Pence plan to cut spending at Indiana State Library draws criticism, prompts letter-writing campaign
Gov. Mike Pence's plan to save money by eliminating the genealogy department of the Indiana State Library is drawing the ire of, not surprisingly, genealogists.
Pence has proposed cutting $400,000 from the state budget through the elimination of the department. He also proposed cutting Public Library Standards & Certification ($150,000) and the state library's online search tool known as INSPIRE ($1.3 million).
Meanwhile, about $55 million has been allotted for the state's bicentennial celebration next year.
Jill Scarbrough, director of the Brazil Public Library, said she doesn't understand why the governor wants to cut spending for the state library.
"I don't see how that can be an option," she said. "People from all over the world go there for information.
Numerous people who can't travel to Indianapolis send requests in writing for information, she said.
Scarbrough said each year people from 10-15 states visit the Brazil Public Library for genealogy information. Half of those people also visit the State Library for genealogical information.
"I would like to know where he got the information to cut this," Scarbrough said. "It's beyond me."
Also not in tune with Pence's plan is the Indiana Genealogical Society, which cites a blog from Indiana State Librarian Jacob Speer.
"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," the blog states. "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."
The blog also states almost half of the reference questions that go into the Indiana State Library are from people researching their genealogy.
The Indiana Genealogical Society is encouraging people to contact Indiana legislators, particularly Rep. Tim Brown, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, asking them to not pass a budget that cuts spending for the state library's genealogy department.
State budget director Brian Bailey told the Associated Press that INSPIRE was defunded because it offers services that are already available online through sites such as Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search, though Jeff Krull, of the governor-appointed Indiana Library and Historical Board, said access will be limited compared to INSPIRE.
Bailey also said the genealogy department's service is the same as offered on ancestry.com.
The president of the Clay County Genealogical Society disagrees with Bailey about the value of ancestry.com.
"Ancestry.com costs you $150 a year and the information is unreliable," Carolyn Branson said. "You have to prove it somewhere else."
Branson said the library's board discussed the governor's plan to cut spending for the genealogy department at the state library during its meeting Wednesday.
"We are definitely against that," she said. "State records have information that no one else has. Our whole society is kind of upset about them closing that down."
Branson said more than just genealogy is at stake. The records detail history.
"There is more there than just genealogy," she said.
Krull said the library's funding has been whittled down each year for the past decade, "but this was a big whack that came out of left field."
"It just doesn't make any sense to have a big blowout celebration (for the bicentennial) and then dismantle the institutions that preserve the state's history," Krull said.
The state plans to lease out underused cell towers to cover the bicentennial cost. Nearly half will fund the construction of a new state archives building. Another $2.5 million will create an education center at the library.
Community officials have previously stressed the importance of a new archives building. Most of Indiana's historical documents are being stored in a dilapidated building on the far east side of Indianapolis.
They were moved there in 2001 as a temporary measure while the state library was being remodeled, but ended up remaining at the site with no climate control.
However, the building would not serve as a replacement for the genealogy department, which Krull said has become a primary resource for immigration records, family trees and lineage, census data and other information people can use to track down their history.
A report issued by Speer said the budget cuts would lead to a 10 percent reduction in staff. The library would also lose its federal funding, since the state would no longer be meeting the match and maintenance requirements of the grant.