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Sep 12

The Library and Archives of Michigan, What Now?

This is an article which contains my opinion, and my opinion only.

Governor Granholm has amended her original Executive Order (EO 2009-36) with an additional Executive Order, 2009-43. Both the orders can be read here.

I have read several articles regarding this amendment, but most of the recent press coverage has focused on Last Thursday’s rally at the Capitol. Shirley Hodges wrote an article which has been duplicated on Dick Eastman’s Blog.

Today, I’m posting my own thinking on the situation.

The genealogist in me wants everything to remain the same, the Library and Archives of Michigan including the Museum, my local libraries, and museums, the wonderful electronic world, all ways to find information. As an American citizen, I have become accustomed to getting the information I want. As a researcher, I believe access to records is crucial.

The little girl in me remembers daily trips to the library on the way home from school, and the librarian allowed me to check out the posted limit of books every day. She never censored what I read, she always had good suggestions, and she was still there when my daughters were reading and growing.

The adult in in me understands that information is the cornerstone of of a free society, and that history is a guide for navigating the future.

I know there is no doubt that the rally organized by the Michigan Genealogical Council and the constant bar age of mail, e-mail, and calls from genealogists and other supporters of the Library and Archives of Michigan helped produce the amendment to EO 2009-36. The rally held last week at the Capitol helped to emphasize that genealogists and historians are not the only voters concerned about library services.

The wording in the amendment to the EO is not as clear as some Library and Archives supporters, including me, would like. There is room for interpretation about what collections and services will actually be protected and preserved; and where, how, when, and if, access to current collections will be continued.

It is clear that responsibility for the Museum will be transferred to the Department of Natural Resources, and that the Civil War Flag collection will be protected.

It is also clear that the functions of the Library and Archives will be transferred to the Department of Education, and:

“The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall administer the assigned functions transferred to the Department of Education under Section II.B of this Order in such ways as to promote efficient administration and shall make internal organizational changes as may be administratively necessary to complete the realignment of responsibilities under this Order. To achieve efficient administration and effectuate necessary cost savings consistent with appropriations provided by law, the Library of Michigan shall evaluate and implement measures designed to reduce expenditures and eliminate duplicative services. Subject to available appropriations, the Library of Michigan shall focus on the provision of leadership and critical services to libraries and patrons throughout this state, including, but not limited to, all of the following…”

The emphasis is mine, but the implication is clear: critical services will be protected. The services actually itemized are:

  • “..the Michigan eLibrary (MeL) and MelCat, the statewide online catalog and resource sharing systems..”
  • “..state-level support for the cost savings and effective delivery of statewide library services achieved through the leadership of the Library of Michigan and the collaboration and resource sharing of libraries..”
  • “Preserving important collections maintained by the Library of Michigan, including the Michigan Collection, the Rare Books Collection, and the Genealogy Collection.”

I am encouraged that support will continue for MeL and MelCat. It is good news and that the Rare Books Collection, the Michigan Collection and the Genealogy Collection will be “preserved”. I also know that preservation is not the same as access.

Michigan is suffering from a severe economic crisis, funds are not available for everything. Cuts will be taking place in many areas, not just libraries. In an ideal world, the Library and Archives of Michigan would remain open on the current schedule in their current location. That may not be possible or realistic. I do believe the most efficient action is to maintain collections in their current location, which was built to house them. Although limited hours and services are not desirable, they are much better than splitting or moving the collection.

Michigan must enact a balanced budget by September 30. I believe that if we want the Library and Archives remain open in the current facility, we must again make our opinions known to the Governor, and our senators and representatives.

For the rest of this month, I request that you contact the Governor, your Senators and Representatives, and voice your support for continuing funding of the Library of Michigan at current levels, maintaining current collections in the current building. Michigan residents may find and contact your representative here, and find and contact your senator here. Now is the time to thank Governor Granholm for amending EO 2009-36, and letting her know that the current facility and funding are of paramount importance. You may contact Governor Granholm here, through her contact page, and via an opinion form which is here. If you are not an resident of Michigan, you may make your opinion known here.

Our next mission should be to contact the Michigan State Board of Education members, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, to whom the responsibility for the Library is being transferred. The money for Michigan libraries, including the library of Michigan will be controlled in their budget. The message should be clear, protect the Library and the Archives. Do what it takes to keep free and open access to the important collections housed there.

2 comments

  1. Dean L. McLeod

    These pressures are being felt all across the country. I believe I see the future of archives and libraries in the public/private initiatives that are occurring in the digitization of collections. Massive projects are underway that will result in much greater access, while at the same time preserving the collections. Perhaps this will ease the budgetary burden of staffing for genealogists and local historians?

  2. Granny Pam

    Thanks for the comment, Dean. Digitization is a welcome step. However, years are needed to digitize the vast resources in the archives and libraries across Michigan. Many records are simply not a priority, yet hold much value for individual researchers. I hope digitization will continue, but I also hope to enjoy physical access to archives, courthouses and libraries.

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