2019 Texas Public Library Statistics Available

We are truly grateful for the tremendous effort made by Texas public librarians this year in submitting their 2019 Annual Report! Amidst library closures and staff working remotely, reports were submitted on time and accurately. These statistics provide the best picture of library service and funding, which is vitally important for stakeholders to know!

Libraries which met the minimum criteria for accreditation will receive formal accreditation letters by email soon. Accredited libraries have access to statewide interlibrary loan (ILL), the federal telecommunications discount program E-rate, TexShare Database and TexShare Card programs, and any funding opportunities through this agency. Any library submitting an Annual Report will be able to order Summer Reading Program materials at no cost. 

Reports are now locked, and the data is publicly available on our website. The collected statistics from all libraries is available in downloadable Excel files. In addition, there are other statistics at your fingertips:

  • Individual Library Statistics and Comparison Charts for 2019. This workbook tool allows a library to view individual library information, as well as view it against averages within their population group and across the state. In addition, it can be compared to up to four other libraries, for a customized report. These are displayed as vertical bar graphs in an Excel workbook. We acknowledge the amazing team at Connecticut State Library for the original work.
  • Statewide and Individual Library Trend Charts for 2019. These Excel workbooks provide a look at the library’s activity for a variety of measures during 2014-2019. A statewide summary is also available.
  • Every  library has access to additional reports once they log in to the data collection portal, Texas LibPAS (https://tx.countingopinions.com/):
    • Annual statistics
    • Library Snapshot brochure
    • Two-Year Comparison Reports

For log-in information, or assistance in creating or customizing statistical reports, please contact Library Data Coordinator Valicia Greenwood (vgreenwood@tsl.texas.gov).

TSLAC CARES – Cycle 2 Opening for Application August 28, 2020

On Friday, August 28th from 10-11:30 am CST, join Bethany Wilson, TSLAC Grants Administrator, and Erica McCormick, TSLAC Program Coordinator, to learn about the TSLAC CARES grant program for libraries in response to the COVID-19 emergency. Register for the webinar here.  

The TSLAC CARES Grant Program funds community needs identified by Texas libraries in areas of digital access and inclusion to include programs, training, and tools necessary to increase community access to vital digital technologies and services. Additionally, funds may be utilized for library initiatives that support prevention, preparation, and response to the COVID-19 emergency. 

This reimbursement grant program will fund operating expenditures such as library supplies and materials, technology, furniture, and contractual services. All grant expenses must be designed to respond directly to the COVID-19 emergency. 

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) will begin accepting grant applications on August 28, 2020. Public and academic libraries in Texas who have identified community needs arising from or highlighted by the COVID-19 emergency are encouraged to apply. Please visit the TSLAC CARES webpage for more information about this funding opportunity.

We encourage you to bring your questions to the webinar on Friday, May 8th. We look forward to seeing you there. Contact Bethany Wilson, bwilson@tsl.texas.gov or Erica McCormick, emmcormick@tsl.texas.gov with questions.

Providing Socially Distanced Computer Help

Curious how other Texas libraries are providing technology assistance these days? Join Henry Stokes and Cindy Fisher for a facilitated interactive discussion on using technology to provide contactless library service in the age of COVID-19? Register here

The urgency of providing computer help in the aftermath of the pandemic has meant that many library staff are finding creative solutions that ensure their own safety while also providing essential connectivity for citizens to do vital activities like filing for unemployment, booking telemedicine appointments, taking online tests, or maintaining social connections with friends or family. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Peter Sime, Library Services Supervisor of People at the City of Grand Prairie Public Libraries in Grand Prairie, Texas. Peter and his team developed a way to provide one-on-one technology assistance to customers using the library’s public computers while also ensuring that library staff are at a safe social distance. And, because we knew other libraries have similar questions, with the help of his communications office, he created a video demonstrating just how this service works. You’ll find that embedded below.

Peter and I also spoke about the realities of offering in-person technology help in the age of Covid-19, and how the pandemic helped them shift some of their pre-existing practices to ensure a more user-centered approach.

