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Library of Virginia Layoffs Will Hinder Open Government, Preservation of Historical Record

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The Library of Virginia will lose 15 of its 126 employees under Gov. Terry McAuliffe's plan to close a projected budget shortfall, and it's not yet clear which positions will be cut.

Regardless, the cuts will hinder the library's ability to manage records, preserve the state's historical record and educate students and the public, a former employee wrote in a letter to the governor. The library is one of the first in the nation to publish all emails of a gubernatorial administration, Benjamin Bromley wrote in his letter.

The library received approximately 1.3 million email messages from the Tim Kaine administration, which spanned 2006 to 2010, for Virginia's Kaine Email Project, and the public can access the records online.

"With the records of state and local government becoming primarily digital, rather than paper, the human and resource cost for appropriate records retention, long-term archival storage, and processes to make these documents available just like paper records is skyrocketing," Bromley wrote. "We need more records managers and archivists to deal with this new future, not less, and the Library needs more resources to make sure that there isn't a massive gap in the historical record because we aren't able to deal with digital archives."

McAuliffe outlined budget cuts last week to most state agencies outside of higher education to address a budget shortfall in fiscal 2017. The governor has yet to address how he'll handle an estimated shortfall in fiscal 2018, which is expected to be more challenging. The total estimated budget deficit for the two years combined is about $1.5 billion.

State officials attribute the shortfall to slower than expected growth in income tax collections, caused by not enough growth in high-paying jobs.

Of the state's 26 layoffs for fiscal 2017, 15 are coming from the Library of Virginia. The library's budget for next year will be cut by $633,171.

"Given the repeated budget reductions that the Library has experienced since 2008, the Library has virtually no discretionary money left," Jan Hathcock, public relations and policy coordinator, said in an email. "We have nowhere else to go to find the $633,171 we will lose but to salaries as that is what most of our state funding covers. Other state agencies probably still have discretionary funding that they can use to absorb this latest cut and that is why they can avoid staff layoffs."

The library will confidentially handle layoffs over the next two weeks, she said, then share which positions were eliminated and what the impact will be. She said "it will be impossible for the Library’s reading rooms to remain open six days a week and we will be exploring whether the reading rooms can be open five or four days with our limited staff."

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said the administration understands the pain of the cuts, but for now, they must happen. The governor would be open to restoring positions if the budget outlook changes, he said.

This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com

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