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)

Best of 2019: Books, podcasts, and more!

As we near the end of 2019, we wanted to share some of the books, podcasts and other media that staff here at the Library Development and Network Division loved this year! Here’s to a great 2020!

Jennifer Peters, Director of Library Development & Networking

I’ve been making my way through numerous mystery series this year. I’m particularly fond of gritty police procedurals set in the U.K. My favorite in 2019 was Adrian McKinty’s “Troubles” series, set in Northern Ireland between 1981-1988. How do the police solve crimes in the country where paramilitary violence is the norm? What does it feel like to live in a warzone? Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy is a Roman Catholic in the predominately Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and is thus mistrusted by everyone. He’s a complex, flawed, and completely believable protagonist. Real events and people from the period are incorporated into the plotlines, making for atmospheric and educational reading. The first in the series is The Cold Cold Ground. Thanks to Austin Public Library for an extensive collection of full mystery sets for readers like me.

Valicia Greenwood, Library Statistics Specialist

With politics so prevalent these days, I can suggest two books I have read this year, which truly give one a feel for the people behind the news stories:  Becoming, by Michelle Obama; and The Education of an Idealist, by Samantha Power. These are both memoirs by strong and courageous women, who started out more-than-naïve, yet grew and adapted to the circumstances in which they found themselves. While there is much in their stories to admire, such as how they juggled their ideals and their time while growing a family, there is also much that astonished me about how things work in the federal government. Both are good reads!

Tomas Mendez, Office Services Coordinator

I really enjoyed The Ballad of Black Tom. The Ballad of Black Tom is a short horror novella by Victor LaValle set in 1920s Harlem that will have you turning the pages so fast that you’ll be sad when it’s over and will leave you with so many questions that you’ll be filled with eerie confusion. African American author Victor LaValle aims to cast a critical and satirical eye on H.P. Lovecraft’s popular but xenophobic and racist writings in this amazing book. LaValle tells the story of a mysterious hustler and musician by the name of Tommy Tester, who deals in strange artifacts sold to even stranger clients. Tommy is pushed to his limits by racism and police brutality, to the point where he takes matters into his own hands (with a little help from a powerful ancient terror).

Kyla Hunt, Library Management Consultant

My kids are curious, and my older (who is 7 years old) asks a *lot* of questions. Partly because of this, we have been listening to the podcast “But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids” from Vermont Public Radio. This podcast has been wonderful – the host reads questions submitted by kids from around the world, getting experts who take the questions seriously. The show never talks down to kids, and provides more details than I have for many of the questions my daughter asks.

Ann Griffith, Electronic Resources Coordinator

The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors by David George Haskell

This lyrical, layman-friendly book by biology professor David Haskell focuses on twelve trees he has visited across the world.  The living trees include a ceibo, fir, pine, ash, pear, sabal palm, cottonwood, olive, and bonsai pine.  Haskell also profiles a hazel nut tree which lived over 10,000 years ago and now exists only as charcoal fragments found in an ancient human settlement.  Each tree is examined through a prism of senses, notably sound and sight.  Haskell creates word pictures that include a tree’s setting, details about nearby flora and fauna, how the trees interact to their environments through time, and how humans interact with the trees through time.  Haskell lays out trees’ important roles in nature’s interconnectedness and to the human species with scientific precision and a poetic prose.  

Henry Stokes, Library Technology Consultant

I never thought of myself as a fan of the true crime genre as I’m often squeamish and have a healthy aversion to hearing about real life serial killers.  That changed this year because somehow during 2019 I listened to twenty-seven (27!) different true crime podcast series. It got to the point where I couldn’t drive my commute or wash dishes in the evenings without hearing about the efforts to bring truth and justice to a murder, abduction, missing person, or other unsolved crime.

If you are like me and like a good true crime podcast, here are my top five favorites heard in 2019. Most of these also happen to have a connection to technology, social issues, and librarianship in some way.

