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Library of Michigan update

Dear genealogists,

You may have heard of an anonymous 27-page document circulating in government circles that gives suggestions on how to cut almost $3 billion from the State of Michigan budget for the Fiscal 2011-2012 year.  Among the possibilities floated in this document are:

  • Eliminate funding for the Library of Michigan.  This would eliminate all staff and make collections inaccessible to the public.

  • Eliminate State Aid to Michigan Libraries.  This would result in the loss of $5.6 million in federal matching funds, which are used to support the Michigan eLibrary (MeL) and the Michigan eLibrary Catalog (MeLCat).
  • Privatize Higher Education facilities.
  • Shift much of the State funding for Community Colleges to K-12 School Aid funds.
  • Eliminate Veterans Service Organization funding, to name just a few.

With the Governor-elect Snyder’s transition staff calling the Michigan Library and Historical Center their home base for the transition period before he takes office, it is an opportunity for us to make a positive impact by using the collections available to us as genealogists and historical researches.

Over the past decade, the Library of Michigan was absorbed by the Michigan Department of Education and its appropriation cut by 2/3 or nearly $24.0 million, leaving a total appropriation of $11.0 million in fiscal 2009-10.

Earlier this year, the Michigan Center for Reinvention and Innovation reaffirmed the Michigan Library and Historical Center as the “people’s building” one of very few government buildings that are completely open to the public.  Their final report also urged the historical and genealogical collections remain in the building and to be accessible to researchers.

The Michigan Library and Historical Center is a popular destination for Lansing visitors.  Next to the Capitol and Michigan State University, it is the third most popular destination in the Greater Lansing Area.  We are on the eve of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War beginning next year, and the Bi-centennial of the War of 1812 the following year, the demand for these state and national treasures from the Archives and Library will increase.

Over the next several weeks, please try to make an extra visit to the Library of Michigan and the Archives of Michigan to show by example how important it is to keep these collections available to the public.  Please urge the members of your society to do the same.  These collections and records are not limited to genealogists, but are used by historical researchers of all types.  Write a letter to the new administration and let them know how important these collections are to the citizens of our great State.

Best wishes,
Michigan Genealogical Council

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Action Alert:  Urgent!

Support for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) Reauthorization Needed by Wednesday.

NHPRC is due for reauthorization in Congress this year-a year when fiscal issues are hotly debated, and very serious situations are developing for essential programs like NHPRC.  On Thursday, July 1 at 2:30, the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and the National Archives will mark up, or vote on,  House bill, HR 5616 (new version of HR 1556.)  It is now more similar to the comparable Senate bill (S. 2872), but the Senate version still calls for reauthorization of NHPRC at only $10 million.  It is essential that the subcommittee approve the $20 million authorization version.  There are some strong anti-spending voices on the committee-so it is critical that we let Chairman Lacy Clay (D-MO) know that the archives, history, and genealogy community wants to see this bill passed.  Please call, fax, or email Chairman Clay and the subcommittee members by Wednesday evening.  It is particularly important if you are in a state with one of the subcommittee members that you write directly to your member.

Members are:
Carolyn Maloney, D, NY  fax: 202-225-4709
Steve Driehaus, D, OH  fax:  202-225-3012
Henry Cuellar, D, TX  fax:  202-225-1641
Judy Chu, D, CA  fax:  202-225-5467
Eleanor Holmes Norton, D, DC  fax:  202-225-3002
Danny Davis, D, IL  fax:  202-225-5641
John Mica, R, FL  fax:  202-226-0821
Patrick McHenry, R, NC  fax: 202-225-0316
Lynn Westmoreland, R, GA  fax:  202-225-2515
Jason Chaffetz, R, UT  fax:  202-225-5629

Call or send faxes to:
Chairman William Lacy Clay
Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and the National Archives
B-349C Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC  20515

Fax:  202-225-4784 or Email:  send as a pdf to Anthony.Clark@mail.house.gov.

Points to make in the letter (It can be brief and stress the first three points):

HR 5616 (new version of HR 1556), calls for reauthorizing the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) at the funding level of $20 million. It is scheduled to be marked up on Thursday, July 1 at 2:30 pm ET.

  • IF YOU ARE WRITING TO A SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBER, URGE THEM TO ATTEND THE MEETING AND VOTE IN FAVOR OF HR 5616, to significantly improve the condition of and access to the American historical record.
  • NHPRC is the only federal agency that provides grants specifically for archives, which it does through competitive grants for projects with a national scope and a modest State-National Partnership grant category for grants to states.
  • NHPRC is a good investment of federal dollars.  All grants must provide a 50% cost-share in local funds.  NHPRC grants often serve as “seed money” to start archival programs or additional archival activities.  Many institutions then continue to support the program with their own dollars after the grant period.
  • NHPRC stimulates jobs in the archives and records management profession.  Historical records projects are “jobs-heavy.”  On the average 75% of NHPRC funds for projects are used to pay staff.
  • Provide information on why NHPRC is important to your region/state/institution, or tell a personal story about your use of a record or its importance to you.

For more information visit: National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Thank you.

