Monday, January 30, 2012

Libraries Still Playing Key Role in Genealogy & Local History Research

Anyone with a love of books and historical documents (those that you can actually touch) might be sharing a common concern about the rapid trend from printed matter to the intangible, namely digital files and the internet.

For some time I've had a love/hate relationship with the internet - love it for all of the readily available quality information, hate it for its immaturity and degradation of the tangible.  From a library standpoint, it's becoming increasingly scary as more and more fall victim to the "this is online so we can get rid of it" philosophy.   In addition, we librarians worry about our collections becoming obsolete with the next generation of internet junkies...

Happily, these effects haven't yet reached the Local History Department of the Van Buren District Library.  2011 statistics show that in-house (used only in the library) usage of books, microfilm and vertical files was up 12% from 2010, and the number of visitors to the collection was up 20%.  These increases, despite a reduction in service hours this last summer, come after a few years of steady decline from more robust numbers in 2006 & 2007. 

To what do we credit these increases?  To no small end they can be attributed to the continued support of Local History volunteers.  Researchers have not only enjoyed access to the largest Southwest Michigan genealogy & local history collection anywhere, but they have reaped the added bonus of one-on-one research assistance provided by staff and qualified volunteers who in 2011 donated a collective 1,991 hours.

Family history has also taken front stage on television through the new famous Who Do You Think You Are? series and by the influx of commercials.  Both stress that tracing your family can be affordable and rewarding for individuals from all walks of life.

Finally, credit has to be given to the exposure that writing this blog has provided since it was launched last January.  There are not only hundreds of subscribers, but because everything is immediately Google searchable the page hits increase by the thousands every month, making it the number one resource for getting the word out about the Local History Collection and upcoming events.  It's also been a golden opportunity to share research tips and generally keep you up to speed with the latest in the world of Southwest Michigan genealogy.  Thank you for your patronage.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown woman & child
taken from the photo scrapbook of Amy (Palmer) Jackson,
1919 graduate of Bangor High School

Can you identify the young mother and child in this photograph, probably taken in or near Bangor, Michigan?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.