Tuesday, August 20, 2013

For Librarians Only

2013-08-20 11.03.27The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 2013 annual conference was preceded Tuesday by an event called Librarians Day. Librarians Day is held before most FGS, NGS (and many ALA) conferences.

Kris W. Rzepczynski gave the keynote presentation, “Collaboration is Not Just a Buzz Word: Building and Preserving Your Collections.” Rzepczynski works for the Archives of Michigan where his self-described title is “Point Person for All Things Genealogy.”

The Michigan State Library once possessed one of the nation’s top ten genealogy collections. It was almost lost.

The collapse of the auto industry in the state of Michigan affected the entire state. When economies go backward, culture and art institutions, including those genealogical, are an easy target for budget reductions. In 2009 the governor eliminated the State Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. In 2010 the governor ordered a reduction in the scope of the state library and the divestiture of the non-Michigan portion of its genealogy collection.

In the midst of this crisis the Michigan Genealogical Council organized “Hands Around the Library,” an event showing support for the state Library of Michigan. (See Shirley Gage Hodges’s article about the event.)

Curt Witcher of the Allen County Public Library lent his support by testifying to the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board about the tourism and economic benefit of a genealogical collection.

In 2012 a collaboration was worked out whereby the Archives of Michigan would take the library’s non-Michigan genealogical collection, the Abrams Foundation Historical Collection. The grand opening of the collection was held at the Archives of Michigan on 5 January 2013. Both the library and archive are located in the Michigan Library and Historical Center, keeping all the records under the same roof (albeit with different operating hours).

Rzepczynski related some of the lessons learned through this crisis and its resolution:

  • Maintain friendships with local genealogy organizations.
  • Provide a unified voice dispelling misinformation.
  • Evangelize the value of your genealogy collection with the public and with policy makers.
  • Have an online presence.
  • Utilize social networking. (See the Archives of Michigan at seekingmichigan.org, @seekingmichigan on Twitter, and Michigan Genealogy on Facebook.)

Through this, the Archives of Michigan ended up with the best of two worlds: original records and published sources.


Okay. Maybe this post is not entirely for librarians. Rzepczynski mentioned a couple of collaborative projects they have underway with FamilySearch that are of general interest.

FamilySearch has 1.6 million records online in its collection, “Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952.” The Archives of Michigan will publish this index along with images on its website (seekingmichigan.org). Images cannot be published until 75 years after death, so initially images will be published through 1938. Each year another year of records will be published.

Perhaps the number one genealogical resource at the Archives of Michigan is their collection of naturalization records for most counties of Michigan. They are partnering with FamilySearch to index them. The Archives of Michigan will then publish index and images on SeekingMichigan.org.


Librarians Day is sponsored by ProQuest. Bill Forsyth addressed us during lunch (which ProQuest supplied). I’d like to mention a couple of online resources he mentioned. One is a document titled, “Key differences between Ancestry.com and Ancestry Library Edition.” The other was a set of lesson plans produced by Ancestry.com for teachers. It is tied to national standards. ProQuest has made the set available for download as a ZIP file. Unfortunately, the URL I wrote down does not work and Ancestry.com has not posted and linked to the lessons on their site. Perhaps ProQuest or Ancestry.com could leave a comment to this post giving a working URL. Ancestry.com has a page on their website that links to an example lesson plan for biography. But that’s the extent I could locate.


Librarians day was held at the Allen County Public Library, who cosponsored the event. To subscribe to their informative monthly ezine, Genealogy Gems, go to their website (www.GenealogyCenter.org), click on E-zine, and fill out the form. Subscribe to their blog at www.GenealogyCenter.org/community/Blog.aspx. Follow news and program reminders by becoming a fan at www.FaceBook.com/GenealogyCenter.

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