1) “Bear Brook” – Newly invented DNA matching tech and good old-fashioned genealogy research combine to solve a 35 year old cold case of three unidentified murder victims and no other physical evidence. This one blew my mind with the almost magical way the truth was eventually determined.

2) The Ballad of Billy Balls” – A woman lost her rock n’ roll soulmate in a 1982 New York shooting, but the details of his killing remained a mystery. That is until her son undertook a touching, funny, and often surprising journey to investigate what really happened.

3) “The Dropout” – While on a road trip between trainings, Cindy Fisher and I played this podcast series about the recent tech world charlatan, Elizabeth Holmes. While listening, I kept thinking of the strange parallels Holmes had with the Fox sisters who launched the 19th Century Spiritualism movement – particularly the way they were both blindly believed by their powerful male admirers. To me, testing 200 diseases from 1 drop of blood within a tiny mystery box to revolutionize healthcare is not that far off from the notions that seances are real and the dead can talk. Both seemed scientifically possible in their time. Both were just wishful thinking about our own mortality, and both were later revealed to be tricks (the Fox sisters used their clicking toes to fake ghost sounds). It reminded me that, in this age of deepfake videos and the dissemination of false information, libraries are powerhouse purveyors of the skills people need to discern a hoax, flimflam, or bamboozlement.

4) Missing & Murdered Finding Cleo” – This eye-opening look at the horrific impact of the Canadian Indian residential school system is not easy or light listening, but it’s beautifully done, compassionate, and very moving. Normally true crime stories have a murderous person to catch, but what if it’s a system that perpetuates the crimes? One of my favorite parts of this series is when a fateful visit to a library plays a pivotal role in finding the missing girl.

5) “White Lies” – A community has to reckon with its racism as a pair of journalists explore what really happened with an unsolved murder at the center of the civil rights movement. What records are left around to document the truth when many would like it to be buried?

Truth-be-told, I’m not sure 27 true crime stories playing continuously in my ears was great for my psyche, despite how thought-provoking many of them were. So for 2020, I’m switching to podcasts that are comedic, uplifting, and positive for a while. One I recommend already is Victoriocity – a charming detective comedy radio play with a full cast of performers set in a steampunk Victorian setting. If you like the wit of Douglas Addams, Terry Pratchett, and Monty Python, it’s a must listen.

Best of 2018: Books, podcasts, and more!

book

Book (https://flic.kr/p/nKkXaL) by Daniel Wehner is licensed through CC BY 2.0

As we near the end of 2018, we wanted to share some of the books, podcasts and other media that staff here at the Library Development and Network Division loved this year! Here’s to a great 2019!

Jennifer Peters, Director of Library Development & Networking

I was so moved by Tara Westover’s stunning memoir, Educated, that I read it twice. This highly acclaimed book is worth all of the good press it has received. Westover grew up in an isolated survivalist family in Idaho, and had little access to schooling because of her parents’ mistrust of the educational system—indeed, they were hostile to all government and institutional systems to an extreme degree. How a bright, brutalized girl took charge of her life is nothing short of astonishing.

My favorite podcasts dive deeply into real events with multiple episodes and stellar reporting. Season One of Slow Burn was a fascinating overview of the Watergate scandal. I thought I knew the basics of Watergate, but this podcast provided context, a cast of fascinating characters, and a sense of what living through the period was like, before anyone knew how things would turn out. My guilty podcast pleasure is true crime: Death in Ice Valley, In the Dark, Dr. Death, Stranglers, and more!

Valicia Greenwood, Library Statistics Specialist

I have discovered podcasts this year!  It started with a story from NPR which led to “Everything Happens with Kate Bowler.”  Kate, in her mid-thirties, is a professor, mother and writer.  She was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, and turned it into an opportunity to let others know how to communicate with those going through dark and tragic times in their life.  She wrote a book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, which allowed her to explore the topic personally, and then created the podcast, through which she explores the topic with others.  While potentially sad, I come away from the broadcast refreshed.  This podcast has interesting guests interviewed by Kate with warmth and humor, who share valuable insights on the rougher side of being human.

