Some good news for Georgia State Archives, but bad news (that’s not really news) in a larger sense

As you’ve probably heard by now, the Governor of Georgia has said he is committed to keeping the state archives open. However, as far as I’ve heard, no plans have been made to rescind the firings of the 7 out of 10 employees. So he’s committed to keeping the building open, but not to doing so with appropriate staffing?

On the SAA Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable listserv, Jeremy Floyd posted this:

I just wanted to point to this bit of reporting about the ongoing Georgia Archives debacle

First, yay the Governor promises to keep the archive open somehow.  But what I wanted to point out was at the close of the article:

“Although Clayton State University, which is located next to the Georgia Archives, offers a master’s degree program in archival studies, Kemp said using student interns to keep the facility open is not a viable option. It would mean the secretary of state’s office would still have to pay security and janitorial staff to work. The security and janitorial staff will be let go as part of the budget cut.”

So the Georgia secretary of state says professional archivists can’t be replaced by unpaid interns, not because they lack the training or expertise necessary, or that it would be exploitative of those students, but because ‘oh yeah we’re also firing the janitors and security guards that allow the building to stay open’. Maybe they can get unpaid janitorial and security interns, problem solved. Seriously, we need to eliminate the perception that budget shortfalls can made up for with volunteers and interns performing essential functions. Its not good for the interns, its not good for the archives, and its not good for the profession.

I don’t think I can say it any better than Jeremy did. The Georgia State Archives situation illustrates many of the problems faced by archives all over the country and the profession at large. The staff has been reduced from over 50 employees down to 10 over the years. And now eliminating virtually all public access is seen as more acceptable than cuts to other departments. The governor seems to want to support the archives, but doesn’t recognize that  the services of professional archivists are necessary to provide adequate public access.

I don’t know that there is very much anyone can do to combat these larger trends, but I know when I’m giving my input into SAA’s updated strategic priorities, I will be arguing for moving advocacy higher up on the priority list. If you have suggestions about specific actions or strategies that could help address the root cause of these problems, the comments are open for you.



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