2020 Voting Information Resources

The 2020 election is fast approaching, and patrons will be looking to the library for voting and election information. TSLAC’s CEC team has organized a collection of resources that may assist librarians in providing the public with information on voting logistics and other election information. Please note, according to Chapter 20 Section 20.001(c) of the Texas Election Code: c) Each public library, including any branch or other service outlet, is designated as a voter registration agency. In this chapter, “public library” means a library that:

(1) is regularly open for business for more than 30 hours a week;
(2) is operated by a single public agency or board;
(3) is open without charge to all persons under identical conditions; and
(4) receives its financial support wholly or partly from public funds.

If your library meets the definition above, then you are a designated voter registration agency. You must provide to each person of voting age who applies in person for an original or renewal of a library card an opportunity to complete a voter registration application form, and may also be required to take various steps to ensure proper completion of the form by the applicant and submission of the form to the local voter registrar or to the Secretary of State.

Texas Voting Information and Resources

  National Voting Information and Resources

  • The Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) has an extensive LibGuide for voter registration, ID requirements for Texas voters, casting a ballot in Texas, elections, and general resources on voting and elections.
  • Ballotpedia is a nonprofit/nonpartisan organization that maintains a digital encyclopedia of American politics and elections. Its Texas voter guide offers current election information as well as some historical information on past elections. The organization also includes election administration costs from the National Conference of State Legislatures that describes how elections are paid from state to state.
  • VoteRiders provides information to voters to ensure they have the right ID for voting day. The site offers wallet-sized printable cards with all the voter ID information for Texas, which you can hand out to your patrons.
  • Voteearlyday.org has an easy to use resource to look up your early voting eligibility by state, as well as a quick link to voting overseas for active-duty military, deployed National Guard, military family, merchant marine, and civilians.

Inclusive Voting & Outreach Resources

  • The National Coalition for the Homeless has created a Homeless and Low-Income Voter Rights Manual, which includes useful examples for voter registration outreach and encouraging reluctant voters.
  • Many Americans with felony convictions are able to vote but just don’t know they can. Restore Your Vote allows individuals to determine if they are eligible to vote in their state. A flyer is included for posting. 
  • Transform the Vote, a project of the National Center for Transgender Equity Action Fund, provides resources and information for individuals. One of the resources that this website provides is a printable #VotingWhileTrans Guide that individuals can show poll workers if their identity or eligibility is questioned. Resources are available in both English and Spanish. 

Trainings and Webinars

These resources are provided for informational purposes, and librarians are urged to review the sites to determine which resources might best address local needs. If you have any questions about the voting process or information available on any site, the Secretary of State is the official agency to oversee elections in the state.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Happy #HispanicHeritageMonth! This week, marks the beginning of a month-long celebration (September 15-October 14) to honor and recognize our Hispanic communities’ rich culture and history.

Join our friends at the Latino Caucus Round Table (LCRT) of The Texas Library Association to virtually celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month this year. The have put together diverse and vibrant events taking place from September to October.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrate Differences Emplower Voicers. Image provided by the Latino Caucus Round Table, TLA.

What is your library doing to celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth? Please share in the comments below.

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Emergency Management

To help libraries stay prepared in advance of Hurricane Laura and other natural disasters, we wanted to share the following information from our previous blog post on hurricane and tropical storm management; you can find the original blog post here: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/librarydevelopments/2019/09/23/update-hurricane-tropical-storm-emergency-management/.

To find updated information on Hurricane Laura, please visit https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/#Laura. Preparedness tips are uploaded to the HENTF dashboard, https://fema.connectsolutions.com/hentf/, along with key messages and graphics from the National Hurricane Center. Please note that the HENTF dashboard may require an Adobe Connect download to open.

Libraries are never more needed than in times of crisis, and it is in times of crisis that we demonstrate why we libraries are so essential.