Another favorite podcast is the “TED Radio Hour,“ with host Guy Raz.  These shows distill several related TED talks, interspersed with interviews with the speakers, who update or further explain their ideas.  Topics are as broad and fascinating as the original talks on which they are based.  It has taught me about history, celebrity personalities and even about burial practices around the world.

One other I am hooked on is “99% Invisible,” created and hosted by Roman Mars.  This is trivia at its most detailed, from where “casual Fridays” come from to how Oklahoma City was born.  According to the website, the podcast is about “all the though that goes into the things we don’t think about.” A fun, fascinating listen!

Ann Griffith, Electronic Resources Coordinator

Earlier this year, Texas Tribune CEO, Evan Smith, did a fascinating interview with journalist/author Helen Thorpe on his PBS show, Overheard with Evan Smith, about Thorpe’s life and career, books, and insights.  Thorpe is an Irish immigrant: born in the U.K. and raised in the U.S., she specializes in writing about “otherness.”  Her technique is to embed, befriend, then write candid, sympathetic, and powerful stories about the carefully selected and unique people she gets to know.  Intrigued, I read all three of Thorpe’s books and found them great reads.

Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America is an award-winning study of four high school girls, whose parents illegally immigrated from Mexico to Colorado.  Two of the girls are U.S. citizens, two aren’t, but all struggle with immigration, legal documentation, and integration issues.  It’s hard not to root for these real, flawed people who struggle to pursue successful, happy, safe lives – as we all do.

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War covers twelve years in the lives of three women who enlisted in the Indiana National Guard for economic reasons just before 9/11, served unexpected deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, then returned home.  This is an unusual and gritty book.  Thorpe examines the women’s gender-unique struggles dealing with money, men, the military, war, death, their own injuries, families and children, careers, transitioning from civil to military/military to civil, everything else life throws at them – and how they cope and change.  Despite the challenges all three found serving in the U.S. military, two choose to redeploy.

The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom profiles twenty-two newly-arrived immigrant/refugee teenagers from nations and refugee camps around the world as they work through their first year in the U.S., attending an intensive, beginner-level English Language Acquisition (ELA) class at a Colorado public high school.  The book focuses on how these students aren’t just learning a new language, they are learning a new culture in order to successfully live in their new homes and country.  Thorpe relates some of the frightful events these children have lived through, how hard being a refugee is both abroad and in the U.S., and how the children and their families are managing, highlighting the power – and sometimes the failures – of human resiliency and kindness.

Kyla Hunt, Library Management Consultant

As I have a 8 month old daughter, my reading pace has been rather slow. That said, we’ve been reading the first Harry Potter book to my 6 year old daughter, and I’ve been really enjoying simultaneously listening to Binge Mode: Harry Potter. The hosts of this podcast, Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion, use each episode to examine the books chapter by chapter, with special episodes dedicated to topics such as the movies, Quidditch, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This is a podcast that is great if you’re a Harry Potter fan looking for an escape; fair warning, though, that it is filled with spoilers and is meant for an adult audience.

Henry Stokes, Library Technology Consultant

How does this unlikely pairing sound to you?  Groundhog Day time travel hijinks +  Agatha Christie English manor mystery. If that sounds instantly appealing as it did to me then try the novel, The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton.

I like my military sci-fi action adventure funny and touching (and also quick to read), so I very much enjoyed the four novellas that make up The Murderbot Diaries. They feature the first-person point-of-view of a former A.I. soldier as she makes her way in the world after freeing herself from robotic servitude.

It’s not for the faint of heart, but I am glad I read the true crime book, I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, by Michelle McNamara. It helped to know as I was reading that the serial murderer and rapist she investigated was caught just after the book’s publication due in no small part to the author’s impressive armchair detective work.

