Update: Gordon Belt has added some additional perspective and provided State Librarian Chuck Sherrill’s official response to questions about the cuts.
Upcoming budget cuts will affect those interested in studying Tennessee history. The budget proposed by Governor Bill Haslam recommends the cutting of seven full-time positions at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) . Under former governor Phil Bredesen, proposed cuts to TSLA were delayed by federal stimulus funding, but that funding is no longer in place.
According to the 2011-12 budget, beginning this summer, public access to TSLA will be reduced from 60 hours to 37.5 hours. Unconfirmed reports have TSLA, which is currently open Mon.-Sat. from 8:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., closing at 4:30 P.M. instead of 6:00 P.M. and being closed all day on Mondays. My math tells me that the other five hours would likely come from a one-hour delay in opening, leaving business hours as Tues.-Sat., 9:00 A.M.-4:30 P.M. Unconfirmed reports also suggest that the seven positions cut from the TSLA staff will likely be long-time staff who constitute an important institutional memory for patrons who use TSLA resources.
Cutting the accessible hours by 38% and removing staff members who know the TSLA resources the best is a slap in the face of those who study the state’s history. An abbreviated list of historical contributions made by the state of Tennessee shows its influence: U.S. presidents Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson; the Father of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Cordell Hull; national politicians and world leaders Al Gore Sr., Al Gore Jr., Estes Kefauver, etc.; several significant Civil War battles, including at Shiloh and Franklin, and leaders, including Nathan Bedford Forrest, Gideon J. Pillow, Benjamin F. Cheatham; music legend Elvis Presley; and media mogul Oprah Winfrey; and a globally significant government site at Oak Ridge. The list could go on, but the point is clear: if one wants to study many of these people and places, then TSLA is usually the place to start.
I am very concerned about these changes for my own career and students. I have spent hundreds of hours at TSLA researching my scholarly interests in Jacksonian politics and the Ku Klux Klan. I have taken students to TSLA to give them hands-on experience with the historical resources available only at this important state institution. Finding the time to make visits to TSLA is already difficult, and these reduced hours will make it even harder to find time to squeeze in research, which often has to be done in the afternoon when my schedule, not to mention the students’, is more flexible. As for the staff reductions, while all of the staff are great at assisting with requests, it only makes logical sense that the ones with the most experience are often the most helpful in navigating TSLA’s resources.
If you are interested in having your voice heard regarding these budget cuts, I encourage you to contact your state representative or the following government officials and respectfully ask them to reconsider:
Secretary of State Tre Hargett: firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary Hargett is on Twitter: @SecTreHargett
TSLA is housed under Secretary Hargett’s office. The State Department’s webpage states, “Our mission is to exceed the expectations of our customers, the taxpayers, by operating at the highest levels of accuracy, cost-effectiveness, and accountability in a customer-centered environment.”
State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill: email@example.com
Governor Bill Haslam: firstname.lastname@example.org
Governor Haslam is on Facebook and Twitter: @BillHaslam
First Lady Crissy Haslam: email@example.com
Frist Lady Haslam is on Facebook and Twitter: @CrissyHaslam
Please send this post to professors, genealogists, and others who use TSLA for their research and ask them to contact the above individuals to express their concern.
. vol. 1:B-24; Vol. 2:74