Community Foundation honors Round Rock citizens for philanthropy

The Greater Round Rock Community Foundation presented three philanthropy awards Sept. 23 at its second annual Legacy Luncheon. The event spotlights the non-profit community of Williamson County and the good work being done by those organizations, their volunteers and the businesses who generously support them.

The Unsung Hero Award — which recognizes quiet volunteers who give of their time, talent or treasure — was presented to the Citizens of Round Rock for their generous contributions as a community to the Round Rock Cares fund. Their donations provided over $400,000 in financial assistance to the small businesses of Round Rock in the early days of the pandemic. Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan was a driving force behind the creation of Round Rock Cares, which provided needed funds to local businesses before federal aid became available.

Dell Technologies was presented with the Nancy Rabb Legacy Award which recognizes a business who has made a difference by giving back to their community. Dell Technologies was honored for its leadership with Round Rock Cares and their commendable corporate culture of giving.

The last award, the Impact Award, is given to a local non-profit that is changing our community in an impactful way. The YMCA of Williamson County was selected this year for not only the incredible programs and services that have served the community for decades, but also for stepping up this year to provide camps and childcare for the children of first responders and essential workers during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Mayor Morgan: City’s economic indicators show promise

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

Any athlete knows that endurance is important. However, as we enter the sixth month of COVID-19′s presence in Central Texas, it’s still unclear how far the finish line lies ahead.

In a survey distributed by the city of Round Rock in April about the effects of COVID-19, 72 percent of respondents said the economic impact of the pandemic on our local community was a primary concern of theirs. We’ve continued monitoring economic conditions and have recently been able to obtain better and more localized data. I’m happy to report the economic decline has not been as deep as we originally prepared ourselves for — however, we still do not completely understand the duration, or how long these conditions will continue to impact our community. In general, Round Rock has fared better than we expected.

While unemployment was still in double digits nationally in July, our local unemployment rate stood at 6.5 percent, down from 10.7 percent in April. However, that’s still triple the percentage it was at the beginning of this year. We are fortunate to have a diverse economy, especially one that is not dependent on oil, as many of our neighbors across Texas are.

Strong sales tax revenues are a big reason that our property tax rate in Round Rock compares favorably to cities around us and across the state, but sales tax is also a volatile revenue source that can drop in times of economic distress. At the start of the pandemic, the city had collected $1.4 million above this year’s expected sales tax revenues. At that time, we thought we might be able to have a surplus of $3 to $4 million by the end of the year that could be used to free up funding for more projects. While we haven’t gained the ground we expected, we haven’t seen a loss in the ground we already had gained. We saw a surge in sales tax revenues in March and April from one specific business – Dell Technologies – and the reopening of retail establishments in June helped re-establish local spending. Most of our major retailers have reopened – IKEA, Round Rock Premium Outlets, movie theaters and some of our big box retailers. Many restaurants have also been able to remain open. However, entertainment venues have suffered a tremendous impact. Bars closed again on June 26 based on statewide orders, and Dell Diamond did not have a minor league season. Other businesses have just not been able to weather the economic downturn. The good news is, although we saw a dip in consumer confidence in April, it has bounced back and is trending upward again.

Occupancy in local hotels is also increasing after a drop in April. Our peak season for tourism is March through June, which saw the biggest impact from COVID-19-related closures. These revenues, which support local tourism efforts and our Sports Capital of Texas initiatives, were down 28 percent for that peak period compared to last year.

 

Overall, development is strong. Although some businesses have not been able to survive the current economic conditions, many of our businesses are using this moment to pivot and thrive. Our local and small businesses are a huge part of our community, because they are owned and supported by people right here in Round Rock. One of my biggest sources of hope through this pandemic was Round Rock Cares, a local fund that was established to support these types of businesses, which raised $419,500 that helped 241 small businesses. I hope we continue that spirit of supporting our local businesses moving forward.

