July 22, 2009
Michigan’s State Law Library Faces Service Cuts, Uncertainty
The future of Michigan’s State Law Library has become uncertain in light of a July 13, 2009 executive order issued by the state’s governor. The Governor’s press release respecting the order is available here. Section II(B)(8)(b) of the order, Executive Order 2009-36, which takes effect October 1, 2009 absent legislative action, provides for the elimination of the law library’s “circulation and document delivery” services. According to Michigan’s State Librarian Nancy Robertson, the executive order does not expressly provide for cuts in the law library’s personnel, collections, or other services, nor does the order propose any changes to the law library’s funding for the current fiscal year, which ends September 30. Nevertheless, warned Ms. Robertson, “further budget and, hence, service reductions are always a possibility,” as are cuts to collections and electronic subscriptions.
According to State Librarian Robertson, were the executive order to take effect, administration of the law library, along with its parent the state library, the Library of Michigan (LOM), would be transferred from the Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries (HAL) to the state’s Department of Education. Ms. Robertson said that under the executive order the law library’s collections would remain at their current location in the Michigan Library and Historical Center, however.
Yet a transfer of the law library’s collections, along with many of LOM’s other collections, to Michigan State University is possible in the future, according to a July 19 report in the Lansing State Journal. “Most of the holdings of the state library [i.e., LOM] that now occupy the building at 702 W. Kalamazoo St. would transfer to Michigan State University,” wrote Scott Davis of The Journal, citing Michigan Governor Granholm’s proposal of last week for a Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention and a report said to have been prepared in spring 2009 by Liberty Science Center of New Jersey for Michigan State University. Asked to comment on The Journal’s article, State Librarian Robertson stated, “We don’t, at this time, know any more than what is outlined by the [executive order], and to make any predictions about what will or won’t happen - and according to what timeline - would be speculation, at best. Regarding a possible transfer of collections to MSU, it’s not something being looked at by [LOM] at this point, but it might become something we would consider pursuant to the [Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention (MCIR)]  board report,” which, if the executive order takes effect, would be issued by June 2010.
As noted in an earlier LLB post by Mark Giangrande, the proposed service reductions at the law library, which is a department of LOM, constitute one of a number of sweeping changes to the state library and related agencies called for by the executive order. Under the executive order, HAL – the parent department for LOM, the Archives of Michigan and several other information-related state agencies – would be abolished, along with the position of State Librarian, and LOM would cease participating in Michigan’s statewide interlibrary loan service. The executive order calls for eliminating circulation service for LOM’s principal collections, or, alternatively, “transferring [those] collections to other suitable institutions”; and for discarding or transferring LOM’s Federal Depository Library collection. LOM’s personnel and other collections would be transferred to the state’s Department of Education and the other information-related agencies within HAL would be transferred to other state agencies. Library Journal’s article detailing the proposed changes is available here.
According to Michigan Association of Law Libraries (MichALL) President Claire Membiela, the executive order also provides for the creation of “a new Board,” the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention (MCIR) Board, to “oversee and determine the services provided by the libraries and museums.” State Librarian Robertson adds that the MCIR board’s responsibilities would include “collections management,” and that the board would have to submit a report with recommendations to the Department of Education’s Superintendent by June 2010.
Whether the executive order will take effect remains uncertain. According to Gretchen Couraud, Executive Director of the Michigan Library Association (MLA) action by both houses of the Michigan Legislature could prevent the executive order from becoming law. In addition, said Couraud, the legislature is currently mulling a legislative alternative -- discussed in this MLA document -- to the executive order, that would preserve all of LOM’s existing personnel, collections, and services, while transferring them to the Michigan Department of State.
Michigan’s state budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1, looms large in discussions respecting the fate of HAL, LOM, and the law library. According to Couraud, the Governor’s current FY 2010 budget proposal calls for maintaining current funding levels for LOM, state aid for public libraries, statewide database subscriptions, and the statewide union catalog and interlibrary loan program. However, Couraud notes, the legislature’s own FY 2010 budget bills provide for 25% cuts in state funding for public libraries, statewide database subscriptions, and the statewide union catalog and ILL system.
What can interested librarians do to learn more or to express their views respecting the proposed changes to Michigan state library services? MLA’s analysis of the executive order and proposed legislation is available here and related resources are available here. For now, MLA is urging the legislature to keep LOM intact irrespective of the department to which is transferred, to retain the position of State Librarian, and to maintain the current funding level for state aid to public libraries. State Librarian Robertson encourages interested persons to contact Michigan’s Governor, the Chair of the Michigan Senate’s Commerce and Tourism Committee, a Senator from Michigan’s 16th District, or the MLA.
Many thanks to Emily Carr of the Law Library of Congress, HAL’s Public Information Officer Sarah Lapshan, and MichALL President Claire Membiela for providing information for this story.
Robert C. Richards
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