Describe how patrons currently access the public computers? How does this differ pre-pandemic life?

The City of Grand Prairie has three libraries and at each location we have regulated computer access by limiting the number of computers that can be used at a time. We’ve done this by taking away existing furniture to ensure six feet of distance. In some cases, we provided more than six feet of distance because there may be multiple people sharing the same computer. We’ve recently added sneeze guards in between the computers and that has actually allowed us to add a few more computers back into the rotation. 

As we were planning to reopen, it was really important to us to make things as normal as possible because the last thing people need right now is more change. We wanted people to know it’s still their library and it still works the same way. They still use the same reservation system to reserve computers. We do have a 45 minute time limit on the computers, as we did before, but there isn’t a big waiting list for computers because most people have been very efficient with their time. 

We also added a way for customers to sign up for a computer using a future reservation one day ahead of time. This is to accommodate customers that need to have access to a computer for taking a test; these reservations are for two hours. The future reservations also ensure that people don’t have to stand around waiting for a computer to become available while in close proximity to others. We have limited the number of future reservations available to ensure that there are still computers available for walk-in customers. We are really busy from 12pm (when we first open) until about 3:00 p.m. A lot of the things we’ve learned and processes we’ve put into place, we want to keep after the pandemic subsides. Sometimes we’ve asked ourselves, “Why didn’t we do this before?”

You all are using specific software to help assist computer users. Tell me a little bit about it. How does this help you keep a safe distance?

One of our biggest challenges upon allowing people back into the library to use the computers was how we help people. Pre-pandemic, our staff had been great with helping people on the computers, talking through what they need and assisting them side-by-side, but that’s obviously not doable now. 

Our IT department uses TeamViewer to work on library staff computers remotely so we asked them if it could be configured on the public computers so library staff could assist customers remotely, and they did. They installed it on one staff computer at the main branch and another one at our Warmack branch, as well as our public computers.

The host computer is the library staff computer and this enables staff to access any of the public computers that the software is also installed on. In order for a customer to get help, they click on the TeamViewer icon on the public computer’s desktop, and it generates a code. In order for the staff member to access their computer, the patron has to give them permission and the code. Once the customer provides the code, we can then log into their computer and basically see the screen the customer is working on. We can move the mouse, we can type things in for them, and we can show them how to do things. 

All of our computers have a sign on top of the monitor advertising a live helpline, so the customer dials the number on their cell phone, and the library staff member is available to help both over the phone and through viewing their computer screen. 

Though the length of time varies, the average time that a customer needs help is between 8-10 minutes though we have helped people for upwards of 30 or 40 minutes.

What is the cost of the software?

The library pays for a specific license for each staff computer about $500 per license for one PC. However, there are set-ups where one license would enable three people to help at the same time. We didn’t go this route at the time because we didn’t have three people at main branch that we could dedicate to doing this at the same time as I needed staff on the floor to monitor and clean. 


Which staff are trained to use the software and how difficult is it to use?
It’s a very intuitive software. We have multiple people trained at our Warmack branch, so the service rotates. At Main, we have one person who mainly provides assistance. They are actually working from home using a laptop to remote into the PC at the library. It’s been a great way to provide work for those at home. 

If the helpline is busy, the calls automatically roll over to the reference desk. We have a floating staff person who helps clean the computers when customers leave, and this person will also provide assistance if they can from six feet away or they will let the customer know that if they can hang on for a few minutes, the helpline will be free again and they can try calling back. We can extend their time on the computer to ensure that person gets the help they need. Additionally, the library staff at Warmack branch could also log in to the main branch and assist customers if we had a large number of people needing help all at the same time.

How have patrons received this service and what kinds of assistance have you been providing?
It has been a really well received service; when people use it, they love it. We’re able to provide direct hands-on instruction, but no one’s in danger of getting sick.

One of the hurdles that we had to overcome early on was convincing folks that there was a real person on the other end of the phone, not an automated robot or a personal assistant like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. When some of our regular customers figured out that it was a library staff person they recognized, they used it more frequently. 