As we take a brief moment to reflect on the positive indicators we are seeing, we know that we cannot let our guard down. We all must continue to follow state and CDC guidelines to suppress the spread of COVID-19 so that our economy can continue to thrive and residents can continue to make a living. By remaining diligent in our health practices and supporting each other, we will continue to get through this together.

Halley: Library’s statewide award shows dedication to service

Geeta Halley, our Round Rock Library Assistant Director, pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of her most recent feature.


As Round Rock Public Library Director Michelle Cervantes mentioned in the last month’s column, I’m honored to take over this space.

My name is Geeta Halley, and I have been with the library for 12 years in the roles of cataloger, public services manager and now assistant director. I’ve already seen the library go through many changes and have been proud of the services we offer and the dedication of the staff.

I’m excited to announce that for the second year in a row, the Round Rock Public Library’s commitment to service earned us the 2019 Achievement of Library Excellence Award from the Texas Municipal Library Director’s Association, an affiliate of the Texas Municipal League. There are 571 public libraries in Texas. Of those libraries, only 53 received this year’s award, placing the Round Rock Public Library in the top 10% of libraries in the state in terms of excellence of services, programs, marketing and staff training during the 2019 calendar year.

To receive the Achievement of Library Excellence Award, a library must exhibit excellence in the following areas: providing services to underserved and special populations; enhancing current services; marketing programs and services in innovative ways; promoting cultural, topical and educational programming; providing literacy support; providing summer reading clubs; pursuing collaborative efforts; supporting workforce development; providing for digital inclusion and comprehensively training staff.

While this is not a competitive award, applying for it allows us to benchmark with other libraries in the state. Meeting the criteria in each of the 10 categories allows us to celebrate the hard work and success of our library staff.

As we strive to maintain the highest standard of service excellence during this uniquely difficult pandemic time, one challenge we face is how to adjust our hugely popular summer reading program in response to the new COVID-19 reality. Planning for this annual program normally begins in January. Little did we know that in mid-March, we would be required to innovate.

After several discussions and consultations with other libraries across the state, we have adapted our summer reading for this new socially distanced era.

The Round Rock Public Library’s Community Reading Challenge runs June 1 through Aug. 1. In lieu of big in-person events, we have scheduled virtual programs for all ages. Visit roundrocktexas.gov/summerreading for registration, events schedule and more information.

We will track the point total for our reading community, and if we achieve 1 million points, the Friends of Round Rock Public Library will donate $500 to be split between the Round Rock Area Serving Center and the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.

The Friends of the Library will also purchase gift cards to be used for individual prizes from some of our local small businesses who have been long-time supporters of the Summer Reading Program. These gift cards will be distributed through a prize drawing. And readers who earn 1,000 points will receive a Book Nook Book Buck to purchase an item in the Friends’ ongoing book sale when the library is open.

It is a strange time to celebrate our 2019 Achievement of Library Excellence Award and we will not rest on our laurels. The award reminds us that our same innovative, service-oriented and motivated staff will continue to create safe solutions in response to the needs of our community. Our summer reading program, transformed for this new era of social distancing, supports efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Please join us in reading and safeguarding our community together.

Mayor Morgan: Planning puts Round Rock in solid financial position

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

Each year, the City of Round Rock puts together an annual budget that allows us to take care of our day-to-day needs — from library staffing to street maintenance — while also focusing on the road ahead with transportation projects, facility improvements and public safety. We develop long-term plans for major infrastructure like roads and water, as well as quality of life amenities like parks and recreation and library services.

This year’s budget discussions will no doubt include these same themes, but our conversation will be underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic. The past few months have felt like years at times, and some of our plans for the future have had unexpected obstacles placed in their path.

