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AADL Library Services Threatened by Governor's Executive Order to Abolish State Library

by aadl-news

On July 13, Governor Granholm issued an Executive Order abolishing the Department of History, Arts and Libraries, as part of her effort to reach a balanced budget for the next state fiscal year. It is understood and accepted that hard decisions must be made, and that all departments of state government should be expecting to find savings and efficiencies.

It is not clear how abolishing the department dedicated to promoting Michigan history and the arts, and supporting all libraries in Michigan will result in significant savings; the Governor has indicated that there is an unfunded plan to move the collections to repurpose the State Library building. Library services, when separated or isolated from a larger system, and placed in a bureaucratic environment, will wither.

How will this proposed plan affect you? The State Library administers the services of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. AADL is a sub-regional service provider and has been since February of this year. The plan as proposed moves the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped from the Library of Michigan to the Commission for the Blind. It is not clear if any funding will follow the move, and the Commission is facing the same cuts as all other state departments and agencies. If services from the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped statewide are to remain stable and funded, the Governor, and our legislators, should be made aware that the proposed move is a threat to its existence.

The Library of Michigan also administers the group purchasing of databases that are made available to all libraries statewide for reduced costs. Any library cardholder or Michigan citizen with a valid driver’s license can access those databases from anywhere in the world. If the resources of the Library of Michigan are dispersed or eliminated, and if the State Aid to Libraries allocation is reduced, then access to these databases will disappear. Only the larger, most affluent communities will be able to consider locally funding these resources. Even at AADL, continuance of the currently available set of resources will not be possible.

The very popular statewide interlibrary loan program via MeLCat is also administered through the Library of Michigan, and paid for through a match of State Aid allocation with Federal funds. Each $1.00 of state funding for this service is matched with $.50 of Federal funding, and the total to fund this statewide delivery service is in the millions of dollars. This service is also threatened if the Library of Michigan is abolished, and State Aid is reduced.

It is an irony that in a time when all are calling for efficiency, resource-sharing, consolidation of services, and collaborations to save and find money, a state institution that has led statewide programs that work for the benefit of all Michigan citizens, and which help to provide the critical tools needed for our workforce to reinvent itself, is threatened because someone has the very uncool and uninformed notion that libraries are obsolete.

The Ann Arbor District Library opposes Executive Order #2009-36, and supports funding of State Aid to Libraries at the current level of $10M.


Please consider contacting your State Senator and your State Representative.


This is a letter that I sent to Governor Granholm, and I urge you to also write her and your state representative.

Dear Governor Granholm,

I recently heard about Executive Order #2009-36 and its plan to virtually demolish all state libraries in Michigan because of the budget. As a former student and avid patron of the library, I must say that I did not believe it at first.

The basic function of libraries serves students and professors alike as well as those of us who love to read. The quick and vital reference to knowledge and information is a basic right to all individuals, whether they happen to live in Michigan or elsewhere.

Library access is vital to the functioning of any government. I do agree that something needs to be done about the state budget, but to cut funding to the libraries is an extreme and medieval idea, something that I would never have thought any state would fathom to do. There are far more and less vital state programs that would probably benefit from a lot less state funding, but I wholeheartedly assure you that the libraries are not one of them.

The literacy rate in Michigan, as compared to other states like, for example, Nebraska is not as high as is could be and it would help the children and adults of Michigan if the libraries would be granted a "stay of execution" instead of this plan. I wonder what previous governors would have done to trim the budget beside take away basic library privileges from residents of Michigan? Certainly, there has to be another way.

As it stands, I don't see how Michigan can benefit by cutting funding altogether to the libraries. Cut the casinos, the federal state employees salaries, or even tourism, but the library? Unequivocally, no. Knowledge is the foundation of a great civilization, and libraries are a vital part of America. Do not cut funding to the libraries.


A Very Concerned Citizen

Thanks for the sample letter--I also wrote a letter to the senator. We just moved to the area and one of the most impressive things to me has been the library system. We are there every week and it would be a shame to see it lose funding.


I'm very happy to know that you are enjoying the library system in Ann Arbor, and that it has been a welcoming place to you as a new resident. Thanks, too, for writing to elected officials in support of libraries.

A very good letter and thanks for posting it as a template of sorts.

I'd just add that libraries these days are about so much more than only books. I regularly check out DVDs, plus there's also the computers, computer training classes, children's programs, the museum pass program, and a sense of local community.


