Saving Indiana Genealogy: Social Media Outrage Is Not Enough

Indiana flagIndiana State Librarian Jacob Speer recently announced that the proposed Indiana state budget would cut the Indiana State Library’s budget by 24% and eliminate the genealogy department. (You can read his full announcement here.)

The Indiana Genealogical Society is urging Indiana residents and non-residents alike to make their voices heard. In situations like this, we often think only of the state’s residents as having a say in the matter. However, out-of-state people need to be heard as well. We don’t have votes, but we have something else: money.

I don’t live in Indiana, but I do a fair amount of research there, including trips to the Genealogy Department at the Indiana State Library. I’m guessing that the state likes the dollars that I spend on hotels, food, shopping, and gasoline while I’m there. And I’m guessing that they like the money from all of the other out-of-state visitors as well.

Social Media Outrage Is Not Enough

Here’s the thing. The message is being passed around on Facebook, Twitter, and on various blogs. People are commenting, “liking,” and sharing the message with others. That’s all well and good. We need more people to be aware of this issue!

We can’t let our outrage end with a comment on Facebook.

We — each of us — needs to take the time and contact the appropriate people in the Indiana legislature. Indiana residents can find their legislators here and members of the House Ways and Means Committee here. If you live out of state, it is suggested that you contact Rep. Timothy Brown, the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. (His page has contact info and a link on the left-hand side of the page to send email.)

It only takes a few minutes to make your voice heard beyond Facebook.

Here’s My Message

I sent the following message to Rep. Brown. Your message doesn’t have to be this long. I encourage you to send something. And I thank you in advance for doing so.

Dear Rep. Brown,

I am writing to you today concerning HB 1001, the Indiana State Budget. I am someone who spends time researching at the Indiana State Library (ISL). The proposed cuts to the ISL would be devastating and far-reaching.

The elimination of the Genealogy Department at the Indiana State Library would have a negative financial impact on the state of Indiana. I live in Ohio. When I come to do genealogy and local history research at the ISL, I typically spend 2 or 3 days in town. While I’m there, I stay at a hotel and eat in local restaurants. I shop. I put gas in my car before heading back to Ohio. All of that is new money in your state, and all of it goes away if there is no genealogy department at the Indiana State Library.

The ISL has materials that are unique; many of the materials are not found anywhere else and are not online. These materials fall outside of the scope of the Indiana State Museum and the Indiana Historical Bureau. The Indiana Historical Society is a private entity. The Indianapolis Public Library is a local institution and has already declared that they will not spend resources on maintaining a genealogy collection.

Having the materials currently in the ISL Genealogy Department in one place, with the knowledgeable staff at ISL, is an incredible resource for Indiana history.

Let’s be clear — the resources in the Genealogy Department are not just for finding your family history. There is local history, social history, and military history. In short, it is the history of the people of Indiana.

Indiana will be celebrating its bicentennial in 2016. I have heard state officials talk about encouraging people to “come home to Indiana.” How ironic  and how tragic it would be if they were to come home, only to find that the history of their state — their history — is gone.

I urge you to restore funding to the Indiana State Library and preserve the Genealogy Department. The dollars spent on the Genealogy Department have a positive financial impact on the state of Indiana in bringing in out-of-state people such as myself. It is also vitally important that the people of Indiana be able to discover their state’s rich history.

Thank you.

26 thoughts on “Saving Indiana Genealogy: Social Media Outrage Is Not Enough

  1. Elizabeth Wilson Ballard

    I just wrote to Sue Errington. She is my Representative. I should have done this sooner. I sure do wish she were on the Ways and Means Committee. Snagged one of your paragraphs.

    Subject: HB 1001, the Indiana State Budget: Extremely concerned citizen

    Dear Representative Errington,

    I am writing to you today as a voter in your district and an extremely concerned citizen. I have recently learned of the proposed budget cuts to the Indiana State Library and would like to ask you to make a concerted effort to communicate with your fellow Representatives on the Ways and Means committee about the urgency of not cutting funding to this vital resource.

