For the coming year, the American Library Association will have a Texan in the top spot—Julie Todaro, dean of library services at Austin Community College, will be inaugurated as president at the ALA annual conference this summer. A longtime leader in the profession, she is also a leader in her home state of Texas, having served as president of the Texas Library Association and as chair of the Texas Council of Academic Libraries, among her numerous professional accomplishments. And in 2012, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from TLA. PW caught up with Todaro for a Texan’s perspective on the upcoming TLA Annual conference, set for Houston, April 19–22.
Why is the Texas Library Association Annual Conference such a popular event, really head and shoulders above other regional library conferences?
Size is part of it, for sure, as is TLA’s long history. TLA began in 1902. But the success of the TLA’s extraordinary annual conference really lies in the extensive network of people, activities, and educational opportunities that enrich and support Texas librarians. TLA is a robust and inclusive association for all types and sizes of libraries. But we also engage supporters and other local decision makers year-round. And Pat Smith, TLA’s executive director, is really a unique leader and business manager who never stops working to make the association fresher, better, and bigger to meet the needs of Texas libraries. In addition, Pat’s involvement and leadership in the non–library association world, as well as her work with the American Library Association, and her deep, longstanding connections in the publishing industry and with other library state-association directors guarantees a constant flow of new ideas.
What are some of the issues Texas libraries are grappling with as TLA approaches?
Obviously, given the number of libraries in Texas, we always face funding challenges. But in addition to the usual ups and downs over the last decade, Texas libraries took a big hit in 2011, with the largest cut in state agencies going to our state library. Since then we have been painstakingly working to crawl out of that hole the last several sessions, with some success. Even though libraries leverage state funding for a statewide database program, TexShare, Texas still lacks programs to provide direct aid to public libraries. Also, while all Texas schools must have a library, schools are not required to have a librarian. So those are some of the challenges we wrestle with in Texas. But where we excel is in our local community support for public libraries. Texas libraries have really strong support in the communities they serve. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our incredible Texas authors, who move among our libraries to enhance our resources with performances and programs.
Spanish languages services are a big and growing part of Texas library services, yes?
Yes, absolutely. Like all libraries, libraries in Texas are committed to identifying the needs of all our constituents and providing resources, and our Spanish-speaking constituents’ needs are much the same as English speakers’, in that their interests are broad. But finding materials for those who speak Spanish as their primary language is not easy. I think all library staff would agree that we need more publishers of Spanish language materials, from all Spanish-speaking countries, both in fiction and nonfiction, as well as more databases to meet the needs of our communities. And I would add that we need to continue to push for the recruitment of diverse, Spanish-speaking library professionals, and there are a number of excellent programs at TLA focusing on these issues.
You’re presenting at TLA this year. Anything else you are looking forward to at the conference?
My focus for this conference program is on my continuing-education program series for library support staff that we started for TLA this past year. In Houston, I’ll be presenting the top 10 content needs for these professionals, as well as gathering information on what future educational opportunities should be. As for the rest of the show, it’s hard to narrow down what else I’m looking forward to—we have over 200 speakers scheduled! But I also love TLA’s numerous competitions, including the illustrator “sketch off” and the book-cart drill team, and our main program speakers. I am also interested in the latest on makerspaces, and the many tech innovations that will be shared. It’s one of the strengths of TLA: there is always something for everyone.