I plan to write letters to my representatives and to the Governor. I find it very hard to believe that a person who professes to support education would propose to break-up the Library and to disburse its collections. Even more ironic is reality that very little money will be saved in relation to the budget deficit the State faces. And the long term costs of her proposal are incalculable. When I voted for Granholm I expected more of her.


Dick Dougherty


Thank you. The message that little will be saved, or perhaps nothing will be saved, if this EO is enacted, is a very important part of the message.


Time is running out. Unless both the Senate and the House take action against it by September 11, the Executive Order takes effect. The most hopeful outlook would be passage of a Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR 18) that would reject Executive Order #2009-36. However, this resolution would have to be approved by a majority vote in each house. The next best chance is contained in a series of Senate bills (SB 503-527) that would transfer all the functions of the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries to the Department of State. If neither of those, pass, the House has a resolution (HR 140) asking the Governor to keep the library collections together rather than dispersing them hither and yon. It wouldn't have the force of law but it would send a strong message.

None of these potential actions directly address the severe budget cuts, but keeping everything intact provides a more hopeful outlook. By now Governor Granholm should be receiving the message that Michigan residents value their state and local libraries.but it is unlikely that she will rescind the Executive Order. Thus, if legislative action isn't taken by September 11, it's all at risk.

State Representative Pam Byrnes' office just sent me this. Did you see it and how does AADL feel about it? They included a copy of the directive and say they welcome my thoughts. I was just wondering what your stand on it was.

"Over the past week, I have been in discussions with the Governor's office regarding the Executive Order. Partly as a result of these discussions, and partly as a result of the outpouring of concerns from Michiganders such as you, the Governor's office has recently issued Executive Directive 2009-5. This Executive Directive provides stronger assurance that genealogical records and Michigan eLibrary resources will be preserved, and it has received the support of the Michigan Library Association."


I read the directive before posting the statement from AADL opposing the EO to Abolish the History, Arts and Libraries Department. The outcry against the EO has been strong and has been heard by the Governor's office. However, the directive doesn't alter the EO at all. It simply moves the words around. A "stronger assurance" is not a guarantee of anything. I was also aware of the position of the Michigan Library Association. In spite of both, AADL opposes the Executive Order to Abolish HAL and we support full funding of State Aid to Libraries at the current 10M.

Libraries in Michigan have been innovative and have been renovating themselves and how they deliver service for well over a 100 years in many communities, and now they risk, in some cases, closure, so that the State Library building can be repurposed as an Innovation and Renovation Center. If this is to save money, I think the numbers associated with the cost of renovating the building and moving the collections should be discussed publicly.

Thanks for continuing to ask good questions.

Thanks to all the suggestions above, particularly the sample letter. In gratitude, here's most of the text I sent in to the Governor, Senator Brater, & Rep Warren, building on what others wrote and offering some additional reasons.

I am writing in opposition to the Governor’s July 13 Executive Order 2009-36, abolishing the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. I urge you to reinstate the State Library, maintain its current physical location and mission – including housing the administration of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and coordinating group purchasing of databases for use by libraries and their patrons throughout the state, as well as the statewide InterLibrary Loan program. Public libraries and education are the foundation of our democracy; they should be the last programs to be cut. Our libraries (and public education institutions) host possibility and hope in a way no other public bricks-and-mortar institutions can.

First, thank you for your service. I am grateful that there is anyone willing to serve in these times of difficult choices.

The programs the State Library oversees and coordinates are the product of cooperation and previous attempts to improve efficiency. In terms of what citizens receive for about $10 million per year, it’s a steal! Think of it – the state is spending approximately $1 per year per resident. It seems a bargain to me and a well-spent state tax dollar.

While I am often humbled by the service and scope of the catalogue and programs at my home library, the Ann Arbor District Library, I have recently run across a string of books that we do not have – ranging from the personal (a few of the Brother Cadfael mystery series set in medieval, civil war era England) to improvement of my understanding of current and historical financial perspectives (Andrew Carnegie’s The Gospel of Wealth). The InterLibrary Loan program maximizes local choices about what to purchase, retain, or replace in local or personal collections. For instance, as the Brother Cadfael series goes out of print, one of the books that I received through ILL was available via the web only, used, and for well over $25, other Cadfael titles are simply not available. However, two smaller Michigan sister libraries met that need for me – for under $1, if you will. Likewise, while some communities may not be able to house as large or as varied a catalogue as AADL does, e.g., I’m thinking of a new title, Biocentrism (positing the rather revolutionary thought that life creates the universe, rather than vice versa), we can share those rare books in return.

