Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Have you visited your local library lately?

I think one of the toughest things about being a blogger is that there are so many great ideas and discussions happening everywhere.  Too many ideas and not enough time to write and ponder further.  For instance, this morning I received The Weekly Genealogist eNews newsletter from NEHGS.  In it there were two items that really got me thinking and I haven't even made it through the whole newsletter yet. 

Today's newsletter posted the results to last week's survey which asked readers how often they visit their local public library for genealogy research.  The results showed that 33% never go to their library for genealogy research and 50% never use the library website.

NEHGS makes a great point that those people likely believe that if a library doesn't have a genealogy section/room then it has nothing to offer.  I would suggest you read the article (not online at this moment but likely will be soon) to learn about the great resources that every library offers genealogists.

This got me thinking.  Have you done an analysis of all that your local public library has to offer?

I have to ask myself first - how much do I know about my library?

My library does have a little local history room.  For being such a small room, it is jammed packed with helpful items.  Every time I visit I find new discoveries.  For instance, this room contains many of the "tan books" for Massachusetts - the vital records up to 1850.  It also has a number of other genealogical standard books, most particular to Massachusetts.  However, I can also find special items such as oral history tapes, old maps (some of which have copies that are for sale), old newspapers, old local yearbooks, town reports and residents lists.  One of my favorite groups of items are the binders put together by local residents full of newspaper clippings and information about the town. I am quite happy to spend hours in this room when I get the chance.  That happens far too rarely.

There is much more available in my library than what is found in the history room.  Sometimes I forget that.  My library offers access to on its in-house computers.  I don't use this feature much because I have my own US-only subscription.  However, if I were to do international research I would definitely take advantage of that.

My library also has a genealogy section in the regular stacks.  This is the section I tend to forget about most.  I have to admit that my library's genealogy skill book section is woefully small compared to other local libraries.  After you check out the genealogy books in your own library there is one more section of the stacks you need to visit.  Search the catalog to find the local history books.  This is where you will find those huge county histories (affectionately referred to as mug books by genealogists) that may contain the names of your ancestors.  You will likely also find the Images of America series of books by Arcadia Publishing that provides historical photos of local places.  Also, don't forget, if you don't find the books you are looking for  you can ask your library to order them.  It doesn't guarantee that they will buy the books but it will definitely put the books on their radar and let the library know that their patrons are interested in genealogy.  My library has pre-made slips that can be filled out for requesting new books.

But wait - there's more.

Don't forget to check out the video and audio book sections.  The video section will have many PBS programs including Faces of America.  In the audio book section I regularly take out the Great Courses Series CDs on American history which are wonderful to listen to on long driving trips.

My local library also puts a lot of local history resources up on its website.  There you can find vital records, a cemetery transcription and genealogical information on the early settlers.  I use it regularly because it's so easy to access.

In addition to all that you still have more options in the form of your knowledgeable  library staff and library network/interlibrary loan.

I challenge you to survey your local public library and see what you can find.  You can post your results here in the comment field or you can write a post on your own blog and leave me with a link to follow.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you discover!

1 comment:

  1. Our closest local library doesn't have a whole lot, but the main county library is wonderful (and is helped greatly by our local genealogy society).