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Indiana House restores funding

It’s not exactly time to breathe a deep sigh of relief — not yet — but there is reason for cautious hope in Indiana these days.

ISL_Logo_4-20-2009The House of Representatives in the Hoosier State has voted to restore most of the funding cut from the budget of the Indiana State Library that would have eliminated the library’s genealogy department.

The budget proposed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence and originally introduced in the House there as House Bill 1001 included a massive 24% reduction in funding to the Indiana State Library.

In addition to cutting at least 10% of the library staff, the bill would have eliminated all funding — every last penny — for the Genealogy Department of the library.1

The Indiana State Library houses a collection described this way by State Librarian Jacob Speer:

The Indiana State Library (ISL) is home to one of the largest Genealogy collections in the Midwest. This collection (over 100,000 items) is focused on Indiana, states from which Indiana was settled as well as some foreign countries. The collection is rich with unique family histories and genealogy materials that cannot be found in other locations. In comparison, the Indiana Historical Society (IHS) only collects materials on Indiana and the Old Northwest – genealogy research can never be restricted to one state only. Family trees branch outside of a single state and spread throughout the country and across oceans. Genealogy collections (including ours) contain materials for neighboring states as well as items covering the east and southern coasts (where most immigrants landed) and genealogical resources for other countries (mainly in Europe where most immigrants came from). These types of resources are not collected by IHS or the Indiana State Archives or the Historical Bureau.

In addition, the ISL serves as the Genealogy destination for patrons that use the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library (IPL). In the past, IPL donated their collection to ISL because they were not going to actively collect for Genealogy and they wanted somewhere close by to send their patrons and know they would get service in this area. Over the years they have also donated funds so that ISL could purchase valuable Genealogy research materials to be kept in the collection and used by patrons statewide. It has been a beneficial partnership.2

As introduced, House Bill 1001 threatened “the availability and use of a one-of-a-kind resource that includes many elements of family history and Indiana history.”3

But in response to a call put out by the Indiana Genealogical Society and other concerned groups, our community and the entire community spoke out — and we were heard.

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to restore the funding to the Genealogy Department, and this week the entire House passed the revised budget bill and sent it on to the Indiana Senate.

News accounts of the legislative vote quoted the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Tim Brown, as saying that the proposal had sparked criticism from universities, libraries and genealogists throughout Indiana4 — and we know that some of that criticism came from genealogists outside the state whose ancestors came from Indiana.

We still need to be vigilant as the proposal goes through the Indiana Senate — so stay tuned and watch this space and the blog of the Indiana Genealogical Society.

But for now… for this once … maybe we’ve won one.


SOURCES

  1. See Amy Johnson Crow, “Proposed Elimination of Genealogy at the Indiana State Library,” Indiana Genealogical Society Blog, posted 22 Jan 2015 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 23 Jan 2015).
  2. Jacob Speer, State Librarian, ISL 2015 Budget Cuts, 15 Jan 2015, PDF accessed 23 Jan 2015.
  3. Ibid.
  4. See e.g. Lauryn Schroeder, “New budget could save state library from cuts,” Evansville Courier & Press, posted 20 Feb 2015 (http://www.courierpress.com/news/ : accessed 26 Feb 2015).
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