Read Across Texas 2021: Free E-Books and Registration Call

Logo for Read Across Texas Recovery

The Texas Center for the Book (TCFB) invites libraries, community nonprofits, and readers statewide to join in its 2021 reading campaign, Read Across Texas: Recovery. This year, thanks to the E-Read Texas partnership with Biblioboard, access to the e-book versions of We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a TimeAll of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing; and Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here will be available to all Texas residents in May and June by visiting www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexasebooks.

Libraries and organizations across Texas are invited to participate by using books to open dialogue and explore what “recovery” could mean within their communities. Visit the Read Across Texas website to register your library’s program, download discussion resources, and access free e-books for your program and your patrons in May and June. We hope libraries and organizations will register their participation for the good of the program. Each library or organization that registers will be entered to win a $100 BookPeople gift card. After your program, please share photos and stories. Please be sure to share photos and posts on social media (Facebook: Texas Center for the Book, Twitter: @TSLAC #ReadAcrossTexas).

The TCFB will also host a free, online author event on May 19. Libraries and organizations statewide can access an online step-by-step facilitator toolkit that includes materials such as a Read Across Texas how-to guide, additional recommended titles, digital resources and links to recovery specific discussion questions. The toolkit along with the program registration form and details are available at tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas.

Read Across Texas: Recovery offers libraries a broad canvas for convening individuals and groups to explore the unique questions, challenges and solidarity that can occur in communities throughout the state. During a period of extreme difficulties, isolation and loss, the TCFB recognizes the importance of sharing our stories to build understanding and support. Literature can be one of the many routes to recovery. This year’s campaign features four book selections that will give communities a platform to engage in challenging, insightful and transformative conversations.


banner for Things You Would Know

Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here  by Nancy Wayson Dinan considers questions of history and empathy and brings a pre-apocalyptic landscape both foreign and familiar to shockingly vivid life. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.


Banner for All of a Sudden and Forever

All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing by Chris Barton, illustrated by Nicole Xu, considers tragedy, hope and healing and was released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.


Banner for We Fed an Island

We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by José Andrés with Richard Wolfe describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.


Book cover for What Unites Us

What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner documents Rather’s witness to historical change, offering a map to trace where we have been and what might be a way forward to heal division.


New Winter Storm Recovery Grants for Humanities Programming and Collections

Humanities Texas invites Texas cultural and educational institutions that suffered losses or damages to humanities collections as a result of the February 2021 winter storm, or incurred costs related to resuming humanities programming that was postponed or cancelled as a result of the storm, to apply for fast-track Recovery Grants.

For more information about eligibility, allowable costs, and the application process, visit the Humanities Texas website at https://www.humanitiestexas.org/recoverygrants

Humanities Texas will accept online applications through April 30, 2021. To apply, please use the online form at https://forms.humanitiestexas.org/winter-storm-2021-grant-application

Questions? Contact grants@humanitiestexas.org or 512-440-1991.

Humanities Texas Recovery Grants are made possible with a National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman’s Emergency Grant.

HHH: Library Telehealth Visits Revisited

Logo for Henry's Hightech Highlights

In May 2019, I highlighted the topic of telehealth for my Henry’s High-Tech Highlights blog series. I think it’s high time we take another look. Before this year, telehealth was a fairly new technology that only a handful of folks were thinking about and exploring. With the pandemic, it’s risen to the forefront of people’s minds, becoming more relevant than ever. Suddenly we need telehealth implemented everywhere, on a massive scale, as communities, especially rural ones, are facing a worsening health crisis. Many lack local healthcare facilities to visit and the necessary Internet connectivity to make virtual doctor visits work. Libraries around the country are poised to be the perfect partners in these efforts to bring this critical need to the community, and we just happen to have a pioneer right here in Texas leading the charge. 

Today’s highlight: Telehealth at the library


The Facts

First off, why do folks need telehealth access, especially now?

  • Rural hospitals have been closing at a catastrophic rate.
  • Many people in rural areas are located far from any hospitals.
  • There’s also a lack of transportation options (no public transit) for folks to physically travel to the hospital.
  • Even when transportation is available, patients are often reluctant to travel outside of their area.
  • And most significantly, there is insufficient broadband access, a requirement for telehealth, in many residents’ homes.