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June Legislative update

June 18, 2010

Dear Fellow Genealogists:

The Michigan Genealogical Council (MGC) would like to take this opportunity to bring everyone up-to-date on the events surrounding the collections at the Library of Michigan.  We would like to thank everyone for their support as talks progressed.

As many of you are aware, the Library of Michigan is facing a projected 23 percent cut in funding and a loss of 13 staff positions (in addition to the 16 staff lost resulting from the Governor’s executive order) by the end of this current fiscal year (September 30, 2010).  Due to this projected loss in staff, Nancy Robertson, State Librarian, is forced to make a difficult decision.  She has had to look at the services the library provides and make some painful cuts.  One of the proposed cuts was to find new stewards for several of their collections, among them the non-Michigan genealogical collection.

The position of the MGC has always been that any solution must meet the following three (3) criteria:

  1. Keep the collection together under one roof.
  2. Keep the collection accessible to the public.
  3. Keep the collection under state control and protection.

In January, Governor Granholm announced her appointments to the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board.  This board is still working on their recommendation (now due to the Governor on July 1, 2010).  They have made it clear that their focus will be on the uses of the 2nd and 3rd floor of the building, and they will not make any recommendations in regards to the collections.  MGC representative, Dr. Frank Boles, has attended every meeting and has done everything possible to express the position of the Council.  We would like to thank Dr. Boles for all his hard work and efforts on our behalf.

During this time, the Michigan Historical Center expressed an interest in moving the non-Michigan collection to the State Archives.  This plan was endorsed by the MGC as it met all three of our criteria, and we applaud both the Department of Natural Resources and Environment and the Department of Education for being willing to work together to find a solution.

The cost of the move is estimated between $80,000 – $100,000.  Due to many generous donations, no tax payer dollars would be needed to fund the cost of this move.  The Michigan Genealogical Council has received permission from the Abrams Foundation to use $10,000 of money that was earmarked for the death record project to be diverted to this move.  MGC also pledged $5,000 of its own money to this effort.

Many local societies are also willing to donate money, if needed.  Pledges of support come in weekly.  The MGC knows of, and would like to thank, the following societies that have pledged their support:

  • Ingham County Genealogical Society
  • Jackson County Genealogical Society
  • Lenawee County Family Researchers
  • Mid Michigan Genealogical Society
  • Genealogical Society of Monroe County
  • Stockbridge Area Genealogical/Historical Society
  • Genealogical Society of Washtenaw County

Unfortunately, in March the Senate added language to the 2010-2011 Education Appropriation bill (SB 1154) that states the following:

Sec. 804.  The department and library of Michigan shall maintain custody of all collections maintained, housed, owned, or otherwise kept by the library of Michigan in fiscal year 2009-2010, and shall not sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of those collections.  The department and library of Michigan need not make the non-Michigan genealogy or federal documents collections available to the public.

The MGC has problems with this legislation.  First, there was no additional funding, so it almost guarantees that the non-Michigan genealogy collection will not be made available to the public, and secondly it does not allow the transfer to the Archives, which would be able to keep the collection open to the public.

While well intentioned by the legislature, this has put negotiations on hold between the departments of Education and Natural Resources and Environment.

While this bill is currently in committee to negotiate the house and senate versions, this wording is not up for debate as this section of the bill was passed by both the House and the Senate.  Therefore, this language will be heading to the Governor once the final bill is passed.

The major attraction at the Library of Michigan is not only the collections, but also the knowledgeable staff.  If the non-Michigan genealogy collection is allowed to go dark, we will lose more than just access to the collection, the staff will be diminished.  The genealogists in this state will have an uphill battle to open these collections and to reassemble a knowledgeable staff.

Currently, we are in a holding pattern, along with the library and archives, while we let the budget process play out.  We are also keeping our eye on the MCIR board, and look forward to reading their recommendations to the Governor.

We will keep you informed as the process progresses.  We hope to have more information in the next month.

In solidarity,

Cynthia Grostick,  President
Thomas Koselka,  Corresponding Secretary & Legislative Liaison

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Randy Riley with NGS Presidient Jan Alpert

On Friday evening, April 30, Library of Michigan Special Collections Manager Randy Riley was awarded the prestigious Filby Award for Genealogical Librarianship at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Salt Lake City.

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March 28, 2010

Dear Fellow Genealogists:

There is a supplemental Department of Education Appropriations bill that has gone to the Governor for her signature.  In that bill there is language that would prevent the library from disposing of the collections.  This wording is also in the Department of Education’s budget bill for the next fiscal year.  However, there is wording about which we as a community need to be very cautious.  It states that the collections need not be made available to the public.

While we are encouraged by the legislators’ reaction to the plight of the Library of Michigan, we would like to remind everyone of a word of warning.  There is a saying that says, “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.”   While this wording would keep the collection together at the library, there is nothing in the bill that says when the economy gets better, it would then be available to the public.  This language, as currently written, would allow the library to mothball its entire collection.  The genealogists would then have another battle on its hands when the economy gets better to open the collections back up to the public.