    There has been significant social outrage about this, but we know that is not enough.

    I realize the voting is tomorrow, but I also know that things can happen quickly in politics, and when I voted for you, I had, and still have, faith that you consider the best interests of the people of Indiana.

    I am a genealogist, and naturally, the closing of the genealogy department is my primary concern. The ISL has materials that are unique; many of the materials are not found anywhere else and are not online. These materials fall outside of the scope of the Indiana State Museum and the Indiana Historical Bureau. The Indiana Historical Society is a private entity. The Indianapolis Public Library is a local institution and has already declared that they will not spend resources on maintaining a genealogy collection.

    My understanding is that the proposed reduction of funding is as follows:

    INSPIRE $1,340,783
    Genealogy Department $400,000
    Public Library Standards & Certification $150,000
    Total: $1,890,783

    These are VITAL programs that are offered only by the Indiana State Library. They will disappear if you do not intervene, so please, please intervene!

    Sincerely and with trust,

    Elizabeth Ballard

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      They love to hear from high school students! You were smart to add that at the beginning of your message!

  2. Amy Kelly

    I wrote to Rep. Brown on this issue. As part of my letter, I included this:

    Note that states that “…’genealogical enthusiasts’ in the United States are spending between $1,000 and $18,000 a year on their genealogy hobby. This information was revealed by a research report that was announced by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. which was titled ‘Genealogy Products and Services: A Global Outlook’.” Also, the May 30, 2014, edition of Time magazine states, “…genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening, according to ABC News, and the second most visited category of websites, after pornography. It’s a billion-dollar industry that has spawned profitable websites, television shows, scores of books and — with the advent of over-the-counter genetic test kits — a cottage industry in DNA ancestry testing.” Does it make sense for Indiana to exclude itself from a piece of the billion-dollar pie by eliminating a strong reason for genealogists to travel there to research?

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  4. NikiMarie

    Thank you so much for this! As a professional genealogist in Indiana, I’ve posted this on Facebook and on my blog. It warms my heart to see so many other genealogists pick it up the cry for help and spread it around. I have emailed my representatives and hope others do as well. Thanks again! :)

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  6. melissawiseheart

    I’ve looked into it some more. It was the Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, who proposed the cut. The letter is from the State Librarian urging that the cut needs to be reevaluated. He and the Indiana Library Federation are fighting it.

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      True. And it’s the legislature that is voting on it, which is why the Indiana Genealogical Society is recommending that people contact the state legislators in their districts or Rep. Brown if you’re from out of state.

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  8. Jessica

    I have an update to the story…

    I found this particular quote from the budet director particularly disturbing… “Bailey also said the genealogy department’s service is the same as offered on”

    NOT EVEN REMOTELY….! Mr. Bailey has NO idea. I’m not sure how else to get the message across! There are SO many things in that department that you can’t get on ancestry. I have had ancestry for years and I still make at least 12 trips to the library a year.

    Plus ancestry is a paid service… is family history exploration only going to be available for those who can afford it.

    I wrote to Rep. Brown, and I offered to personally show him around and show him some of what I found at the library. and even help him get started on his own journey. I mentioned it in the notes of my other legislators surveys I’m going to write them personally this week. AND I recommend HAND WRITTEN letters to Speaker Bosma, I heard that he is more moved when people take the time to hand write a letter.

  9. Michele Kerr

    As the genealogist for The Society of Indiana Pioneers, I have the fortune of working at our office which is housed within the Genealogy Section of the ISL. It makes me extremely proud of all our fellow family history researchers and Hoosiers to see such outrage at such a careless act put forward in the legislature.

    Not knowing the outcome of this, I would like to encourage anyone interested in genealogy research to take the time to visit the Genealogy Section as well as all the other sections on both floors.

    My concern is that very few actually realize what all is available for researchers that this wonderful section of the library. To not have access to it would be a real blow to anyone with Indiana roots.

