On July 13, Governor Granholm issued an Executive Order abolishing the Department of History, Arts and Libraries, as part of her effort to reach a balanced budget for the next state fiscal year. It is understood and accepted that hard decisions must be made, and that all departments of state government should be expecting to find savings and efficiencies.
It is not clear how abolishing the department dedicated to promoting Michigan history and the arts, and supporting all libraries in Michigan will result in significant savings; the Governor has indicated that there is an unfunded plan to move the collections to repurpose the State Library building. Library services, when separated or isolated from a larger system, and placed in a bureaucratic environment, will wither.
How will this proposed plan affect you? The State Library administers the services of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. AADL is a sub-regional service provider and has been since February of this year. The plan as proposed moves the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped from the Library of Michigan to the Commission for the Blind. It is not clear if any funding will follow the move, and the Commission is facing the same cuts as all other state departments and agencies. If services from the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped statewide are to remain stable and funded, the Governor, and our legislators, should be made aware that the proposed move is a threat to its existence.
The Library of Michigan also administers the group purchasing of databases that are made available to all libraries statewide for reduced costs. Any library cardholder or Michigan citizen with a valid driver’s license can access those databases from anywhere in the world. If the resources of the Library of Michigan are dispersed or eliminated, and if the State Aid to Libraries allocation is reduced, then access to these databases will disappear. Only the larger, most affluent communities will be able to consider locally funding these resources. Even at AADL, continuance of the currently available set of resources will not be possible.
The very popular statewide interlibrary loan program via MeLCat is also administered through the Library of Michigan, and paid for through a match of State Aid allocation with Federal funds. Each $1.00 of state funding for this service is matched with $.50 of Federal funding, and the total to fund this statewide delivery service is in the millions of dollars. This service is also threatened if the Library of Michigan is abolished, and State Aid is reduced.
It is an irony that in a time when all are calling for efficiency, resource-sharing, consolidation of services, and collaborations to save and find money, a state institution that has led statewide programs that work for the benefit of all Michigan citizens, and which help to provide the critical tools needed for our workforce to reinvent itself, is threatened because someone has the very uncool and uninformed notion that libraries are obsolete.
The Ann Arbor District Library opposes Executive Order #2009-36, and supports funding of State Aid to Libraries at the current level of $10M.
Please consider contacting your State Senator and your State Representative.