How to Love Your Library (Part I)Posted: February 9, 2010
Two sad but true things: One, I have a bossy streak. I prefer to call it an “orderly streak,” but either way, it must be genetic. Not only has it emerged in older relatives; lately I’ve noticed one of my daughters making lists of rules for her dolls.
Two, I can’t help overhearing things at the library, which wouldn’t happen if people remembered to lower their voices, but nobody does anymore, do they?
Based on what I’ve overheard, and seeing as this is National Love Your Library Month, it may be time to share some Rules for Proper Library Researcher Behavior:
Make an appointment. Many libraries are strapped for cash and space. Often this affects who can help you, and when. The “local historian” may be a part-timer or even an occasional-timer who volunteers when they can. The “archives” might be on the shelves in a conference room used for community meetings on alternate Tuesdays. Do not waste your time or the library’s by walking in without notice to research a genealogy question. It’s a recipe for disappointment.
Learn about the holdings before you go. It helps you stay focused on your visit, and it helps the library, in case they need extra time to get something out of deep storage. Some examples:
• Does the library have city directories? What years do they cover?
• Is the local newspaper available on microfilm or in bound copies? Is there a subject index? (If not, see “Do your newspaper homework,” below.)
• Any other local periodicals – magazines, historical society journals, etc.?
• Are there local histories or biographical indexes? When were they written and what towns do they cover?
• Are there any specific family histories or genealogies?
• Any vintage maps, and if so, what time frame?
Do your newspaper homework. If the local newspapers are not indexed (many aren’t), try to narrow your search as much as you can. This might mean reviewing your past notes, taking another hard look at census entries, or reading up on the general history of an historical event. Also, ask ahead about the appearance and general layout of the newspaper. Did it divide its news into local and national sections? Was there always a police blotter? Did it run wedding and engagement notices every day, or once a week? Knowing how the newspaper arranged its information can speed your search.
Whee! Ms. Bossy is having fun. A few more rules — er, tips – in my next post.