Year of Accomplishments at TSLAC

Thanks to our staff, Commission, and support from the Texas Legislature and our many partner organizations and friends statewide, it has been a great year of progress at TSLAC. I would like to end this year’s blog by mentioning a top 10 list of accomplishments.

  1. Legislative Support – We thank the budget leaders of the Legislature for adding $7.6M to our budget, including $6M for TexShare and TexQuest resources; over $700,000 to launch the Texas Digital Archive; $500,000 for CAPPS; and $400,000 for agency salary adjustments.
  2. The Texas Digital Archive – Thanks to a legislative appropriation, TSLAC has the resources to finally launch the Texas Digital Archive, a resource that will ultimately contain the archival materials in electronic format of most of state government. The TDA will go live in early 2016.
  3. The Harwood Institute – Hosting three three-day sessions in May for approximately 300 Texas public and academic librarians to learn the nationally recognized Harwood Institute model for turning outward to align organizational goals with community aspirations.
  4. The Texas Center for the Book – After being hosted for 28 years at the Dallas Public Library, the Texas Center for the Book, an affiliate of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, moved to TSLAC in October. The Center promotes books, reading, literacy and libraries through a variety of special programs and activities for adults and children.
  5. Perry Records – Just prior to leaving office in January, Governor Rick Perry transferred his records to the Archives. The longest serving governor in Texas history, Gov. Perry was also the first to transfer significant electronic archives—over 6 terabytes of data, to be exact—as well as extensive paper files. The Perry archives will be partially searchable directly by the public as part of the new Texas Digital Archive in early 2016.
  6. New Web Page – A newly redesigned TSLAC website allows the huge riches of the agency’s online services to be more easily searchable and in a updated contemporary design.
  7. Revising the K-12 Library Standards – A cooperative project of TSLAC and the Texas Education Agency, the last time these standards were updated was over 10 years ago. Much has changed since then and a committee of Texas school library and education leaders has been assembled to work on the reboot.
  8. E-Records Conference – A record attendance of over 400 persons assembled on November 17 to consider state-of-the-art practices in the management of electronic records by city, county, and state agencies with presenters from the public and private sectors.
  9. Enterprise Solutions – The agency completed or embarked on several crucial software upgrades to improve service in mission-critical areas including the launch of the new TexLinx system that will control all aspects of our records program, design of a new integrated library system for the Talking Book Program, a new grants management system, and implementation of the Comptroller’s CAPPS Accounting and HR control system.
  10. Quality Improvement – This year we launched an internal quality-improvement process with the first of a series of quality teams, this one focused on the topic of communications. This staff team returned a series of recommendations to the Administrative Team and we are now in the implementation phase. The next quality team will start in January to review customer feedback.

Honorable mentions—other accomplishments and fun stuff this year:

  • Sam Houston Center upgrades – Beautiful new furnishings in our Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, part of a million-dollar refurbish of that facility.
  • Legislative reception in our lobby on January 27 sponsored by the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas to welcome back our elected officials for the 84th Session.
  • Phil Collins visit – In March the recording artist stopped by to visit and take a look at the Travis letters from the Alamo.
  • TLA and the AGLHRT Reception – The massive TLA conference rolled through Austin in April with great participation by TSLAC staff and a great reception at the agency for members of the Archives, Genealogy and Local History Round Table.
  • TBP staff reading To Kill a Mockingbird – TSLAC/TBP staffer Victor Hunter fascinated the crowd by reading from a Braille version of the book at an event at Barnes & Noble in July.
  • The NAGARA/COSA Conference – Hosted in Austin in July and heavily planned, presented, and attended by TSLAC staff.
  • Driving to the ARSL Conference – Sept 30 to Oct 3 – TSLAC led a road trip of three staff and nine librarians from Austin to Little Rock for the Association of Rural and Small Libraries 2015 annual conference.
  • Archives in ATXION – The Texas Picture Show film showing and western swing music by Jason Roberts on the grounds of the Capitol in October pushed the boundaries of our programming.
  • Strategic Planning for Resource Sharing – Dozens of library leaders from across the state convened in early December to discuss the future of resource sharing in Texas.

Thank you to our dedicated Commissioners, our hardworking staff, and our many friends, partners, and supporters across the state that made this year so successful. And especially, we thank our customers and the millions users of library, archives, and records services across the state.

See you all in 2016!


Learning, Technology and Resource Sharing


Blanco Mayor Bruce Peele, left, Library Director Crystal Spybuck, right (in red) along with other Blanco Library supporters, staff, and board members.

Today I travelled with Communications Officer Steve Siwinski to the Blanco County Library to present a ceremonial grant check for $33,970. The library will use the funds to expand and continue its English Language Through Library Services and Technology program. The purpose of the grant is to provide English language learners the tools they need to advance their language and technology skills.

We were happy to meet not only the library director, staff, board members, tutors, and the mayor, but also Lupe, a student from the project who explained to us how important the program has been for her. She commented on the confidence that she has gained from the skills she has adopted. The others commented on efforts to help the adult students in this program get the skills they need to get into and succeed in college classes and to mainstream into the community.

