Library Lifeline

Reversing today's troubling trend: Texas Book Fest to the rescue, help is on the way for one Austin library

Reversing today's troubling trend: Texas Book Fest to the rescue, help is on the way for one Austin library

Tomorrow, one lucky public library in Austin will acquire a generous addition to their stacks, reversing a troubling trend in today's libraries.

The City of Austin's Southeast Community Branch Library (SCBL) was a 2010 winner of a Texas Book Festival Public Library Grant, earning $2,500.00 in new books to add to their branch's collection. The Southeast Community Branch is one of 14 recipients chosen throughout the state for 2010, and the only Austin library in that winner's circle this year.

Every year, the Texas Book Festival invites all libraries throughout the state to submit for any of the three grants specifically geared toward expanding collections, updating library technology and initiating community literacy programs. Since 1996, TBF has encouraged library directors from across Texas to apply once per year, and several libraries have been awarded multiple times over the years.

This grant process comes as a much-needed relief for Texas libraries who have been hit with drastic budget and program cuts since 2009. According to Gloria Meraz of the Texas Library Association (TXLA), significant cuts happened in these last few legislative cycles that have depleted most statewide funding in key areas.

For example, the Loan Star Libraries grant program, which was used by most Texas libraries for everything from programming to technology to providing resources, was recently slashed, eliminating the previous amount of $13.5 million over two years. Likewise, Texas' K-12 program grants (once $5 million/biennium) were eliminated completely and the TexShare Online Information grants were reduced from $8 million to $2.5 million/biennium.

"It's undeniable that our state is collectively losing money, locally and statewide, when it comes to our libraries," says Meraz. "That's why these TBF grants are so vital to our continued advancement." These grants are made possible through the fundraising efforts of the TBF through corporate and individual donors, the annual TBF Gala and book sales during the Festival.

SCBL allocated their awarded funds to purchasing new books for their Spanish children's collection, which is one of their most popular sections in the library. "Expanding the non-English collection of the library is a typical use of these grants in a lot of Texas libraries," Meraz explains. "These are often the hardest areas to keep up with, and they are important to maintain to accommodate the changing demographics of the library's patrons."

To the delight of the Southeast Community Branch's youngest readers, these new books will be available for check-out after tomorrow afternoon's celebration. For now, at least, they'll be spared from the tremendous cutbacks affecting their library and all the other libraries through the state.

Winners of the 2011 TBF Public Library Grants will be announced in April 2012 at that month's annual TXLA conference. Until then, the two organizations and their team of professional librarians are pooling together their resources to determine the grant's next fortunate recipients.

To help reverse this trend in your neighborhood, find out more about what you can do on the TXLA website. Specifically, the TXLA invites you to make a tax deductible donation to the Library Endowment and Advancement Fund through their website.