Speaking up for Texas libraries

Last Tuesday, September 18, the New York Times ran a very positive article about the Sacramento (CA) Public Library. The article talked about the many ways that libraries have changed and the many exciting new services that they now offer. These new services include lending objects and offering maker spaces. These new services—which are well known to library customers and staffs—are the hook of the article. The article begins, “Libraries aren’t just for books, or even e-books, anymore” Okay, well, that is not exactly a news flash for anyone that has been in a library anytime since, say, the last 20 years, and especially the last five years.

But it was a nice article and we appreciate the coverage for libraries in general. And I am glad to see my former colleague from California, Sacramento Public Library Executive Director Rivkah Sass, one of the most creative library leaders in the country, get the notice in the “newspaper of record.” And other public libraries were also featured in the article, including those in Mesa, Arizona; New Haven, Connecticut; Philadelphia; and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I only wish one of our Texas libraries had also been included. Or for that matter, many of our Texas libraries, where the same types of creative programs are being offered every day. All across Texas, our libraries are helping create resilient cities, providing links to workforce training, serving as technology hubs, and engaging early learners. I was in the Dallas Public Library last week learning about their Homeless Engagement initiative (funded by an LSTA grant from TSLAC), their GED training program (also supported by LSTA grant funds from TSLAC), their summer nutritious lunch program in 11 branches, and their bicycle repair program at the central libraries. Not just about books, to be sure.

The Times reporter writes, “The Sacramento Public Library is one of a few dozen libraries in the country to embrace the ‘maker movement’”. A few dozen? A few hundred would probably be more accurate. In the last round of competitive grants approved by our Commission for FY 2016, there were maker projects and STEM projects in numerous libraries including El Paso, Frisco, Dallas, and university libraries such as UNT and Southwest Adventist. In other competitive grants, we supported wonderful projects in workforce support in Balch Springs, Bryan-College Station, and Bullard, technology hub projects in Nueces County and Schulenburg, and even a food security project at the El Paso Public Library that will encourage residents to grow their own food and eat a more healthy diet.

So I call on librarians across Texas to speak up about your creative projects. Publicize what you do with your own local media and others. And send your best practices to me and others at the State Library so that we can help tell the world about the great projects you are all doing. Consider nominating your library or another for recognition by an IMLS National Medal or for the Library Journal Best Small Library in America award.

Texas libraries are doing programs that are every bit as innovative as any in the country—and it’s up to us Texans to tell them.

Patricia Leigh Brown, “These Libraries Are for Snowshoes and Ukuleles.” New York Times, September 15, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/15/us/these-public-libraries-are-for-snowshoes-and-ukuleles.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0.

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