Lapse in Texas SmartBuy Book Contract 715-M2

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts manages a contract that allows Texas libraries to purchase books, audiobooks, textbooks, audiovisual materials, and cataloging services from a number of vendors with negotiated discounts. Roughly 500 Texas libraries use this SmartBuy contract, 715-M2, and on average spend about $8 million per year on materials from the selected vendors. The contract was last bid in 2014. It expired in August 2019 and was extended through February 29, 2020. State law prohibits further extensions.

The Comptroller issued a new solicitation and is currently evaluating responses from qualifying vendors. Unfortunately, the current contract expires tomorrow, February 29, and new contracts will most likely not be in place until April 2020. Although the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is not involved in the solicitation, we are monitoring the situation as it affects us, too. To that end, we’ve put together some responses to some of the questions libraries have asked us about this contract.

  1. Why didn’t the solicitation get posted sooner to avoid any lapse?
    The Comptroller’s office was of course aware that the contract was due to expire and had begun working on drafting a new solicitation last summer. However, in analyzing data about how libraries purchase materials, they realized that they needed to look more closely at changes in the publishing industry. They reviewed solicitations by other states and interviewed individual providers to find out what did and didn’t work. They also looked at whether e-books and additional services of interest to libraries could be included, eventually deciding to leave those materials out of the solicitation. In the end, the solicitation couldn’t be posted early enough to avoid interruption.
     
  2. What vendors are affected?
    The vendors with lapsed contracts are:
    • Baker & Taylor, LLC
    • Brodart Company
    • Complete Book & Media Supply, LLC
    • Findaway World, LLC
    • Ingram Library Services, Inc
    • Midwest Library Service
    • Midwest Tape, LLC
    • Proquest, LLC
    • Taped Editions dba Tei Landmark Audio
    • Textbook Warehouse 
       
  3. How much were the discounts?
    The discounts varied by vendor and by category. The most recent price list is attached to this post. New discount rates will not be available until awards are complete.
     
  4. What will change with the new solicitation?
    It’s hard to know for sure, but all of the categories of materials that were included in the old contracts are included in the new solicitation. Vinyl records were added as a category. Brief MARC records must now be included at no charge. Item processing services, like mylar jackets, DVD/CD cases, RFID and theft deterrent strips, are now broken out, which may simplify ordering. The contract will also be brought up to date with various elements of Texas purchasing law.
     
  5. What can we do while there is no contract in place?
    Libraries have reported that their vendors plan to honor the discounts included in the expired contract. Please contact your vendors for more information.
     
  6.  Are libraries required to purchase materials from this contract?
    TSLAC and other state agencies (including public universities) are required to use the Comptroller’s contracts first. The expectation is that the Comptroller is able to negotiate better pricing than any single institution would be able to get on its own. Exemptions apply for things like the TexShare databases and other resource sharing items.

    For local governments, Comptroller contracts are basically a convenience. This includes most public libraries and school libraries in the state. Local Government Code section 252.022 provides an exemption for “a purchase of rare books, papers, and other library materials for a public library” along with many other exemptions. This is pretty broad, and basically gives libraries the freedom to purchase library materials in the way that seems best to them, if the amount of the purchases is under $50,000. Purchases over $50,000 may require you to do your own solicitation.

We’ll post something on this blog as soon as the new contracts are announced. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at ld@tsl.texas.gov.

Attachment: Texas SmartBuy contract 715-M2 (Excel)

Introducing E-Read Texas!

E-Read Texas logoThe Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is launching a new program, E-Read Texas, to bring electronic books to Texans served by small community libraries in all parts of the state. The E-Read Texas program will provide library e-books and an e-reader application that will make it possible for all Texans served by public libraries to access e-books.

“We are very happy to be able to offer Texans access to these high-demand materials through their public libraries,” said Mark Smith, Director and Texas State Librarian. “We recognize the great need in communities across the state for diverse reading materials and are excited to partner with local libraries to provide cost-effective and user-friendly access to those resources.”

TSLAC estimates that roughly a third of public libraries serving communities of fewer than 10,000 residents currently do not offer e-books to their patrons. TSLAC requested an exceptional item for the 2020-2021 biennium that would have provided $4.2 million in funding from the Legislature for affordable e-books. Although this request was not funded, TSLAC will use existing federal funds to begin the E-Read Texas program.

The E-Read Texas program will have multiple phases. In the first phase, beginning July 2019, TSLAC will partner with Amigos Library Services to implement SimplyE, an open source e-book app, for smaller public libraries. SimplyE was developed by the New York Public Library in partnership with other major libraries in the nation in response to challenges patrons face in accessing e-books. Amigos Library Services, headquartered in Dallas, has implemented SimplyE for the Brazoria County Library System and Houston Public Library, among others, and is one of four recognized SimplyE implementors in the nation.

SimplyE logo The SimplyE app is available for mobile devices running iOS and Android. It offers a “three-click” approach to e-books: patrons browse the e-book bookshelf, click to select a title, click again to check it out, and click to open and read it. Existing library e-books from OverDrive, RBDigital, Baker & Taylor, Bibliotheca and other vendors can be made available within the SimplyE app. Amigos will work with libraries and their vendors to simplify the setup process.

Initially, TSLAC and Amigos will implement SimplyE only for libraries that use the Apollo integrated library system from Biblionix. Biblionix, based in Austin, designed the Apollo system specifically for smaller public libraries. Ultimately, the project will be expanded to small libraries that use other integrated library systems.

Digital Public Library of America logoTo assist libraries that have little or no e-book content, TSLAC also plans to purchase e-books that libraries can lend to their patrons. Beginning in September 2019, the E-Read Texas collection will offer adult leisure reading e-books that can be accessed using the SimplyE application. The Digital Public Library of America, a national nonprofit, will provide both free and licensed books through its DPLA Exchange marketplace. The collection will be chosen to include titles that will be popular with patrons, with enough copies to keep hold lists short.

