Volunteers who serve on the Victoria Public Library Advisory Board are raising concerns about a new library mission statement that omits “reading” and “literacy.”

Victoria City Manager Jesus Garza has responded by calling the concerns “political posturing” and directing his staff to cut off all communications with Library Advisory Board members “for the foreseeable future” after the Board called a special meeting to publicly discuss the new mission statement.

“This is an attempt to silence all conservative voices in our city. We will not be silent,” the Library Advisory Board members wrote in an open letter released after the special meeting on April 10.

“As Library Advisory Board members, our role is to speak for the regular citizen, the taxpayer, the library patron. We bring their perspective to every meeting we attend.”


The Victoria Public Library is operated jointly by the city and county of Victoria. The 11-member Victoria Public Library Advisory Board develops library policies and acts as a liaison between city and county government officials.

City council members and county commissioners each appoint four of the Board’s members and jointly appoint another. Two other members represent local civic groups dedicated to supporting libraries and literacy.

According to Advisory Board members, Library Director Jessica Berger first mentioned a new mission statement during the Board’s quarterly meeting in November.

At the Board’s next regular meeting in February, Berger presented the new mission statement to members as part of her Director’s Report.

Previous Mission Statement: VPL encourages a love of reading and commitment to literacy, provides materials and services that satisfy curiosity and stimulate imagination, develops programs that encourages the expression of creativity, and utilizes technology to support collaboration.

New Mission Statement: Our mission is to enhance our community’s wellbeing by providing a welcoming space that prioritizes improving access and technology, fostering strong community support, inspiring personal development, and serving as a reliable anchor for our diverse community.

Board members noticed a glaring omission: reading and literacy had been removed.

Library Advisory Board Chair Jill Fox then appointed a review committee to document specific concerns for the members to discuss—either at their next meeting in May or at an earlier special meeting called to focus just on the mission statement, as the Board’s quarterly meetings only last an hour.

On March 26, Fox contacted Berger about setting a date for a special board meeting in April.

On April 1, Garza responded to Fox’s email, “It is important that you know that I am not interested in facilitating a conversation that attempts to undermine the work of my staff or interested in facilitating a platform for political posturing of advisory board members.”

After further email exchanges between Fox and Garza, Garza emailed Fox on April 9 stating that he would not authorize Berger to attend the special meeting and that it was not “city-sanctioned.”

Garza also told Fox that he planned to recommend Advisory Board bylaws changes to Victoria City Council members that would “clarify” the Board’s responsibilities.

Special Board Meeting and Report

Despite Garza’s objections and lack of cooperation, the Library Advisory Board held a special meeting on April 10.

After hearing public comments, the mission statement review committee—which included Board members appointed by both city and county officials—presented a report documenting questions, concerns, and suggestions.

“The omission of reading and literacy is literally the ‘elephant in the room’ here,” the report read.

With this mission statement, is the identity of the library being changed from a resource to grow and learn, to a cultural center?


Why does there appear to be such a disconnect between the new mission statement and the previous mission statement?

The report recommended returning “the primary focus of our library’s mission back to books, reading, literacy.”

Moving Forward

At the special meeting, Library Advisory Board members also approved an open letter summarizing Garza’s email exchange with Fox and asking why the city manager did not want his staff to participate in a discussion of the new library mission statement.

“We are not only board members, but we also are citizens, taxpayers, and library patrons ourselves. We each have a unique community within Victoria and we listen to feedback and concerns from other citizens. We love Victoria, we love the library, and we love the role that reading can play in the development of an individual and a society,” the letter read.

“We were duly appointed to this board by our elected officials, and we are operating within the functions given to us in our bylaws,” the members continued in their letter.

“We are not being listened to or heard because Mr. Garza has ordered city staff to have no contact with the board. One unelected bureaucrat should not be allowed to silence the voice of citizens in their local government,” the letter concluded.

Citizens are expected to speak on the library issue at upcoming city and county meetings.

The Victoria City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month.

The Victoria County Commissioners Court usually meets every Monday.

City Manager Jesus Garza did not respond to Texas Scorecard‘s request for comment on the matter before publication.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.