Today was a public meeting of the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board – the Board put together by Governor Granholm to decide the fate of the Michigan Library and Historical Center in the wake of the disbanding of History Arts and Library (HAL) in 2009.
Western Michigan Genealogical Society was asked to make a presentation to the Board and that “honour” fell to me.
Below is the text of what I presented to them this morning in writing. I also got 3 minutes for a presentation, so read out my written submission, but omitted the parts that are in blue below to keep within the 3 minutes.
More comment on today’s event will follow in a separate posting this evening or tomorrow morning.
Good Morning. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Board this morning.
I’m Roger Moffat representing the more than 300 members of Western Michigan Genealogical Society. At 55 years old we are the second oldest genealogical society in Michigan. Our members, while concentrated in West Michigan, are spread across 24 states – from California to Massachusetts, Montana to Florida.
We are here today because important decisions need to be made affecting the future of the Library of Michigan. This isn’t the first time that Michigan has had economic problems. In the early 1980s the future of the Library of Michigan was also at great risk. But instead of closing the Library, the seeds were planted so that by 1989 the Michigan Library and Historical Center – the very building we are in and discussing today – was opened.
This beautiful facility was designed, engineered and built to be a Library. The costs of converting it to any other purpose – office space for example – would be significant, and must be considered since this is all about saving the State some money.
West Michigan is home to Frederick Meijer, whose father founded the Meijer supermarket chain, and who trademarked the phrase “One Stop Shopping”.
We firmly believe that the full genealogical collection within the Library of Michigan should remain as it is. All contained within the Library where it can continue to provide One Stop Shopping for researchers of all “disciplines” – whether that be legal; genealogical; family, cultural, land or military history; or something else.
I’m sure you will hear more today about the importance of the full collection as a priceless resource that records the origins and cultures of the peoples that have melded together as Michiganders, as well as the origins and cultures of Michiganders who have gone on to other places.
The genealogical collection has been accumulated over the past 180 years, since before statehood, by individual citizens, public servants, foundations and dedicated employees, into one of the 10 largest genealogical collections in the country today.
Protecting the collection from being divided, dispersed and scattered should be our top priority. We should not, for the sake of a short term crisis now, do anything that can’t easily be undone when better times and circumstances return. If the collection does get divided and scattered it would at the least be very difficult to re-assemble, and more likely impossible.
Let’s take this challenge as an opportunity to demonstrate who we are in Michigan. Let’s work together to create a solution that is a win win for everybody.
For example, in the current absence of sufficient State funding to keep the Library and its collections in its current space, perhaps there is some entity we could work with to temporarily rent some of that space from the State for $250,000 and make it available to the Library of Michigan for its continued use as the Library space that it was designed, engineered and built to be. Then when better times return the State would be able to resume providing an undiminished resource to researchers from all over the United States.
Let’s not forget the example of the dedicated people from 25 years ago, whose vision, enthusiasm and hard work led to this current Michigan Library and Historical Center, and come up with a plan to turn this current challenge into a huge positive for Michigan.
Let’s demonstrate to the public, to the genealogical, historical and cultural communities, including the hundreds who attended rallies at the Capitol last year, the thousands who were concerned enough to sign an online petition, that as we have in the past, and will do again in the future – we in Michigan can cooperate and solve tough problems.
We want to work with the Board to develop ideas that will preserve this valuable resource to benefit the citizens of Michigan and beyond and send a positive message showing the entire country that Michigan is proud of its heritage and people.