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LVA hours slashed

The Legal Genealogist is appalled.

Just appalled.

I am the descendant of generations of Virginians and people who left Virginia generations ago only to come back to Virginia in my lifetime.

My Pettypool line was in Virginia in the 1650s when my 10th great grandfather William Pettypool arrived as an indentured servant; he was referenced in a 1658 land patent1 and 1660 court order.2

My Gentry line began in Virginia, with Nicholas the immigrant who showed up for the first time in the records of York County in 1680.3

lvaMy Davenport line was in Virginia well before the end of the 17th century. My 8th great grandfather Davis Davenport was named as an adjoining landowner in a survey of 939 acres in King & Queen County in 1696.4

My Baker line can be documented at least as far back as 1744, when Thomas Baker patented 516 acres in what was then Brunswick County and later became Lunenburg County.5

Two of my forebears — David Baker of Culpeper County and William Noel Battles of Albemarle County — served in the patriot forces of Virginia during the Revolutionary War. Baker was a corporal in the 3rd Virginia;6 Battles a private in the 10th Virginia.7

My mother, maternal grandparents and maternal great grandmother all spent their last days in Fluvanna County, and are buried together in the Byrd Memorial Methodist Chapel Cemetery in Kents Store.8

There are others in my family who were from Virginia and literally dozens of my kinfolks who live there now — those should be more than enough for now to make it clear that I have deep deep roots in the Old Dominion. And I am hardly alone: Virginia is one of the cradles of American democracy and the American experience. In its records may be found the very foundations of our nation, as well as the foundations of so many of our families.

And, today, we should all — every last one of us — be appalled.

Because we have allowed one of the very best research facilities in the United States to come under fiscal attack… and to lose substantial resources and assets.

The Library of Virginia is Virginia’s state library and archives. It houses some of the oldest and most important archival records in the country. Vast troves of original materials from the earliest colonial periods can be found within its doors, along with parish and county documents recording some of the most important moments of our history.

It is a jewel of a research library, and should be ranked among the great treasures of Virginia: prized above all else, protected, cosseted even.

Right.

When was the last time you saw a library or an archive that even got a break from the politicians? It’s just so easy to cut the budget of a place that “merely” serves the public, day in and day out, quietly, without fanfare, serving up historical treasures.

And that’s exactly what Virginia just did. It cut the budget of the Library of Virginia so deeply that the Library has just announced that — effective November 14th — its reading rooms will no longer be open on Saturdays and Mondays.

The press release about the closings came yesterday. And it is heartbreaking:

The reading rooms of the Library of Virginia will be closed on Saturdays and Mondays starting November 14, 2016. The move is a result of the drop in recent revenue projections, which led to Governor McAuliffe reducing the operating budgets for executive agencies by 5 percent for the current fiscal year. The Library had no option but to turn to staff cuts to absorb the 5 percent operating budget reduction. With the loss of 18 employees, the Library is unable to keep the reading rooms open six days a week. Effective November 14, 2016, the reading rooms will be open Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM.

 

“The decision to close the reading rooms was made reluctantly but providing effective service on Saturdays and Mondays for patrons without adequate human resources was no longer possible. Since the Governor’s announcement of the staff reductions at the Library of Virginia I and other members of the Library Board have been contacted by members of the general public who are very upset about these staff reductions,” said R. Chambliss Light, Jr., chairman of the Library Board.

 

Librarian of Virginia Sandra G. Treadway said, “Closing on Saturdays and Mondays is necessary because of the loss of 12 full time and 6 part time employees. Suspending our Saturday hours and closing our reading rooms on Mondays is heartbreaking for us, but is necessary. It will make it difficult for citizens who do research in the Library’s unique holdings; however, we will continue to offer our constituents alternative avenues to information. When the Library is not open, citizens can still access numerous reference and re search resources through the Library’s main website (www.lva.virginia.gov) and also via Virginia Memory (www.lva.virginiamemory.com).”

