The Government Shutdown from an Archives Point of View

In upcoming Off the Record blog posts I will post about my speech and attendance at the Cultural Heritage Symposium that took place at the Library of Congress, my trip to Ohio including presentations at the Society of Ohio Archivists conference and at Miami University and my interactions with members of the Association of Research Librarians at their recent conference.

However I did want to take a moment to acknowledge my colleagues that work for the federal government who are currently furloughed due to the government shutdown. Whatever your political affiliation I know how frustrating it is to be unable to serve your patrons, complete projects and on a more personal level do the job you love and make sure that the bills are paid and that there is a roof over your head and food on your table.

The Librarian of Congress, James Billington, sent a message to the furloughed employees of the Library and I want to share it with you:

“In these uncertain days, I want all of you to know how much your expertise and commitment is valued by me personally and by the great institution that we all serve. Across the Library — whether you work as a curator, on our facilities crews or answer questions about copyright registrations — in all our divisions, your knowledge, skills and dedication are important for America, not just in our own time, but for future generations.”

Though I know his words were aimed at Library of Congress employees I would like to think with just a few changes they could apply to all federal employees and even all archivists (I ‘m also thinking about the closing of the Target Archives, which cost two long time employees their positions and puts the historical materials of this company at risk. We also know that as more and more companies look for ways to cut costs more and more archives and archivists will be put on the chopping block).  It was wonderful to read Dr. Billington’s words of support but we need to find those who will speak up for archives and archivists.

Over the past few weeks as I’ve presented at various venues, I’ve talked a lot about the importance of story and even more importantly about determining who should be telling our story. Though SAA can create materials that can be used when our repositories are closed, our budgets are slashed or we are seen as expendable, we need others who have been on the receiving side of our work to tell our stories. A colleague asked if SAA should be writing to to protest the government shutdown. I suggested that instead of SAA writing one single letter we need to have those whose research has been disrupted, those who paid lots of money to come to a repository only to find it closed, and those who are feeling the greatest impact from the lack of access to these repositories need to write to their member of Congress or in the case of a corporate archive, the CEO or governing board.

Last year I read the messages on the petition protesting the shutdown of the Georgia State Archives and I found that the ones that were most powerful were those who noted the importance of the archives in the completion of research, in finding a solution to a problem, or in helping to empower a user. If you know of researchers who are facing major issues because of the government shutdown encourage them to write to their member of Congress. Have them help us tell our story.

3 responses to “The Government Shutdown from an Archives Point of View

  1. I like what you’re saying, Danna. This is a case in which the voices of our audiences will speak more convincingly than our own voices about the value of our collections and the value of the services we provide.


  2. So many archives or parts of archives, as I understand, are already ‘shut down’ for however many years cos of ‘secrecy’ or some such other non-accessible reason of not to be known un-knowingness of boxes and files labelled “Pandora”. What’s a few days (even a couple of weeks) of enforced Republican v Democrats playful political shutdown going to make when archive doors will all too soon swing open again and academic researchers and non-descript perusers will shuffle along shelving dourly noting box upon box file upon file labelled “Not to be opened Ever”. That is – unless another thoughtful whistleblower opens the lid on more redacted truths. .

  3. Pingback: 5 Things Thursday: Tattoos, Taxonomy, Zombies & Metadata | MOD LIBRARIAN

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