"[TLA is] among the most important events of the year for us and is a key driver of annual sales," said Lee Byrd, co-publisher of Cinco Puntos Press of El Paso, who was promoting They Call Me Güero by David Bowles, a novel-in-verse about growing up on the border between Texas and Mexico.
(Above Photos: from top right, clockwise: Arte Público Press's Eloisa Perez-Lozano and Michelle Lancaster; Texas authors DiAnn Mills and Allison Pittman; University of Texas Press's Demi Marshall and Michelle; Texas author Kathi Appelt and Kristine Hall; Michelle and Alex Temblador; Texas author Sean Easley; Texas Center for the Book's Rebekah Manley; Texas A&M University Press's Katelyn Knight; (top row: Cinco Puntos Press author Joe Hayes, Lee Merrill Byrd, Bobby Byrd, Kristine, author J.L. Powers, front row: Cinco Puntos Press author David Bowles and Michelle)
More than 7,000 librarians, 450 exhibitors, and nearly 300 authors and illustrators participated in the 2019 Texas Library Association Annual Conference, held April 15 through 18 in Austin. The exhibit hall offered space for exhibitors ranging from the Big Five publishers, to library-seating vendors, to affiliated educational institutions. A big feature of the event, aside from educational sessions for librarians, are the signing sessions with authors. Much of the focus was on children's and young adult literature, with authors featured showing particular emphasis on diverse representation and inclusion.
A highlight of the conference is the annual TLA Bluebonnet Award luncheon, which this year featured the 2019 winner, author Patricia McCormick, who was awarded the prize for Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero (Harper Collins), the story of a horse that served with the U.S. military during the Korean War. "People like the book so much because people in the armed forces are our heroes," said McCormick at the awards lunch.
According to Publisher’s Weekly, landing on the twenty-strong title shortlist for the Bluebonnet Award, which focuses on books for children in grades three through six, can be a big boon for sales, and the Texas Library Association now requires publishers to sign a contract that guarantees they will have at least 10,000 copies printed and available for purchase by Texas libraries. Other promotional programs from the TLA are also significant drivers of revenue. The Lariat List, for example, is an annual curated list of two dozen books that are deemed a "pleasure to read" for adults.
For many of the publishers exhibiting, the conference is one of their best chances to reach the all-important library market. "It's among the most important events of the year for us and is a key driver of annual sales," said Lee Byrd, co-publisher of Cinco Puntos Press of El Paso, who was promoting They Call Me Güero by David Bowles, a novel-in-verse about growing up on the border between Texas and Mexico. "I'm a former middle school teacher and I know just how important this event is for our librarians," said Bowles, who was participating in the conference.
The TLA is also the occasion where the Texas Book Festival, which operates as a nonprofit to raise money for Texas libraries. announces the recipients of their annual Texas Library Grants. This year the organization was able to offer collections enhancement funding to forty-one public libraries across thirty-six Texas counties in an amount totaling $100,500.
Kashmere Neighborhood Library received the 2019 Texas Library Association Libraries Change Communities Award. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the Kashmere Gardens Neighborhood library (Houston) became a temporary sanctuary for people in the community, providing shelter and safety from the rising flood waters.
Maria Elena Ovalle received the 2019 Texas Library Association Lifetime Achievement Award. After serving as a biology teacher for sixteen years, Maria Elena Ovalle (Edinburg) became a librarian in 1992, starting with an elementary school before moving to a high school. In 1998, Ovalle transferred to become the Internet/network specialist for Edinburg CISD, a position she held until 2000, after which she became the coordinator of library services and instructional resources for Region One Education Service Center. She stayed at this position until her retirement in 2014. One of Ovalle’s greatest accomplishments is creating the Tejas Star Book Award (now the TLA Tejas Star Reading List), to support the bilingual population in the Rio Grande Valley.
Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD received the 2019 Texas Library Association Wayne Williams Library Project of the Year Award. HEB Reads! is a partnership between the ISD and the public libraries in Hurst, Euless, and Bedford, that began in 2015. The program was developed to lessen the negative effects of the summer reading slide. In addition to the reading program, the HEB Reads! team won a Texas State Library and Archives Commission grant for an outreach vehicle. The Think Tank is a mobile STEM lab that travels to school and city events each week.
Eric Lashley received the 2019 Texas Library Association Librarian of the Year award. Lashley has served at the director of the Georgetown Public Library for eighteen years. In 2018, under Lashley’s leadership, Georgetown Public Library was awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service by the Institute for Library and Museum Services, recognizing the library as a model for others across the country. It was only the second library in Texas to ever win the National Medal.
Coach Gary and Kelsey Patterson and the Gary Patterson Foundation received the 2019 Texas Library Association Benefactor Award. The Gary Patterson Foundation made the decision in early 2018 to expand the foundation’s mission to support all the elementary school libraries in Fort Worth ISD. The foundation awarded thirty-eight campus libraries grants of up to $10,000. The total amount given during the first semester of the 2018-2019 school year was $325,000. Campus libraries purchased new furniture, books, technology, and décor, and arranged for visiting authors, and Reading is Fundamental (RIF) distributions for their students.
Next year's TLA conference is scheduled for March 24 through 27 in Houston.
LONE STAR LIT’S TAKEAWAYS…
* "That horse is a stand-in for anyone who was overlooked or ever wanted to belong to a group but didn't fit in." -- Patricia McCormick at the Texas Bluebonnet Awards luncheon
* Newbury Award winner Meg Medina quit working at age forty to write her first novel and is grateful when she says, "Librarians plucked me out of the pile and gave me to children."
* Not all librarians are on board with maker spaces in and the genre-fying of school libraries.
* While it's true that authors are librarians' rock stars, the reverse is also true.
* Brussels sprouts are experiencing a surge in popularity.
(Bottom Photos: Top Row: Left to Right, Amanda M. Thrasher, Texas author and publisher at Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, and Kristine Hall; author Ben Mezrich; cosplay contest on Comic Book Day; Texas author Katherine Hall Page; bottom row: Kristine and Texas author Rebecca Balcárcel; 2019 Texas Bluebonnet Award winning author Patricia McCormick and Kristine; Texas authors Susan Kralovansky and Samantha M. Clark.)
Texas Library Association (TLA) was established in 1902 to promote, support, and improve library services in Texas. TLA is the largest state library association in the U.S. Their more than 6,000 members are from all library types: academic, public, school and special.