NARA to Abolish the National Archives Library – What Happens to the Collection?

[Note: There has been an update on the status of the Archives Library that says that they will not be abolishing it. Please see the ALA Update.]

The Archivist of the United States (AOTUS), David Ferriero, wrote that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is facing a funding situation where they are "Doing More With Less." An 8.2% decrease in funding for FY2012 means some hard decisions have to be made, one of which is the abolishment of the National Archives Library.

Bernadine Abbot Hoduski, well-respected Government Documents Librarian, and founder of the Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT) in 1972, send out this email to the GOVDOC-L listserv, and I asked her if I could reprint it here to help get her message out about what happens to the actual material held in the National Archives Library. Bernadine points out something that we all know happens during economic downturns that cause governments to begin cutting services:
As we all know as librarians, libraries are often the first to be cut in an economic crisis. We also know that once the resources in these libraries are lost they are almost impossible to replace.
I've taken the liberty of including some links when possible, and placing some of her key questions in bold-face type, and hope that AOTUS would address these issues as soon as possible.

[Note: There is an update from ALA that seems to contradict the initial NARA memo. I've placed it at the end of this post. I'll keep you updated if any new information comes out of NARA clarifying the closure and layoffs that were initially announce.]

Hello All,

The Archivist of the United States has issued Memo 2011-113, which announces the abolishment of the National Archives Library by the end of this fiscal year.
I went to the NARA site and found the Archives Library Information Center (ALIC) to find the number and jobs of the staff and the services provided. This center is heavily used by historians, genealogists and others. Check it out yourself.
The library is part of the by-law program run by GPO and is entitled to all the government publications issued through the GPO. The library collects publications such as phone directories and other publications that concern personnel. These types of publications usually do not go to depository libraries or if they are, they are discarded when the new edition is issued. NARA keeps those older editions and these are invaluable to researchers and genealogists as well as agency historians. Since some of the planning for the future of the depository library program has depended upon back up collections at NARA and LC and the national
libraries, it is important to know what will happen to the collections held by ALIC. 
  • Will [the collections held by ALIC] be kept by NARA and sent to other units or will they be discarded? 
  • Will librarians throughout the world be able to borrow those publications and will they be able to send researchers to NARA in DC to do research? 
The staff at ALIC have provided excellent service and have created on line tools to help researchers more easily find both government documents and other resources.
  • Who will provide this service once these librarians are gone?
It is important to know what will happen to RG 287 (This is the collection of several million government documents collected and cataloged by GPO. The collection was transferred from the Department of Interior in 1895 to GPO and was organized by Adelaide Hasse. It was transferred to NARA by GPO in 1972 so it would be permanently protected as government records). RG287 is under the control of NARA Legislative Archives. It is not clear where RG287 is housed and whether it is kept as one unit or scattered among various units of NARA. It is not clear as to who is providing service to this collection. It would make sense to transfer library staff most familiar with government documents to legislative archives so that the nation can continue to benefit from the expertise and knowledge of librarians at NARA. As we all know as librarians, libraries are often the first to be cut in an economic crisis. We also know that once the resources in these libraries are lost they are almost impossible to replace.
I have listed the names and positions of the library staff below along with the memo from the Archivist. Please send this message on to your state association listservs and other organizations.

Bernadine Abbott Hoduski

National Archives Library (ALIC) abolished - Archivist Memo 2011-113
7 positions to be eliminated:
Current Library employees:
  1. Jeff Hartley [Chief Librarian]
  2. Carolyn Gilliam [Reference]
  3. Randall Fortson [Reference A2]
  4.  Torin Pollock [Technician]
  5. Melissa Copp [Cataloger]
  6. Nancy Wing [Reference head A1] (Military)
  7. Tim Syzek [Reference (Military)]
  8. Marquetta Troy [Technician]
  9. Maryellen Trautman [Documents Cataloger-By Law] 
Bernadine Abbott Hoduski

AOTUS listed these links for more information on the budget for NARA and the plans that are in place right now:

[Update: From ALA Governmental Information Subcommittee]

New Post: "Update on the National Archives Library Information Center"
By Jessica McGilvray
------ Update on the National Archives Library Information Center
In the last couple of days there has been much concern about the status of the National Archives Library Information Center (ALIC).  The National Archives will be putting out an official statement on the issue, but in the meantime I was able to speak with David McMillen the External Affairs Liaison at the National Archives.  He assured me that the library is not closing and the collection would remain accessible by the public.  There are going to be changes to the library.  Due to budget constraints the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will be merging library services with other services.  This means that:
  • The library will remain open and staffed and public access will remain
  • The library collection will remain intact (with the exception of the bound serial set being moved because the library has purchased an online version).
  • Like most libraries facing budget cuts, acquisitions will be substantially reduced.
  • Seven positions will be reassigned, not laid off.  Some of those people may be providing library reference within a different unit, but it is too soon to say where people will be assigned.
  • The records management process with the Government Printing Office will not be affected by this merge.
Jessica McGilvray
To view this Post in Connect, go to http://connect.ala.org/node/131094.

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Sean said...

Sounds like a perfect project for Google to get involved in.

Victoria Szymczak said...

Actually it sounds like a perfect project for those libraries who agreed to let Google scan their collections so they can make up for their hasty error in judgement.


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