Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The loss of a library impacts research

One of the most common stories in genealogical research is the loss of records, usually through a "courthouse fire." Less common, but still a major impact on the availability of records are the stories of records stored in damp courthouse basements or piled in attics. Apparently, the citizens of Michigan are faced with an even more egregious issue, the voluntary dismantling of the State Library. A recent Executive Order from the Governor of Michigan, "Executive Order No. 2009 - 36, Effective Oct. 1, 2009, Outlines Reorganization of HAL Agencies"provides for the implementation of cost saving measures, including "Eliminating circulation of specific collections (including, but not limited to, the Main, Dewey, and General Reference collections, the Michigan collection, the Michigan Documents collection, and the Rare Book collection) or, alternatively, transferring such collection to other suitable institutions." In short, the death of the library.

It is lamentable that local and state governments target the weak and defenseless whenever there is a budget crisis. In my own city, Mesa, Arizona, I have seen a budget challenged city government cut back on library services, parks, recreation and threaten fire and police and fail to address many other non-essential services. However, in Michigan's case, the cuts are irreversible. Unlike the City of Mesa, where they are cutting public swimming pools, a swimming pool can always be re-opened or rebuilt. Unfortunately, libraries, once dismantled, cannot be reconstructed. One-of-a-kind reference materials are exactly that, one-of-a-kind.

Michigan's loss is not just a private Michigan affair. The loss of a major library with extensive genealogical resources is a catastrophe. It is an indication of our society's fundamental problems that something as serious as the loss of an entire state library goes practically unnoticed. Look at the resources that may be lost. Link. Earlier in the year, there were other Executive Orders impacting the Library. See Granny's Genealogy.

This is an issue that impacts the entire genealogical community, especially, if the Governor is able to make this closure without any opposition. What about the other budget challenged states? Will closing State Libraries be seen as a politically expedient that will face little opposition?

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