by Ruby Coleman
Click, push, pull ... go to the library. If your mouse has taken you to great lengths using the sources on Internet, think of what will happen when you decide to return to the library. The wonders of Internet have caused genealogists to click into oblivion, often forgetting the vast wonders of the library. This tool that we had for so many years is still there, even better, more enhanced and just waiting for our return to push or pull the door.
Libraries comes in many sizes and shapes of content and in many locations. Even the smallest library can hold wonders for a genealogist. When is the last time you used the library in your research?
These institutions of learning and knowledge often have genealogical collections, shared by societies or groups, or maintained as a specialty of the library. Small or large collections can be used to heighten your genealogical awareness. Plan a trip to libraries close to you, spend a day and discover those treasures.
Most libraries have reference sections, filled with useful items such as atlases, gazetteers, histories, guides and directories. Use them! Check for vertical files which contain clippings and local interest items and for card indexes to specialty collections. The library may be a repository for old city directories and even newspapers. Many have local or area newspapers on microfilm.
It is best to go to the library prepared and for this you can use the computer. Take an adequate supply of sharpened pencils as many libraries and archives do not allow patrons to use pens. Don't take an over supply of paper and notes to tote, but take what will sufficiently get you through a research session. Many larger libraries do not allow patrons to take excess baggage into the research or reading area. Purses and attachˇ cases usually fall into this category, so must be placed in a locker provided by the library. While many libraries allow patrons to use laptop computers, it is best to inquire ahead of time about their policy. Make certain your laptop has a charged battery and the necessary files for your research needs.
If you are not taking a laptop, print out the charts or information pertaining to your research problems. These could include pedigree charts, family group sheets, to-do lists, soundex codes and theory sheets. Never take your original charts, documents and information sheets with you. Make certain items that items you bring, including a laptop computer or notebooks, are identified with your name, address and phone number.
Locating the library is half the fun of getting there. While there are many publications that have addresses of libraries, the information is also available on Internet. Information on the location, hours and collections of libraries can be found at:
There are also many library catalogs on Internet. Some are very useful in checking titles in genealogical collections ahead of time. For this, the following are helpful:
If a telephone number or e-mail address is available for the library you are going to use, contact them ahead of time regarding their policies and hours. You may wish to ask about parking and public transportation. Inquire about photocopying machines and costs. Libraries close for holidays which include national as well as local celebrations, so make certain they will be open when you arrive.
Don't dispair if a title you need is not in the library. Inquire at your local library about interlibrary loan and their specific policies. Most librarians are willing to locate books on interlibrary for patrons or secure photocopies of specific pages. Books normally need to be used within the libraries, and for minimal fees the title will be sent to your library.
Have a list of titles available when consulting the librarian. This list should include author and if possible, the publisher and year of publication. If you know where the book is located, this is also helpful for the librarian. Should the book not circulate, have the librarian inquire about photocopies of specific pages, such as the index for surnames. Photocopying is governed by the copyright law and the lending library will determine if it can be done.
Many genealogy books do circulate. These include methodology texts, county histories, and area related source books. Authors of family genealogies often place a complimentary copy of their book in their local or area library, or in libraries where they researched their subject. There are some large genealogical lending collections in the United States. Two noteworthy lending libraries with genealogical catalogs online are:
Make time ahead of time for a successful research trip to the library. It can be as much fun as clicking the mouse!