Last time I wrote about the TSLAC’s history of providing e-resources to millions of Texans via library access to TexShare and TexQuest resources, a key component of TSLAC services since the mid-1990s.
As important as they are, TexShare and TexQuest are only part of TSLAC’s commitment to digital inclusion for all Texans. As we prepare our Legislative Appropriations Request for the 2022-2023 biennium, we will be telling the legislature and state leadership about the important programs that have many thousands of users across the state:
• Talking Book Program – This service, which has been an integral part of TSLAC since the 1920s, provides books and other recorded materials to persons who cannot read standard print, usually due to a visual impairment or physical disability. In other words, it is a lifeline for persons who are already isolated and who now, due to the pandemic, are at an even greater disadvantage. The Talking Book Program circulates over 700,000 items to these Texans each year, the increasing majority of which are in digital format. Many readers now access these materials by direct download to their devices.
• E-Read Texas – In August 2019 we launched this program to provide e-books to Texans via a platform known as Simply E that allows the public to stream e-books purchased for the state by TSLAC alongside those purchased by local libraries. To-date several dozen Texas public libraries in small communities in all parts of the state have adopted E-Read Texas as a way to bring more materials to their customers at a time when their libraries have been closed or services limited due to the pandemic.
• The Texas Digital Archive – Texas leads the nation in this repository of state archival information in digital format which has created an unprecedented access to the archival record of Texas for persons in communities of all sizes in all parts of the state. Currently there are over 5.4 million historical documents, photographs, maps, and other materials in the Texas Digital Archive.
• Broadband services. TSLAC actively works to ensure that libraries across Texas are able to serve as an access point to high-speed internet for their communities. Over the last three years, Texas has assisted over 150 public libraries in acquiring broadband at affordable prices and that effort is continuing with further support through the U.S. CARES Act.
• Managing state and local electronic records. Our Records Management Assistance Unit provides guidance to state and local governments in the effective management of their electronic records and sponsors the annual E-Records Conference each fall to provide state of the industry guidance in storing and managing e-government records.
• Uniform Electronic Legal Materials. As a result of legislation last session, TSLAC partnered with the Office of the Secretary of State and the Tarlton Law Library to create a framework for ensuring that the public seeking legal materials is using the most current and authorized version.
• And of course, TexShare and TexQuest. These programs combined receive over 100 million information requests each year and are a source of vital information for students at all levels, professionals, researchers, and regular Texans who have a broad range of needs.
These resources and services have always been important and valued by Texans, but during the pandemic, that need has grown significantly more acute. As schools are holding virtual classes, libraries are closed, and people are working from home, the need to access online resources has never been greater.
In my last blog post, I anticipated we would receive instructions to reduce our budget. That did not turn out to be the case. State agencies have not been instructed to prepare reduction plans, however, we have been instructed to prioritize our programs. Our biennial budget request to the state will speak of the high priority for all Texans to be able to continue to rely on remotely accessed resources and services. The pandemic has highlighted the need to move workers to an information-based economy supported by remote access via broadband networks. Our commission has set digital inclusion as a key operational goal of our agency because we recognize that TSLAC and libraries in all Texas communities have a key role to play in supporting cost-effective remote access to information and broadband internet service.
We will approach the legislative session confident that our client groups and legislative decision makers will agree.
Links included in this post:
Talking Book Program
Texas Digital Archive
Broadband and digital inclusion
Managing state and local records
TexQuest and other K-12 library services