Additionally, many of retirement age buy homes in rural areas to live, but when they find they need more healthcare, they end up selling their homes and returning to the cities due to the lack of access. Adding telehealth services to libraries means these seniors could receive the healthcare they need, thus allowing them to stay, age in place, and have the quality of life they desire. Libraries have the opportunity to be transformative, helping to maintain the vitality of their communities.

Why are libraries the perfect telehealth partners?

  1. It’s a place already in communities to serve people’s needs that people trust.
  2. It has friendly, helpful staff who respect privacy and are pros at teaching digital literacy skills.
  3. It often has free high speed Internet, faster than many might get at home.

I think libraries and telehealth go great together, so I decided to make another promotional poster based on ones from World War 2 to support telehealth services at libraries.

Poster depicts librarian (dressed as Rosie the Riveter) holding an ethernet cord and standing proud in front of a waving American flag. The words "Telehealth Saves Lives" are next to her. Below, the text reads: "High Speeds Meet People's Needs. See your local public library. Telehealth Services at participating locations."
The previous poster I designed is placed next to the original 1940s one that shows a Rosie the Riveter type with her husband standing proud in front of the American flag. The text below reads "I'm Proud... my husband wants me to do my part. See your U.S. Employment Service"
The original poster on the left, and my remix on the right.

I’ve created other library tech posters in a similar style if you want to check them out.


A Pioneering Pilot

Despite the great match-up of libraries and telehealth, there are very few examples in the U.S. I’m pleased to report that Texas is leading the pack in this regard. Pottsboro Area Library, a very small rural library an hour and a half north of Dallas, has a new telehealth pilot project in partnership with University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNT-HSC).

Last week, I invited Dianne Connery, former Director (now Special Projects Librarian) at Pottsboro Area Library and Jessica Rangell from UNT-HSC, to present during a monthly Zoom “TechChat” for TLA’s Innovation and Technology Round Table (ITRT) to discuss the facts I’ve outlined above and give a brief update on the pilot.

Here is a youtube recording of the 30 minute chat from 2/25/2021 if you want to watch the whole thing, but I’ve also highlighted the key points below.

During her talk, Dianne described how patrons would come into the library during the early days of the pandemic, reporting that their doctors wanted to talk to them but didn’t want them coming in for appointments for fear of contracting Covid. Unfortunately, a virtual visit wasn’t possible for these patrons since they didn’t have Internet access at home. What were these patrons supposed to do? 

Dianne had recently installed fiber at her library in order to support an innovative eSports program, so she knew the library’s Internet was up to snuff for a video-conferencing call. At first, she ended up setting up telehealth visits for these patrons in her office so they could have their doctors’ appointments. This was just a stopgap solution, however. A clear need was being articulated by the community, and Dianne wanted to do more to address the issue.

Investigating further, Dianne discovered a grant available from the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) – South Central Region (SCR). She applied and was awarded funding to pay for lighting (more on that later), health collection development, hardware (webcam, microphone, computer), signage, and marketing materials so that she could set up an innovative telehealth pilot with her partners at UNT-HSC.

Photograph that shows desktop computer in a designated telehealth room with good lighting.
A closer look at Pottsboro’s telehealth setup. Note the lighting.

How It Works

Step 1: If someone in the community has the need for telehealth, they make a call directly to the Health Science Center to make the reservation. This protects their privacy (library staff never knows the names, only the times of the appointments). This is especially important in a small town where everyone may know each other. 

Step 2: Once the reservation is made, the patient can come into the library to a special designated room that is staffed by healthcare professionals. Besides the registration, the payment process and screening for Covid is all handled through the Health Science Center.

