TSLAC and the 87th Legislature–Good News for Libraries

By Mark Smith

On Monday of this week, the Texas Legislature wrapped up their 2021 session and we are assessing how TSLAC and libraries and archives fared. The answer is, we did well. 

Last summer, when we drafted our 2022-2023 Legislative Appropriations Request, we feared the worst. Due to the effects of the pandemic, state and local revenues were projected to be deeply in the red. As we moved into the fall, those fears only intensified and we expected a large reduction in our budget. Those reductions did not materialize. Beyond a five percent reduction required of most state agencies, we had no further cut to our budget.

Furthermore, we had a pleasant surprise. The Legislature approved funding for a package of four items that we grouped together under the banner of “Texans Need Strong Libraries.” When we requested these items, we had little hope that they would get funded, but we thought that they would at least give TSLAC and our friends at the Texas Library Association an opportunity to talk about the good work that libraries do for Texas communities.

The “Texans Need Strong Libraries” projects that we will receive funding are:

  • $1.5 million to support workforce programs in Texas libraries.
  • $1 million for technology support for libraries, including projects to purchase devices to extend library services into the community.
  • $1 million to support the TexShare and TexQuest e-resource programs to avoid having to increase user fees or reduce available resources. 
  • $275,000 to hire two archivists to help process the TSLAC backlog and get more items onto the Texas Digital Archive.
  • These items include 5 additional staff for TSLAC to increase capacity to serve the libraries and people of Texas.  

We are grateful to the Legislature for their support for these projects and the vote of confidence it shows in our work at TSLAC. But more than that, this funding is the direct result of the Legislature’s recognition of the outstanding services that Texas libraries performed for their communities during the pandemic. We were told by legislators how much they appreciated the work of Texas libraries and they recognized that libraries were a lifeline for many people during the pandemic. I see this funding as an acknowledgement of the many ways libraries rose to the occasion to be a crucial link to information and services for people who were otherwise isolated during the Covid-19 crisis.

Also in this budget, while TSLAC did not get the funding requested to begin planning for an expansion of the State Records Center, we did get an acknowledgement of the need for more storage space for archives and records. The Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) was directed by rider to consider options for land acquisitions for state office needs, including for archival storage for TSLAC. We look forward to working with TFC to know what our needs are in this regard. 

We appreciate the support from many quarters for this legislative session. Most particularly, we thank the Texas Library Association and the Texas Library and Archives Foundation for their advocacy for our budget in support of the libraries and archives of Texas. 

In other news:

As I wrote in an earlier post, a few weeks ago, the Texas Center for the Book rolled out Read Across Texas, our statewide reading program centered on the theme of Recovery, encompassing all of the meanings of that word. One of our four suggested titles in this year’s reading is We Fed an Island: The True Story of How We Rebuilt Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by the world-renowned celebrity chef, José Andrés. I am so excited that TSLAC was able to secure an exclusive interview with Chef Andrés about his book and the work of his organization, One World Kitchen, which has rallied his colleagues in the food industry to meet the needs of communities struggling through natural disasters and other challenges. That interview, conducted by TSLAC’s own Center for the Book coordinator Rebekah Manley, can be viewed on our website here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOPrByo7WT8

Links in this post

Texas Digital Archive: https://tsl.access.preservica.com/

Texas Library Association: https://txla.org/

Read Across Texas statewide reading program: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexasebooks

More on We Fed an Island on the Harper-Collins website: https://www.harpercollins.com/products/we-fed-an-island-jose-andres?variant=32205423837218

Link to the Center for the Book interview with José Andrés: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOPrByo7WT8  

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