Wednesday, September 5, 2012

FGS: Librarian’s Day

Librarians Day, Kim Harrison, DSC01224
Librarian’s Day at FGS Conference
Photo credit: Kim Harrison
I’ve mentioned that Wednesday, the first day of the FGS conference, has a special audience: genealogical society officers. Well this year (and most years) the first day of the conference was also Librarians Day. As you are doubtlessly aware, many libraries have genealogy collections. Librarians day is designed for librarians, archivists, and other information professionals serving family history researchers.

I wasn’t able to attend the entire day, but the program looked great. The opening keynote was Dr. Edwin C. Bridges, director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, who spoke about “Is Alabama History as Rich and Interesting as Greek or Roman History?” Laura Caldwell Anderson, archivist for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Jim Baggett, head of the Department of Archives and Manuscripts at the Birmingham Public Library; and Elizabeth Crabtree Wells, special collections librarian and archivist at Samford University, discussed Birmingham resources for librarians and their patrons.

The luncheon speaker was William J. Forsyth, directory of product management for ProQuest. ProQuest is the Librarian’s Day sponsor and sells a variety of subscription services to libraries, including Ancestry Library Edition. (I sometimes wonder if would get more attention from libraries if ProQuest offered a FamilySearch Library Edition. But I digress…)

In the afternoon Amy Johnson Crow spoke to the topic of “The Importance of Your Genealogy Collection’s Website.” Crow is a genealogical content manager at

“It is not enough to have a website,” she said. “You have to have a good website.” Crow went on to quote Voltaire: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” and warned participants, “I never said you had to have a perfect website.” Crow also advised tat attendees provide great content and site navigation. “Content is like chocolate,” she said. It has to be rich and it has to be satisfying. “Whatever content you have, it has to be good. It has to be meaningful.” She offered the Ohio Obituary Index as an example. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center (not a NARA presidential library) offers this index of 2.1 million obituaries. The index gives enough information for users to identify an ancestor. Then it gives a link allowing users to order a copy of the obituary. The index has brought the Hayes Center a tremendous amount of traffic and attention.

Curt Witcher addresses librarians at 2012 FGS conferenceCurt B. Witcher, the Genealogy Center manager at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, spoke to the topic, “Sources and Resources: Mining the Gold from Genealogical & Historical Serials.” (Private message to Curt: Sorry about the lousy photograph. I’m a terrible photographer.)

Periodicals contain hidden sources, locality-specific tips, and all kinds of history. “Doing the history eliminates the mystery,” says Witcher. Long bibliographies contain unmined gold. If an article about a topic contains a long bibliography, look through it for other potential sources. “I think it is really exciting for our customers to pull together records about a locale,” he said. “Where does history live? Down at the locale.” There are several ways to find articles of interest. The Allen County Library’s Periodical Source Index (PERSI) is a large subject index to articles written in genealogy and history periodicals. “I think subject indexes have a place alongside every-name indexes,” he said. PERSI is available on HeritageQuest and

If you’re a librarian and wish to attend Librarian’s Day, they are scheduled before ALA, NGS and FGS conferences.

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