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What I really want this Christmas

Dear Santa,

Here we are again, on the eve of Christmas Eve, so I know it’s just a little late to be getting you my Christmas list.

DearSantaLet me start by saying I’ve been good this year, Santa!

Okay, I’ve been mostly good.

Okay, okay, so I’ve tried to be good. That has to count for something!

Besides, it’s a really short list this year, Santa.

Really short.

Really really short.

There’s only one thing on my list this year, Santa.

It’s still a pretty big order, I know, but — honestly — it’s important.

And I’m not asking just for myself.

What I really really want this Christmas, Santa, is this:

I want support for all our libraries and archives, and for all our librarians and archivists.

Santa, these institutions — be they public or private — hold our history in their vaults, wondrous troves of original materials from our earliest days to more recent times. Vast arrays of books with the collective wisdom of so many people.

In the records that they hold, in the books and manuscripts and collections, lie the very foundations of all of our nations, as well as the foundations of so many of our families.

Large and small, secular and religious, publicly-owned or privately-maintained, the archives and libraries of this world are the jewels of civilization wherever they may be found.

And the librarians and archivists are the custodians of our trust that we will always have access to the wonders that can be found within their doors.

But… sigh … Santa, I’m afraid that the archives and libraries everywhere are neglected all too often.

When a politician needs to balance a budget, it’s proved to be all to easy to look at the dollars or pounds or marks or francs that are set aside for the archives and libraries and take those funds for other purposes.

So it was just this year with the Library of Virginia.1 With many public libraries in Mississippi.2 With the Kansas State University Libraries.3 Libraries and archives everywhere are losing financial ground.

It’s politically easy to do this because, after all, what does it matter… who’s going to care?

And, Santa, even those of us who do care — who stand to benefit most from the existence of archives and libraries — those of us who call ourselves family historians and genealogists — we too are to blame.

We don’t support our archives and libraries nearly as much as we should. We don’t use them whenever we can, we don’t register our use so that their custodians can make their case for resources, we don’t speak up for them when they need us.

So yes, I understand this is a tall order this Christmas, Santa.

But it’s sure an important one.

What I really really want this Christmas is support for all our libraries and archives, and for all our librarians and archivists.

I want the bean counters in all of our governments everywhere around the world to begin to appreciate the history these records repositories hold. I want the legislative decision-makers to understand the critical importance these records have for us.

I want those who can make the choice to provide the necessary resources — or withhold them — to vote with their brains and their hearts, with the weight of history holding its thumb on the “fully funded” side of the decision scale.

I want the genealogical community — and the historians — and the book writers — and the journalists — and the teachers — I want everyone who uses historical records and benefits from their use to join together when libraries and archives are threatened, to make our voices heard.

In support of libraries and archives, in support of archivists and librarians, everywhere around the world.

I’ll do what I can to help, Santa.

And, Santa?

It’s because of records held by libraries and archives, records repositories that have made records more widely accessible, even online, that we found your draft registration.4

And your census records.5

Yep, even your family is there, in the libraries, in the archives.

So help us out here, okay?

Thanks, Santa.


SOURCES

  1. See Judy G. Russell, “Dark days in Richmond,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 2 Nov 2016 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 22 Dec 2016).
  2. See e.g. Charles Herrington, “Perry County libraries closing due to budget cuts,” WDAM-7, posted 29 Sep 2016 (http://www.wdam.com/ : accessed 22 Dec 2016).
  3. Gary Price, “Budget Cuts Force Kansas State University Libraries to Reduce Hours and Staff, Cut Journals,” LibraryJournal, posted 23 Aug 2016, InfoDocket.com (http://www.infodocket.com/ : accessed 22 Dec 2016).
  4. Judy G. Russell, “link to blog post“>Holidays and Christmases,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 22 Dec 2016.
  5. Ibid.
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