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Georgia Archives to cut its work week

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Not even Georgia's past is safe from the state's present budget woes.

The Morrow-based Georgia Archives is scheduled to move from a five-day work week, to a three-day work week, beginning next week, as part of state budget cuts, according to archives director, David Carmichael.

The change means the facility will only be open Thursdays, through Saturdays, he said. Currently, the archives is open Tuesdays, through Saturdays. Officially, the change is set to go into effect on Friday, but with the archives continuing to be open on that day under the new schedule, the shift will really not be noticed until next week.

Officials from the archives, and the Georgia Secretary of State's office said the change was made because the Georgia General Assembly cut $115,000 more than had been planned from the archives' budget, as part of the state's fiscal year 2011 budget.

"We certainly hope this is temporary," Carmichael said. "There is just no way of knowing when things will get better, but we hope its soon, because we want it [the archives] to be open."

With the archives being open fewer days of the week, it will mean people seeking to do archival, or genealogical work there, will have fewer opportunities to do so. Additionally, the archives has been a major partner in the development of Clayton State University's masters degree in archival studies.

According to Carmichael, the Georgia Archives keeps the state's official documents, dating back to 1755, ranging from the records of state officials, to county and state boundary records. The state archives also has the state's official copy of the Declaration of Independence, which was made during the American Revolution.

"At the core of what we do, our mission is to keep documents that protect the legal, civil and property rights of the state," he said.

Carmichael said he is not going to complain about having to make the cuts. He pointed out that all state agencies have had to make budget cuts because of shrinking state revenues. "We're not being singled out by any means," he said. "We're going to take our lumps, just like everybody else."

He added that changing the length of the operating week should not affect service during peak periods, because Saturdays have traditionally been the archives' busiest day of the week.

Matt Carrothers, a spokesman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, said the office had originally planned to cut $2.9 million from its budget for fiscal year 2011. The archives is a division of the Secretary of State's office. "The cuts we were planning to make would have allowed the archives to stay open," he said.

When the General Assembly approved the final budget for the state, however, additional cuts were made to the Secretary of State's budget, according to Carrothers. Carmichael said the archives' share of those additional cuts translated to the $115,000 reduction that necessitated cutting two days of operations each week.

Carrothers also said the Secretary of State's Office will push to make sure the governor's office, and the General Assembly understand the work done by the archives during future budget discussions.

But, Richard Pearce-Moses, the director of Clayton State University's archival studies program, said the Georgia Archives is not going through anything different from what other state archives have had to go through. Many state archives have had to cut back, in both operating hours and staff, in recent years, as the economy has struggled, he said.

Pearce-Moses said that two years ago, he saw the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records take even more drastic measures to accommodate budget cuts. At the time, he was working in Arizona's state archives, in technology and digital records keeping. "In Arizona, we dedicated a brand new archives building on Jan. 15, 2009, and we had to close the building to the public on March 1 [2009], because of budget cuts," he said. "The budget is bad everywhere."

He also said archival studies students at Clayton State will have fewer opportunities to practice their chosen profession, because of the reduction of operating days at the Georgia Archives. Since the state archives had been a partner in the development of the university's archival studies program, he said, students in the program went there to get experience working with historical documents.

Now, he said, students may have to do more case study work in their classrooms, or hope for additional opportunities at the nearby National Archives at Atlanta, or with local archival societies. He did not deny that the state archives being open fewer days would be a blow to the program.

"It's going to reduce the opportunities for real hands-on experience with preservation techniques, and it's going to reduce the opportunities for internships for the students," he said. "The best way for students to learn is by doing. We really want students to have opportunities to practice at preserving historical records ...

"We [archivists] are very patient as a profession, but we're also very passionate about what we do, and we don't want to see this stuff lost."