The online databases have been invaluable for my family research and other research projects in the past. I was able to work with my literacy partner with one of the online tutorials.

As a last thought of persuasion, we cannot move to a knowledge-based economy without all our citizens having access to strong libraries and schools. We can do a lot of things virtually, but public libraries and the necessary, efficient state support that has been provided for $10 million per year create community and transformation centers.

Again, thank you for your service and for your consideration of this matter.

Josie, this is the latest I've gotten:

Thank you for your continued interest in this issue. I want to share with you the most recent update regarding Executive Order 2009-36. Yesterday, I met with representatives of the Governor's office to express my concerns surrounding the possible elimination services provided by HAL. After our conversation, I understand better the intent behind the Executive Order.

The Governor's office emphasized they had no desire to see important programs and collections, such as eLibrary resources and genealogical records, become inaccessible. The intent of the EO is to divide up services that HAL provides and delegate many of its functions to departments that are already performing very similar services. One example is historic site preservation. HAL maintains historic sites throughout the state, many of which are in or near state parks. Under the EO, historic site preservation would be delegated to the Department of Natural Resources, which in many cases is already maintaining properties near these historic sites. This is just one of many examples.

The idea of restructuring the duties currently performed within HAL to find more efficiency and cost savings, while still providing a similar level of service, is worthy. What is questionable still is whether the language of the EO supports the expressed intent of the Governor's office, which you acknowledge in your response to my earlier e-mail. An example of the concerns discussed at our meeting is the interpretation of page 8 of Executive Order 2009-36, where the Governor empowers the Superintendent of Public Instruction to find efficiencies through the possible "elimination" of many programs.

I will continue to work for a resolution that preserves important library functions. Please do not hesitate to keep in touch as this process continues.


Pam Byrnes

State Representative

You and your staff do great work, no question, but I think this extract from your piece is a bit "over the top:"

"...because someone has the very uncool and uninformed notion that libraries are obsolete."

I haven't seen any statement or implication to the effect that libraries are obsolete; further, while one can disagree with someone else's decision, to call them or their position uncool (watch your language!) or uninformed is, frankly, an insult. The State's economy is bleeding, and some really tough choices have to be made-and I'm sure that every program has it's proponents.

I'm not saying that I don't agree with you on this issue, but please-recognize the truly difficult task the State faces,


Steve Hendel


I appreciate the compliment to me and to the staff. I also appreciate your cautionary note about the language and tone that I used in my statement. Any decision made by a governor is an important decision, and I do appreciate the terrible situation facing Governor Granholm and the legislature. In this case, the decision to abolish HAL was made in a rush and without a clear understanding of all of the costs and consequences. When something really big and important is at stake, strong language is appropriate. I think it is very uncool and uninformed to abolish a department dedicated to a state's cultural and historical assets.


I am the current President of the Learning Disabilities Association of Michigan, and an ardent supporter of the resources from the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. While there are many new technologies that have made print text increasingly accessible to the blind and dyslexic, we also need to maintain some of the "lower tech" resources for people who lose their vision later in life, or, through injury, become unable to process print visually. For these reasons, I believe that we need to continue funding the services of the Michigan Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and its local outreach services at the AADL.

In the field of education, teachers are under a great deal of pressure to provide "scientifically proven, research-based" instruction to ensure that all children are successfully learning. The MeL has significantly improved access to education journals that enable teachers to continue to update their practices without incurring the prohibitive costs of either subscribing to these journals or joining multiple organizations in order to access these journals. In Michigan, especially, if we are to realize the visions espoused by our leaders to bring 21st Century Learning to all of our children (and adults), the loss of access would be tragic.

Finally, the HAL has been a marvelous resource for teachers in Michigan as they help their students discover Michigan's multi-faceted past (part of the required curriculum in Michigan), and connect it to our much-hoped-for bright future.

Efficiency and consolidation of resources is one thing. Elimination of resources is another. I hope that the Governor understands the value of the resources under HAL, and keeps access open, even if rearranged.

Kathleen Kosobud
President, LDA of Michigan

The Governor has proclaimed November Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. Please support accessible text for all kinds of readers, and accessible education for all kinds of learners.


Thank you very much for your post. It is a very powerful message and one that certainly needs to be heard. Please contact me directly if you can identify ways that AADL can do a better job providing access to accessible text for children, parents and teachers who cope with learning disabilities and vision impairment. Thank you for speaking out in support of the many services provided to MI citizens at the Library of Michigan. I was particularly struck by how MeL and access to the databases has provided an affordable opportunity for teachers to remain current in their field.