You can access hurricane/tropical storm disaster recovery resources for libraries, archives, and cultural institutions on TSLAC’s website. You will find current state, federal, and professional association points of contact for disaster preparedness and response and emergency management, as well as links to helpful tips from FEMA Federal Emergency Management AgencyOffice of the Governor Greg Abbott Emergency Management and Texas Hurricane CenterTexas Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Management, the National Hurricane Center, American Library AssociationTexas Library AssociationThe Library of CongressSociety of American ArchivistsSociety of Southwest Archivists, and more.

Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Lawson wrote to us after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 to report on the status of damage to her libraries. Dr. Lawson made the following wonderful observation:

“As you know, for so many people libraries are a vital lifeline. We recognize that during catastrophic times libraries are even more essential as people need a trusted familiar anchor and touchstone in the community to remind them that everything will be all right again. But most all—our mission right now is to restore the joy in the eyes of children and adults who have seen so much destruction, and experienced so much fear and uncertainty.”

TSLAC will continue to work with federal, state, and local organizations to find ways to assist libraries and archives as they deal with weather-related emergencies.


TSLAC Releases Custom Zoom Backgrounds

TSLAC has released a group of custom Zoom backgrounds featuring scenes from the State Library and Archives. They are free to download and may be used by the public.

These 26 new background options include both indoor and outdoor scenes from the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building in downtown Austin, the State Records Center in Austin, and the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas. Users can choose to virtually “appear” in various locations, including the TSLAC Reference Reading Room, outside the building (in the daytime or at night), or in front of the famous lobby mural depicting scenes and people from Texas history. Also available are scenes from inside the cavernous stacks at the State Records Center, inside and outside views of the Sam Houston Center, and even a historical photo showing how the Zavala Reference Reading Room looked back in the 1960s (Throwback Thursday, anyone?). With these colorful and interesting custom backgrounds, you can now attend your Zoom meetings from in front of an impressive shelf of books, under the six flags of Texas, or outside near the green trees of Atascosito.

The images are available below. Browse to find the right one for you! Click the image to open the full-size version in a new window, then right click to download to your local device. These images are also available at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/freebackgrounds.

You can read more about how to install these or other custom backgrounds on the Zoom website. Please note that older computers may not allow full functionality of Zoom features, including the ability to use custom backgrounds.

TSLAC has been serving patrons and customers across all our locations throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, both remotely and in person. Read more about our current programs and services.

TSLAC reaffirms its longstanding commitment to equality and opposing racism (Mark Smith’s “The Director’s Report”)

Last week, Texas State Library and Archives Commission Director Mark Smith shared his blog post titled TSLAC reaffirms its longstanding commitment to equality and opposing racism.” We wanted to share his blog post with our readers, along with the following statement from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission:

The staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission are dedicated to honoring our responsibility as public servants to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and respect for all people. Libraries and archives have a long history of working to provide equitable access to resources and services for all communities and to safeguard the primary history of important events. The imperative to build on this work continues and is infused with a renewed sense of urgency. We recognize that as witnesses to this historic moment in our national narrative, we are all also participants. We, as individuals, stand in solidarity with all persons seeking justice and an end to racism or any practice that undermines the inherent worth of any human life.

Virtual Storytime and Copyright: Resources

We have received many questions recently about virtual and online storytimes. As we cannot provide legal advice, we wanted to curate a few resources that may be helpful during this time. If you need legal advice, we would highly recommend that you reach out to your library, city or county’s legal counsel if available.

Virtual Storytime Information

Copyright and Creative Commons Information

  • U.S. Copyright Office https://copyright.gov/ The website of the U.S. Copyright Office provides a a plethora of resources on copyright law.
  • Creative Commons: Helping Patrons and Students Find and License Online Content https://onlinetraining.tsl.texas.gov/course/view.php?id=354 In this archived webinar, the Texas State Library’s Kyla Hunt and Liz Philippi explore ways to locate Creative Commons licensed materials and to promote the usage of Creative Commons in your library.

We hope you find this information useful; for further reading, you may also want to view our previous blog post, Copyright and Fair Use Resources.   

Have a safe and healthy summer!

