Thursday, January 22, 2015

Proposed Elimination of Genealogy at the Indiana State Library


Indiana House Bill 1001 – the State Budget Bill  – includes a proposed 24% cut in funding to the Indiana State Library. According to State Librarian Jacob Speer, the proposal includes elimination of the Genealogy Department at the State Library and a 10% reduction in ISL staff.

As Speer points out, the Genealogy Department at the Indiana State Library has more than 100,000 items devoted to Indiana, states from which Hoosiers came, as well as some foreign countries.

Many of these holdings are not duplicated at the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana State Archives, or the Indiana Historical Bureau. In addition, the Indiana State Library serves as the "genealogy destination" for patrons of the Indianapolis Public Library (IPL), as IPL made the decision not to have their own genealogy collection.

Almost half (49%) of the reference questions that come to the Indiana State Library are for research from the Genealogy collection. It isn't hard to imagine an increase in the number of people who will be researching their Indiana heritage and local history as we approach the State's bicentennial next year, especially with the state's plans to attract people to "come home to Indiana."

We encourage Indiana residents to contact their state legislators and members of the House Ways and Means Committee and weigh in on this important issue. You can locate contact information for your state legislators here and the House Ways and Means Committee here.

People outside of Indiana can contact Rep. Timothy Brown, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. Those dollars that you spend in the state while you're researching at the Indiana State Library add up. 

You can find State Librarian Speer's analysis here.

You can find the full State Budget Report here.

39 comments:

  1. Why not transfer these records to the state museum if you have one?Or a county genealogical society.

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    1. I'm a former employee of the Indiana State Museum. The ISM only handles historical objects and has relatively little paper items (relative to the rest of its collection.) They don't have the room or the staffing to take in the ISL collection and make it available to patrons for research. The Indiana Historical Society would be a better choice to do so should this bill pass, but I hope it doesn't.

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    2. Indiana Historical Society's Collection Development policy states "Items ordinarily *NOT* [emphasis mine] collected, except selectively with limitations...Genealogies that stand alone and individual family histories"

      http://www.indianahistory.org/our-collections/manuscript-and-visual-collections/collectionspolicy.pdf
      Seems to me that IHS does not have the staffing levels or space to take on the role that the ISL Genealogy Division fills.

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  2. Most of us think of libraries as information resource centers, so why should our Indiana legislature think Indiana should support our state library? I suspect that too many of these lawmakers do not know what genealogy means, nor that it is one of the top leading hobbies. Don't they know that we could register our ancestors to vote and easily vote them all out of office? Seriously, this is very, very bad news and I hope they do not bother with the genealogical collection at our Indiana State Library!

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  3. This would be tragic....

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  4. incredibly short-sighted!! Please do NOT eliminate such an important part of human history!

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  5. Thanks for posting this. I've written a letter to Rep Brown (I'm in California). Good luck holding on to these precious resources!

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  6. This is our history. To think that this collection is doomed to be placed into storage (or worse) has ruffled my feathers like nothing else. Please, please, contact your legislators to stop this madness!

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  7. As one with Indiana roots, as well as my own history as a resident of the state, this news disheartens me. What isn't addressed here is what might become of the genealogy material presently housed at the state library. At least there ARE other places where that material might go, though of course the cost of maintaining it elsewhere is an issue. It always comes down to money, doesn't it?

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  8. This is so sad, I wrote an email to IN Rep. Timothy Brown. I grew up on the Indiana/Ohio border and have lines that run through Indiana so this hits home for me.

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  9. Just called my representative and left a message to add an amendment to restore funding. Please, I encourage all to make the phone call!!!
    Not just to add comments on a webpage, take action!!!
    NJNetter

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  10. Thanks for sharing. I am a Wisconsin resident who has Indiana ancestors and has used the ISL. I wrote a letter to Rep. Brown that I will be mailing today. Please don't take away this wonderful resource!

