I’ve been thinking about it, so let’s play devil’s advocate here a little bit. What would be the repercussions of closing the Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library?
The current location and services do have a few drawbacks, to say the least. For one, no one I know actually likes to visit the State Library. The location really sucks, being down in the Government Center, with lots of foot and vehicle traffic of a non-genealogy nature.
Many suburban and rural Hoosiers avoid downtown Indy like the plague, anyway, even though the “hood” reputation is mostly undeserved. If you think that doesn’t affect research traffic, I’ve researched in the Genealogy Division often for several hours, and I would be the only patron there.
The parking situation is definitely substandard, especially during legislative sessions and during one of the numerous downtown events. Ever try to get there during one of those interminable marathons? And the new parking vendor has got to be raking in a fortune!
The hours are marginal, being closed most evenings, all Sundays and holidays. If you are one of those 9 to 5 working folks with families, it’s probably more convenient to go to Fort Wayne. It’s always seemed to me that the Genealogy collection is a stepchild anyway, with very little State attention paid to it. I’ll bet 99+% of the $400,000 is for salaries and not new printed materials or new digital resources.
The facilities also come up short. Why can’t you use scanners in there? Why all the No Copying restrictions? Do they ever rebind a book? Do they totally depend on book donations to improve their collection? What do you do for lunch? No coffee shop, no sandwiches--it’s so nice on a cold, snowy day to walk a few blocks to find that stuff. They won’t even let you walk through the tunnel to get to the cafeteria in the State Office Building. How rude is that? Why do State employees trump state taxpayers?
So, taking a look, what if they do shut Genealogy down at ISL? What might happen?
For one thing, I doubt if the collection would be sold on eBay. It would probably find a nice home somewhere else. Perhaps the Indianapolis Public Library would acquire it for their Main Branch, or even remodel one of their branches as an Indianapolis Genealogy Center. You might even be able to research until 9 o’clock at night! With free parking!
Maybe a state university could get it; they always seem to be rolling in tax money. IUPUI would be a good choice, but it would not necessarily need to be in Indianapolis—Muncie or Terre Haute are good choices. The west side of the state could use a little action.
If the State Archives are relocated onto the War Memorial Mall and enlarged, the Genealogy materials could be moved there. It wouldn’t cost much—Archives volunteers could do most of the work, like they do now.
I doubt if the paid Genealogy staffers at ISL would
lose their jobs; surely there’s enough churn in State employees that they could
move into an equivalent spot in another department in Indy.
Maybe a county library system close by would pick up the ISL collection. The dollars that the Allen County genealogy department brings into that community would be a model for another library system to emulate. They could put it down around Seymour or Brownstown to give southern Hoosiers a good research facility closer than Fort Wayne.
The long and the short of it is that closing the ISL Genealogy Division would not be an insurmountable loss to Indiana researchers. If the State doesn’t want it, I’m sure there are a lot of options for others to take it over. Let’s use our imaginations—it might even be a good thing!