The Library of Virginia again needs your help this week to get its budget amendments through the Virginia General Assembly.
Thanks to the efforts of the many Virginia researchers, genealogists and historians who have written the General Assembly, we have made some good progress.
Both the House and the Senate have adopted separate budgets which include an amendment for $428,571 to hire nine LVA staff and permit LVA to re-open six days per week. This amendment should be included in the final budget and if so, will represent great progress.
The House also included a separate budget amendment for $294,250 to hire 4 key mid-level staff at the Library of Virginia; but the Senate did not include this amendment.
The House and the Senate will now appoint budget conferees to resolve their competing versions of the budget – and then conferees are likely to make most of their decisions this week.
It is therefore critical that you write the conferees as soon as you can this week, thanking them for approving funding to re-open the library six days per week, but urging them to provide the funding for the additional key positions.
As the draft message below notes, two of these positions are a private papers archivist and digital collection manager. The Library used to have six private papers archivists — it now has zero. There are approximately 4500 cubic feet of private papers – family letters, bible records, genealogical charts, African-American cemetery records, diaries, etc. — that are sitting inaccessible in boxes because there are no private papers archivists to organize them and add them to the catalogue; and there is no digital collections manager to put this type of new material online. Opening six days per week may restore access to existing collection holdings in the catalogue, but will not add new materials for research
A brief summary of the four positions is attached.
A draft letter which you can cut and paste is below. If you are a constituent of one of the legislators, or a Virginia resident, please add a first sentence telling them that.
Please preserve Virginia’s history and make it accessible to researchers!
The Senate and House approval of the Library of Virginia’s budget amendments 240#1s and 240#1h to allow the Library to re-open 6 days per week is greatly appreciated.
Your support of House budget amendment 239#1s for $294,250 for four key staff positions is also needed now.
One of these is a private papers archivist. The Library used to have six private papers archivists; it now has zero. New private materials (wartime letters, bible records, diaries, private business records, research notes, etc.,) continue to flow into the Library, but are now inaccessible. There are approximately 4,500 cubic feet of private papers now inaccessible and waiting to be made available once a private papers archivist is hired.
The General Assembly is now considering funding to help start to clean up Evergreen Cemetery, an historic private African-American cemetery in Richmond. The Library of Virginia has the surviving burial records from Evergreen Cemetery, but without a private papers archivist, these will effectively be inaccessible to researchers attempting to identify burials or families at Evergreen Cemetery.
The Library of Virginia has pre-1912 birth and death records, and pre-1936 marriage records, which need to be indexed, digitized and put online, probably through a partnership with a vendor like Ancestry, but there is currently no staff available to design an RFP, manage a scanning and digitization contract, and put these records online.
The Library of Virginia is the most heavily visited state archives in the United States, and one of the leading historical research destinations in the country, but it has been badly harmed by losing 40% of its staff over the last ten years.
The Library needs to have the 4 critical mid-level technical positions filled in order to continue to make new materials available to researchers.
Please continue to keep Virginia a national leader in historic preservation and a destination for researchers.