Georgia

Guest Post: “Pit-iful Peach State” (The Georgia Archives Crisis)

In light of this week’s news that Georgia’s Secretary of State plans to close the state archives to the public on November 1, 2012, Buffy asked if I would share my thoughts on the value of archives and why people should care.

I’ve worked in archives since 1996, and sometimes I forget that not everyone knows what archives hold and what archivists do. In brief, archives keep important documents and make them accessible. Some archives, such as the one in which I work, hold records of a specific institution. Some have local history and genealogy. Others hold local, state, or national government records. Many have combinations of these types of collections. Although some records may be restricted or sealed, the goal of archivists is to provide access to the things they can share, not to hoard the records away in darkness.

Budget cuts within the state of Georgia, though, may mean that the state’s records will no longer be available to the public except by appointment. The state archives, already operating with only a skeleton crew, will cease to be open even two days per week. (If the Secretary of State has his way, the archives will absorb the brunt of his department’s 3% ($732,626) cuts although other areas under his domain will still exist: Corporations, Professional Licensing Boards, and Elections.) What does this mean to the people of Georgia? Why should they care if a state agency closes to the public?

For starters, the preamble to the state’s constitution says that it was ordained and established “to perpetuate the principles of free government, ensure justice to all, preserve peace, promote the interest and happiness of the citizen and of the family, and transmit to posterity the enjoyment of liberty.” Let’s look at that charge through an archival lens.

  • How can we “perpetuate the principles of free government, ensure justice to all, [and] preserve peace” if we don’t know what those principles have been? We must have access to our governmental records, our history, in order to know where we’ve come from. Thomas Jefferson said that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” We have to maintain our records and share their contents in order to make sure we are offering justice to the widest possible group.
  • The next section says that we are to “promote the interest and happiness of the citizen and of the family.” In addition to our basic rights of freedom and justice, we are entitled to pursue our happiness and follow our interests. For many Georgians, one of these interests is genealogy. We want to know not only where we’ve come from as a state, but also as individuals and families. Genealogists are fierce and frequent users of archival resources. In fact, one of the reasons for building the state archives next to the National Archives Southeast Region office was to enable genealogists to conduct their research more easily. The shared, free parking was seen as a benefit to this user group. The fact that the resources were placed on a university campus was seen as a boon to scholars. Does anyone remember that the citizens of Georgia were excited about these new facilities and offerings?
  • The third part of the preamble says that our constitution exists to “transmit to posterity the enjoyment of liberty.” Again, I would ask how we can share liberty with posterity if we don’t provide access to the documents that enforce that liberty. Even the website of the state archives says that it “identifies and preserves Georgia’s most valuable historical documents.” Denying access to those makes no sense to me.

I would add a variety of points from the state archives’ site on why they exist (including legislative support and property rights) and the documents they hold (including the Royal Charter of the Colony of Georgia). However, I believe that you are capable of investigating these things on your own. I would ask that you spend your time reviewing these items and then writing your legislators and other relevant officials to ask for their support in restoring these cuts to the state archives. In the words of George Santayana, “A country without a memory is a country of madmen.” I am certain the same is true for a state.

Laura M. Botts, M.S.L.I.S., C.A., is Associate Professor and Head of Special Collections at Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University. She is the author of “’A High and Noble Calling’: The Life of Jacob Horace Smith, Jr.” for Viewpoints and the co-author of the Gracy Award-winning “Are the Digital Natives Restless? Balancing Outreach to Traditional Users and the Ne(x)t Generation” for the Society of Georgia Archivists’Provenance. She serves as the Digital Community Coordinator for the Academy of Certified Archivists, the Secretary of the Society of Georgia Archivists, and the Vice President of the Association of Librarians and Archivists at Baptist Institutions. At Mercer she serves on the Homecoming Committee and is the Secretary of the faculty House of Delegates.
 
