Michigan Governor Agrees To Prioritize Support for Two Programs, Revise State Librarian Position
Library advocates still plan rally to fight proposed budget cuts
Norman Oder -- Library Journal, 08/31/2009
- Programs governor now supports targeted by Senate
- Rally September 10
- State librarian will be designated within the Department of Education
Vigorous advocacy by library supporters in Michigan has pushed Gov. Jennifer Granholm to modify her July 13 Executive Order with a directive prioritizing continued support and funding for the statewide library book and electronic material sharing programs, Michigan eLibrary (MeL) and Michigan eLibrary Catalog (MeLCat), as well as ensuring that a State Librarian position remains, even if the job is no longer a political appointment.
While the Michigan Library Association (MLA) has withdrawn its opposition to the Executive Order and applauded Granholm’s response, the MLA is still holding a rally September 10 to protest proposed legislative cuts in state support for the programs Granholm agreed to prioritize: interlibrary loans and online databases.
“The Senate recently passed a budget that cuts library funding from $10 million to $7.5 million–less than half of what is statutorily required,” said Gretchen Couraud, MLA executive director. “If this budget is enacted, the entire statewide resource sharing and interlibrary loan system could collapse.”
The budget is supposed to be passed by the end of September. According to a new web site established by MLA, Michigan Libraries for the Future, llibraries across the state could be forced to reduce hours and services. A rally will be held at 10 a.m. on September 10 at the State Capitol in Lansing.
Library vendor Gale, part of Cengage Learning, is providing free bus service from Gale headquarters in Farmington Hills, and from Otsego County Library in Gaylord.
"With our headquarters located in Michigan, we see first hand how our state is experiencing some of the highest unemployment in the nation," said John Barnes, Gale’s executive VP of strategic marketing and business development. "This is not the time to cut vital library services, as more Michigan residents than ever are relying on the resources of their libraries for job-searching, skills development and life resources."
Library of Michigan changes
Beyond that, MLA and library advocates, Couraud said, “will work with the legislature and the governor to keep the Library of Michigan whole, and within state government.” Granholm’s Executive Order would eliminate the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries (HAL) and transfer most Library of Michigan functions to the Department of Education.
“The MLA is not opposed to the elimination of HAL, we are realistic about the difficult economic times facing Michigan," said Larry Neal, MLA president. "What we do not understand is breaking up the Library of Michigan without any proposed cost savings or the lack of discussion about its central role in providing cost effective services that citizens value."
“The MLA also would like to commend Senator Cameron Brown (R-Fawn River Township) for his strong leadership efforts to preserve the Library of Michigan,” MLA said in a statement.
In July, the governor announced a “conceptual plan” for a Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention in downtown Lansing that would include “a transformed Michigan Library and Historical Center through a partnership with Michigan State University, the city of Lansing and other appropriate public and private partners.” There was no funding, however, attached to it.
Granholm last week requested that the Superintendent of Public Instruction designate a qualified Department of Education employee to serve as the state librarian effective October 1 or soon thereafter.
“While the Order eliminates the politically-appointed position of state librarian, maintaining a state librarian position is important for the influence and stature of the library community within state government and recognizes the value of library resources to the People of the State of Michigan,” the governor said.