Today – 19 May 2010 – was the 5th public meeting of the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board, and the 4th one that I’ve attended. I had expected that this would be the last meeting before the Governor’s deadline of 1 June, but apparently that deadline has been pushed back a bit. There will be 1 more meeting on 25 June 2010 12 – 2 PM so the Board members can review their report which should be written by then, and then it will be submitted to Governor Granholm after that.
Today I signed up to speak in the Public Comment part of the meeting, after listening to the Board members in their deliberations, which today largely focussed on what the contents of the report are likely to be. I had a prepared statement copied which was distributed to the Board members as I started speaking – good thing too, since as unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I managed to miss a couple of the points I wanted to make, so hopefully they read them. Below is the text:
Good Afternoon. I’m Roger Moffat, a Board Member of Western Michigan Genealogical Society and the Michigan Genealogical Council, speaking to you today as a genealogist (with no roots in Michigan!!) and member of the public. This is my 4th MCIR Meeting (out of 5?)
Randy Riley – Special Collections Manager at the Library of Michigan recently received the prestigious Filby Award for Genealogical Librarianship – awarded by the National Genealogical Society. This is the SECOND time this award has been make to the Library of Michigan out of 11 awards ever made. The Library of Michigan is the ONLY facility to have won this award twice. This speaks volumes to the esteem with which the Library of Michigan, its staff and collections are held in the wider genealogy community. With the collections being split across 2 facilities and 2 government departments, albeit in the same building, the stature of this collection will surely diminish.
The Michigan Genealogical Council is preparing to raise $100,000 to pay for the move of the non-Michigan genealogy collection from the Library side to the Archive side if this move is to go ahead. This is approaching HALF the total needed to pay what is estimated to be the rental of half of the current second floor. And note that the floor space is really only worth what someone will pay for it – if no one wants to/can rent the space that is emptied out by the proposed moves, then the value of that space is zero, and it may as well have stayed as it was – at least no money would have been spent making any moves or changes.
The move of the non-Michigan genealogy collection to the Archives side and the Michigan genealogy collection to a higher floor that doesn’t have the space in the centre of the floor is going to result in much reduced researcher space being available, including fewer computer stations, and fewer microfilm readers, as well as less open stack space – for example all of the non-Michigan census microfilms – some thousands of rolls – which are being moved from the Library of Michigan to the Archives side will be placed into closed stacks, with the films available on request. Researchers will be encouraged to use Ancestry.com on the computers for the census research, but there might well be restrictions on access caused by less space being available for computers to view it on. And with the Michigan/non-Michigan split creating a large physical divide between adjoining records – Michigan/Ohio, Michigan/Ontario, Michigan/Indiana, using “the collection” will become more difficult. None of this will help to make the Michigan Library and Historical Center an attractive destination for Family History Tourism.
If this move goes ahead, we’ll be looking at the situation where the Librarian of Michigan gives up being Librarian of non-Michigan books, while the Archivist of Michigan takes over being Librarian of non-Michigan books – a seemingly quite ironic situation. Shuffling apparent expenses around and between different departments has no real impact on the overall state budget – the State is still paying, and it’s paying an amount that is an amazingly small part of the overall budget and its problems.
Having the Library of Michigan under the Department of Education seems like a poor fit – the MDE seems to be continually underfunded, and it’s hard to see how the Library of Michigan will ever be anything but a very distant last when funding is being divided from an ever shrinking Education money pot.
This board should include in its recommendations that the Michigan Library and Historical Center should be solely under the control of a single Government department. Right now the obvious best fit is that this be the DNR, since they have demonstrated a willingness to make accommodations to try and help in the current situation. So setting aside the continued use of the first floor by the Services for the Blind, the rest of the building should be under 1 department rather than 2 with private groups having to pay to move things from one side to the other.
Keep things where they are – things will turn around and improve. In the meantime, the Library could operate from its current space with reduced staff, and reduced hours while plans for funding are developed – by millage/sales tax increase, community/charitable trust or anything else. Maybe the next Governor will decide that HAL as created in 2001 wasn’t such a bad idea after all. And maybe in the future we’ll be able to proudly proclaim that the Library of Michigan is the only facility to have won the Filby Award for Genealogical Librarianship THREE times!!
MCIR = Michigan Centre for Incredible* Research (*or some other word starting with I?)
The main point I missed highlighting was the thought of making a single Government department responsible for the entire building (as it was under HAL) – it makes sense to me at least 🙂
I also included a printout of this page from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources which outlined the numbers behind the increase in sales and use tax they passed in 2008 (effective 1 July 2009) – a .375% increase. That .375% increase is divided into several areas, including
19.75% to a newly created Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund to be spent onlyfor arts, arts education, and arts access, and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage (approximately $48 million in FY 2010 and $54.5 million in FY 2011).
(note that this is 19.75% of .375% = .074% = 7.4 cents on a $100 purchase).
Amazingly all we need in Michigan is a measly $1,000,000 or so!!!
Certainly means of increasing revenue for the Library of Michigan, and Archives and Museum has been a topic of discussion at these MCIR meetings, and some suggestions will be part of the final report to the Governor.