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Library at risk in budget cuts

One of Indiana’s great treasures, of immense value to genealogists, is on the political chopping block.

ISL_Logo_4-20-2009Will you join The Legal Genealogist in speaking out against a proposal to kill the Genealogy Department at the Indiana State Library?

Word arrived yesterday from the Indiana Genealogical Society that the budget bill introduced in the Indiana House includes 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 eliminate 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

House Bill 1001, the Indiana State Budget Bill, threatens “the availability and use of a one-of-a-kind resource that includes many elements of family history and Indiana history.”3 It would cut off every penny to the Genealogy Department, even though nearly half of all reference questions that come in to the Indiana State Library ask for information from its genealogical holdings.

The bill is shortsighted, its impacts devastating, and we need to speak out — clearly and loudly — as a community that the $400,000 cut from the Library’s budget for genealogy must be restored.

The Indiana Genealogical Society offers the following guidance in contacting members of the Indiana Legislature about this:

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.4

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.5

The points to be made in our contacts with Indiana legislators are these:

• The Indiana State Library Genealogy Department is an irreplaceable resource with a very small price tag that should not be cut.

• If we are Indiana residents, we’re in a unique position to remind the members of the Legislature that we’re genealogists and we vote. And that how we vote is very likely to depend on what our legislators do about this issue.

• If we aren’t Indiana residents, we can make it clear to the elected officials there that we spend large sums of money traveling to do genealogical research, and the Indiana State Library is a research destination. We will spend our research dollars elsewhere if funding is cut, resulting in a net loss to Indiana hotels, restaurants and tourism in general far exceeding the small amount needed to keep the Genealogy Department fully funded. To put it bluntly, we vote with our wallets.

Yes, it’s time consuming to have to write to these legislators, and yes, time is something we all have precious little of.

But the time we spend now may pay off for us all for a lifetime.

Join me, please, and speak out for the Indiana State Library.


  1. See Amy Johnson Crow, “Proposed Elimination of Genealogy at the Indiana State Library,” Indiana Genealogical Society Blog, posted 22 Jan 2015 ( : accessed 23 Jan 2015).
  2. Jacob Speer, State Librarian, ISL 2015 Budget Cuts, 15 Jan 2015, PDF accessed 23 Jan 2015.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Crow, “Proposed Elimination of Genealogy at the Indiana State Library,” Indiana Genealogical Society Blog.
  5. Ibid.
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