Update: 19 Sept 2012 18:00 Today, Governor Deal stated that the Georgia State Archives would remain open. Secretary of State Kemp, however, indicated that the Governor would have to 'find' the funds to do so. This issue is far from over, and now more than ever, we need to keep pressure on the stakeholders to let them know that we are taking this issue very seriously. Here is a link to the Clayton News Daily article regarding the update.
I'm pleased to have the opportunity for Jeremy Brett, the co-chair of the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable Steering Committee of the Society of American Archivists, to be my guest blogger today. Jeremy is a Processing Archivist at Texas A&M University. Once again, I'd appreciate it if you'd take a moment to read what Jeremy has to say about the pending closure of the Georgia State Archives. As an active member of the SAA, Jeremy is working to ensure that not only are members informed about this issue, but that we reach out to everyone. If you'd be kind enough to pass this information on, I would be very grateful. And, of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this situation.
CRISIS IN THE GEORGIA STATE ARCHIVES
You may be aware of a recent dire situation that is poised to cripple the Georgia State Archives. Last week Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, whose office is the authority for the State Archives, announced that the GSA would be closed to all public access beginning November 1, 2012. Kemp has stated that this is due to a 3% budget reduction across the board for all state agencies. In the case of Kemp's office, the amount required is $750,000, and Kemp has chosen to make this cut ENTIRELY at the expense of the GSA.
This decision will make the GSA the only public archives in the United States without any public access hours whatsoever, which as you might imagine is not only a disservice to the people of Georgia and interested researchers everywhere, but a disgrace and a blot on the reputation of the Georgia state government.
Not only will public access be eliminated at the GSA, but the budget cut means severe staff reductions at well. We've just heard that seven full time Archives employees will be fired, leaving only three for the entire institution. (6 of the 7 fired were women, by the way. Only one male has been let go.)
This short-sighted decision deprives citizens of regular and predictable access, as mandated in the Georgia Records Act , Title 50, Chapter 18, Article 4, section 70(b) of the Georgia Annotated Code that all public records “shall be open for a personal inspection by any citizen of this state at a reasonable time and place, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse this privilege to any citizen.” It is contrary to the practice of government transparency by depriving citizens of predictable and ready access to the records that are essential to providing evidence of government accountability. It deprives citizens, as well as Georgia’s own government, of access to records needed to support due process of law. It is, in short, a horrible decision with grave consequences for the future of Georgia's archives and its commitment to democratic government.
A great many archivists and archival professional groups have banded together to protest this decision. The more people we can contact, the more letters will get written and calls made. For additional information, you can check the Facebook page that's been set up to deal with this crisis: Georgians Against Closing State Archives, and Kate Theimer's website with a collection of links on the issue.
Also, consider adding your name to the online petition currently circulating HERE
Make your voice heard on this crucial issue!