Jul 302009

Michigan, like most other US states is in dire economic troubles. For Michigan perhaps more than other states, it has been going on for a long time, perhaps too closely tied to the US auto industry.

In early July, Governor Granholm issued her Executive Order 2009-36 breaking up the HAL – the department of History, Arts and Library. Unless this order is vetoed within 60 days by the Michigan Legislature, it will take effect on 1 October. At this time the Library will fall under control of the Department of Education, whose Superintendent is instructed to take further cost saving steps.

Much has been written and postulated about what this might mean:

  • the current collection could be broken up and distributed amongst several different libraries/institutions who might or might not actually want them, and might or might not be equipped to handle them;
  • the archives will be transferred to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR);
  • the current building will be turned into a school;
  • the end of research in Michigan as we know it;

It is often noted that the Library of Michigan has the 10th largest genealogical collection in the United States. The collection goes back to 1828 – before Michigan was a state even – and now has 5.7 million items on 27 miles of shelving – what a travesty it would be if this was broken up and became more difficult to access, or even lost to researchers completely!!!

Now I get that there’s a need to not waste money in these times when it’s not so easy to come by money – state income tax revenues are falling for a variety of reasons, and people are on hard times, with un-employment having hit 15% in Michigan now.

But there has been a 181 year investment in this collection, and that should not be sacrificed in a moment of difficulty.

The Executive Order 2009-36 was aimed at saving $2,000,000 – 2 Million with an M. – that “seems” like a lot of money. BUT the shortfall in the Michigan budget is $2,000,000,000 – that’s 2 Billion with a B!!!!!!

So the anticipated savings from this measure are 1/1000 of what’s needed –  1/10th of 1% – that’s hardly even a rounding error – or as Amy Johnson Crow noted on facebook it’s what might be called “Digital Dust“.

So call me perhaps cynical, or “missing the obvious”, or “don’t know what I’m talking about”, but it seems like $2,000,000 “saved” will barely cover the costs of thinking about what to do with the Library of Michigan, the Michigan Archives, and other departments affected by this, let alone actually carrying out the plan once it’s been formulated and argued about.

One of the things that completely escapes me about this situation, and situations like it, is that there’s never a word even whispered about “tax increase”.

Yes, cutting wasteful spending is a much more sellable and palatable option, but eventually you get to the point where there simply is no more waste to cut, so you have to start cutting the non-waste – the good stuff – like 100 State Troopers – who have not long completed the training programme – so they’ve already cost the state a bunch of money to train, now they’re let go.

Michigan has somewhere between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 taxpayers (http://www.michigandaily.com/node/35875 indicates 5.5 million in 2002). A measly 40 cents each is at least $2,000,000 – and we’re back to the number you first thought of, and there’s no need to dismantle the Department of History, Arts and Library.

I know Lisa and I can afford an extra 40 cents each a year on our taxes, as I’m sure a great many people in Michigan can, so why doesn’t some politician actually man-up enough to ask for those 40 cents, rather than cut, cut, cut, cut, cut – pretty soon cutting state services is going to be less popular than increasing taxes would be.

So when I go to Lansing on 5 August for the “Hands Around the Library“. I’ll have a couple of Sacajawea dollars in my pocket, and if Governor Granholm wants them for the Library she can have them – only $1,999,998 left to go.

Further reading….

Michigan Genealogical Council is organising “Hands Around the Library” for 5 August in Lansing. There website has links to a number of articles of interest.

The Lansing State Journal has run several articles in the last few weeks Lansing State Journal and Lansing State Journal.

The Toledo Blade has posted an editorial (heck Toledo isn’t even in Michigan now) and an article.

Western Michigan Genealogical Society President Don Bryant wrote to the members with his thoughts.

The Lansing State Journal is running a poll on their website (the poll closes at 7 PM Thursday) asking “Have you ever conducted genealogy research at a library?”. As I write this the results are 68% YES out of 1,974 votes. I bet that surprises a few Poll-iticians, some of whom probably barely know there is a State Library.

Thanks for reading – remember what the top of this page said – Roger’s Ramblings 🙂

 Posted by at 4:56 pm

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