How to get free access to 3 Texas libraries outside Austin


Photo by Shunya Koide on Unsplash

We all know that Austinites can get their free library cards at the Austin Public Library. But did you know you can get access to libraries that aren’t just in the APL system? For the libraries in Wells Branch, Round Rock, and Houston, you only need to be a Texas resident!

Having access to multiple library systems throughout Texas isn't as excessive as it might seem. First, you gain access to books that may not be as easily available from one library system to another. Second, it can be a great cost-saving measure; personally, I saved over $550 in 2022 by using public libraries instead of buying new or used books.

If you read a lot of ebooks or audiobooks, Libby is one of the best apps to find thousands of titles for free. If Libby’s waitlist is too long for a title in Austin, it might be easier to find the same title in Round Rock or Houston for a shorter wait. Additionally, you might find books in another system that aren't offered by APL. Sometimes, APL has a majority of a series online but is missing a few titles, and another library system will have what you're missing, which saves you from purchasing a random audiobook or ebook.

Here’s a quick refresher on how you can apply for an Austin Public Library card, and how you can join three additional awesome library systems outside the city. Let's all make it a goal to read a little more this year, shall we?

Austin Public Library
Austin residents, those who live in the Full Purpose jurisdiction, and students at any k-12 school (including daycare, private, charter, and home schools) in Travis County can apply online for a library card for free. After completing the online application, you can visit any library branch with your valid photo ID and proof of residence to complete the registration. Adult resident cards are valid for three years from their issuance date.

Round Rock Public Library
All Texas residents can apply for a free library card in Round Rock. For those who can visit the new library building in person, all you need is a valid Texas ID or a valid government issued ID and proof of Texas residency. Just for Round Rock residents who can’t make it to the library in-person due to a disability, illness, or inadequate transportation, the library offers a wonderful Library At Home service to deliver materials to your private residence.

Wells Branch Community Library
This is another library where all Texas residents qualify for a card for free, but you do have to apply in person with a valid ID and proof of residency. As a note, this library is a part of the Central Texas Digital Consortium, which is the same association that several other Central Texas cities use for their ebooks and audiobooks.

Houston Public Library
This library is special in that not only can you apply for their card without needing to live in Houston, but you also can apply online! You’ll get instant access to hundreds of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, music, and more with their digital MY Link card. And if you’re ever in the Houston area, you can bring your valid Texas ID to any of their branches to get your hands on a physical card, if you're the type that loves to collect them.

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Austin art collectives bring work made by 1,000 local hands to Burning Man

Lend a Hand

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but this textile was made by a thousand hands. That's gotta be worth something in a place like Burning Man.

In 2023, the pop-up desert city made more headlines than usual; The event was rained out and every dust-covered person, vehicle, artwork, and metaphysical idea was suddenly sunk into mud. As many revelers extended their stays to avoid a grueling trek out, DJ Diplo and comedian Chris Rock — who walked miles and then hitchhiked— were consistently cited as proof that escape was possible.

But the members of Art Island had a 56-foot tapestry to worry about. The Austin-based art troupe, known for its high production value parties with dress codes, fire performers, great DJs, and more, rigged up one of the tallest artworks at a festival already famous for oversized art.

Called "1,000 Hands" in reference to the 500 Austinites who helped dye and tie scraps of fabric in a flowing mosaic, the work became an unmissable part of the landscape. All in one main corridor were The Man (the massive effigy that serves as the visual and ideological focal point of the festival), The Temple (the main shared gathering place), and "1,000 Hands," literally lighting the way to the core of Black Rock City. The work became an orienting feature in a metropolis it's impossible to accurately map.

"Because it was so tall, and so vivid, you could see it from pretty much anywhere if you just looked up," says Art Island founder Maria Gotay, who was also one of the leading co-creators of the artwork. "It was by far the most vivid daytime art piece out there. So it really did stand out against the horizon."

1,000 Hands at Burning ManPhoto courtesy of Art Island and Wevolve Labs

"1,000 Hands" was the recipient of a prestigious Burning Man grant that goes to about 75 project worldwide each year, by Gotay's estimation. Its other main co-creator, Nic DeBruyne of Wevolve Labs, had designed a previous grant recipient that Gotay helped create — a floating DJ booth that launched on Lady Bird Lake — so the team had a clear vision and a relatively streamlined process from idea conception to implementation. Materials lead Morgan Baker and tech lead Janitha Karunaratne rounded out the main team.