End of the Year Lists – Best of 2017

Reading a Book by Manual Cacciatori is licensed through CC BY 2.0 (https://flic.kr/p/7Rr2qr)

https://flic.kr/p/7Rr2qr

As we near the end of 2017, I wanted to share some of the books, podcasts and other media that staff here at the Library Development and Network Division loved this year! Happy holidays!

Jennifer Peters, Director of Library Development & Networking

As I’m always on the hunt for dark British police procedurals, I was delighted to discover the Simon Serrailler series by Susan Hill this fall. Starting with The Various Haunts of Men, I’m less interested in  the lead detective than I am by his extended family, colleagues, and the inhabitants of the fictional town of Lafferton where these murders take place. And they are good whodunits. I’m on book four of the series and am making a concerted effort to check them out in order from the library – so far, Austin Public hasn’t failed me once!

A read that left me thinking this year was Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue’s novel about a Cameroonian couple pursuing the American Dream in the early 2000s. Employed by a wealthy New York family, Jende and Neni Jonga seem to be on the verge of financial stability before the Great Recession hits. Its impact leaves their family in crisis and illuminates both the struggle and spirit of immigrant communities.

Russlene Waukechon, TexShare E-resources Coordinator

If you love, really LOVE storytelling you have to listen to Snap Judgement. This weekly podcast will keep you glued to your headphones. Focusing on deeply personal stories this is a podcast anyone would enjoy.

Valicia Greenwood, Library Statistics Specialist

I have long been a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird, and Harper Lee, so when I came across Charles Shields 2006 biography, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, I read it quickly.  Although Lee refused to grant an interview to him, Shields interviewed many, many others who knew her well, and presented a compelling picture of Lee’s life.  One of the aspects Shields covered details Lee’s research with Truman Capote into the Clutter family murders in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959 – the background material for Capote’s 1965 novel, In Cold Blood.

With that background in mind, I then took the opportunity to read In Cold Blood.  Capote’s book was considered graphic and unsettling for its time, but I found it tame by modern standards.  It reads like a Ken Burns’ documentary, capturing the personalities, the dialect and feelings of major and minor players in this true-life crime story.  I would heartily recommend this modern classic, both for the structure and language of the book, as well as the way Capote leaves judgement and interpretation largely to the reader.

Liz Philippi, School Program Coordinator

Origin by Dan Brown – As usual our favorite Harvard professor is again embroiled in a murder/mystery. In his usual style Dan Brown delivers a book full of history, religion, and mysteries, this one is set in Spain. I really enjoyed the questions this book raised with regard to technology and it’s rapid rise, how that affects us now and in the future. It also questions the future of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and how it might control our world more than we think, even now……

As always if you like mysteries, history, and a good murder story Dan Brown will make it an interesting one!

Ann Griffith, Electronic Resources Coordinator

I recommend Madeleine Albright’s Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948.  Proving once again that truth is stranger than fiction, this biography documents how, in middle age, Madeleine discovered her family’s Jewish heritage and the sad fate of many of her Czech family members during World War II.  Czechoslovakian history and Madeleine’s family involvement in mid-20th century politics are clearly explained and quite fascinating.  Her father, Josef Korbel, was a gifted diplomat who served the Czech government until the Communist Party’s rise to power in 1948.  Korbel and his family successfully applied for U.S. political asylum when Madeleine was 11 years old.   She became a U.S. citizen in 1957 and later served with distinction as a U.S. diplomat, notably as Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001.

Kyla Hunt, Library Management Consultant

Maybe it’s just been a busier year than others, but I found myself rereading books this year more than reading new titles. One author in particular that I have found myself turning to is one of my favorite graphic novel authors, Faith Erin Hicks. I have reread her book Friends with Boys at least twice this year, and each time am struck with different aspects of the illustrations or characters. This book, about a previously homeschooled girl who starts high school while being haunted by a ghost, appears trivial but is satisfying with every read. I also recommend her currently running The Nameless City Trilogy, two of which are currently out now.