Botts’s research interests include archival outreach and the use of social media in archives. Her most recent presentation on those topics (“Cracking the QR Code”) was to the Society of American Archivists’ annual meeting. Prior to joining the faculty at Mercer, Botts was the Popular Music Archivist at Georgia State University and the Music Librarian and Archivist for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

State Archives in Crisis: Georgia Moves to Eliminate Open Public Access and What You Can Do About It

Graphic created by Buffy Hamilton

Dear Readers:

As fellow librarians, educators, and supporters of intellectual freedom,  I thought you might be interested to know the state of Georgia plans to close public access to the Georgia Archives effective November 1 (please see http://www2.wsav.com/news/2012/sep/13/breaking-georgia-closes-state-archives-ar-4538200/).  From that point onward, people will have to make an appointment to see our state’s treasures and history, and we will be the ONLY state in the nation to limit access in this manner.

Whether you are a citizen of the state of Georgia or someone elsewhere on the globe who appreciates the value and importance of open, unfettered access to archival records, please consider these courses of action:

  1. Liking the Facebook group/page that my colleague Elizabeth Dill and I have started to protest these closings, to access the latest news on the issue,  and to share your thoughts on this crisis.
  2.  Signing our online petition—we already have gathered nearly 5000 signatures in 24 hours!
  3. Contacting our leadership of this state to share your concerns in a thoughtful, constructive, and respectful manner:

A heartfelt thank you to EVERYONE near and far who has helped support open, unlimited, public access to the Georgia Archives.  The outpouring of support from so many organizations and individuals for this cause, one that has larger implications beyond the state of Georgia, has truly been humbling and inspiring.  On behalf of my home state and its citizens, thank you for your consideration of support, and please feel free to share widely with family and friends.

Respectfully,

Buffy J. Hamilton, Ed.S.
School Librarian

Support Georgia’s School Libraries: Say NO to HB 278

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Used Under a Creative Common License: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adobemac/294078052/

Right now a little piece of legislation known as HB 278 ( http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/sum/hb278.htm )  threatens the health  of Georgia’s school libraries.  Why is HB 278 potentially detrimental?  The GLMA page provides a succinct explanation:

“Expenditure Controls and Funding for Georgia’s School Libraries”

Our main legislative issue for 2009 is expenditure controls. Governor Perdue is proposing legislation that would temporarily waive media center expenditure controls until June 30, 2010. This legislation would mean that school systems could redirect any unspent library media money for this school year as well as state funding for school libraries until fiscal year 2010 to other areas leaving school libraries with reduced or little funding. GLMA opposes this legislation and asks school librarians and parents to contact their legislators to explain how this legislation would hurt school libraries and students’ access to library books and technology.

From Governor Sonny Perdue:

“In January 2009, I will introduce as part of my legislative package temporary waivers of the expenditure controls found in OCGA §§ 20-2-167 (site-based direct instruction, media center, and staff development controls) and 20-2-184.1 (additional days of instruction controls). The legislation would make the waivers effective July 1, 2008 and would continue in force until June 30, 2010.”

Please look at the following listing of House and Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee members. We need everyone to email the following committee members. If you live in their district, PLEASE let them know that you are their constituent and oppose this legislation. Provide a brief, but polite email giving an example of why library funding is important to your students (tell your library story).

The House Appropriations Education Subcommittee members are as follows:

Rep. Edward Lindsey (R), Chair – Atlanta; edward.lindsey@house.ga.gov
Rep. Terry England (R), Secretary – Auburn; englandhomeport2@alltel.net
Rep. Amos Amerson (R) – Dahlonega; amos.amerson@house.ga.gov
Rep. Amy Carter (D) – Valdosta; amy.carter@house.ga.gov
Rep. David Casas (R) – Lilburn; david.casas@house.ga.gov
Rep. Mike Keown (R) – Coolidge; mkfnbc@rose.net
Rep. Jan Jones (R) – Alpharetta; jan.jones@house.ga.gov
Rep. Howard Maxwell (R) – Dallas; howard.maxwell@house.ga.gov
Rep. Jay Neal (R) – LaFayette; P 404.656.0152 jay.neal@house.ga.gov
Rep. DuBose Porter (D) – Dublin; P 404.656.5058; F 404-656-0114 dubose.porter@house.ga.gov

The Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee members are as follows:

Sen. Dan Moody (R), Chair – Alpharetta; dan.moody@senate.ga.gov
Sen. Horacena Tate (D), Vice Chair – Atlanta; horacena.tate@senate.ga.gov
Sen. John Bulloch (R) – Ochlocknee; john.bulloch@senate.ga.gov
Sen. Jack Murphy (R) – Cumming; jack.murphy@senate.ga.gov
Sen. Tommie Williams (R), Senate President Pro Tempore – Lyons; tommie@tommiewilliams.com

Contact these committee members (it is now in the Senate) and your own reps (go to http://sos.georgia.gov/misc/districts.htm )  to let them know you support funding for Georgia’s school libraries and that you oppose HB 278.