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  11. Why not cut the Rep. salaries by 10% to off set the Library expenses. I bet they would fine a way to fund it then.

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    1. Considering IN legislators make $22,000/yr, a 10% cut will make little difference.

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  12. Indiana already has one of the worst reputations for being researcher friendly. Good luck trying to get a death certificate for someone who died in Indiana with having to swear to being a direct relative and all. So this doesn't surprise me. It's just another obstacle to research.

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    1. It may be getting easier for you to access 75 years and older records. " Indiana Commission on Public Records (State Archives) has entered into a contract with Ancestry.com to digitize and eventually post online more than 13 million birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage records for access by Hoosiers. These online historical records, those older than 75 years, will start to become available in 2015, with the completion date expected by the State’s Bicentennial in 2016. This will be the largest online collection of the State of Indiana’s materials ever digitized." http://www.in.gov/ActiveCalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=10/1/2014&todate=10/31/2014&display=Month&type=public&eventidn=190321&view=EventDetails&information_id=207231

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    2. And, Ancestry will charge you to access them, won't they? The Mormons copied every county's records years ago, but you have to pay to see them.

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    3. If you go to FamilySearch.org you will be able to access records that the Mormon church has microfilmed for free. There is no charge. Not all the records the church has microfilmed over the years have been digitized yet, but, I was able to access some county vital records on line. In time they will all be available. If the record was microfilmed but is not yet digitized and available on FamilySearch, there is a small fee to rend the microfilm.

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    5. Great Suggestion, Shanda Solomon. The Family history Library in Salt Lake City would love to have these resources.

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    6. Check with your local libraries with genealogy department. Many have "free" subscriptions to sites like Ancestry etc. Allow patrons to use their library PCs to access websites about one hour at time. Very nice. More people use - it hellps them to keep those departments open to public.

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  13. I hope that this does not happen. Our past is what makes us who we are. Don't take away this resource from us.

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  14. Barb from IllinoisJanuary 24, 2015 at 9:29 AM

    You don't realize what you have until it's gone. If this comes to pass, one day these short sighted people will know they should have recognized the treasures they should have protected.

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  15. it seems the vast majority of people think that nearly everything that you need for genealogy research is available online. Most people (including many people who are novice family researchers) have no idea how very little of the needed information for the Genealogy hobby is available online and how necessary the resources of libraries and courthouses and other archives are. These collections should not be treated by our legislature as trivial unnecessary resources. Much of this information is not available anywhere else. instead of looking to shut it down, maybe they should look at ways to supplement the funding such as corporate sponsorships, or fundraising events.

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  16. My ancestor was a fav. War patriot, one of the first residents of Indianapolis and is buried on the site of the Riley hospital. I have traveled there to research at b the state library and have more planned. There are records there that exist in no other place. This would be a very bad decision. I have written to Rep. Brown with my objections. I hope it helps. Thank you for posting. I would not have known otherwise.

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  17. I am NOT in favor of removing any of the genealogy research from public library records.

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  18. Dear Chairman Brown,
    I have used the Indiana State Library on several instances to find members of my family who have moved from Virginia to Indiana. I hope you will find a way to continue this valuable research center for genealogists and family history seekers.
    Respectfully,
    Ben Weddle

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  19. If this happens it will be another government Fail! Just one more dig at the middle class people! :(

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  20. Dear Chairman Brown,

    I understand that Indiana House Bill 1001 includes a proposed 24% cut in funding to the Indiana State Library which includes elimination of the Genealogy Department at the State Library and a 10% reduction in ISL staff.

    Please do not eliminate the Genealogy Department at the State Library! The Genealogy Department at the Indiana State Library has more than 100,000 items devoted to Indiana, states from which Hoosiers came, as well as some foreign countries. Most of these holdings are not duplicated at other resource centers in Indiana.

    Studies show that nearly half of the reference questions that come to the Indiana State Library are for research from the Genealogy collection. This is an amazing resource for not only the State of Indiana but for those of us outside the state who are researching our family from Indiana. Genealogy is a hugely popular hobby and the number of people impacted by this decision would be tremendous.
    Please find a way to continue this valuable research center for genealogists and family history seekers.