From my observations, there has been a disconnect between the expansion of the library services within the past several years, and the death spiral of the private sector that Michigan has been experiencing. I am sorry that the library services are involved in the budget cuts, but it makes sense to me that something had to give sooner or later.

For instance, the interlibrary program may have been popular but this tells us nothing about its relative value for the job creation which Michigan really needs to provide the tax base to pay for it. With 60% of our children in Detroit not graduating high school (or so I've heard), has that program really been doing any job of helping them prepare or reinvent themselves for the jobs of tomorrow? Or did the libraries really need to invest in the video rental business at taxpayers' expense, with the loss of jobs in the private sector and subsequent erosion of that tax base. We have at least one major bookstore chain in deep financial trouble, but who has mourned the loss of those jobs and yet more tax revenue?

With the explosion of available information, does providing "free" access to every piece of media ever created make sense, and is it practical or meaningful, in the name of knowledge or culture? But these are difficult value decisions to make, and certain segments of our society will be unhappy with the outcome in any case. Calling the people who have to make the ultimate decisions uncool or moronic wouldn't seem to help them do a better job.

I'm only saying these things because some of these posts make it sound like the public libraries will all be closing their doors tomorrow, but I was heartened to read that the Bill provides for preservation of "core" library services. Maybe it's just time to consider seriously what those "core" services really should be.


I am very pleased that you wrote such a thoughtful commentary about the role of libraries and the funding decisions necessary to sustain them. Before I address a couple of issues that you raise I would like to point out that I did not call anyone moronic. The words uncool and moronic are not synonyms, and I would not use them in that way. However, I stand by my use of the word uncool.

There is not a great deal of hard data supporting the economic development impact of public libraries in MI, although there is in other states. Ironically, the data that does exist in MI is captured and provided by the State Library. But the number of people using the library during a recession increases sharply, and that is captured in our monthly statistics. Without an expensive survey, we do not know if the hundreds of people taking computing classes to learn to write resumes, or attending programs on how to approach a job interview, or using email to apply for a job and communicate with HR departments because calls are no longer allowed, result in a paid position. Some do. How many? And, how many would be enough?

The public library has existed in Ann Arbor for 143 years. Without sounding glib, I don’t think that our existence has any significant affect whatsoever on the success or failure of a bookstore chain or a video store. I have certainly never heard any of them claiming that the existence of a public library is any way hurting their business. I was pleased when recently a bookstore chain opened a new store touting the location as a “community gathering space” and using other words used for years by the library to describe our activities. Duplication is flattery.

You pose very provocative questions about values and libraries and public expenditures, and I appreciate it. Those of us responsible for providing library services discuss those same things regularly as we work to define core services in a rapidly changing technological environment overlaid with a terrible economy. I agree with you that it is a discussion worth having and having more than once.

Thank you for taking the time to make a post.

A few comments...

One poster said...
"the interlibrary program may have been popular but this tells us nothing about its relative value for the job creation which Michigan really needs to provide the tax base to pay for it. With 60% of our children in Detroit not graduating high school (or so I've heard), has that program really been doing any job of helping them prepare or reinvent themselves for the jobs of tomorrow?"
The Interlibrary Programme expands the reach of the library for everyone, not just students. I don't know if Detroit is only graduating 60% of its students or not. I DO know that many "private sector" companies are cutting back their Professional Development allowances. To stay competitive a worker either has to reach into his own pocket (impossible if you aren't making money anyway) or fall behind. I know the people I work with don't make real money, so the Interlibrary programme is a big help to us.Plunking down $50 for a book isn't possible, but borrowing from the library is.

"Or did the libraries really need to invest in the video rental business at taxpayers' expense, with the loss of jobs in the private sector and subsequent erosion of that tax base. We have at least one major bookstore chain in deep financial trouble, but who has mourned the loss of those jobs and yet more tax revenue?"
The video selection at the library is a godsend. Video stores have been cutting back on their selections, so if I want classic movies I either pay dearly at the bookstore or let the video store gouge me. A lot of people mourn the loss of those jobs, I know I do. Force employers to pay real salaries and they will spend more money in the private sector and help keep those stores open. It's not my fault capitalism doesn't work.

People who borrow videos pay taxes too! It's nice to see my taxes go to something I actually want and use.