The MGC wants to inform the community that negotiations are being actively pursued to develop better options including the possibility of moving the collection from the Library over to the State Archives.  This would keep the collection available to the public during the hours that the Archives operate.  If the collections remained open to the public, then seminars could still take place and bring Michigan those much needed tourism dollars.  Private funding could provide additional flexibility.

As Curt Witcher testified on March 15 to the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board, Michigan could ride the increase in genealogy and heritage tourism due to the enthusiasm the “Who Do You Think You Are?” television series generates.  If the collections are mothballed, then those tourism dollars would instead go elsewhere.

We do not object to this language being in the supplemental appropriations bill for this fiscal year.  We consider it premature, however, for the community to endorse specific language for the next fiscal year’s appropriations bills that might have the effect of limiting available options.

Rather, we would suggest that any representations of community endorsement should be limited to urging solutions that would keep the collections in one building, open to the public, and bringing in tourism dollars.

We may be able to recommend more specific measures in a few weeks.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at president@mimgc.org.

Thank you.

Cynthia Grostick, President

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March 5, 2010

Dear MGC Society Presidents & Delegates:

First I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the genealogy community for all their words of support.  They are very welcome during this time.

Many of you have asked what we can do to help.  Now is your chance.

As you are aware, the Governor has appointed her Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board (MCIR).  While our representative, Dr. Frank Boles from Central Michigan University, was not appointed, Dr. Boles has been asked to participate in public comment at both the February and March meetings.

The focus of the March 15 meeting is to learn about the various collections at the Library of Michigan.  This is our opportunity to educate the board on the importance of what is being called the “non-Michigan” genealogy collection and to explain that this is a misnomer and that it is all Michigan.  While the time for public comment is 3 minutes per person, if testimony lasts for quite a while because everyone is testifying, then we genealogists will lose the Board’s attention.

Therefore, so as not to overwhelm the board and so that we speak as one cohesive voice, MGC is asking for six volunteers to represent genealogists/Council and speak regarding a specific aspect of the collection.

For example, someone would speak on family histories, another on the importance of census records from other states, etc.  Dr. Boles would end the public comment by tying it all together.  We estimate this will take roughly 21 minutes.

We would like to have various parts of our state represented.  So if you would be willing to drive to Lansing that day, and if you are interested in representing Council and testifying at this meeting, please contact Mr. Tom Koselka by Wednesday, March 10 at tom@mimgc.org.  If you would like to submit written comments that pertain to the Library of Michigan collection you may send them to the same address.  Please place ‘MCIR” in the subject line.  We will print them out and pass them on to the MCIR Board.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of you that were able to go to the library and use the collection during the February MCIR meeting.  I received praise regarding everyone’s professionalism.  Therefore, if you are able to again be at the library during the March meeting, that would be great.  It is so important to show how much the collection is valued, and the best way to do that is to show that the library is packed and the collection is being used. Therefore, we would like to encourage you to come and again spend the day using the library and archives.

Again I would like to thank the community for their support of Council during this time.  We are still working towards a solution to this problem.  While we cannot give many details at this time, please know that we are working hard and hopefully we may be able to say more at our March delegate meeting.

Best wishes,

Cynthia S. Grostick, President
Michigan Genealogical Council

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February 21, 2010

Dear Fellow Genealogists:

As you may be aware, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) issued a letter on Friday, February 12, 2010, regarding the status of the Library of Michigan and it’s various collections.

On Wednesday, February 17, 2010, I met with Michigan’s State Librarian, Nancy Robertson.  The reality is grim.  The library is facing a 23 percent cut in funding.  This cut has forced MDE to examine what collections and services the library provides, and what the core functions of a state library are as stated in Michigan law.  Based on that, MDE has determined what collections/services currently housed in the library fit the identified core services and which do not.  It was a difficult and painful choice for them to make.  Unfortunately, it was decided that while the non-Michigan genealogical collection and the Federal Documents collection are valuable, they do not fit into the core functions of a state library, nor is it mentioned in the state’s constitution that the state must provide those collections/services.  The Library is also facing a 13-person reduction in staff.  They will have gone from 100 staff at its height, to 30 as of October 1, 2010.

Ms. Robertson also informed me that the library will become a non-circulating library.  This means that they no longer need the second copy of items from the Michigan collection.  Therefore, the second copies will go with the Genealogical collection.  The items that do remain in the library’s possession will be consolidated to the 4th and 5th floors.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) has invited Council to send a representative to the meetings of the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board (MCIR) as an observer, and we have been informed that we will be allowed to have limited time for comment.  Dr. Frank Boles, Director of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University, a respected professional in the librarian and historical communities, has agreed to represent Council and the genealogy community as our spokesperson.

During times of crises, a process needs to be followed.  The first step is information gathering, the second is evaluation, the third is negotiations, and the fourth is action.  The MGC is currently working on gathering and evaluating information.  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.

Many alternative scenarios have been mentioned; however, MGC’s goals are that the collections remain under one roof and under state control.   If you have any ideas or suggestions, please contact MGC at migencouncil@att.net.

Thank you for your patience during this time of turmoil.  We will continue to keep you updated as events unfold.

Sincerely,

Cynthia Grostick, President
Michigan Genealogical Council

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