Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Staff – What We Stand To Lose

They have been called “the Magnificent Seven.” They are the employees whose tenure at the Georgia Archives, barring a change of heart or successful intervention, will come to end on Nov. 1.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced last week that, not only would the Archives be closed to the public, but that seven of the remaining 10 employees would lose their jobs. As of Nov. 1, there will be only three employees. Just in the last 10 years the staff has been cut from 54 to three. Since 1982 the staff has been cut by almost 90 percent.

This is not to say that other lay-offs have not deprived Georgia citizens of considerable talent and experience, but this round is especially painful.

Their jobs range from caring for records to working with the public to managing the scanning projects and Web site to receiving, indexing and storing records from government agencies to writing grant applications for private funding.

The seven have a combined 113 years of experience at the Georgia Archives and 144 years overall, including a total of 50 years of management experience. Three are former presidents of the Society of Georgia Archivists.

The seven are five professionals and two paraprofessionals; all of the professionals have advanced library and archival degrees.

Archives Director Chris Davidson will have a tough job deciding how to deal with all the tasks with only three employees (including himself, one archivist and the building superintendent).

Following is a glimpse into just a few of the jobs of the staffers who will be lost:

  •  Helping the public, including agencies and local governments, with reference requests, both at the Archives and through “Ask an Archivist.”
  •  Coordinating outreach activities such as Lunch and Learn and teaching and making presentations to workshops, records management training sessions, the Georgia Archives Institute and college classes.
  •  Coordinating Web site updates.
  •  Building and maintaining online collections: digitizing materials, developing metadata, indexing and uploading to the Virtual Vault.
  •  Maintaining the records management system for inventory control.
  •  Maintaining the Georgia Archives portion of the GALILEO Interconnected Libraries Catalog.
  •  Coordinating the transfer of permanent records from state agencies to the Archives and advising agency records managers on retention schedules, procedures for transfer and appropriate descriptions.
  •  Arranging, describing, rehousing when appropriate and cataloging state records, county records, manuscript collections, photographs, books and serials.
  • Writing proposals for outside funding (R. J. Taylor, Jr., Foundation for scanning, the National Endowment for the Humanities funding for a project designed to reduce future utilities costs and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to help fund Historical Records Advisory Board activities).
  • Carrying out the preservation program including cleaning and rehousing records and preparing them for scanning, as well as book and document repair.
  • Supervising volunteers, interns and staff involved in the scanning program.
  • Maintaining specialized equipment for scanning and public access, working with vendors and maintenance contracts.
  •  Monitoring the building environment to ensure safety of the records.
  •  Developing an Archives disaster plan, working with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and storing plans from other institutions in a disaster plan “bank.”
  •  Advising and assisting local governments and other state and local institutions on the recovery of records in case of disaster.


Filed under Get Informed

State Capitol Rally

Support the Archives. Save the Seven. A rally in support of the Georgia Archives will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at noon in the rotunda of the State Capitol. Although Gov. Nathan Deal announced on Sept. 19 that he would find the funding to keep the Archives open, no details have been announced. The Archives is still scheduled to close to the public on Nov. 1

The rally also will highlight the need to reinstate seven employees whose termination was announced by Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The termination will be final of Nov. 1 If this action is allowed to stand, irreplaceable knowledge and experience will be lost.

Supporters of the Archives and the employees are encouraged to attend. Please note that placards are not allowed inside the Capitol.

Leave a comment

Filed under Events

The Future of the Archives – More Questions Than Answers

It is Saturday morning. People are enjoying the first day of autumn. For many people it was a day of football games, yard work and relaxation.

Others – professional researchers and amateur family sleuths – are in Morrow at the Georgia Archives. They arrived before the doors opened at 8:30 a. m. and will leave reluctantly at 5 p.m. They are working frantically to take advantage of one of only two days available to them.

After today there are five more Saturdays until Nov. 1, the date Secretary of State Brian Kemp has set for the closing of the Archives to the public.

Yes, Secretary Kemp said people would be able to get into the Archives by appointment. That was the day before he announced that seven of the 10 employees were being terminated. Remaining are the director (who came to the Archives from Alabama in May), the building superintendent and one excellent, veteran archivist.

That means there will be one person who knows the collection well enough to handle research questions effectively.

Research in Georgia requires access to the Georgia Archives. Many of the records cannot be found anywhere else. Thorough research takes time. How many people will be lucky enough to get appointments? How long will each person be allowed to stay? Will a researcher wait for a month to get an appointment, then be asked to leave when his two hours are up? Two hours is hardly worth the drive from anywhere in metro Atlanta, certainly not from other areas of the state.

How many professionals will default on contracts because they cannot meet deadlines or complete work at all?

A great many research requests actually come from state government. It is not an unreasonable assumption that those requests will have priority. How will that impact the ability of the private citizen to get an appointment?

