28 August 2009

Act Now: Michigan Library at Risk in September Vote

As reported last month, the Library of Michigan is at immediate risk of being torn apart and disseminated among multiple state agencies, never to be reassembled. All genealogists with an interest in preserving this important resource - regardless of current residence - are urged to voice their views to the legislators who will decide its future. NGS President Jan Alpert noted, "You don't have to live in Michigan to become involved. If you have ancestors who lived in Michigan you want to help preserve our 180 years of Michigan records in one central repository. Let the Michigan legislature know that you travel to Michigan to do family history research. Tourist dollars are important to the state." The 60-day window from July 13 for the State Legislature to reject this Order is rapidly coming to a close, on September 11. The following is an urgent call to action from Tom Koselka, Corresponding Secretary of the Michigan Genealogical Council, followed by the email addresses of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee:

Wednesday, the Governor issued Executive Directive 5. This was supposed to clarify her Executive Order of July 13 [abolishing the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries (HAL)]. As far as the Genealogical Collection at the Library of Michigan is concerned, this changed NOTHING. The collection is still subject to being transferred and spread out over several different institutions. While re-affirming interlibrary loan, this clarification does not restore interlibrary loan to the Michigan Collection or the Library of Michigan.

On the same day the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism recommended the passage of SB 503-527, a package of bills placing the administration of HAL under the Department of State, rather than spreading it across several state departments – Education, Natural Resources, etc... In addition, there was a Senate Concurrent Resolution 18, to disapprove of the Executive Order 2009-36 dissolving the HAL. Each item in the bill package and the Resolution was approved by a 3 to 1 vote with one absent to be sent to the Senate for a full vote.

Thursday, the full Senate voted on the items described above. The most complete news article we have come across so far is in the Detroit Free Press, which you can read at http://tinyurl.com/kudzy9. An earlier e-mail list had one vote different. The final tally according the Free Press report and reports from the Associated Press, which has appeared on several newspaper and broadcast websites is 22 yeas, 13 nays, and 2 not voting. Of special note, two Democratic Senators voted with the majority of the Senators to make this possible. For a brief analysis of these bills, visit http://tinyurl.com/mqfkgk.

There is also a resolution in the House, introduced by Rep. Rick Jones – who spoke at our rally on August 5. He has several co-sponsors from each party. While this resolution does not carry the force of law, its passage would send the Governor a strong message of disapproval.

Thank you to all who wrote a letter, visited their legislator, sent an e-mail or made a phone call. There is still much to be done. We still need to urge our Representatives to vote in favor of the Senate Concurrent Resolution. We also favor the Senate Bill package that would place all of the parts of HAL under the Secretary of State because they have all worked well together in the nine years HAL has been in existence, especially the Library and Archives, the best example being www.seekingmichigan.org. The vote in the House of Representatives will be much more difficult than the Senate. We still have much work to do!

The following are members of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. Please contact these Senators as well as your own Representatives.

Sen. Jason Allen, Chair - senjallen@senate.michigan.gov
Sen. Judson S. Gilbert, Vice-Chair - senjgilbert@senate.michigan.gov
Sen. Tony Stamas - ofctstamas@senate.michigan.gov
Sen. Hansen Clarke, Minority Vice-Chair - SenatorHansenClarke@senate.michigan.gov
Sen. Tupac A. Hunter - sentahunter@senate.michigan.gov

Please stress in your communication with our Legislators the importance of keeping over 180 years of Michigan history, literature and culture together in one cohesive Library of Michigan collection. If this is permitted to be dissipated, it will never be reassembled. Visitors come from all across the country to research at the Library of Michigan. Make your voice heard NOW. Send your 911 letters, e-mails, or visits to your State Legislators today!