That said, let’s be honest — as City leaders, we are always dealing with change. Changing economic landscapes and new legislation are familiar territory for us. A pandemic is an unexpected challenge, to say the least, but we’ve created a solid foundation through many years of long-term planning and visioning.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Round Rock had seen recent business recruiting successes, an uptick in sales tax revenue overall and from Dell as well as healthy fund reserves. Round Rock has historically used sales tax to fund the largest portion of our General Fund, which pays for basic services like public safety and parks. Knowing that sales tax is a volatile funding source, we have for years been working toward a more balanced approach to funding these basic services. Currently, the General Fund is comprised of 43 percent sales tax revenue, 35 percent property tax revenue, 22 percent other taxes and fees. By 2023, we project a balance of sales tax and property tax at 40 percent.

Although our past financial planning puts us in a solid position, we have already sharpened our pencils to brace for the impacts of the past few months on our budget. Sales tax, hotel/motel occupancy tax and other revenues are expected to take a significant hit this year due to the actions taken by local and state officials to limit interaction among people to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our revised total sales tax projected for FY 2020 resulting from revenue losses from COVID-19 is $67.06 million, compared to the original adopted budget of $74.39 million. Our staff proactively worked to cut approximately $8.9 million out of department budgets for the current fiscal year in lieu of across the board reductions, and we made sweeping cuts to travel, training, non-essential overtime and other spending through a budget amendment passed by City Council last month. This gives us a balanced budget through the end of the year that tightens the purse strings while still allowing us to focus on our priorities, without having to dip into our contingency and debt reserves.

We know our local businesses need us more than ever, and it’s important to keep in mind that “Shopping the Rock” helps us fund improvements to our community that make this city such a great place to call home. The sales tax rate in Round Rock is 8.25 percent, with the state of Texas collecting 6.25 percent and the City 2 percent. Of the City’s share, half of those funds go to basic local government services like police, fire protection, parks and the library, one quarter of the funds help reduce property taxes, and the remaining portion funds economic development, primarily construction of major transportation improvements. More than $582 million in transportation projects alone have come to fruition due to this important funding source.

We are still waiting to see exactly how hard our local economy has been hit these last few months, but we maintain a focus on our strategic planning to make decisions that will continue to move us forward in the direction we need to go. The City will continue to focus on community needs and our strategic goals while working within the confines of our current financial conditions. We will do everything we can to ensure that our community continues to be one of the best places to live in the country, and by working together, we will get through this.

UDPATED: What you can do to make Open Texas safe, successful

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday, April 27, released his report to Open Texas, a guide to gradually bring state businesses back to life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, May 6, Gov. Abbott announced his intention to expand openings of certain businesses and activities in upcoming phases of the plan. On May 18, Gov. Abbott announced new phases of business and activity openings. 

PROTOCOL CHECKLISTS: View protocol checklists for restaurants, theaters, churches, nail salons, cosmetology/hair salons, gyms and more.

While most of the early attention has been on what businesses can reopen — and which can’t — there is a lot of emphasis in the report about what we as individuals can do to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

Flattening the curve isn’t about stopping the spread of the virus — that’s pretty much impossible with a virus like this one — it’s about slowing the spread so our healthcare facilities don’t get overwhelmed by those hardest hit by COVID-19. So far, so good on that strategy here in Williamson County. Of the 279 confirmed cases as of April 28, only 35 have ever been hospitalized, according to data from the Williamson County and Cities Health District, the public health authority.

It helps, no doubt, that we are generally healthier than most — Williamson County is ranked No. 6 in health outcomes and No. 4 in health factors in Texas — so residents here are less likely to have comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease and asthma.

So we need to keep ourselves healthy by following the protocols in the Open Texas report. Take a minute to familiarize yourself with the list below. We all need to be familiar with symptoms of COVID-19 so we are less likely catch or spread the virus as we begin to resume life in the new normal.

