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Library of Michigan to Drop Genealogy and Federal Documents PDF Print E-mail
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Written by libraryjournal.com   
Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:40

Hopes to involve agencies/organizations outside government to take over programs


  • Must focus on core services
  • Concern from state GODORT
  • Library's 10% budget cut could get worse

The Library of Michigan, transferred last year to the Michigan Department of Education, is facing the reality of severely tightened budget, focusing on its core mission of statewide library services and service to state government, but beginning the difficult task of finding new homes for two major programs: support for the Genealogy Collection and the Regional Federal Depository Program and Federal Documents Collection.

“We are committed to working with constituents that hold them dear and get those stakeholders to help identify what the needs are and who might be new stewards,” State Librarian Nancy Robertson told LJ. “We’re hoping to work with genealogy community and find a solution by October 1.”

However, she acknowledged that the documents collection poses an even greater challenge. “It’s trickier to find someone to take it— it’s vast, 1.7 million items,” she said. “It takes up a lot of footprint of our space, and space is very expensive for the state.”

Federal documents

Leaders of the Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT) of Michigan are worried. According to President Doug Way, “it is not reasonable to expect another library to take on the regional federal depository collection, which is approximately 1.7 million pieces, and to then also take on the task of offering the services regional federal depository libraries provide.”

“We are concerned that this plan will limit access to government information by eliminating or dispersing one of the core depository collections in the state, and the only one with a mandate to maintain a comprehensive collection,” he said. (Here’s a blog post outlining further concerns.) 

“We acknowledge the importance and value of the Abrams Historical Foundation Collection of genealogy materials and the need for a Regional Federal Depository within the state of Michigan,” Robertson said in recent legislative testimony. “However, both of these important collections and functions could be maintained and supported outside of state government.”

Robertson noted Way’s suggestion that it’s unrealistic to expect any university or other entity to take the documents collection. “The reality is it’s unrealistic for us to continue,” she told LJ. “We’re cut 23% in budget and 30% in staffing.” 

She said that state library staff planned to discuss the responsibilities with the Superintendent of Documents. “Federal depository collections are the property of the federal government,” she said, “and we have an agreement to do x and y… but it just comes to a point where we can’t.”

Genealogy collection

While most state libraries have genealogy collections, non-state collections are more rare, and Robertson described Michigan’s as one of the top ten in the country, with more than 44,000 volumes of book materials and close to 100,000 volumes of microform.

The Abrams Foundation has given more than $2 million toward it and the Michigan genealogy colleciton, which will remain in state hands.

Cynthia Grostick, president of the Michigan Genealogical Council (MGC), wrote last month about her meeting with Robertson. The MGC will send a representative to the meetings of the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board (MCIR)—the entity charged with developing a solution—to observe and comment.

“While we understand that the community is outraged, we ask that everyone remain calm and let our spokesperson, Dr. Frank Boles communicate with the MCIR Board that is involved in the potential uses of the Historical Center,” she wrote. “Many alternative scenarios have been mentioned; however, MGC’s goals are that the collections remain under one roof and under state control." 

A new home?

The Michigan Library and Historical Center is the state library building, containing collections and staff and administration, with one wing serving as the Michigan Historical Center.

Will the library move out, as Governor Jennifer Granholm suggested last year? “We’re waiting to hear what MCIR board recommends,” Robertson said, referencing a report due this June.

Tough times

Last year, Granholm issued an executive order that abolished the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries, transferring the Library of Michigan to the Department of Education, with a mandate to effect cost savings. (The position of State Librarian was abolished as a gubernatorial appointment but maintained as a civil service position.) 

“We’ve been looking at what our priorities are as a state library,” Robertson said, given a 10% budget cut for FY10 and a proposed 23% budget cut for the year that begins October 1.

While the size of that cut is not resolved, “we don’t feel like we need to wait for it,” Robertson said, noting the importance of maintaining the Michigan Electronic Library and service to the legislature.

While the state library’s collections remain open to the public for circulation, including via interlibrary loan, “we’re looking at a timeline for scaling that down or shutting it off,” Robertson said. “We want to make sure we focus on what we can do well, with the resources we have so we can continue to function.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 May 2011 11:59