Sunday 3 June 2012

Update on suspension of the Genealogy Service at NAI

Details are now emerging of the reasons for the suspension of the Genealogy Service at the National Archives of Ireland. (Original news story.)

Cost-cutting proposals have long been afoot to merge the National Library and the National Archives while supposedly maintaining their separate identities. While this move has still to be formally approved by the Government and has been loudly condemned (and was a feature in the resignation of Professsor Diarmaid Ferriter from the board of the Library on 24 May), it can be considered a 'done deal'.

A statement from APGI, the Association of Professional Genealogists of Ireland, which provided the service at the National Archives but not that at the National Library (which was manned by library staff), shows that the suspension of the Genealogy Service is part and parcel of the same malaise.

The tone of the statement is polite and suitably respectful, as you'd expect. But behind the scenes there is huge resentment. Among other demands, not only are the future providers of the Genealogy Service expected to be split across the two institutions, they were going to have to fulfil the duties of library staff, assisting with the microfilm, printing and online service needs of family historians visiting both institutions. All these duties are currently provided by library staff at the National Archives but the new contract provided no guarantee that any staff members would be available during the week and expressly stated that there would be no staff available on Saturday mornings.

Considering such terms (and other issues) unacceptable, APGI has withdrawn from the tender process and ended its involvement in the Genealogy Service.

Whether or not any other institution of group was involved in the tender process or can step up to provide the service remains to be seen. In that sense, the Genealogy Service is suspended, rather than terminated. But I'm looking around and I can't see any other group able to take on the role.