    What speaks loudly to those with the purse-strings is the number of patrons that pass through the doors of the Genealogy section and how well utilized it is within the library(no new news here, right?) If this part of the proposal is thrown out, I would hope that we take this as a wake-up call to get the word out about what is available to us all — not even just those researching their Hoosier roots.

    I work with applicants to our lineage society all the time and they are always amazed at what is housed within the Indiana State Library. So, while I agree wholeheartedly with you, Amy Johnson Crow, that social media might not solve this crisis (actual mail is definitely best,) social media might help to get the word out about the resources available within the library!

    And if you haven’t ever been within the Indiana State Library, make sure to visit the east entrance to capture the view of the beautiful stained glass as well as the side galleries where beautiful murals can be found. It is truly an impressive building as well as a home for one-of-a-kind collections!

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Beautifully said, Michele! I agree wholeheartedly that social media has its place in getting the word out. My only concern is the people who stop their outrage at “liking” a post on Facebook and not taking that crucial next step of actually contacting the legislators involved.

      I’m sure you’ve seen the report that their justification for shutting down the Genealogy Department is because “the genealogy department’s service is the same as offered on,” per state budget directory Brian Bailey. (And the INSPIRE databases are being defunded because you can get everything on Google Scholar. I’m shaking my head at both of these outrageous claims.)

      1. Michele Kerr

        Yes, Amy I did see that and it is truly outrageous. That is why I felt so compelled to write my article concerning what can be found in just the Genealogy section alone! As you will see, if you read the article, it is quite lengthy. That is because there is so much to the Genealogy section, that I didn’t even cover within the article.

        I just run into people all the time that are amazed at how much is available at the Indiana State Library and my push is to encourage patronage to fellow researchers. As you are well aware, the brick and mortar library, archive and historical institutions are filled to the brim with all sorts of great information and documents that are just waiting to be discovered!

        We get all excited about the digitization of books and documents, which I support whole-heartedly as well, but I just want to publicize and encourage researchers and lovers of history to actually visit these places!

        In my letters to my state representative, the house speaker, and the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, I also suggested that we fully support the library so that it could expand and continue to grow its offerings. I also suggested that parking is an issue as well. I have had patrons that are meeting with me to discuss their application for membership in the Society of Indiana Pioneers have to walk several blocks in order to be able to park. It was distressing that they looked worse for the effort. If this is happening to those I have contact with, I can only guess that it is a deciding issue for prospective patrons!

        Currently, the library only has parking spots available to it on Ohio Street which is right in front of the library. When the legislature is in session, the entire north section of the street is blocked off for the use of those involved with the session. This means that anyone having business at the Statehouse usually takes up the remaining spots that reside immediately in front of the library entrance. That leaves patrons to park way down the block in front of the Indiana Historical Society or within its parking lot. While I love the IHS, it is still distressing that no matter how popular the Indiana State Library might be, parking is still limited, to say the least. While there is a parking garage across from the library, it is full most days just from state employees and those involved with the Statehouse.

        As you can tell, this is very close to my heart! Your article was so very well written and so on-point! Things like this won’t get done by clicking Like buttons or by retweeting, it will only get attention with actual letters and patronage to these institutions!

        Btw, I did send my letters (all 3) via snail mail! I included a copy of my article in hopes that they see what is at stake!

  10. Wendellyn Plummer

    I wrote to Mr. Brown four times to Mr. Karichoff four times and to Governor Pence two times. NOT once did I get a reply from ANYONE. I just think it is ridiculous to close the Genealogical Library in order to pay for the 200th celebration of Indiana’s statehood.

    1. Michele Kerr

      Wendellyn, the good news is that they have now restored funding to the genealogical section of the Indiana State Library. (Although, they didn’t completely fund some resources for the librarians.) I also sent several letters and didn’t receive any responses although I am aware of one person that did receive a letter back. I guess our response is that they restored funding!

      I hope that you have a chance to visit the Indiana State Library, if you haven’t already. It’s a beautiful building and has enormous Indiana and surrounding area resources!

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