Saturday, September 15, 2012

What is Going in Georgia? State Archives to Close

This is hard to believe. 

The state of Georgia has closed the Georgia State Archives.  Here is a taste of the official announcement:

To meet the required cuts, it is with great remorse that I have to announce, effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public.  The decision to reduce public access to the historical records of this state was not arrived at without great consternation.  To my knowledge, Georgia will be the only state in the country that will not have a central location in which the public can visit to research and review the historical records of their government and state.  The staff that currently works to catalog, restore, and provide reference to the state of Georgia’s permanent historical records will be reduced.  The employees that will be let go through this process are assets to the state of Georgia and will be missed.  After November 1st, the public will only be allowed to access the building by appointment; however, the number of appointments could be limited based on the schedule of the remaining employees.

Sign a petition to keep the archives open here.

Like the "Georgians Against Closing State Archives" Facebook page.

Read this post at the Unquiet Librarian.

Read Joseph Adelman's take at Publick Occurrences 2.0

What to do about the closing.


Paul M. said...

John, I suspect that this is a case of clever political gamesmanship. It's standard practice in budget negotiations for bureaucracies to defend their allocations by making cuts as painful and public as possible. Rather than taking on public sector unions by tackling ballooning pension obligations, agencies will cut public provision of services. It happened in Philadelphia back in 2008-9 when Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter played a game of chicken with the PA state legislature by threatening to close down most of the public libraries, pools, firehouses, and police stations unless they got an approved tax increase (while, of course, leaving the massive pension obligations that accounted for nearly half the city budget untouched.)

I'm suspicious that the same thing is happening in Georgia. Take a close look at the Georgia Budget for 2013, especially pages 366-375. (

The Secretary of State asked for a 3% increase for his agency while the legislature approved a 3% decrease. Rather than spreading that decrease over all his sub-agencies, Brian Kemp took most of the cuts out of Archives and Records, the public face of his agency. Indeed, Archives and Records has been hit hardest of all the sub-agencies excepting securities (see p. 373). Professional licensing, however, is relatively unscathed.

Professional licensing, I think, would be the logical candidate for focusing those cuts. When we say licensing, people might be thinking of doctors and the like, but in Georgia they also have onerous licensing requirements for Interior Designers, Athletic Agents, Auctioneers, Barbers, Conditioned Air Contractors, Cosmetologists, Funeral Directors, Hearing Aid Dealers, Landscape Architects, Librarians, Massage Therapists, Private Detectives, Used Car Salesmen, and many others.

There's an advocacy group called the Institute for Justice that shows the counter productiveness of most occupational licensing. Ending licensing for most of these professions would aid the Georgia economy by encouraging entrepreneurship. It would also save money for the Secretary of State. Should we close the public archives or cut the licensing of air conditioner repairmen and interior designers. A seemingly easy choice, but one that doesn't take account of the incentive's of bureaucratic and budgetary infighting.

So while over a quarter of the annual budget for the Secretary of State goes to professional licensing, it received a cut of only 2.378% from 2010-2012. Archives and Records, however, was cut 13.393% during the same period.

Either the Secretary of State has the wrong priorities or he is gaming us by cutting the most visible aspects of his agency to rouse popular indignation (and doing so quite effectively).

indianabulcock said...

Now I know that they also have onerous licensing to conditioned air contractors. I just wonder how hard it is to get a license though.

-Indiana Bulcock

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