Another example of the power of libraries to be the link to learning, technology, literacy, job skills, and education through one well-considered and professionally applied program. Kudos to Library Director Crystal Spybuck and Business Assistant Bonnie Holmes for their vision of innovative service at the Blanco County South District Library.

I am excited that tomorrow and Friday we will be holding the Texas Statewide Resource Sharing Summit with several dozen library leaders from academic, public and school libraries. The goal of the meeting will be to set a strategic direction for resource sharing for Texas for the next several years. The stakes are high for our agency, for libraries statewide, and for library users who depend on the information. I look forward to working with these strategic library thinkers to try to define ways to use resource sharing to expand our reach, tie our programs together, demonstrate our value, and ensure that libraries will continue to thrive as a resource for generations of Texans to come. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Volume, Velocity and Variety

Yesterday was a big day for TSLAC and one that brought home to me that the two sides of our agency’s house are not all that far apart.

TSLAC Electronic Records Specialist Mark Myers describing the Texas Digital Archive project at the 2015 E-Records conference.

TSLAC Electronic Records Specialist Mark Myers describing the Texas Digital Archive project at the 2015 E-Records conference.

The day for me started at the 2015 E-Records Conference, an annual event hosted by TSLAC in partnership with the Texas Department of Information Resources. The theme of this year’s conference was V3: Volume Velocity Variety. Our staff, led by Program Planning and Research Specialist Nanette Pfiester, does an outstanding job of organizing this event which explores state-of-the-art practices in the management of electronic records. This year, we had a record attendance of 420 persons representing 150 state agencies, local governments, and exhibitors.

The growing success of this conference indicates the degree to which records managers need tools and techniques to ensure that they can maintain control and transparency of these vital public records. The keynote speaker, Paul Taylor of Governing Magazine, described the ways in which government is racing to keep up with the volume, velocity and variety of the data explosion and the public’s need to access that data.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the entire conference because I was due in Frisco north of Dallas at 6 p.m. Chairman Michael Waters, Commissioner Lynwood Givens, and I participated in a check presentation for a grant to the Frisco Public Library at the Frisco City Council meeting. The grant supports an exciting new program developed by director Shelley Holley and her staff to build a collection of maker kits and STEM backpacks to circulate to children and teens. As I told the Council, this is exactly the kind of project that we love to see in libraries and that demonstrates the margin of library innovation that the federal LSTA funds allow us to encourage.

Frisco Public Library Director Shelley Holley, TSLAC Commissioner Lynwood Givens and the Library's LSTA grant funded collection of STEM backpacks.

Frisco Public Library Director Shelley Holley, TSLAC Commissioner Lynwood Givens and the Library’s LSTA grant funded collection of STEM backpacks.

Through this program, children can check out a variety of exciting maker kits and STEM materials ranging from Raspberry Pi’s and Arduinos to materials exploring anatomy, physics, mathematics, and other aspects of science. As society as a whole races to keep our citizens competitive with the same world that is delivering the technology and  information explosion that we explored in the morning, libraries like Frisco PL are proving that they have a vital role as learning and technology hubs offering fun, exciting, and cutting edge tech learning resources to young people. Visiting Frisco was a great learning experience for everyone involved including the Council, myself and our Commissioners in just how much libraries can offer.

The publics that we serve and even sometimes those of us in our agency think the records and archives side of our house is distinct and separate from the library side of the house. Like the name of our agency and the two doors leading into our lobby, one that says Archives and one that says Library. But those two doors lead to a common lobby and the same building. Like the librarians and the records managers we serve, all parts of our agency are racing to keep up with the ways that the public demands and urgently needs access to information in a highly technological world. Our government information analysts, our archivists, and our librarians are all working hard to help their professional colleagues across the state and the public find the tools they need to remain informed and competitive in the face of the volume, velocity and variety of information around us.

The importance of broadband in libraries

As we approach our next round of strategic planning, we are beginning to have a series of conversations with our various stakeholder groups about their aspirations for their institutions and how TSLAC can support them. One area that is emerging as a key area of focus for the library community is the availability of broadband statewide. Or should I say the lack of availability.

Broadband access is a major economic development issue for much of the state. As commerce, government, and education come to rely more intensively on the Internet and ever larger files are streaming across those networks, it is vital that Texans have the capacity to participate in that information flow. In many places, their participation is limited to what is offered by their telecom providers. In many communities the limitation is simply that the connectivity does not go to the community. Indeed, many have observed the similarity of broadband to the need for rural electrification of 75 years ago, a basic infrastructural gap.

And libraries might be in a position to help. Because of the availability of e-rate funding, libraries can secure discounts of 20-80% for the cost of ongoing service, and 10% of the cost of construction before applying the discount. And because so many people turn to libraries for Internet access, they are a natural entry point for broadband entry to the community. And don’t just take our word for it, consider this recent blog post from the National League of Cities that says the same:

For these reasons, we are exploring how TSLAC could help libraries to secure the broadband they need to provide this vital link in their communities. The Texas House is considering the same question. In an interim charge asks the House Committee on Public Education to “Examine the accessibility to broadband services for schools, libraries, and  institutions of higher education” (my emphasis).

It might be costly at the front end, but library broadband access can be the key to a much higher level of economic development and access to educational resources for Texans in all parts of the state.