Accreditation and the Pandemic: The 2020 Texas Public Libraries Annual Report, an FAQ

We acknowledge the hard work that public libraries did under very trying circumstances to submit their Annual Reports for 2019. Five hundred and forty libraries completed their reports, only three fewer than last year. We know that this was a challenge for many of you, and we appreciate your efforts to provide this important information to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC). As State Librarian and Director Mark Smith published recently, we feel your pain; we are all in this together.

Having anxiety about potential loss of accreditation due to circumstances beyond your control is understandable. We recognize that this year’s circumstances are extraordinary and will require a considered approach to both reporting and accreditation. There are legal requirements relating to accreditation that our agency must follow. It is our intention to bring together our agency leadership and in-house counsel to review these requirements and determine the best way to proceed.

We do not have all the answers yet but hope to have a plan that we can share with you by the end of the summer. We have your concerns in mind and will be working on providing some concrete information as soon as we can. Be assured that we will work on a broad solution to help libraries the best way possible.

There have been many questions about the 2020 Annual Report and accreditation. Here is where we stand on those issues at present: If this FAQ does not answer your question, contact us at accreditation@tsl.texas.gov.

Q:  Our expenditures this year will not meet the library’s maintenance of effort (MOE). How can the library stay accredited?

A:  This issue is in discussion with staff here at TSLAC. Rules for accreditation are in Texas Administrative Code, so we must weigh in with in-house counsel as well as our commission. We hope to develop solutions and guidance over the next few months, including review by the Library Systems Act (LSA) Advisory Board in the fall.

Q:  We are facing budget cuts for the coming fiscal year or years, due to loss of tax revenue during the pandemic. How can the library stay accredited?

A:  Continue to submit the Annual Report. There may be indirect costs that can make up the difference. Alternatively, city- or county-wide cuts can form the basis of an appeal to the LSA Board.

Q:  Our library is closed for an indefinite time. Should we still submit an Annual Report?

A:  YES! The annual communication from your library to ours is vital for so many reasons. Outside of accreditation, the statistics we generate form a state- and nationwide picture of the role and value of libraries that should not be lost, even if our facilities are closed.

Q:  Our facility is not open to the public, but staff are working. Is the library open?

A:  Yes and… We expect to see fewer open hours on the 2020 report. Everyone is aware of the impact the pandemic has had on businesses, government, recreation, the economy, etc., so this will be reflected in the Annual Report. When reporting “hours open,” this is the number of hours the building is open to the public. You will have the opportunity to report the actual service hours–the hours that the staff has been answering questions, providing curbside delivery, cleaning, and weeding–at another place in the Report.

Q: How do we count library visits?

A:  Follow the current definition. These will be down since the library building is not open to the public. Curbside service will be reflected in the library’s circulation numbers, staff responses to questions will be reported in reference transactions, programs and attendance counts will be reported, as well.

Q:  All of our programs are now virtual. Will this be counted differently?

A:  Yes! For live programs that are held online count total or peak views. Recorded programs do not follow the existing definition but should be tracked and tallied for the library’s stakeholders. More information on this will be published on the Annual Report webpage, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/annualreport.

Q:  We now leave our Wi-Fi on 24 hour and have expanded its range. How do we report this?

A:  Wi-Fi sessions must be tracked using software on the library’s router. More information on how to do this can be found here:  Count Your Wi-Fi Usage.

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