Last week at the reference desk I fielded a call from a woman traveling through the area who wondered whether to drop by my library to do research in our “excellent genealogy collection.” I dissuaded her of that. Who told her we had a good collection? It’s lain dormant for years. We’ve taken it out of its special room and PUT IT IN A CORNER. As an amateur genealogist, I don’t mind because I get all my genealogy fixes via Ancestry.com.
She by-passed a stop in my little city and drove on south to South Carolina. But she’s supposed to email me this week because she wanted a name and contact information for someone who might research in our collection for her. It’s terrible to admit, but I rolled my eyes when she launched into the deep long story of four sisters by circumstances. She threw in a lot of surnames, too. I have a lot more patience with genealogists than do my colleagues because this is one of my interests. It is an area in which I have expertise. And too, it helps if the genealogist chattering away is talking about your family, but not if you have no connection to it.
This post doesn’t have anything philosophical to add to the profession about services to genealogists. We used to have handouts that outlined and described our genealogy collection, but one of the strategies we’ve employed at our library both due to lack of fiscal resources and lack of personnel resources is to hide, or not advertise certain services. While we never had a genealogical service, we don’t offer guidance to the collection anymore, either. It is a shame. But, there are better, stronger collections in our Tri-Cities area that we send the earnest genealogists. Also, none of our reference services involve instruction in how to use the print and microfilm resources in our dispersed genealogy collection. Occasionally, we get an obituary request, and we forward that to our staff-person who loves the microfilm collection. That’s it. And it’s only if he has time for hunting it down.
All of this is to say that I’ve identified a need. My two-pronged approach is to compile and publish a list of genealogists-for-hire. And the second tine in that prong is creating/maintaining a LibGuide for genealogy. At least, that way, we’ll have something to share with people searching for long-lost relatives.