After two months of angst over the announced closing of the Georgia Archives and the termination of seven of the 10 Archives employees, Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the addition of $125,000 to the Archives budget.
The funds allow the Archives to remain open two days a week until the end of the state fiscal year, June 31. The move also saves the jobs of two of the seven employees. One staffer works in the reference room, the other is a veteran employee with extensive knowledge of the collection and the workings of the Archives.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s plan to require appointments, which any researcher knows was virtually useless, will not be implemented.
In addition, Gov. Deal announced that the Archives would shift from the Secretary of State’s purview to the State Board of Regents, pending approval of the Georgia legislature. It is too early to tell exactly what such a move would mean to the Archives.
So, as of late October, the Archives will remain open two days a week for the next seven months. The staff will be doing the same work, but with half the staff.
I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to describe how awful this entire situation has been; a few that come to mind are crisis, devastation, laughingstock, shameful and disaster. Add yours; we could probably come up with hundreds if we brainstormed.
I won’t go into all the reasons why the Archives is important. You can read them elsewhere in this newsletter, on our blog, on our Web site, in newspaper articles, on the Friends of the Georgia Archives Web site and numerous other places. What I want to emphasize here is that we must fight for the Archives, then fight some more, and never give up.
Even with the governor’s decision to keep the Archives open, much remains to be done. The Georgia legislature will be back in session in January, and we must convince the lawmakers to not only appropriate enough money to keep it open to the public two days a week as it is currently, but appropriate enough money to open it five days a week with adequate staff.
What should you do? Write letters – to the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, appropriations committee members, your senators and representatives – anyone in state government who has influence or a vote. Start immediately. Call their staff, visit their offices, participate in rallies and other events sponsored by GGS, FOGAH and other entities. Then do it all over again. The excuse, “I’ve written a letter” isn’t good enough. We don’t want this issue to become “old news.” It must remain in the public eye, and we must continuously (but politely) hammer away at the decision makers in our state government. Persistence on our part is paramount.
Don’t ask for too little; ask for what is needed. Ask for the Archives to be open five days a week; ask for full staffing so the work that needs to be done can be accomplished.
Regular updates can be found on this blog, as well as the Georgia Genealogical Society Web site.
REMEMBER, NEVER GIVE UP! The Georgia Archives houses OUR records, and we must have adequate access to what is ours.
Linda S. Hughes
President, Georgia Genealogical Society