 

Other service areas will also be affected. It will take longer, for example, to fill orders for digital images of material in the collections. Training for state and local records officers will be offered less frequently, and response times for records management–related questions may be extended. Moreover, it will take longer to provide access to new collections, and the Library’s ability to offer programming will be diminished.

 

The Library of Virginia has been open on Saturdays throughout the years since shortly after World War II. The Library holds the world’s most extensive collection of material about the Old Dominion. Its collections now total approximately 123 million items. The Library of Virginia attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually from across the state and nation. Since its 1997 opening at its 800 East Broad Street location in historic downtown Richmond, the Library has consistently ranked among the area’s most visited cultural attractions.

 

Since FY 2008, the Library’s general fund budget has been reduced nearly $3.5 million. The Library has taken previous reductions from its limited discretionary funds and from staff reductions in behind-the-scenes departments so that it could keep the reading and research rooms open to the public six days a week. Before the economic recession in 2008, the Library employed 195 full-time and 45 part-time staff members. At the start of the current fiscal year, before this new round of reductions, its staffing level stood at 123 full-time and 14 part-time employees. The loss of these 18 employees necessitated the closing of the reading rooms on Saturdays and Mondays.

 

The agency will remain open from Monday through Friday. Full-time public service staff will continue to respond to mail, e-mail, and telephone requests and will pull materials to fulfill research, photocopying, and digitization requests. This work will primarily be done on Mondays, since there is not sufficient staff coverage to complete this work when the reading rooms are open to the public.9

One of the very best research facilities. With records of one of the very oldest colonial jurisdictions. No evening hours. And no weekend hours.

Worse, no prospect that things will get better — and a very real risk that they will get worse.

It’s appalling. And it’s up to us to turn this around — or at least to stanch the bleeding.

Live in Virginia? Contact your legislator and the Governor. Tell them this is not the way to balance the budget. Tell them you will vote accordingly. Now and in the future.

Live outside of Virginia? Contact the legislators who represent the districts where your ancestors are from. Tell them you may not vote in elections… but vote with your wallet when you choose where to visit and how much to spend in tourism dollars.

We cannot sit idly by and let this jewel of a research facility wither away, hour by hour, day by day.

Speak up.

Or there will be even more dark days in Richmond.


SOURCES

Image: Library of Virginia, Wikimedia user Tokyogirl, CC BY SA 4.0.

  1. Virginia State Land Office, Patents No. 4, 1655-1662: 254; Land Office microfilm reel 4, Library of Virginia, Richmond.
  2. York County, Virginia, Deeds, Orders, Wills 3: 95 (13 November 1660); York County Microfilm reel 2, Library of Virginia, Richmond.
  3. November 1680, order as to Nicholas Gentry, York County, Virginia, Deeds, Orders, Wills 6: 268; York County Microfilm reel 3, Library of Virginia, Richmond.
  4. Survey, 29 May 1696, by James Taylor for Major John Waller; Waller Family Papers, 1667-1816, Accession #260356; Library of Virginia, Richmond.
  5. Virginia State Land Office, Patents No. 22, 1743-1745: 200; Land Office microfilm reel 20; Library of Virginia, Richmond.
  6. Compiled Military Service Record, David Baker, Cpl., 3rd Virginia Regiment, Revolutionary War; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, microfilm publication M881, 1096 rolls (Washington, D.C. : National Archives Trust Board, 1976); digital images, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com/ : accessed 1 Nov 2016).
  7. Ibid., Noel Battles, Pvt., 10th Virginia Regiment.
  8. Byrd Memorial Methodist Chapel Cemetery (Kents Store, Virginia); on Venable Road (Virginia Rte. 601), 0.25 miles east of the intersection with Virginia Rte. 659; Hazel Cottrell Geissler, Clay Rex and Opal E. Cottrell, and Eula Robertson markers; photograph by the author, 27 Dec 2014.
  9. Library of Virginia Reading Rooms to Close on Saturdays and Mondays Effective November 14,” News & Events, posted 1 Nov 2016, Library of Virginia (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/news/index.htm : accessed 2 Nov 2016).
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