09 September 2009

Minnesota Historical Society Library Hour Changes

From the September 9, 2009 MHS Local History News:

"New Library Hours at MHS
To serve visitors better in the midst of a reduction in the Minnesota Historical Society's operating budget, hours for the library will change to reflect highest demand visitation times. Effective Tuesday September 8, 2009, new hours will be Tuesdays, noon to 8; Wednesdays through Fridays, noon to 5; Saturdays, 9 to 4; and Sundays, noon to 4. Closed Mondays and holidays."

This is truly sad news for researchers. Many long-time library staff have had their jobs terminated or changed. Hours have been continually cut over the years. By the time you get checked in, put your things in a locker, order a box of records or some books . . . and actually receive the material, it's almost time to leave. The history of Minnesota is truly being put on the back burner. It's now a chore to visit MHS. This library is the access place for hundreds of years of books, monographs, historical publications, as well as city, county and state records. Staff that remains is overworked and the knowledge of lost staff is a horrific loss.

For someone who lives a distance from the Minnesota Historical Society, the urge to drive for a day or two of research is lessened. Why drive 3 hours or plan to stay in a motel and research for a few full days only to find that the now few hours the place is open on a given day is a joke.

It's not the only locality or state doing this. The current state of historical research nationwide is getting sadder by the day. So much of what we need is not online and won't be in our lifetime. Those thousands upon thousands of boxes of original records are treasure troves for doing genealogy, community history, military history, biographies, school history, and newspaper articles. Those boxes hold first-hand accounts, true history, family treasures, and so much more. All these staff and access losses are truly tragic.

The expense that went into the building of the Minnesota History Center may be for naught when people can no longer visit the exhibits, research history, or sit next to each other and see the excitement of finding that court record full of history. "To serve visitors better" is a phrase that makes no sense. Researchers don't just visit. Researchers don't want to be "served" only during the highest demand times. Research takes time --

I can now see myself lecturing -- please come to Minnesota to research your Minnesota family history. But only during the hours of 12-5. And by the way, the materials are in closed stacks so that you need to order items , have them brought out to your table, and then the library will close.

Wanna make a bet that if some clerk in a county somewhere in Minnesota needs a copy of a county record that is housed in the state archives at MHS they can get it whenever it is needed -- not just from noon-5? A legislator requesting a record at 9:00 a.m. will be served. A funeral home needing a copy of a DD214 will be served. But the taxpayers can get access only from noon-5.

Come on economy!

1 comment:

Lori Thornton said...

It is really sad to see all the cuts in hours and services -- not to mention staffing -- all across the country. The really sad thing is that public libraries are also having hours cut back and staff reductions in the midst of increased use by the public due to the recession. Legislators just don't get it!