    Respectfully,

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  21. I have had to do research in Indiana, this would be a terrible government fail! Indiana is a hub of information on relatives that traveled during the US to find a place to live when they migrated here. It is an import State to research information during the Civil War as well. Please find another way to cut the budget!!

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  22. I so hope this can be changed. This is very short-sighted. Genealogy is growing geometrically as a hobby. Many people, including me, come to Indianapolis specifically to use the resources at the Genealogy Department. And we buy gas, food, hotel rooms, this would be a huge loss.

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  23. I'm interested in what the dollar amount is that is having to be reduced causing this to have to be removed. I am sure there are people out there with a passion for genealogy that would be happy to help with fundrasing for this cause! I know the Historical Society is also a government agency, but has anyone thought about getting their support on it, or talking to someone about making a Digital Archive that is open to the public? takes up alot less space, but does require upkeep... just a thought.

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  24. I too was surprised to see this info on the proposed bill to eliminate the genealogy dept at the ISL. My husband and I do lots of research and it would be a shame for this to be shut down. Please find another way to fund this!

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  25. Killing the genealogy division at the ISL is obviously a way to make Indiana less good than other states. Maybe after the state accomplishes this stupidity, it could mandate that all Hoosiers stand on their heads naked and outdoors for three days every January.

    In the thirty years that my family lived in the Indianapolis area, we made several visits to the ISL. All were to do genealogical research and nothing else. Since 49% of the library's business concerns family history research, it is obviously the main single use of the library. Keep family history and dump something less used!!!

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  26. Can somebody show me in the press release where the result of this cut is going to be the Genealogy Department closing its doors? I get that they're losing $400,000, but the actual impact in the press release was vague. It's a bad idea - a very bad idea, but I don't see the end of the world here?

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  27. FamilySearch has 50 collections from Indiana online, see https://familysearch.org/search/collection/location/15?region=United%20States%20of%20America. If the collections mentioned in this article are not among them, then they can contact FamilySearch and FamilySearch can help them digitize the records and make them freely available online. See https://familysearch.org/archives/services/.

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  28. I've just written an email to Rep. Timothy Brown. My family history can be traced back to the early 1800's in Indiana. The Genealogical Dept and the library have been an invaluable resource to me. Eliminating it would be short sighted and ignorant. I spend a lot of money in Indiana when I travel from Florida to do research. I'm sure the locals appreciate my tourist dollars. Tax dollars that the state surely wants but won't get if they close down the genealogy department. This kind of ignorance really makes my blood boil. I hope the House votes down this bill. But they need to hear from you. Use the links above to contact your representatives or contact Rep.Timothy Brown and voice your opinion.

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  29. I am an outside the state researcher who has utilized the services of the Indiana State Library genealogy and historical collections many times. On each occasion I spent over $250 daily in the local Indianapolis economy. That translates to over $10,000 at least. I also donated one of my genealogy books on a historical Indiana family to the genealogy collection. I am in final stages of completing an Indiana family history and genealogy that will be a researcher's dream; over 1400 pages of history and genealogy, and over 24,000 historical and source notes and citations. If the State closes the Genealogy Department of the State Library, there will be no central resource for contributors like myself to donate our decades of research results to present and future Indiana residents who mostly want to know how their grandparents and earlier Indiana ancestors contributed to the State's growth and development. Instead of closing the Genealogy Department, the State should be funding means to make its vast collection more accessible by digitizing its holdings. I do not understand how a State like Indiana can afford to build and maintain a multi-billion dollar highway system and so many new State government buildings, but cannot afford the paltry sum that it takes to maintain a Genealogy Department in its State Library. Just how stupid can our public legislators and administrators get??

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  30. I hope you have taken time to contact Rep. Timothy Brown at the link above and tell him this.

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