The vision was to create a visual representation of climate change using the work of many community members, effectively asserting that the global issue needs to be dealt with collaboratively, rather than by acts of individual genius. An image of a sunset fits right in at Burning Man, but there was some symbolism in the way the colors changed from cool purples and blues to a hot red at the top. Visitors to the work could also swing on it to invite engagement. The piece's website explains the following:

"Participants can swing from handles at the base of the tapestry, feeling "the world on their shoulders," while witnessing the ripple effect of their actions displayed on a monumental scale. Only when participants swing in synchronicity will the piece move forward and gain speed and traction."

Similarly, the piece came together not when the image did, but when its makers did. Art Island and Wevolve held weekly work sessions in Lloyd The Warehouse, the main workspace for Burning Flipside, the regional burn held annually in Central Texas. Since it was the smaller festival's off-season, the co-creators were able to leave the giant work set up between sessions.

Community members — many of them frequent collaborators or admirers of Art Island — stopped by to help tie pieces of upcycled and new fabric on, and the team leaders organized community time outside of the warehouse to invite in even more Austinites who may not be in touch with the counterculture at all.

"1,000 Hands" made appearances at community spaces like museums, and everyone from burners to children made contributions. Even partiers who never saw the work supported it via ticket sales for a Burning Man-themed party called "In Dust We Trust," at an eclectic East Austin venue.

1,000 Hands on Burning Man playaPhoto by Mark Fromson

"We kind of formed a community while creating the piece with the 500 people that that worked on it," says Gotay. "We had these work nights where we saw the same volunteers coming back, and they wanted to get involved in the new direction or the new color we're working with — they were really invested in seeing the piece grow, and we got invested in our friendships with all these folks that we didn't know before."

On The Playa, basically the grounds of Black Rock City, wanderers became part of the collaborative community by interacting with the piece. Sometimes the creative team would stop by to check on the work and find a gathering of strangers. There were weddings and DJ sets, including a performance by Italian DJ Deborah De Luca.

Since the piece was designed to bear hanging people and leave no trace in the desert, it held up well to the elements. It did not touch the ground, so the rain actually cleaned it and no mud was left on the fabric. It even got packed up on schedule. The team needs to make a few repairs, but overall the piece remains intact. It will travel to some upcoming festivals, especially during the upcoming eclipse in October, and then the team hopes that media attention will find it a permanent home.

Although nearly anyone could relate to the climate change angle (given that their current beliefs allow it, anyway), Gotay sees a distinctly Austin spirit in the work.

"I feel like only in Austin would this ever happen so casually," she says. "We just took over Morgan's backyard ... banging out tie dye pretty much all summer. So that's one element. And ... I've just found that Austin is the most open and welcoming community to people in the arts. And there's so many folks here that want to be a part of something."

1,000 Hands Burning ManPhoto courtesy of Art Island and Wevolve Labs

More information about "1,000 Hands" is available at 1000handsart.com. Follow the next steps for the project and see more angles on Instagram.

Austin coach shoots her shot to bring all-women basketball summit to 2024 Final Four

Share the Mic

A new, groundbreaking basketball conference is coming to the 2024 Final Four on April 4-5. Changing The Game says it's the first-ever all-female player and coach development conference, led by Austin native BriAnna Joy Garza.

Garza is a professional shooting coach and owner of Shooters Shot, a basketball mentorship and training program. She was inspired to create the conference after she witnessed female players only being asked about their experiences through a "gendered perspective," rather than through their hard work and skill development.

The action-packed conference will feature empowering speeches and panel discussions, hands-on demonstrations, and networking opportunities.

At Garza's side to lead the two-day conference is Lady Magic herself: Nancy Lieberman. Lieberman is a former professional basketball player, a two-time famed Olympian, and a member of multiple Halls of Fame.

"Nancy Lieberman was my No. 1 pick because there are few names in basketball that are more recognizable and respected than hers," Garza said in a release. "But every speaker has something unique to offer attendees. We are covering basketball development from all angles and bridging gaps between different schools of thought in the industry."

Garza continued, "We’re combating the current culture of toxic competition and fighting for a new wave of collaboration in the player development space. We’re not ‘passing the mic,’ we’re sharing it."