I also encourage you to read GLMA President Susan Grigsby’s speech to our legislators:  http://glma.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/presidents-message-march/ .   She does a terrific job outlining our current situation and why school libraries matter (not that you don’t already know!).

Thank you,
Buffy Hamilton
Teacher-Librarian
The Unquiet Library

Georgia Government 2.0

You may already be familiar with the wealth of information at the official website of Georgia state government, but did you know your state government has a Web 2.0 presence?

Check out these cool Web 2.0 resources to be an active citizen in Georgia!

My Letter to Representative Coleman

Dear Representative Coleman: 

I would like to respectfully request that you include media specialists in the proposed HB 157 legislation that would allow certain groups of educators to return to full time employment and collect full retirement benefits under certain conditions. 

Quite frankly, I am shocked we would be excluded from this legislation.  Information literacy is no longer an “optional” aspect of a child’s education; it is imperative that today’s students acquire and hone these skills in order to be prepared for post-secondary education and today’s workforce.   More importantly, one must have information literacy in order to effectively participate in our democratic society. 

What do media specialists do?  I assure you we do more than “check out books”!  I arrive before most teachers do, and I am usually one of the last to leave.  I do not get a planning period or a fixed lunch; most days I am lucky to eat while I work at my computer at the circulation desk or between classes that we are teaching.   Whether I am teaching a group of ninth graders how to access information through a research database, helping an individual child master a technology skill, or collaborating with our teachers to develop lessons that we will deliver together to our students, I *TEACH* all day long, every day.  In fact, I was voted “Teacher of the Month” in September of 2006 at my school and was a finalist for Teacher of the Year this year.  I tied for 2nd place for the 2006 Golden Apple Teacher Award  in my school, an award voted on by teachers.  Many media specialists in our state have been recognized as “Teacher of the Year” in their schools and their districts!

This legislation implies that we are not “worthy” of the same benefits as classroom teachers.  I can assure you that I work just as hard, if not harder, as a high school media specialist than I did as a classroom secondary English teacher (and that was pretty darn hard!).  We as media specialists teach just as classroom teachers do and work with many learners day in and day out in our libraries.  I might also add that you have to have at least a master’s degree to even *BE* a media specialist—this is not a requirement for classroom teachers!  In fact, I have a M.Ed. and Ed.S. that I earned in person from the University of Georgia, the only School Library Media program in Georgia to earn AASL accreditation.  

Qualified and talented media specialists are more important than ever in this age where information literacy is a requirement, not an option!  We are at the heart of learning in Georgia’s schools.   There are numerous research studies that show media specialists and effective school library media programs are correlated to increased student achievement.  Here are some resources that have just a sampling of the evidence of how we impact achievement:

I believe my fellow faculty and administration would attest to how vital I am to my school as the media specialist.  If you want to see what I do, I invite you to visit:

I will only be 51 when I am eligible to retire—this legislation would be an incentive for me to extend my career as a K-12 educator and would enable me to afford to work in a rural district where qualified school library media specialists are always in demand.   

I am a leader, a shaker, and a mover in my school who is passionate about teaching and learning as a media specialist.    We as media specialists are always on the leading edge of new innovations in education and teaching strategies. I urge you to please include school library media specialists in this legislation so that children in Georgia can not only have access to highly qualified classroom teachers who may come out of retirement, but also to highly qualified school library media specialists as well. 

Thank you for listening to my concerns and considering my request.

Respectfully,

Buffy J. Hamilton, Ed.S.
Creekview High School
1550 Owens Store Road
Canton, GA  30115
770-720-7600, x. 253

buffy.hamilton@cherokee.k12.ga.us
http://webtech.cherokee.k12.ga.us/creekview-hs/mediacenter
http://webtech.cherokee.k12.ga.us/creekview-hs/buffyhamilton