We’ve been helping customers with so many different things like downloading and uploading resumes; many drivers license renewals and navigating the DMV website to find driving records, and even some job application websites. For those who are not computer familiar, these job application websites can be really daunting. It really helps to have someone walking you through it.

What have you learned throughout the process that would be helpful for other library staff interested in implementing this.

They’re kind of simple things, but we put the number to call on top of the monitor right at eye level. And I did not anticipate that we’d have to sell people on the service and to explain that the help being provided is a real person from the library. If you’re going to implement this, think about ways to address that ahead of time. We phrased the card at the top of the monitor with the following: “For direct library staff assistance, contact this number”. We think it helps customers really understand this is not a machine, it’s a staff person.

Big thanks to Peter Sime and the computer assistance team at City of Grand Prairie Public Libraries for sharing their expertise.

Do you have a technology assistance tip or service that you’d like to share with other Texas libraries? If so, contact Cindy Fisher, Digital Inclusion Consultant, at cfisher@tsl.texas.gov or share your comments below.

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.

IMLS Releases 2017 Public Libraries Survey Data

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has published the dataset from the 2017 Public Libraries Survey. This provides a look at public library use, financial health, staffing, and resources from reporting year 2017.

Cover of 2017 Public Libraries Survey

For over 30 years, IMLS has published this information collected from over 9,000 public library systems representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories.

According to IMLS Director Crosby Kemper, “Libraries continue to connect with their communities and provide services that support the needs and interests of their patrons, including access to digital materials. We are pleased to share the latest version of IMLS’s annual survey, which shows that attendance at library events is up, indicating an understanding of what the community wants from their library.”

Highlights in this report:

  • There were over 1.3 billion visits to libraries by 55% of those who lived in an area serviced by a public library.
  • Programs and program attendance increased significantly over 2016. There were 5.6 million programs attended by 118 million children, young adults and adults.
  • Electronic resources continue to grow, and their popularity has increased. Public libraries offered over 463.5 million e-books to their patrons.

Texas State Library staff truly appreciate the librarians and library directors who contributed to these findings, through their submission of the Texas Public Libraries Annual Report.  This information is vital to policymakers, researchers, journalists and the general public, to help evaluate and plan for libraries now and in the future.

Mobile WiFi Hotspot Resources

Hand holding a guide reading "mobile hotspot" with a turquoise box in the background containing the mobile wifi hotspot device.
Hillsboro Public Library’s mobile WiFi hotspot kit

Communities all over Texas have experienced increased demand for WiFi connectivity due to normal connection locations, such as schools, libraries, and places of work, being closed or operating on limited hours in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Some public libraries have been lending mobile WiFi hotspots for a few years, while others are considering a new program to meet the digital inclusion needs of their community. 

To assist libraries in the process, we here at TSLAC thought it would be helpful to provide two kinds of resources:

Do you have tips or resources on mobile WiFi hotspot lending that you’d like to share? Add your comments below or contact Cindy Fisher at cfisher@tsl.texas.gov and I’ll add them to the resource above. 

Extending Your Library’s WiFi Reach

Interested in learning more about expanding digital access to your community and the library’s technology capacity? Sign up for Friday’s webinar: Towards Digital Equity and Technology Access in Texas Libraries. Register here

Library parking lots were access points for WiFi even before social distancing requirements due to COVID-19 made them essential connection points for internet access. But with many libraries closed or operating on limited hours, boosting your library’s WiFi signal into your parking lot can mean the difference between a patron being able to apply for unemploymentt or not.  Let’s take a look at some relatively easy things you can do to expand access. 

How Much Speed Do People Need?

First, it’s useful to know just how much bandwidth (or the amount of data passing through network cables) is needed for specific types of activities and tools. Three different types of activities generally comprise how we work online: downloading, uploading, and streaming. 

