Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Life in the Libraries

I realized this week, that I was spending most of my time lately in libraries. Most of that time is in the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library in Provo, Utah, but I have been regularly visiting and doing research in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is probably no surprise that we have also been visiting the Provo City Library. Not that this is at all unusual. I have been regularly visiting libraries since I was old enough to read.

Other than being a casual observation on my life, what has this got to do with genealogy? I have been making comments recently about the fact that although I am working in a library with millions of books, I seldom see any of those people (mainly students) looking at or using any of the books. You could argue that all that the students (or genealogical researchers) need is online and looking through a pile of old, musty and dusty books is a total waste of time. This is, unfortunate for the student and the researcher, far from the truth. On our most recent visit to the Family History Library, where I am now writing this post, my fellow researchers have very quickly outstripped the online resources and have moved decisively into books and printed records.

Notwithstanding the fact that we have been looking at paper books lately, we cannot fail to notice that huge sections of the paper books in the Family History Library are missing from the shelves. The explanation? They are all being digitized. It is abundantly apparent that the number of computer stations in the Library are increasing and the number of study tables (ostensibly for books) are rapidly decreasing. Where this is most evident is on the first floor (Main Floor) of the Library. There used to be a huge section of biographies and surname books. These have now disappeared almost completely to be replaced with computer stations. The disappearance is directly correlated to the growth of the Books collection which now exceeds 250,000 volumes (or so I am told).

So are libraries and paper books on the way out? Well, not exactly. Recent statistics seem to indicate that the move to ebooks may have stalled in the last two years. Publisher's Weekly in September of 2014 reported that paper books still outsold ebooks.
See “E-Books Still Outsold by Hardcover and Paperback.” Accessed July 16, 2015.
For genealogy books the issue is access. Far too many genealogically related tomes are either very scarce or fall into the rare category. Many surname books are privately published and may have only a few extant copies. When these books are digitized, they immediately become more useful to the related family members. But none of this seems to explain the average genealogical researcher's antipathy towards paper books. This informational myopia is alarming. In working with patrons at the BYU Family History Library, I am often astounded at the lack of interest in the very visible and useful book collection. The patrons often ask general questions that could be answered in a matter of seconds if they would take the time to consult some of the very available books that are sitting in plain view.

Just in case you are starting out in genealogy and need a list of books to get going. Here are a few of my suggestions:

Allen, Desmond Walls. First Steps in Genealogy: A Beginner’s Guide to Researching Your Family History. Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway Books, 1998.
Beasley, Donna. Family Pride: The Complete Guide to Tracing African-American Genealogy. New York, NY: Macmillan USA, 1997.
Best, Laura. Genealogy for the First Time: Research Your Family History. New York: Sterling Pub. Co., 2003.
Boudreau, Dennis M, and American French Genealogical Society. Beginning Franco-American Genealogy. [Pawtucket, R.I.?]: A.F.G.S., 1986.
Cleveland, Vikki L. Jeanne. Rooting out Your Ancestory: A Primer for Beginning Genealogy. [S.I.]: Lulu.Com, 2004.
Croom, Emily Anne. Unpuzzling Your Past: The Best-Selling Basic Guide to Genealogy. Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway Books, 2001.
Dowell, David R. Crash Course in Genealogy. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited, 2011.
Dunn, Michael. A Beginner’s Guide to Online Genealogy, 2015.
Helm, Matthew, and April Leigh Helm. Genealogy Online for Dummies, 2014.
Hibberts, Joyce Whaler, and Kathleen K Saffell. Getting It All Together: A Primer in Beginning Genealogy. Ridgecrest, CA (313 N. Norma, Ridgecrest 93555): Saffell’s Naturally, 1989.
Lind, Marilyn. Beginning Genealogy and a Guide to Continuing Research: With an Introduction to Foreign Research. Cloquet, Mn (1204 W. Prospect, Cloquet 55720): Linden Tree, 1984.
Minshall, William Harold, Ontario Genealogical Society, and Huron County Branch. Beginning in Genealogy. [Goderich, Ont.]: [Huron County Branch, O.G.S.], 1981.
Pelling, George, and George Pelling. Beginning Your Family History in Great Britain. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1989.
Powell, Kimberly. The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy: Use the Web to Trace Your Roots, Share Your History, and Create a Family Tree. Avon, Mass.: Adams Media, 2011.
Rose, Christine, and Kay Germain Ingalls. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2005.
Schaefer, Christina K. The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1999.
Smith, Gloria L. Beginning Black-Indian Genealogy, the Seminoles. Tucson, Ariz.: G.L. Smith, 1996.
Wolfman, Ira, and Michael Klein. Do People Grow on Family Trees?: Genealogy for Kids & Other Beginners : The Official Ellis Island Handbook. New York: Workman Pub., 1991.
Woodtor, Dee. Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity. New York: Random House, 1999.

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