Additional speakers at the conference include:

  • Vera Jo Bustos – Mentality Solutions founder and former college basketball coach
  • Dr. Hillary Cauthen – Director of performance services at Texas Optimal Performance & Psychological Services in Austin
  • LaSandra “San” Dixon – Defend Your Legacy Basketball founder and director of camp programs for Dick’s Sporting Goods, Curry Brand, Mamba Athletics, and the Jr. NBA & WNBA
  • Julie Fournier – Ball Is Psych founder and director of player development at Clemson Women’s Basketball
  • Marke Freeman – ESPN analyst, Max-OUT Foundation founder, and author of Champions Creed
  • Kait Jackson – Mint Athletics founder and lead biomechanist for University of Texas, specializing in elite sports performance
  • Jasmine Jenkins – Davidson College assistant coach and recipient of Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s 30 under 30
  • Beth Mounier – Mounshot Performance founder and former college basketball coach
  • Jess Racz –JR Performance founder
More information about the conference, registration, and guest speakers can be found on the Changing The Game website.

HAAM Day 2023 turns up the volume with a record-breaking number of free Austin shows

HAAM Day Returns

More than almost any other local nonprofit, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) is an integral part of Austinites' lives. Musicians don't turn to HAAM after a spurt of desperate research; They know about it (hopefully long before they ever need it) through word of mouth and blowout programming like Austin's famous HAAM Day.

The nonprofit turns the volume up for another year of live local music and philanthropy with a record-breaking twist on September 19. This year’s roster features 205 live performances, the biggest number of musical acts in the fundraiser’s history.

All HAAM Day shows are free and open to the public. Fans of Austin’s live music scene are invited and encouraged to attend a show or several. They will all raise funds directly for providing affordable access to health and wellness care for Austin-area low-income, working musicians.

“HAAM Day is not just about music,” CEO Paul Scott said in a press release. “It's about solidarity in recognizing the vital role musicians play in our community. Musicians are an essential part of what makes Austin special, and we want to make sure they are given every opportunity to continue making the music we love to enjoy.”

The all-day event begins with a kickoff celebration at 6 am at H-E-B Lake Austin. Kickoff highlights include performances by R&B singer Mélat and HAAM’s first member, longtime and super-versatile musician Troy Campbell. Guests will also hear proclamations from City of Austin and State of Texas representatives during the kickoff in between showcases.

Next, guests can catch a nonstop lineup of performances by Austin’s homegrown talent. Top highlights include a show by retro-soul performers Soul Supporters at Hotel Van Zandt’s Geraldine’s, live shows at H-E-B locations around the city, ongoing performances live from the Willie Nelson Statue, and swamp funk band Shinyribs at The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.

This year’s HAAM Day also includes three major Austin jazz clubs, partnering together for the first time in fundraiser history, to present live performances around the city.

Programming continues over the radio airwaves at KMFA Studios, which includes live music from "singer-soulwriter" Ray Prim, Mélat, jazzy folk-pop group Magnolia Kids, and HAAM Board member Marcia Ball. Featured performers for this year include blues guitarist Zach Person and rock band Madam Radar, who are both well-known in the Austin music scene, and several up-and-coming bands including alt-rock duo Me nd Adam and alt-pop duo Flora & Fawna.

Other artists are scheduled to perform at events like the Still Austin Whiskey Co. Showcase, the BMI Showcase, and the RECA ((Real Estate Council of Texas) Showcase at Antone’s Nightclub.

Since being established in 2005, HAAM has helped provide wellness and healthcare access to more than 6,700 musicians totaling over $144 million in services. New this year is the organization’s signing of the newest lead sponsor, SXSW, alongside PNC Bank. As part of the bank’s second year of sponsorship, live shows will be hosted at PNC branches in the Austin area.

“As an organization, we look at all of the ways in which we can support our local community, and are proud to be a part of HAAM’s efforts on behalf of Austin musicians,” said co-president and chief brand officer of SXSW Jann Baskett. “Their ability to make every $100 donated translate into $700 of healthcare services means that every contribution makes a substantial difference."

For those who prefer to raise donations online, HAAM Day is bringing back its fundraising platform website for participating members of the community to use in the spirit of friendly and philanthropic competition. Show venues are booked across Austin and throughout Central Texas. For a full lineup and schedule of events, go to myhaam.org.