Promotional banner that reads "Check out telehealth at your local library!" and a bullet point list of : "Call to schedule your appointment, Complete your pre-visit check-in electronically, Show up at the library for your appointment" Below that is the contact info for UNT-HSC.
Promotional banner for Pottsboro Area Library and UNT-HSC’s telehealth program

Here are a few more points made by the presenters:

  • Offering this kind of telehealth service is scalable to any size library.
  • A library doesn’t need to have a separate dedicated room.
  • It does, however, require good Internet like from a fiber connection.
  • It also requires good lighting to ensure clinicians can diagnose their patrons with the same visual information they would have in person. 
  • As mentioned in my intro, many are now abuzz about telehealth due to the pandemic’s highlighting of the ever-widening digital divide. Legislators and funding providers are eager to support projects like this and bring telehealth to communities. So keep on the look-out; funding is coming!

A Community of Practice

With her pilot, Dianne says she’s building the plane as she’s flying it, just winging it really. This is such new terrain we’re all in. We will all benefit from the lessons learned from her attempt, but let’s get the conversation going and develop a community of practice.

Some questions to explore:

  • What kind of training do library staff need to set up and implement telehealth services?
  • How should libraries advertise this new service and reach people where they are? 
  • How should libraries implement good workflows to deal with infection control issues?
  • What are considerations not thought of?
  • What more can be done in this space? For example, could it be made mobile to visit patients where they are  – such as in nursing homes and assisted living facilities?

Are you considering telehealth at your library, or are you already doing it? Want to learn more? Please email me with subject line “Telehealth” if you have stories, ideas, or resources to share – or if you just want to stay in the loop with regard to library telehealth in Texas.

Updated Information from FEMA

Sharing at the request of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF).

On February 19, 2021, President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for the State of Texas to provide:

  • Individual Assistance to disaster survivors in 108 counties. This assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.
  • Public Assistance to eligible private nonprofits in all 254 counties to help these organizations recover from the effects of this storm.
Map displaying 108 counties where individuals are eligible to apply for individual disaster relief.
FEMA map displaying the 108 Texas counties where individuals are eligible to apply for individual disaster relief. See FEMA’s major disaster declaration for a list of the 108 counties.

For cultural institutions that have suffered damage, such as burst pipes:

  • Contact the cultural heritage emergency network TX-CERA (Texas Collections Emergency Resource Alliance) for assistance: tx.cera@gmail.com or 669.237.2243; OR
  • Call the National Heritage Responders hotline, 202.661.8068. NHR will connect with TX-CERA.
    • National Heritage Responders have developed brief Tip Sheets to help collecting institutions respond to and recover from events.

Fact sheets for members of the public whose family treasures have been affected by burst pipes:

For more resources, see the recent blog post: Responding to Water Damage in Libraries.

Responding to Water Damage in Libraries

With the catastrophic winter weather that has been affecting Texas, libraries may be responding to freezing pipes and resulting water damage. Prioritize your safety and that of your staff. Once you all are safe, consult your local governing authority for more information about their requirements or directives.

Step one: Caring for staff

Step two: Documenting and disposing of damaged items

Taken from the TSLAC blog post Lessons from Superstorm Sandy: New Jersey Librarians Share Tips on Dealing with Facilities and Collections.

  • Document what has been damaged. Insurance company representatives might not arrive in the area until weeks later; take photos and document as much as possible as buildings become accessible.
  • Dispose of damaged materials (books, furniture, shelving, etc.) as soon as possible to stop the spread of mold, which can start growing within 48 hours. The only exception is irreplaceable materials such as local history or museum collections. Standard books and furniture are replaceable.

Step three: Salvaging irreplaceable items

Here are resources on salvaging damaged materials that may be helpful for library staff and patrons:

Additional links

Texas Library Association (TLA) Disaster Relief Fund: Grants range from $2,500 to $5,000 and can be used for technology, facility repair, collections, furnishings, or other needs related to storm damage. Academic, public, school and special libraries are eligible to receive assistance.

Communicating the Value of Library Workers in a Library Temporarily Closed to the Public: TSLAC blog post with tips and strategies on communicating the value of the library while the building is closed. TSLAC’s Planning for Libraries: Communications During COVID-19 includes more communications resources.

Mental Health Resources for Libraries (TSLAC)

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Disaster Recovery Resources (TSLAC)