“We are excited for the readers of the Lone Star State to be able to access quality e-books and audio books, said DPLA Executive Director John Bracken. “We look forward to working with our partners at The Texas State Library and Archives Commission to maximize Texans’ access to a diverse and broad collection of digital books.”

A working group of Texas public librarians will provide assistance in developing TSLAC’s collection development policy and selecting titles. Over time, the E-Read collection will grow based on patron usage and feedback from Texas libraries.

Participation in the TexShare Databases program is not required for participation in the E-Read Texas program, and there is no participation fee. Larger public libraries and academic and school libraries may choose to provide SimplyE to their patrons through Amigos or another implementor without TSLAC support. The E-Read Texas collection will be available for all TexShare and TexQuest member libraries regardless of size.

TexShare Genealogy Update

The TexShare subscription to HeritageQuest Online® will end on March 31, 2019. In December 2018, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission solicited online genealogy resources for the TexShare Databases Program. We specifically asked for resources that included a complete set of fully indexed US Census records with digitized images of the original records; we also expressed interest in additional schedules and records, ebooks, maps, and reference materials.

In the end, we were unable to enter into a contract with the qualified vendors who responded to our solicitation. We have re-posted the solicitation, but we will not be able to get a resource in place by April 1. Our earliest estimate for adding a new resource is May 1.

Because of the nature of TexShare, and the scope of the TexShare Databases Program, we require resources that can meet our technical specifications, listed at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/texshare/techrequirements.html. Some of our specifications, such as conformance to Section 508, the federal accessibility standards, are required by Texas statute and by our federal funders. This can be a difficult standard to meet, particularly for genealogy and historical resources that rely on digitized images of original records.

While we are, at least temporarily, without genealogy content in the TexShare Databases core, there are other options for our libraries. Most of the content in genealogy sites like HeritageQuest Online® is in the public domain and so free of copyright restrictions. Any records or schedules created by the federal government are in the public domain, and many remaining records and publications are public domain due to their age. Because of this, much of the content in HeritageQuest Online® can be found in other free sources.

In order to provide support in this content area, we are working to compile a list of free alternatives for libraries to share with their patrons. Here are a few resources to start:

  • Family Search, provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, offers free access to numerous historical record collections from around the world. This is an important source for census records, Freedman’s Bank records, Native American census rolls, the U.S. Social Security Death Index, and marriage, birth and baptismal records from around the world. They also have a significant collection of family history books digitized from partner libraries, including the Allen County Public Library (IN) and the Dallas Public Library. Notes: Access to FamilySearch records requires a free FamilySearch account. TSLAC has not reviewed this resource for accessibility.
Infographic showing the 2018 review of FamilySearch, including number of searchable records and images (5.8 billion), total indexed records (3.98 billion), new historical records collections images (300 million), new images published in the catalog (277 million), and new book-scanning images (21 million).
FamilySearch, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Logo for Texas Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970
Texas Digital Sanborn Maps, available through TexShare (login required)
  • The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has several archival collections that have been digitized and are available for use:
    https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/genfirst.html#ARCResources
  • Ancestry.com Texas allows free access to additional TSLAC records that have been digitized by Ancestry and those materials are  made available to Texas residents. Note: This access requires the creation of a free Ancestry.com Texas account.

We are planning webinars on these and other genealogy resources to help you meet your patrons’ needs. If you have any questions, please contact texshare@tsl.texas.gov.

Adding content to the TexShare Databases Core

One of the questions we frequently get at TexShare is “How are electronic resources selected for the TexShare Databases Program?” This is the first post in a series discussing the ways TexShare works to meet the needs of its members.

The TexShare Databases Core is a group of electronic resources licensed by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) for use by all TexShare member institutions and by state government agencies. Most of these electronic resources are collections of journal and magazine articles, with other types of print resources mixed in. Because the content is indexed at the article level, and all articles included in a resource can be searched from a single interface, librarians call these “databases.” In some cases, the state library has also licensed collections of primary source materials and interactive content that don’t fit the “databases” definition as nicely, but those resources are still part of the Databases Core.

 

Video courtesy Ronald Williams Library, Northeastern Illinois University

 

As a state agency, TSLAC must follow state purchasing rules established by the Legislature, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, and other agencies including the Department of Information Resources and the Office of the Attorney General. One of the rules is that we must license resources through an open solicitation process. Unlike many TexShare members, we can’t simply say “That looks like a great resource. Let’s license it!” Another rule is that we can only renew contracts for a limited number of years. That means that we need to post a new solicitation every four years or so. In December 2017, we posted a Request for Offers (RFO) for the TexShare Databases Core. Most of the resources we currently license will not be available after July 1, 2018 unless they qualify in our new solicitation.

Developing the solicitation is itself a time-consuming process. A team of TSLAC employees including Russlene Waukechon, Ann Griffith, Pam Rodriguez, Kate Reagor, and Danielle Plumer worked for six months to identify requirements for the solicitation that was posted in December 2017, including both state rules that apply to all solicitations and best practices developed by librarians and standards organizations.

Disability symbols

Wikimedia Commons

For example, the federal accessibility guidelines for online resources were recently updated. Resources that meet the new Section 508 guidelines will be easier to use for patrons with both physical and cognitive challenges, and TSLAC requires that all new or updated resources included in the TexShare Databases Core meet these standards at the WCAG 2.0 AA level.

The next step in developing the solicitation is to ask TexShare members what types of resources they want us to solicit. I’ll tell you about a poll of our members conducted in 2017 next week!