Texas State Library and Archives Commission publishes Reopening Libraries: Resource Guide

In response to the Governor’s recent Executive Order GA-18, Texas State Library and Archives Commission staff have prepared a Resource Guide for libraries considering a return to work. As the Governor’s Report to Open Texas makes clear, libraries must work closely with their local government to determine how to proceed. The resources in the guide include:

  • Sample reopening plans – potential templates for developing a plan that works for your community.
  • Questions and issues to consider with your governing authority – provides a starting point for discussions with your governing authority or local government.
  • Materials and resource list – resources on communications and other needs.
  • General resources for reopening business – includes OSHA guidelines and information about disinfecting materials.

Here’s a direct link to the Resource Guide: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/sites/default/files/public/tslac/ld/ldn/COVID/TSLAC_Return_to_Work_Libraries_Resources_2020.pdf

Thank you all for the work you are doing for your community, your staff and coworkers, and yourselves during this crisis. Please contact us at LD@tsl.texas.gov if there is anything we can do to help.

Service in the Time of COVID-19 (coronavirus): Suggestions from Texas Library Workers, Plus Local, Statewide, and Federal Resources

(Please note, this is not a complete list, but serves as a snapshot of what’s happening across different library environments in Texas. Services and news are changing quickly.)

Services to Consider

  • Technology
    • Keep your Library’s WiFi on 24/7 if not already. Enables safe social distance and does not put library staff at risk. Purchase repeaters or extenders. [External link for more information]
    • Promote electronic resources via social media campaigns. Consider taking out ads to boost messages. 
    • Collect and promote low-cost internet service; find offers in your area: https://www.everyoneon.org/find-offers.
    • Claim your library in Google searches and on Yelp, to keep your library hours current. Use this tutorial from WebJunction to do it. 
    • If your library has old laptops that do not currently circulate, consider checking them out either to patrons or places where the digital divide will be felt the most, such as senior centers, nursing homes, shelters, housing authorities, etc.
  • Services: 
    • Re-evaluate what is needed to obtain library cards; can patrons receive and sign-up for cards and be confirmed electronically?
    • Share (or devise) a local guide to resources (like this one), as well as pointing out national reputable sources.
    • Take this opportunity to promote the Census, since everyone is home. You can answer the Census via phone, and it’s available in 50+ languages. Visit our Census webpage to find TX resources.
  • Collections:
    • Extend due dates, suspend fines; 
      • Many ILSs are sending out specific information on how to change item records for special scenarios. Contact your ILS vendor if you need assistance.
    • Quarantine returned items per the latest medical guidelines or at least note that these items were received. 
    • Make accessible large print collections for seniors (CTLS has a circulating collection, but circulation is currently paused). Promote information on how to enlarge print on eReaders or other devices.

For library staff:

If your library is still open:

  • The State Library does not have authority to order library closures or openings. The decision to close your library remains a local one, and libraries should look for guidance from their city. However, libraries should consider Governor Abbott’s executive orders limiting person-to-person contact (and continue to check back for new orders and updates from the Office of the Governor). In addition, current research is still in its infancy about the period of time that the virus can exist on materials. Libraries should consider speaking to an attorney to discuss potential liability and risks from lending materials.  

Texas Statewide Resources

Need resources?

  • Tocker Foundation grant deadline: https://tocker.org/grant-application-process/. WiFi hotspots are eligible, though many companies are currently listing hotspots as backordered.
  • You might also consider low-cost refurbished computers and laptops from PCsForPeople and TechAnew (Texas).
  • Libraries that are considering the purchase of hotspots but are finding limited availability could consider purchasing mobile phones and using the hotspot feature.

Visit the Library Development and Networking COVID-19 page to stay up-to-date on services and programs in this quickly changing environment.

Need assistance? Staff in Library Development and Networking are still here for you! Contact us directly or email our shared email address at ld@tsl.texas.gov and your message will be connected with the right person. We’ll get through this!

Spread the word – not the germs!

The Texas State Library has received inquiries about resources and tips in preparing your libraries for CoViD-19 (the novel Coronavirus). We all want to keep our patrons and ourselves healthy. In addition to staying calm, providing reliable information to your colleagues and your community is an important aspect of addressing concerns over the CoViD-19 (the Coronavirus).

Here are some resources to assist and share: