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.

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