Health protocols for individuals

  • Maintain at least 6 feet separation from other individuals not within the same household. If such distancing is not feasible, other measures such as face covering, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, cleanliness and sanitation should be rigorously practiced.
  • Self-screen before going into a business for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • Loss of taste or smell
    • Diarrhea
    • Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19
  • Wash or disinfect hands upon entering a business and after any interaction with employees, other customers, or items in the business
  • Consider wearing cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth when entering a business, or when within 6 feet of another person who is not a member of your household. If available, individuals should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks. 

Testing, contact tracing

It’s important to remember that as we adhere to these protocols, it is likely case counts will increase as more testing becomes available. Stepping up testing and contact tracing are integral parts of the Open Texas plan. Gov. Abbott said increased positive tests are less of a factor than healthcare system capacity and fatality rates in deciding whether to move on to Phase II of Open Texas, currently scheduled for May 18.

COVID 19 testing tracing graphic

The report emphasizes the need to protect the most vulnerable population to COVID-19: Texans over 65. They make up 76 percent of COVID-19 fatalities in Texas, through April 26. In fact, the first set of protocols listed in the report are to protect this segment of the population.

Special guidance for Texans over 65

  1. Stay Home If You Can
  • Minimize face-to-face contact with others. Avoid young children.
  • If someone is assisting you, you and your family members or caretaker should wear cloth face masks. Remember a family member or caretaker can give you the virus even if they don’t appear to have symptoms.
  • Try grocery or restaurant delivery, mail order prescriptions, and phone appointments with your doctor. Call 2-1-1 if you need help with essentials.
  • Reach out to friends, family, or neighbors who can deliver essential items.
  1. Help Save Lives
  • If you must go out, wear a cloth face mask, and stay six feet away from others.
  • Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Disinfect surfaces, buttons, handles, knobs, and other places touched often
  • Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, or eating utensils with others
  • If you have mild symptoms (difficulty breathing, or a rapidly worsening cough or fever), call your healthcare provider. If symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1.
  1. Check In
  • Check in regularly with neighbors, friends, and family by calling, texting, emailing, video chatting, or even writing letters.
  • Walking, gardening, digital books, games, and online religious services are great ways to stay active and connected.

Protocol checklists

The Open Texas Plan features a series for checklists for individuals and organizations to follow to allow the state to open back up in phases and slow the spread of COVID-19.

New, In Effect May 31, 2020

New, In Effect May 22, 2020

New, Now in Effect as of May 18, 2020

Effective May 18, 2020

Effective May 8, 2020

Effective May 5, 2020

From the Texas Education Agency

DELAYED: Air Force Thunderbirds to fly over Round Rock, salute of frontline responders

UPDATE: The flight has been delayed until 3:40 p.m., Wednesday, May 13.


The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, will honor frontline COVID-19 responders and essential workers with formation flights over Austin and surrounding areas, including Round Rock, on Wednesday, May 13.

A formation of 6 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons will conduct these flyovers as a salute to healthcare workers, first responders, military, and other essential personnel on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flyovers in Austin will start at 2:40 P.M. (CDT) and last approximately 25 minutes. The date and times are subject to change due to weather and operational requirements.

Residents along the flight path can expect a few moments of jet noise as the aircraft pass overhead and are asked to avoid gathering in large groups to view the salute. 

Mayor Morgan: In COVID-19, Round Rock finds the helpers

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” — Mr. Rogers

As Round Rock and other cities across Texas begin to ease into reopening the economy, many in our community are preparing our minds for a shift in life as we’ve known it for the past month.

You may be preparing for a return to working in person, reopening a business, ordering masks before leaving your home or planning a visit to see family or friends for the first time in a while. Even as we move forward, many in our community continue to face hardships caused by COVID-19. In true Round Rock fashion, several organizations and groups have come together to help those in need.

The Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), made up of local non-profits in Williamson County, have set up drop-off donation sites for non-medical items to be delivered to vulnerable populations and elderly residents.