  • Streaming is a type of data transfer that isn’t stored locally anywhere on your device; instead you just listen or view it as it streams continuously from another source. Streaming only uses as much bandwidth as is needed at the time; think of it more like a marathon — a slow pace (bandwidth consumption) but over a longer period of time, which can add up to a lot of data use overall.
  • Downloading transfers data from one place to another, usually permanently saving a copy on your device. Depending on your internet speed, this typically takes up more bandwidth over a shorter period of time; think of it more like a sprint than a marathon. 
  • Uploading is just transferring something you have locally to another data source. Everything from email attachments, uploading PDFs to school classroom platforms, posting pictures to social media, or sharing your own webcam in a video chat requires uploading data. 

The chart below shows the average estimated amount of bandwidth needed for each of these activities. 

Chart showing the amount of internet speed needed for different kinds of online activities. Activities such as email and advanced internet browsing require 1Mbps or less, while more bandwidth intensive activities such as streaming high definition video, online gaming, and video conferencing require 1.5 - 5 Mbps.
Different online activities require different amounts of bandwidth.

Things like email or simple web-browsing are normally low bandwidth, but even during browsing you might be searching websites that have image-heavy pages or come across auto-play videos which will increase your bandwidth needs. Activites like streaming videos or web-conferencing consistently require higher bandwidth.  Additionally, when there are groups of people multitasking between lots of different bandwidth intensive activities, each person will start to notice that their overall speed decreases. That’s why it’s important to have high enough broadband speeds from which your WiFi can assist users in your parking lot. 

How To Strengthen Your Signal

The first step to strengthening your signal is to figure out how strong it is in the first place. Take a smartphone, tablet, or laptop and connect it to your library’s WiFi network. Then, go to various parts of your library’s parking lot or outdoor areas where you are expecting people to use the network and run an internet speedtest.  Keep in mind social distancing policies according to your city or county guidelines when deciding where you’ll test.

An internet speedtest will tell you how much bandwidth you are currently providing to your community — and it’s helpful to know both download AND upload speeds as previously noted that to fully participate in online activities we use both. Here are two reputable sources for speedtests:

Repositioning or Purchasing Equipment

Based on your capacity and your library’s unique needs, follow the step below to boost your library’s WiFi signal.

Step 1: Contact your Internet Service Provider and determine the maximum Mbps your building receives under your current contract or agreement. During this crisis, many ISPs will temporarily offer free speed upgrades, waive overages, or offer other free promotions or services. Ask if anything is available to your library.

Step 2: If no additional funds can be spent: 

Take one of your library’s access points and move it close to a window nearest to your parking lot. The closer your access point is to where people will be using it, the better the signal.


Step 2: If additional funds can be spent
(for example, you have received a grant or donation):  Ensure your current equipment does not reduce your speed.

  • For example, your ISP contract may be for 140 Mbps but if your modem’s maximum rate is 100 Mbps you are losing speed. In this case you should use the first option below.

Step 3: Determine what equipment you need to bring your network to the parking lot or outdoor area. Three options:

  • Easiest solution: Replace your modem and router with upgraded models. If possible, choose a simultaneous dual-band or tri-band router which supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Ensure the devices work with your ISP. Daisy chain your old router to the new router and place it by a window facing the parking lot. 
  • Second easiest: Purchase a new wireless extender or multiple new wireless routers, either indoor or outdoor. An extender simply extends the reach of your wireless network. If possible, choose a simultaneous dual-band or tri-band device which supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Ensure the device works with your ISP. Install it near a window facing the parking lot or outdoors.
  • A little more legwork: Purchase a new wireless repeater, either indoor or outdoor. This device essentially creates a clone of your original network re-broadcasted to a second location and involves more complex setup. If possible, choose a dual-band or dual-radio device. Ensure the device works with your ISP. Install it near a window facing the parking lot or outdoors.

Need equipment recommendations?

Implementation even if you aren’t tech savvy:  

Reach out to your city or county IT department, a trusted volunteer, or even put out a call on social media for assistance and expertise. Generosity abounds when there are people in need. 

Additionally, if you do not have access to local IT support and are located in a rural area, the Fort Worth-based Information Technology Disaster Resource Center is providing technology assistance and connectivity to rural and underserved communities. As a library staff member, simply email them at projectConnect@itdrc.org to see if they can assist you. Their services are free of charge.

