Indiana House Bill 1001: Cutting All Funding to ISL Genealogy Department

My letter to Representatives Saunders and Brown:

Dear Representative Saunders and Representative Brown,

I am writing in regard to the proposed funding cut ($400,000) to the Indiana State Library (ISL) and the possible closing of the Genealogy Department there. As proposed in House Bill 1001, this would cut all funding for the Genealogy Department at the ISL.

As a lifelong Hoosier and family historian, this is appalling to me. To eliminate all the funding for the Genealogy Department would be a travesty to Hoosiers everywhere.

As per Indiana State Librarian Jacob Speer:
“Specific statutory authority for the program:

IC 4-23-7.1 Sec. 3. The state library shall maintain, develop, and service a collection of books, periodicals, newspapers, maps, manuscripts, audiovisual materials, and other library materials for the purpose of:

(1) meeting the informational, educational, and research needs of state government;

(2) preserving and making available for use, materials bearing on the history of the state;

(3) meeting the specialized library needs and interests of citizens of Indiana; and

(4) supplementing the reference and materials resources of the libraries of the state.

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.

Staff members who work in genealogy are playing important roles in planning the library’s role in the State’s bicentennial commemoration including the State Visitor Center that will be installed on the library’s first floor adjacent to the genealogy department. 49% of all reference questions that come into the ISL are for research from these genealogy materials.

For such a small portion of our overall budget, we provide exceptional research materials to the public including students, genealogy librarians, historians, and legislators; preserving Indiana history for generations to come.

To give an everyday example of how this service is utilized, in January of this year, over 500 eighth grade students from Perry Meridian Middle School will be visiting the ISL to do a genealogy project involving several staff teaching them how to use for family history research and then instructing them how to research historical Indiana newspapers to find out what was happening in Indiana on the day of their birth. Perry Meridian Middle School did this same project two years ago and received a national award from the American Library Association. This is the same type of instruction and research the staff does on a daily basis for the general public around the state, nation, and even internationally. Without these funds ISL would not have the staff to do these types of educational programs or provide research assistance.”

Nearly half of all research questions that ISL receives are related to genealogical research! This highlights the importance and need for this ISL service greatly. My hope is that with Indiana’s bicentennial on the horizon, these proposed cuts will be examined much more closely.

Even though the Genealogy Department is steeped in Indiana history, the future must be given attention. The closing of this department would be a tremendous loss to the Hoosier state.

On the banks of the Wabash, far away,

(my name)

Proud member of the Indiana Genealogical Society, the Society of Indiana Pioneers, and the Henry County Historical Society

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