Storm over Northants archive ac­cess plans

County coun­cil backs down over hourly charges – for now

Your Family History - - Agenda: History And Genealogy News -

Northamp­ton­shire County Coun­cil has been forced to back down over con­tro­ver­sial pro­pos­als to re­duce the open­ing hours at Northamp­ton­shire Ar­chives and charge an hourly rate for re­search ser­vices out­side them.

The orig­i­nal pro­posal was to re­duce open­ing hours to 9am-1pm from Tues­day to Thurs­day and 9am- 4pm on one Satur­day a month from April to Oc­to­ber. How­ever, re­searchers would be able to make ap­point­ments at other times for a fee of £31.50 an hour.

Your Fam­ily His­tory broke the story on 25 July and read­ers were aghast – see page 7 for de­tails of some of the dis­cus­sion at Face­book – as were oth­ers in the ge­nealog­i­cal com­mu­nity. Blog­ger and YFH writer Chris Pa­ton de­scribed the plan as ‘out­ra­geous’ and the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ge­neal­o­gists and Record Agents (AGRA) stated these were ‘drastic cuts, not fully thought through’.

Dr Mary Ann Lund from the Uni­ver­sity of Le­ices­ter then set up an on­line pe­ti­tion to call for a re­ver­sal of the plan amid con­cerns of it set­ting a ‘dan­ger­ous prece­dent’ for other ar­chives to fol­low. This at­tracted al­most 4000 sig­na­tures.

Such was the furor that Northamp­ton­shire County Coun­cil has now put some of the changes on hold. Since 21 Au­gust, it has pro­ceeded with a re­duc­tion in open­ing hours as fol­lows: Tues-Thurs, 9am1pm; first Satur­day in each month, 9am-1pm.

In a state­ment on 4 Au­gust, the coun­cil said: ‘There will be a re­view of the ser­vice ahead of the next fi­nan­cial year as part of the bud­get set­ting process and this will in­clude a full con­sul­ta­tion around any pro­posed changes.’

The coun­cil com­mented that its archive ser­vice had seen a 50% drop in vis­its over the last 10 years. On its Face­book page at www.face­ Northamp­ton­shireArchives, the archive ser­vice also clar­i­fied: ‘… the op­tion to pay for search room time out­side of these hours will not be of­fered. Re­searchers can con­tinue to book 1-2-1 time with our Re­search As­sis­tant dur­ing the times we are oth­er­wise closed, as has al­ways been the case. It is this ser­vice that is charged at £31.50 per hour. The only change to our cur­rent ar­range­ments is that the search room will be closed be­tween 1pm and 2pm.’


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