TSLAC Competitive Awards: Funding innovation in Texas libraries

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission met Monday and awarded 71 competitive grants to Texas public and academic libraries totaling over $1.5 million. The source of these funds was federal Library Services and Technology Act funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. We are very grateful to the IMLS for granting a waiver of our maintenance of effort requirement to receive our full allotment of federal funds and be able to award these grants.

The projects funded by these grants are an amazing panorama of innovation, best practice, and forward direction in library service. The projects include initiatives that will reinforce the new model of libraries as learning centers such as 3-D Labs @ Your Library, a CTLS project to put 3-D printers at the core of a network of librarians sharing expertise for the benefit of patrons; or the Johnson City Public Library’s Discovery Academy that will provide STEM learning opportunities for third to fifth-grade students.

Many of the projects funded in this round will explore exciting new models of sustainability for libraries such as El Paso Public Library’s Sow.Grow.Reap.Eat. Seed Library & Demonstration Garden Program, empowering local communities to grow their own food, reduce food insecurity, and promote healthy lifestyles; or Dallas Public Library’s Homeless Engagement Initiative, targeting specialized services for about 4,000 customers in this typically underserved population.

Through the TexTreasures grants, libraries will greatly expand the range of materials available in digital formats, including Abilene Library Consortium’s efforts to preserve and make available the architectural drawings of David Castle, the pre-eminent architect of West Texas for many years; or UNT’s project to digitize the Texas Jewish Post for the years 1947 to 1965.

The Impact Grants will support libraries in their efforts to encourage workforce development in their communities, such as the Balch Springs Library’s Workforce Development @ the Library, encouraging a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation; or the Bulverde/Spring Branch Library’s Tech Training Time that will help patrons raise their digital technology competency to help them better compete in the workforce; or the Bryan College Station Library’s Teen Job Skills Training Program.

And on and on through dozens of exciting and much-needed programs addressing family and childhood literacy, STEM, reading, workforce development, digital literacy, community engagement, economic development, and much more. In the wider scope of spending on libraries, the LSTA funds are small, but they provide crucial seed money libraries need to experiment with new ideas and new models. These programs are creating and fostering new models of library services for the 21st Century and we at TSLAC are going to be very excited to follow their progress in the coming months.

Our competitive grants program is the result of a lot of hard work by a number of people led by our Grants Administrator, Erica McCormick, supported by Library and Development Director Deborah Littrell and many other staff in our LDN and Administrative Services Department. We also thank the members of the peer review panel, comprised of librarians from across the state who generously gave their time to read and score nearly 100 grant applications this year.

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