Curious to know more about broadband and WiFI networks? Enroll in our free online You Can Do  I.T curriculum that explains these concepts in further detail. 

Additional resources and references:

Many thanks to Liz Gabbitas and colleagues at the Utah State Library for their excellent guidelines on extending Library WiFi.

Webinar To Cover New TSLAC Grant Addressing COVID-19 Emergency

On Friday, May 8th from 10-11 am CST, join Bethany Wilson, TSLAC Grants Administrator, and Erica McCormick, TSLAC Program Coordinator, to learn about the TSLAC CARES grant program for libraries in response to the COVID-19 emergency. Register for the webinar here.  

The TSLAC CARES Grant Program funds community needs identified by Texas libraries in areas of digital access and inclusion to include programs, training, and tools necessary to increase community access to vital digital technologies and services. Additionally, funds may be utilized for library initiatives that support prevention, preparation, and response to the COVID-19 emergency. 

This reimbursement grant program will fund operating expenditures such as library supplies and materials, technology, furniture, and contractual services. All grant expenses must be designed to respond directly to the COVID-19 emergency. 

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) will begin accepting grant applications on May 8, 2020. Public and academic libraries in Texas who have identified community needs arising from or highlighted by the COVID-19 emergency are encouraged to apply.

We encourage you to bring your questions to the webinar on Friday, May 8th. We look forward to seeing you there. Contact Bethany Wilson, bwilson@tsl.texas.gov or Erica McCormick, emmcormick@tsl.texas.gov with questions.

2019 Texas Public Libraries Annual Report Portal Locks on April 30

Thank you and congratulations! to the two-thirds of Texas public librarians who have locked their Annual Report for 2019!  And if you are one of the nearly 50% who have submitted the signed Application for Accreditation, then give yourself an pat on the back!

This report does more than accredit Texas public libraries.  It provides the information that represents Texas libraries to the rest of the nation and beyond.  It allows stakeholders to have access to the data that tells every library’s story and to demonstrate the library’s value to the community.

However, there are still nearly 200 public libraries that need to get their report in by Thursday, April 30th!  For those of you who have completed the process, reach out to the library in the next town or county and make certain they have submitted everything that is needed.

Known issue:  question 3.9b will not always calculate and this will prevent report submission.  Valicia Greenwood can force the calculation on the back end.  Send an email to vgreenwood@tsl.texas.gov if you encounter this problem.  Other issues have been addressed here.

Libraries that submit an Annual Report are eligible to order Summer Reading Program materials at no cost, through this agency and CSLP.  Libraries that are accredited can benefit from the TexShare Card and TexShare Databases programs, from statewide interlibrary loan, from the competitive grants and other funding opportunities that come through this agency, and from E-rate, the federal telecommunications program that can provide up to a 90% discount for telecommunications.

Questions?  Submission Issues?  Accreditation concerns?  Visit the Annual Report webpage, or contact Valicia Greenwood by email.

Thank you, again, for your participation! Your library’s voice strengthens libraries everywhere.

Join a regional conversation with your neighboring Texas library colleagues to discuss service in the time of COVID-19!

Silhouette of man and woman with horses

During this time, it is extremely important that Texas library workers connect with their neighboring colleagues. To address this immediate need, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is hosting a series of online discussions with other libraries in your region that will enable Texas library workers to share concerns and resources with one another. The hosts of this discussion, TSLAC’s Continuing Education and Consulting team, will take a trauma-informed approach, helping to ensure that library workers are taking care of themselves as well as responding to the needs they see in their community.

These calls are open to library workers of all levels. Please note, these calls will not be recorded but collaborative notes will be shared afterward with all registrants, including those who were unable to attend. This document will be accessible in the registration confirmation email.

To find the day and time of your regional conversation and to register for one, please go to  https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/regionalcheckins.

Join us, and please share with your staff.

Questions or comments can be sent to ld@tsl.texas.gov.