"With the explosion of available information, does providing "free" access to every piece of media ever created make sense, and is it practical or meaningful, in the name of knowledge or culture?"
Until the economy picks up, I say yes. It IS practical or meaningful. Don't believe me? Ask the fellow who has no access.

"I was heartened to read that the Bill provides for preservation of "core" library services. Maybe it's just time to consider seriously what those "core" services really should be."
One man's "Core" services is another man's "lack" of services. Who decides?

I'm very happy with the Interlibrary Programme, the video collection, and the other services the library offers. Let us all fight to keep a good thing going.


Pardon, dkerwin, but I think you may be under a mistaken impression. I went back and read over all the posts in this thread and nowhere did I see Josie use the word "Moronic". My post was just under hers and perhaps that's what gave you the idea she said it. I used the word not only in that post, but in the letters I wrote to my Representative, Senator and the Governor and I stand by it. I didn't call anyone moronic anywhere, either here or in the letters I sent. I only said the idea was. I wouldn't have responded to your post only I hate to see someone else take the rap for something I said.

In the interests of being concise, I'm afraid I may have inadvertently left out an important part of Representative Pam Byrnes' email to me. Allow me to correct that now so that people can see how she feels about the library cuts and what effect they'd have on the budget, in case they don't already know.

"Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns regarding Executive Order 2009-36, which would eliminate the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. I have heard from a great many residents regarding this issue. I understand your concerns.

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, the Executive Order would save just $1,691,500. This represents less than 0.01% of the approximately $2.8 billion deficit currently facing the State of Michigan for the next fiscal year. Considering the loss our state would suffer as a result of shuttering the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries, I question the benefit of this action."

As you can clearly see, the benefits to the state of cutting library services would be almost nonexistent. 0.01% of an over 2 billion dollar deficit isn't even going to make a dent. Even if the losses right now weren't that great, it's a slippery slope. I support Representative Byrnes' questioning and the AADL in rejecting this action and hope that others who agree let their voices be heard too.

The knowledge I've gained thanks to the resources and services provided by public libraries is invaluable. In the small town in which I grew up in northern Michigan, the library was a mere three blocks away, so I visited it often and became very familiar with the old boxes of magazines that required a taller adult's assistance, the small reading room in the back that was the ideal spot for reading the Chronicles of Narnia, and the patient librarian who never complained when helping me with loading microfilm reels for researching. When I lived in Grand Rapids, it was amazing to see how the temporary move of the downtown library's items to an offsite storage facility resulted in hundreds of people at the fringes of society being able to enjoy its services for the first time -- every time I was there, entire groups would be learning how to use the computers, or navigate the DDC, or simply check out VHS tapes. When I worked in Lansing, my visits to the CADL introduced me to things I had not associated with libraries: online reservations, the need for volunteers to read items for the blind, and a place where sitting down to enjoy reading did not involve bargain bins or the latest coffee drink. Now I am happily beginning my third year in Ann Arbor, where there is a wealth of material (a humble catalogue indeed!) and always someone helpful to guide me in the right direction at any of the local branches. Michigan's library system has more than met my needs as my life has changed. When I needed to quickly learn how to use Dreamweaver in order to secure the job I enjoy now, a staff member pointed out the best book for those who prefer to learn visually. When a dear friend from Texas visited me last year, we were able to enjoy a tour of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House thanks to the free museum ticket program. When my mother recently suffered a series of heart attacks and strokes, the stack of books awaiting me on reserve at the Traverwood branch were invaluable for researching while in an internet-deprived hospital room. How can I place a value on being able to easily pick up a DVD or CD for my mom to enjoy as she recovers slowly at home? What about the books that have assisted with her speech therapy? And how could one otherwise find that obscure little novel sitting on the shelf next to the book that no longer seems as appealing as it did online? That might be the novel that conquers a student's writer's block, or unleashes a researcher's brainstorm, or spurs an artist to create something magical. I can tolerate fund drives for PBS or public radio, but if I one day enter a library and the lone staff member at the desk asks me for money to fund its services, then I'll begin to wonder why I pay taxes.

Thank you vovvi for this wonderful testimonial to positive library experiences in a variety of MI cities. We appreciate it in Ann Arbor, and I'm sure our colleagues in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and the other places you have lived will enjoy reading this, too.

Yesterday, the Governor issued an amended Executive Order concerning the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. I am closing this thread and making a new post to continue the discussion. Thank you all for contributing to an important discussion.


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