July 14, 2009

Ashamed of My State

I'm very disheartened by a news release that came my way through the library world. The State of MI, the state the I love and have hopes of someday returning to, has passed an executive order to terminate the History, Arts and Libraries Department and close the Library of Michigan.

How do you close the State Library? And how do you think you are saving the state money by taking away their access to free resources?

Highlights of Executive Order No. 2009-36:
* They will stop checking out books. whaaat?!
* Eliminate nine staff positions, including the State Librarian.
* Start charging an admission fee to the once free State Museum.
* They are going to "shop around" things like the Federal Documents Depository, non-Michigan genealogy, Michigan History Magazine, and the museum store and if they can't find people to take them over they're going to eliminate them.
* They won't be administering the MELCat program anymore, which is a huge blow to libraries in the state. MELCat is the inter-library loan program that allows Michigan residents to borrow books from outside their library system, from anywhere in the state. No more MELCat means no more ILL for lots of libraries.
* Many things will be transferred to the Department of Natural Resources including museum facilities, archives, historical records and related functions, and the Mackinaw Island State Park Commission. Exactly how does the DNR qualify as administrators of the state's history?
* They are "creating a nine person "Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board" that has until June 1, 2010 to come up with a way to "preserve and maximize the benefits to the public of existing state library and historical resources" using "creative and innovative ideas," but doesn't get more specific than that."

It just seems so backwards to me. I can see backing off on services or collection development or other things for a few years, but to eliminate or reassign everything is going to be such a mistake in the long run. I worry that when (or if) Michigan ever gets back on its feet they're going to look around and say "What happened to our State? And who are all these uneducated people milling around causing trouble? Don't we have somewhere they could go to learn outside of school?


kevin said...

One clarification - the executive order does not stop MeLCat as a program or the Library of Michigan's support of MeLCat. What it says is that the Library of Michigan will no long lend or borrow items through MeLCat.

Anonymous said...

Charging for admission to the MI History Museum? There goes our free, except for transportation, field trip which was so incredibly applicable to teaching MI history to 3rd & 4th graders! Ouch.

Linnea said...

That's a relief that MeLCat won't go away completely.