- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana State Library could avoid big funding cuts proposed by Gov. Mike Pence now that legislators are making changes to the state’s spending plan.

Pence’s budget proposal would have axed the state library’s funding by 24 percent, some $2 million, forcing the downtown Indianapolis library to eliminate many services, including its genealogy department that houses more than 100,000 items documenting Hoosier history.

The library’s online tool known as INSPIRE, which gives all Indiana citizens access to licensed databases of historical and scientific journals, also would have been eliminated, leaving universities and county libraries that frequently use the educational resource to cover the cost of expensive database access on their own.

Pence administration officials said both programs were defunded because they offer services that are already available online, such as ancestry.com for genealogy research and Google Scholar as an educational tool.

But the latest version of the budget offered by majority House Republicans this week restores most of the library funding that Pence had aimed to cut.

“I think the governor’s office had a study looking at where there were alternatives but it just hasn’t been vetted enough…to make the change right now,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville.

Brown said the proposal also had sparked criticism from universities, libraries and genealogists throughout the state.

Jeff Krull, a member of the governor-appointed Indiana Library and Historical Board, said the state library’s budget has been “picked apart for years” because many people don’t understand how valuable its services are.

The genealogy department for example, is a primary resource for immigration records, family trees and lineage, census data and other information people can use to track down their history. Its closure would have come just months before the state’s bicentennial, which under Pence’s proposal, has been allotted about $55 million to celebrate Indiana’s history.

“People think it’s an easy target,” he said. “But librarians really do believe in what they’re doing and they react pretty strongly when there’s a threat like that.”

It’s not all good news. The current budget still cuts $150,000 from the library’s standards and certification program, which ensures that public libraries meet state requirements and maintain quality service for citizens.

“Am I happy that the other stuff was restored and that we’re taking a much smaller hit? Absolutely,” Krull said, but cutting the standards program could impact “the quality of library services that’s provided around the state.”

House members are expected to vote on the proposed budget next week.

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