Key Insights from Texas Libraries

TLA-2015-logoWith over 8,000 attendees, there was a lot of excitement at TLA 2015, the Texas Library Association’s Annual Conference. As the conference theme suggested, this was a time to Sync Up! on a wide range of topics.

Texas librarians had the opportunity to draw motivation from keynote speakers, such as David Baldacci and Cokie Roberts, gain insights into topics relating to their most pressing concerns and even find time for a little fun with events that included Battledecks and a Book Cart Drill Team Competition.

Here is what I learned at TLA 2015:

1. Texas libraries have defined their priorities.

Texas libraries understand that libraries can have a major impact in their communities and have 3 priority concerns:

  • Education and a ready workforce
  • Research, innovation and top tier universities
  • Economic vitality and support for business development

These issues may seem familiar to many of you, but by identifying critical impact areas, Texas librarians are then able to focus their efforts and collectively have a greater impact. Sessions throughout the week addressed these and other concerns and librarians were encouraged to imagine, collaborate and innovate together.

Teens had a great time hanging out in the Demco booth.
Teens had a great time hanging out in the Demco booth.

2. The future of libraries is top of mind.

The future of libraries seems bright, but there will be a lot of hard work ahead as libraries reshape their roles in their communities, regardless of whether they are a school, public, academic or other library.

In the special session on “The Future of Libraries,” it was clear that there are numerous organizations interested in what the future of the library looks like.

From the ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries to the Aspen Institute’s “Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries” to the Horizon Report — Library Edition there are resources that explore and can provide insight and direction for shaping future vision.

As technology and general community needs change, the library mission generally remains intact, but its role will change. Much of this research can help us to understand, inform and find a new way forward.

There is a need to remain flexible and develop a shared vision that aligns with other civic leaders in order to remain relevant and ensure long-term viability. Keep in mind that numerous trends affect library users by default through how they learn to approach everyday life. This, in turn, means that, in the words of ALA’s Miguel Figueroa, “Every trend can be a library trend.”

3. Today’s discussions revolve around advocacy.

It seems like every discussion that I have these days comes back to advocacy in some way, shape or form. Librarians know that what they do is important, but how apparent is that to others? Learning to speak a language that community leaders and members can relate to and connect with is critical and not always comfortable.

From key pieces of federal legislation to advocating for needs on a local level, it is clear that there are activities occurring that will shape the future of libraries for years to come. Even keynote speaker, Cokie Roberts, encouraged librarians to continue to advocate and make their voices heard because they are providing invaluable services.

4. Librarians have a lot of new innovative ideas.

I am always amazed by the creativity of librarians and was fortunate to present awards to librarians from 2 deserving libraries that won this year’s Upstart Innovative Award.

Jennifer Coleman from Murchison Elementary School was on hand to accept an award for Murchison Elementary School in Pflugerville, TX. Her Legos® for Literacy program ignited a love of reading by connecting a simple item that children knew to the idea that reading can build into something more. The kids could relate to the idea that a single book is like a Lego brick and the more you read, the more you can build.

Sam Houston University’s, Newton Gresham Library was the winner of the second award and Felicia and James Williamson accepted that award. The Promoting Finding Aids on Social Media project used new technologies to discover which platform was the best at finding information and enhancing Google search results.

Congratulations to all of you who are finding new ways to better serve your communities!

Librarians from Austin Public Library show off their moves in the Book Cart Drill Team Competition.

5. Librarians like to have fun.

Based on librarians’ participation in some of the more light-hearted events at TLA, it was clear to me that they like to have a good time.

Several of the Battledecks participants that I met at the conference were very proud of their accomplishments in this popular public speaking competition in which presenters deliver timed talks on a set of slides/topics that they have never seen before.

A large crowd witnessed the return of the Book Cart Drill Team Competition. The 5 competing teams did a phenomenal job from their costumes to the music to the props. The crowd eagerly chanted, “Push that book cart” while the teams performed to catchy popular tunes with clever, library-focused lyrics.

Imagine, collaborate, innovate … and have fun! Texas libraries, thanks for a great TLA 2015!


Janet Nelson

Janet Nelson

Janet is the former Director of Library Engagement and Solutions at Demco. She managed and developed relationships with key industry leaders to understand changing library trends and services.