15 September 2012

Does This Shift Concern You? Perhaps it Should...


I'm going to voice my opinion about the closing of the State of Georgia Archives to the public. Obviously, as an Archivist and Genealogist, I have a lot riding on what's happening there. While it doesn't affect me directly (yet), the implications of this are wide spread and at the least very concerning. At the worst, it is indicative of something far more nefarious. This is my opinion only, and not a reflection of anyone I've worked with past, current or future.

Here is an interesting piece about the Georgia Historical Society and its concern regarding what is happening in Georgia: Budget Cuts Forcing Close of State Archives The CEO alludes to MY greatest concern, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with old stuff and everything to do with open government, the bedrock of our Nation. 

The founders of this country worked diligently to craft a Constitution that protected the citizens from a hidden government, opening up the process to everyone. In a similar fashion to a public company that is required to provide information to its shareholders, our Government should provide information about its process to the People. 

By closing the State Archives to the public, the State of Georgia is denying access to its government. THIS is what concerns me the most, and I believe THIS is the key element to getting the Archives to remain open. It's not about access for historical researchers or genealogists, but rather access by citizens to ensure their government is acting in their best interest. 

Do I worry that wonderful historical documents will be lost to those of us who may need them for research? Absolutely. But far worse is the subtle shift in the closure of access to a portion of this Nation's government. It's an incredibly slippery slope, and there are States in far more dire financial straits who will now be emboldened to take the same course of action. 

What do we do? First, write to your Governor and State Representatives and Senators letting them know you have a concern about this happening in your own State. You can find contact information to them here. Then, write to your U.S. Congressman. Not the POTUS, but those who represent your State in the Congress. If you don't know who your Representative is, you can find him or her at this website. Senators can be found at this website. While signing an online petition is quick and easy, our government representatives of all kinds have indicated that a personal email and or letter holds far more weight. Please think about taking action to keep our government open and transparent.

9 comments:

  1. You are so absolutely right about the risks, Laura. And how every citizen MUST be concerned about open government.

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    1. Thank you Judy, for taking the time to comment here. I know there are a lot of people who respect your opinion very highly, myself included, so it means a lot to me. This is NOT a political issue, but one of governmental oversight by the people.

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  2. Yes, I agree with you completely, Laura. This action is about transparency. About access by the people to records about the people and their process of government -- which, after all, is supposed to be FOR the people. This issue reminds me about the lack of disclosure requirements for zillionaire campaign donors and organizations -- as you say, another means of constructing a hidden government. I too am worried that this step will embolden other states to imitate Georgia, under the cover of "saving money." Thanks for providing the websites for state reps, Congressmen, and Senators. I'm going to use them. : D

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Marianne. There are many reasons to have records available to the Public and only one for closing them. And, I believe there's a lack of communication between the people we put in office and ourselves; it's on US to speak up both when we're happy and when we're not.

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  3. Great point Laura! That has bothered me about many things lately with governmental lack of transparency, but I had honestly not thought of this closing in GA related to the same issue. But it TOTALLY is! If GA can do it and claim it is a lack of resources, well I happen to know that the financial situation of our COUNTRY is as nasty or even likely worse than most if not all states. Will this lead to similar attitudes in the US as a whole? I hope not and I will fight it tooth and nail. Thanks for the wake-up post. :)

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    1. Thank you for expanding on my thoughts. The Canadian government took the action of slashing funding to the Library and Archives Canada. This action resulted not only in the obvious loss of jobs, but of material of historical significance being warehoused with the potential end result being its disposal. Can you imagine?

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  4. Thank you for this post, Laura. Like many, I've not taken this closure lightly, although I hadn't framed it in quite the perspective you had. You have an excellent point, and I appreciate your public effort to urge others to take action, too.

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    1. Thank you Jacqi. I'm not one who usually beats the drum, but as a historian, archivist and genealogist the thought of losing access to information our government created is very concerning.

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