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One more push for LVA

Now.

Today.

Without fail.

It’s time for the entire genealogical community to raise its voice and speak out on behalf of the Library of Virginia.

The budget fight on behalf of this premier research repository has hit the front burners in the Virginia General Assembly funding process, and The Legal Genealogist is joining the Virginia Genealogical Society and others in asking you to join in to try to win back funding lost in last year’s cuts.

Only if we join together, only if we will all take the time to simply speak out, do we have a chance to help protect and preserve access to the records held by this facility.

LVA3The Library of Virginia is the state library and archives of Virginia. As such, it’s one of the finest and most important research facilities anywhere in the United States — home of the records of the gateway for so many of our ancestors into this new land.

It’s where the accumulated history of one of the oldest and most significant of the American colonies can be found.

Birthplace of Presidents and judges, of slaves and indentured servants, of yeomen farmers and teachers and preachers, of sailors and seamstresses… for so many of our families, these are our ancestors.

So very many of our families’ records are held in this one place: manuscripts, court files, deeds, probates, births, marriages and deaths.

And because of budget cuts we have been systematically losing access.

For years, LVA had been operating well below its allotted staffing levels. Then last year a devastating axe fell: more than $600,000 from the LVA tab for the fiscal year — with the bulk of it being in library staff and directly impacting library hours. The net result: as of November of last year, we as researchers can only use the research rooms during regular working hours — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — four weekdays a week. No evenings. No weekends.

Worse in some ways is the staff loss. Competent experience dedicated archivists with a love for the records, gone because of financing. New record acquisitions unaccessioned, meaning they can’t be catalogued and added to the access system. Existing record sets can’t be prepared for digitization. Digitized records can’t be put online.

The access problem just cascade…

So… we are making some progress in the Virginia General Assembly budget process. Concerted efforts by VGS and the genealogical community — in other words, your letters and emails and calls and mine — have led the budget committees in both houses of the General Assembly to vote to restore some funding.

If that budget passes, library hours will be greatly improved and staffing will get a little better. And the House budget committee agreed that the staffing needed more: another $294,250 for four more key archivist positions. But the Senate committee didn’t go along.

That proposal — to add back that $294,250 for those critical positions — will go to a budget conference committee this week.

We need to let the budget conference folks know how important these positions are… and how much LVA means to us as genealogists and researchers.

And when I say important… I mean really important. One of the positions we’re trying to get funded is for a private papers archivist to help accession and catalogue incoming private papers. Things like diaries and Bibles and wartime letters that continue to flow into LVA. Things like the surviving burial records from Evergreen Cemetery, an historic private African-American cemetery in Richmond. Crucial records.

You know how many private papers archivists LVA has now? None. It used to have six. This money could give back one — just one — of these slots, and help fund another to work on getting historical records like pre-1912 birth and death records and pre-1936 marriage records ready to be digitized and put online.

There’s a form letter you can download here (in Word format) or here (in PDF format) and list of legislators you can send it to that you can download here (in Word format) or here (in PDF format). And there’s an explanation of the positions you can download (in PDF format) here.

If we use these materials to contact legislators, seriously, it won’t take even an hour of our time to speak out for records, for records access, for history, for the future of genealogy.

Not even an hour of our time.

And a lifetime of records could be protected and made accessible.

Please.

Speak out for LVA.

Today.

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