Magazine article Texas Library Journal

Reviving the Library Movement for the 21st Century

Magazine article Texas Library Journal

Reviving the Library Movement for the 21st Century

Article excerpt

I have found over the last two years that when you work in this job, you learn a lot about history. Not only have I taken a crash course in Texas history (which is good since it has been a long time since seventh grade), I have also learned a lot about the history of libraries in Texas and of the state library. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission was founded as a modern agency in 1909, then known as the Texas Library and Historical Commission. At that time, an overriding concern of the agency and its supporters - including the Texas Library Association, which had been formed in 1902 thanks to many of the same social forces - was the creation of public libraries. The Public Library Movement in Texas, which sought to establish public library service in every county in the state, was motivated by a belief that access to books and reading for persons of all ages was an essential tool for selfimprovement and a driver of civic engagement, workforce development, and economic advancement (though they might not have put it in exactly those words).

Later in 1909, State Librarian Ernest William Winkler established a journal called Texas Libraries to promote the Library Movement. He wrote in the first issue,

Among the duties of the Commission is that of aiding in the establishment of public libraries and in their improvement. The chief significance of this measure lies in the fact that it carries with it the endorsement of the State; it puts the people of the State behind a movement supported hitherto by such associations of individuals as the Texas Library Association, the State Teachers' Association, and the State Federation of Women's Clubs.

Ten years later, in 1919, Texas finally passed the County Library Law. Some things have changed in the years since. In 1915, the State Library documented 50 free public libraries, 36 subscription public libraries, and 34 college and university libraries. One hundred years later, we have approximately 560 public libraries, over 200 academic libraries, and thousands of school libraries. As we progress through this new century, we have created networks and connections to resources and between all types of library and archival institutions that would have astonished and delighted Winkler and his colleagues.

But in other ways, our concerns are still the same. We are still working closely with the Texas Library Association to put libraries of all types at the center of community engagement, technology access, lifelong literacy, and workforce development. Our task has grown more complex as the state's population has grown many times larger, as our communities have grown more diverse, as information has exploded through a proliferation of media, and as societal and economic pressures force ever faster rates of change. At the core, however, our work in all types of libraries is facilitating connections between the public and the information resources they need to live productive and fulfilled lives.

That libraries are in an information business in an information age is a message that we took to the 84th Legislature with some success. With outstanding support from TLA members led by the Legislative Committee chaired by Jennifer Laboon and Rebecca Sullivan, and coordinated by TLA Director of Communications Gloria Meraz, we gained $7.6 million new dollars for TSLAC programs for 2016-2017 in support of libraries and archives statewide. Of that amount, $6 million will be spent for resources to expand TexShare and TexQuest database access for virtually every person in the state through academic, public, and K-12 libraries. …

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