Yesterday afternoon, a small sea of mostly library administrators turned up for an intriguing (if somewhat unfocused) panel on building and sustaining local library history collections, what opening presenter Kris Rzepczynski of the Library of Michigan called "a powerful promotional tool." I’m no history or genealogical buff, but I was taken with the nonbook-centered projects to showcase treasure troves of holdings that can so easily go unnoticed.
At Rzepczynski’s fine state institution, for instance, amateur and professional researchers alike can dig into the free and fully searchable Seeking Michigan database, including nearly one million death records from 1897 to 1920, plus Civil War service records. Tim Gleisner of the Grand Rapids (MI) Public Library, meanwhile, introduced me to the ingenious concept of "genealogy lock-ins," uninterrupted blocks of access to valuable online resources, aka a nerd’s night out in research heaven.
Closing presenter Sara Wedell, head of adult services at the Chelsea District Library (MI), winner of LJ‘s Best Small Library of the Year Award in 2008, shared what I found the most inventive nondigital methods, which are often prohibitively expensive for even the most well-endowed libraries. Chelsea’s granted-funded Community History Project will conduct video interviews with local World War II veterans before their stories get lost. And then there’s the Historic Chelsea Interest Group, gatherings of local historians and other community members to share ideas and physical treasures.
Click here for more PLA 2010 Conference News from the editors of Library Journal and School Library Journal.