Monday, July 27, 2009

Sad Days for the Library of Michigan

Let me start off by saying that it breaks my heart to think of the wonderful genealogy collections at the Library of Michigan being broken up into parts and sold or distributed to other institutions. It has taken many years and lots of tax payers' dollars (not to mention the tremendous efforts of dedicated employees and volunteers) to amass this collection that we genealogists in Michigan value tremendously and are darn proud of.

The library building is wonderful, the holdings are wonderful, and the staff is wonderful.

Where would we genealogists be without it all? I haven't a clue.

Having said that, our state is in the position of having to make drastic budget cuts to essential services. Reality check time. We just don't have the money to support non-essential services in the way we have in the past. I've been asking myself for some time now how we can continue to operate the state supported cultural programs while we eliminate Michigan State Police officers and close posts.

It's easy to wink and say we could do with one less State Police officer when we see them in the median of the interstate with their radar guns in action. But if you've ever been stranded on an icy freeway or caught in a 20-car pileup, you know what essential services they provide. And the state crime lab is waaay behind on their cases, especially since the crime lab in Detroit was shut down. And what about budget cuts for state prisons? Does anyone think we should shut more down and have more felons on the streets? Not me.

Please don't brand me as a traitor here. What I said in the beginning is truly what I feel. But I also know that we can't keep doing business as usual here in Michigan. We simply can't afford it. Personally, my safety is a higher concern for me than my hobby. But that doesn't mean I'm willing to turn my back on my hobby altogether.

There is a group of concerned genealogists here in Michigan who is planning an assembly on the steps of the State Capitol followed by a walk to the Library of Michigan where they will hold hands encircling the library in a show of support. The date is August 5th, 2009, time 9:45am. I urge you to be there to show your concern for the Library of Michigan. I'm going to try my best to be there to show my support.

I seriously doubt if the Library as we know it with all it's wonderful collections can be spared the chopping block given the current economic situation here in Michigan. And I don't necessarily think it should. But it is my most fervent hope that those in a position to determine the outcome of this situation can find a way to keep the collections together as they are now. I don't know what kinds of options there might be for this to occur but I sincerely hope they are seriously considered and prioritized. I also think it is essential that the collections continue to be made available to the public for free as they are now. That makes the task all the more difficult. But, we have some very intelligent and talented individuals working on this at the state level and I'm sure they'd like to feel some support from their constituents. I say we show them that we care about the resources in our library and we don't want them to be redistributed.

If you can't be at the Capitol on August 5th, please show your concern and support by contacting Michigan legislators. You can find the House Reps here and the Senators here.

For more details about the August 5th assembly, see the Michigan Genealogical Council web site.

Please try to get the word out to as many people as you can. Thank you!


  1. And I thought things in California were bad (they are). I'll be at the Aug rally in spirit.

  2. Thanks Elizabeth! We appreciate you being with us in spirit!

  3. I guess I need to write up a blog about this too.

    Speaking with Michigan as my home state (and as the home state of much of my family still), there is something that needs to be called out on legislators.

    The legislators need to understand that very little has been identified in the way of actual cost savings in such a move.

    What will likely happen is that the collections are shuttered, sold to whomever, and the building will sit vacant, because there are no concrete plans to save money and/or increase permanent revenue from the facility. One organization mentioned for taking space in the building said that they would need to fundraise before they could move into a new facility - and how long is that going to take?

    And they are talking about doing some major renovation work to match what is being said are the plans - which is also not without cost to the State.

    What the State needs to consider, is how much money the Library/Archives/Museum could potentially bring in if they started charging for the facility, if they sold memberships, and if they ran the facility similar to other museums/archives/libraries, such as the Minnesota History Center (, the Chicago History Museum ( to name a couple examples. Right now, all there is to speak of is the Library foundation, which buys new objects, not an option for a paying facility.

    There are options! This order does nothing to explore any of them.

    As a user of the library, I come from Chicago at least once a year to find things. I'd be hard pressed to find a better resource in the entire state. I would be very happy indeed to drop $50-60 a year on doing nothing but supporting the facility and its work - and I know many genealogists who have publicly stated that.

    Another example would be to look to the Florida library system, in which the libraries are forced to live with service cuts but have found ways to live within their means.

    There are plenty of reasons why the Library of Michigan should be saved that are not only for the hobbies of many people, but also for its resources on the history of the state, resources for entrepreneurship, and the tourism revenues that travelers bring into the state because of it - the impact on the economy is not something the governor should take so lightly.

  4. Jasia, This is so sad. We've loved researching at the library of Michigan when traveling in the area (we live in Washington State). It's our hope that somehow the facility can be spared. Sue Edminster

  5. I attended one of Lt Governor Cherry's "Streamlining Government" town hall meetings last night.

    A number of genealogists spoke in support of the library.

    We need to remember that the Abrams foundation has donated nearly 3,000,000 to support the excellent genealogical collection at the Library.

    We might also need to consider that moving the collection will cost far more than anyone realizes.

    The building itself was custom built for to house the collection, the museum and the archives. Use as an office building as proposed would require extensive remodeling.

    The state representatives at the town hall meeting said they did not know about the scope of the executive order closing the library. One also said she did not know about the rare books, the extent of the collection or even what it's vast resources might be.
    The order:

    I am again urging EVERYONE to write snail mail letters to their representatives and senators urging them to save the library.

    After you do that, call and e-mail too.

    Closing the library and mothballing the collection, limiting the hours, charging user fees and any number of other alternatives are far better than dismantling a collection that took 180 years to build.

    See you in Lansing.

  6. When I moved back to Michigan earlier this year, I was distressed to learn that Macomb County Public Library had just been closed. This is a terrible trend.

    See you in Lansing!