Confused about Texas library entities and their functions?

A friend recently mentioned that, when she became a part of the Texas library world, she’d been overwhelmed by what I call Library-World question marksAcronym Soup and by related feelings of being left out because her new colleagues seemed to salt and pepper their conversations with those acronyms.

She now understands that TSLAC is the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and TLA is the Texas Library Association, but she confided that she’s especially embarrassed to admit that she still doesn’t have a clear understanding of the distinctions between those two entities.

Since then I’ve learned that her confusion is not unique in the Texas library world, so I’m creating this post to share with others who are similarly confused.

In a nutshell, TSLAC is a State government agency while TLA is primarily a professional organization for individual members (although membership is open also to library institutions and vendors).

The largest state library association in the U.S., TLA is mostly funded through memberships, conference income and for-fee services. It employs an executive director and 13 staff members. Members volunteer to serve the Association through assistance with its activities. TLA’s membership includes individuals employed by all types of libraries (academic, public, school, and special), library vendors, and citizens who support libraries as trustees or Board members, Friends members and library users. TLA offers members a wide range of services, including an annual conference, a leadership development program, legislative advocacy, and publications.

As a State agency, TSLAC is mostly funded through State and Federal tax money. The “Texas State Library and Archives Commission” is both the official name of the agency and the name of its seven-member, Governor-appointed governing board. The agency’s staff develops and presents to the Commission, for their review and approval, the State Library’s strategic plans, appropriations requests, operating budgets, internal audit documents, employment and management policies, etc. The staff also oversees development of rules for administering the State Library’s legislative mandates – for example, grant programs, standards for library accreditation, records management rules and schedules, and customer service policies – and presents those to the Commission for review and adoption.

Texas public library folks also need to be aware that LSTA Board refers to the five-person Library Systems and Technology Act Board that advises the Commission on any matter related to the Texas Library Systems Act, including recommending changes in the “Rules for Administering the Library Systems Act,” and recommendations regarding public libraries that appeal the loss of accreditation.

Information about the three remaining TSLAC Advisory Boards is also available online.

For those who enjoy puzzles, I’d like to point out some additional information that can really increase one’s confusion about the Texas library world: The name of the building at 1201 Brazos Street in Austin is the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library, while both the agency and the seven-member group that sets that agency’s policy and oversees its operations are known as the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. I appreciate the fact that the building is most often referred to as the Lorenzo de Zavala Building, and I know I’m repeating myself when I use the term “TSLAC Commission,” but I haven’t yet found another way to make it clear that I am talking about the governing board rather than the agency.

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dona is a consultant for public libraries. She blogs at

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