Although Secretary Kemp obviously disagrees, such an appointment system does not appear to meet Georgia’s legal mandate (Georgia Public Records and Open Records Act 50-18-70) that requires that records be “open for a personal inspection by any citizen of this state at a reasonable time and place…”

Pointing fingers of blame is not a useful exercise, and there is plenty to go around – even to the citizens of Georgia. Great numbers of Georgians responded quickly, purposefully and commendably to Secretary Kemp’s fateful announcement on Sept. 13. During the last three years, however, as the staff and hours shrunk, only a few diehards haunted the capitol.

Ironically, at a well-attended ceremony last week Gov. Nathan Deal proclaimed October Archives Month in Georgia. He delighted the crowd of supporters with the announcement that he would find the money to keep the Archives open. The announcement made the Governor the hero (for the moment, at least) and had to have chafed the Secretary of State, who has been taking considerable heat on this issue.

Many assume that the Archives has been “saved” and the battle is over.

But, what exactly, does the Governor have in mind? Will he find enough emergency stop-gap funding to keep the Archives open and make it possible for Secretary Kemp to reinstate the seven employees? Will he keep the Archives open, but with only three employees? Archives employees serve at the pleasure of the Secretary of State. The Secretary is a constitutional officer, not an employee of the Governor.

Will the Governor figure a way to re-work the budget he submits to the legislature, thereby allowing the Archives to close and re-open next spring?

If the Nov. 1 deadline passes with no resolution, the seven will be gone. Even if a way is found to save those valuable employees, many of them are likely to leave before then. This would result in a tremendous loss of institutional knowledge. It would take new-hires, even qualified archivists, many years to learn the collection well enough to be effective.

Athens librarian Laura W. Carter made an analogy to the retail store where the clerk is not familiar enough with the merchandise to understand the request or find what is needed. Such a scenario is made all the worse at the Archives because the “customer” (the Georgia citizen) already owns the “merchandise. “

If the Archives closes, Georgia will the only state without public access hours. Even if service remains the same, Georgia will have the fewest hours of any archives in the nation.

Secretary Kemp opted to take all of the mandated three percent cut from the Archives, instead of spreading the grief to all of his divisions. The Archives needs a relatively small amount – $730,000 – to maintain the current level of service. That amounts to a little more than 13 cents for every Georgia citizen.

Just like Georgia families, the government must prioritize expenditures. Finding $730,000 certainly won’t move the Archives to the top of the state spending list. But it will be enough to tide over this important agency – perhaps until the state’s economic picture improves.

The future of the Archives remains uncertain. Advocates need to hold Gov. Deal to his promise. They need to urge Secretary Kemp to keep the seven, at least until after the legislative session, and contact their local legislators to express their support for a reasonable funding solution.

Vivian Price Saffold, board member, Georgia Genealogical Society

1 Comment

Filed under Get Informed

The Georgia Archives does matter

Welcome to the Georgia Archives Matters blog. The blog is part of a larger effort to support the Georgia Archives. Harnessing the power of people coming together for a common goal, we will make sure that Georgia’s historical records are properly preserved and made accessible to Georgia citizens.

For those of you who are new to this issue, a little background…

The Georgia Archives, created in 1918, is a division of the office of the Secretary of State. Its mission is to “serve state and local governments and the people of Georgia by identifying, selecting, preserving, and making accessible the records that constitute the state’s recorded history; by documenting state government decisions; and by aiding local government to meet open records requirements.” (Source: The New Georgia Encyclopedia)

While the agency was created in the early 10th century, state records have been collected since 1755. The official state seal, currently housed at the Archives, dates back to 1799.

For more information, visit the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

From the Georgia Archives Web site:

Why we exist

  • We support legislators and state agencies by providing background information and context for proposed legislation and current issues.
  • We maintain records that protect your legal and property rights, as well as those of the state government and the counties.
  • We decrease the liability, and increase the efficiency, of state agencies through proper records management.

The award-winning, state-of-the-art Archives facility which opened in 2003 is located in Morrow, at the edge of the Clayton State University campus and adjacent to the National Archives-Southeast Region. This vital resource and its historical records and artifacts exist to educate, protect and support the people of Georgia.

As Georgia’s tax revenues have declined, so has the fate of the Archives. The facility suffered an 82 percent reduction in staff and went from being open to the public five days a week to two.

Earlier this year Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal ordered all Georgia departments to reduce their budgets by three percent. On Sept. 13, Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced that the Archives would close. Kemp chose to take the entire three percent cut mandated for his department from the Archives budget. He later announced the termination of seven of the remaining 10 staff members.

After a vigorous protest from the community, Gov. Deal responded, saying the state would find the money to keep the Archives open. Archives employees serve at the pleasure of the Secretary of State, so the governor’s announcement may not save the seven. The Georgia legislature has the final say over the state budget. The General Assembly session will begin in January. Citizens may not know until the end of the session the fate of the Archives.

Vivian Price Saffold, board member, Georgia Genealogical Society


Filed under Get Informed, What You Can Do