Round Rock Area Serving Center has been running a modified food pantry by delivering groceries curbside to families in need. In its first three weeks of the program, the Center served more than 3,000 people, 35 percent of whom had been personally impacted by COVID-19. Thousands of dollars have also been provided in direct relief to families in need. All of this has been with 12 to 15 volunteers and six staff members. Several in our community have stepped up to donate food, money and recycled grocery bags to assist.

Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties, probably best known for running Meals on Wheels and Head Start, is working to provide basic items to their clients who are unable to visit the store for their needs, even in the best of times. Their work is not done as many of their program participants continue to shelter in place, and they are still seeking donations of money as well as basic needs, from food to toiletries.

Our local school districts have banded together to provide mental health support to students and families who have been facing difficulties as a result of COVID-19. Round Rock ISD has a plethora of resources on its website, roundrockisd.org, that could benefit all in our community, even if you don’t have a school-aged child.

One of the causes closest to my heart has been Round Rock Cares. We announced Round Rock Cares in conjunction with the Round Rock Chamber, Dell Technologies and the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation to help our small businesses in Round Rock by allocating financial resources as quickly and as directly as possible in their greatest time of need. In the first round of fundraising, we were able to raise nearly $400,000 as a community to help 160 small businesses in need. I have been so proud of our community coming together to lift up the entrepreneurs who make our city such a special place to live.

Although these are all established organizations in our community, several others have come together in less formal ways to provide for those in need. So many of our residents have helped by making masks, picking up necessary items and groceries for neighbors and coming up with creative ways to lift each other up.

There are other non-profits in our community who may not directly feed or provide money to those in need, but still do important work that we should support. Arts and culture is an area that has been especially hit hard as events have had to cancel. In Round Rock, we are missing events such as Sculptfest, Music on Main and Artist Pop-Up Shows that feed our own desire for entertainment while helping support local artists. Try not to forget the various groups around town who need to survive so we can look forward to creative experiences on the other side of this.

I am so proud of Round Rock staying true to ourselves in supporting each other. As we move forward, we will continue to face these challenges together. It’s important that we continue to lift up not only our residents and businesses, but the organizations that are supporting them. In the midst of these times, always look for the helpers, and ask if you could be one yourself. To learn more about giving or receiving assistance, visit roundrocktexas.gov/coronavirus.

Resident concerns about Coronavirus shift in key areas

Round Rock residents remained concerned about the economic impact on the community of the COVID-19 pandemic, but fewer are worried about the impact to their households, according to a second online survey conducted by the City of Round Rock. 

More than 800 residents completed the survey April 10-13. The City’s first survey featuring similar questions was conducted March 23-25, just before a Stay Home order was issued for Williamson and Travis Counties.

As in the first survey, respondents frequently expressed their displeasure with those hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer and bleach wipes. While staying at home is the top answer to the question of how to help others, there are growing numbers saying the economy should be opened back up.

You can read the full survey results here.

While the local economy remains survey respondents’ primary concern, the ability of households to access goods and services is less worrisome than indicated in the first survey.

When asked, “What are your household’s concerns right now regarding COVID-19?” the No. 1 response at 72 percent was, “Economic impact on my community.” Respondents concerned about the economic impact on their households declined to 53 percent from 63 percent. Concerns about access to medical services, having enough supplies and having enough food also showed significant decreases from the first survey. “Emotional health of household,” cited by 52 percent, now ranks higher than concerns over supplies and medical treatment.

COVID 19 Household concerns chart

The increasing concern for the local economy may be reflected in the generosity of residents and businesses who have donated to Round Rock Cares, an initiative conceived by Mayor Craig Morgan and managed by the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation. More than $350,000 has been raised following the March 25 announcement by the City, Dell Technologies, the Round Rock Chamber and the Community Foundation, which donated a combined $100,000 to establish Round Rock Cares.

Concern that workplaces would be closed for an extended time decreased to 28 percent from 38 percent. Still, many expressed concerns about their financial situation.

