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:
Keep the collection together under one roof.
Keep the collection accessible to the public.
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.
Cynthia Grostick, President
Thomas Koselka, Corresponding Secretary & Legislative Liaison