“We only have $120.00 left,” wrote a respondent. “Last possible order for food made today. No more money to spend … It’s getting financially dicey now. Praying for our state of Texas. And TY for allowing me to stressfully whine. I am very aware that MANY have the same concerns. Thank you for what you do. We’re grateful but REALLY SCARED.”

A number of retirees also responded to this question, and expressed concern over a volatile stock market.

“As a retired senior, managing my 401k so it continues to grow is my job now,” one wrote.

The No. 1 response to the employment challenges question was “Not Applicable/Other,” so we created a tag cloud to give you a sense of what we heard in the comments.

employment tag cloud

When asked, “What kind of information would help your household most regarding COVID-19?” the top response remained, “The geographic areas that have higher outbreak rates,” at 52 percent. We’re pleased to report we are working to receive more specific location information on Round Rock positive cases from the Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD).

Some respondents also wanted information on how people are catching COVID-19. The WCCHD is now including that information in its Coronavirus (COVID-19) dashboard. Below are the results from April 16. Note: Community Transmission is light orange, Contact with Case is yellow, and Travel Acquired is red.

Round Rock COVID-19 Dashboard

As in the first survey, respondents said they are taking multiple steps to be prepared for COVID-19. Here are the top responses:

  1. Washed my hands more frequently with soap or hand sanitizer, 95 percent
  2. Not shaking hands or touching people in public places, 93 percent
  3. Kept space between myself and others while out, 90 percent
  4. Avoided crowds, 90 percent
  5. Stayed home more frequently, 89 percent

Not included in the first survey was the step of wearing a mask. Since then, the CDC has recommended people wear masks in public. In this survey, 61 percent reported wearing a mask when leaving home.

When asked what steps they have taken to assist the community, 88 percent responded, “Stayed in my home except to take part in essential activities.” That step had not been included in the first survey, which concluded prior to the Stay Home orders.

There were nearly 1,000 responses to the question, “Do you have other ideas on how residents can help others in the community relating to COVID-19?” Here’s a tag cloud of the top comments:

 

We’d like to thank all who took the time to let us know how they are doing and feeling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We, as your local government, can respond better to your changing needs when we have a clearer picture of what those are.

Mayor Morgan: Round Rock finds a new normal in midst of COVID-19

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


MAYOR CRAIG MORGAN

It’s hard to believe that just one month ago, school was in session, spring break was around the corner and life was business as usual.

Now, the days blur together from news conference to news conference, and the weeks feel like months. Such is life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the City of Round Rock, we’ve had to make tough decisions to protect the health of our citizens while balancing the need to continue doing business and keep our community moving forward in the right direction. The City’s business is essential — from our first responders and the employees who keep our water running, to those who ensure roads are being built and development doesn’t stall.

And as we all know, medical personnel, restaurateurs, grocery store employees and so many others have stepped up to meet our community’s needs in this uncertain time.

Our community has largely remained calm through this storm and, while we might have grabbed an extra pack of toilet paper from the grocery store just in case it’s not there the next time, we have not allowed ourselves to be driven or taken over by fear and panic.

For those of us involved in essential services, the worry is always there — we wonder if we’ve come into contact with someone with COVID-19, and if we are bringing it into our homes. I urge you, for the sake of those working hard to keep our community safe and functioning, to continue to follow the orders and guidelines being administered at the state and federal level to help slow the spread of this virus to avoid overburdening our systems.

It pains me to think that things might never quite be the same. So many of our neighbors have lost jobs, and our businesses have suffered losses that will be difficult to overcome. Our schools have had to adjust to new circumstances, and our local restaurants and grocery stores have changed their way of doing business to meet our community’s needs.

As I drive through our downtown on my way to City Hall, I still feel a sense of shock at how empty the streets are. This virus is a stark reminder the only constant in life is change, and the future isn’t always quite what we pictured it to be.

The good news is this — we have the power to decide how we enter this new normal, and all signs point to Round Rock responding in the only way we know how, which is to help our fellow neighbor.

I find hope in a new initiative we’ve created for small local businesses called Round Rock Cares. To establish this fund, the City of Round Rock, the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation, the Round Rock Chamber and Dell Technologies each donated $25,000. Our total raised to date, as of the end of the week of March 29, was approximately $150,000.

We were fortunate to have Nyle Maxwell, chairman of the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation, and his wife, Nancy, match the first $10,000 of donations dollar for dollar, and Emerson Automation Systems announced they will match the next $10,000. Our own Round Rock Police Foundation also stepped up to give $1,000.

At the end of last week, we had requests from 140 plus applicants with needs over $900,000. And while that amount may seem like an impossible number, let’s put it into perspective: if half of our residents each gave $30, together we could raise $1.5 million dollars to help meet all the needs of our small businesses.

I encourage you to consider participating by visiting roundrockcares.org.

There are many other ways people in our community are stepping up to take care of each other. Local sewing clubs are making masks for our first responders and medical personnel to use in the field. Round Rock Area Serving Center, Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties and the Round Rock ISD are distributing food to those in need.

Our City departments that offer quality of life services, such as Parks and Recreation, Sports Management and Tourism, and the public Library, have found creative ways to keep our minds and bodies active in this uncertain time, even from inside our homes.

We encourage you to not only stay up to date on information about COVID-19 but see all the ways you can help others at roundrocktexas.gov/coronavirus. Be sure to visit our resources page for an interactive tool to find resources available in Williamson County by ZIP code.

Round Rock helping Round Rock is what we have done for years and we are counting on you to help again and make a difference. We’re in this together, and we will come out stronger than before. That’s who we are as Texans, and that’s the Round Rock way.

Cervantes: Library ready to serve in times of crisis

Library Director Michelle Cervantes writes a regular column for the Round Rock Leader. This one appeared online on March 30.


Michelle Cervantes
Library Director

Thursday morning, I emptied the outside book return at the library, and there were only a few items to quarantine. Not enough to fill one shelf on the book cart.

This time last year we were recovering from one of our busiest spring break seasons on record. This year is completely different.

In the book return, there was a copy of the Leader. A front page caption read, “The Round Rock Public Library has closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

I still can’t believe it. In my long career in public service, I’ve never experienced anything like this.

After a long week of stressful situations and difficult decisions, I went home, sat in my backyard to soak up the sunshine and sent my sister an Instagram message, “Livin’ la COVIDA loca.”

We are living in a crazy time right now. But serving during a time of crisis is nothing new to public libraries. We were there to help survivors after Hurricane Katrina and after 9/11, when the New York libraries opened mobile units.

The library has always been a refuge. This time is different, because we had to close our doors to the public. Once I got over the shock of that reality, it was time to figure out how to serve in a completely virtual world.

The next challenge we are preparing for is how to handle returned items. Whenever we reopen, we will have a wave of materials coming back to the library. Our plan is to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quarantine materials for the recommended period of time.

We understand the concerns that many people have about virus spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. The quarantine plan is a precautionary measure, and unless materials were directly exposed to the virus, they are not contaminated.

On the bright side, this has been a great opportunity to share all of our digital resources with you. We don’t have to worry about having to quarantine ebooks.

The staff have been working diligently on projects such as moving the fiction collection, cleaning, inventory, virtual programs, virtual training, answering phone calls and emails, checking and posting on social media, updating the website and assisting other City departments.

Remember, the Round Rock Public Library is here to serve our community through tough times:

  • Virtual library services remain available at all times, and we are expanding the digital collection.
  • The book return is closed. Keep any items you’ve borrowed until we reopen or announce other options.
  • We are waiving all late fees accrued during the closure.
  • Staff are available to take your calls and emails, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Thank you for your patience as we navigate these unprecedented challenges. Stay home, stay safe and hope to see you soon!