All in the Family

Helping patrons explore their history

September 1, 2016

Librarian's Library: Karen Muller

October is Family History Month. With websites offering a range of suggestions on how to observe this month, from exploring your family tree to starting a personal genealogy website, libraries are sure to be listed as a stop for information gathering—even if only to grab a book on the country Great-Grandfather emigrated from. In this issue we have a guide full of tips to support library users hoping to explore their family history, plus several books to assist with the larger issues of planning or the more detailed issues of technical support.

Fostering Family ServicesFostering Family History Services: A Guide for Librarians, Archivists, and Volunteers, by Rhonda L. Clark and Nicole Wedemeyer Miller, offers practical advice, with bibliographical notes, on how to establish a family history service within the framework of existing programming and outreach. The authors assert that providing family history resources is more about offering guidance and how-to knowledge than being a vast storehouse of sources. Even if a library already has a robust genealogical research collection, having a ready list of local appraisers to help place a value on family collectibles, offering programming in digital scrapbooking, or mounting an exhibit of photographs to encourage local history research will enhance the service and bring in new community members. Topics covered include preserving documents, encouraging oral histories, conducting an effective reference interview, developing collaborative relationships with other repositories, and understanding how to mine resources, many of which are online or in databases. Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 269 P. $55. PBK. 978-1-61069-541-1.

The portfolio of competencies that might be employed by a library emphasizing family history services ranges from the theoretical to practical implementation tips. What the following titles have in common is that each holds a piece of that portfolio.

Adding Value to Libraries, Archives, and MuseumsAdding Value to Libraries, Archives, and Museums: Harnessing the Force That Drives Your Organization’s Future, by Joseph R. Matthews, explores how a cultural organization adds value to its community and what can be done to add more value. Libraries have typically added value by making content available efficiently. But we no longer hold a monopoly on information delivery and may need to leverage content, context, connections, collaboration, and community to move to a new business model. The expansion of a local history collection from a dusty corner into a multifaceted family history service could be a test case for the managerial principles Matthews outlines. Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 271 P. $70. PBK. 978-1-4408-4288-7.

Digital Photo MagicThe tips and techniques in Digital Photo Magic: Easy Image Retouching and Restoration for Librarians, Archivists, and Teachers, by Ernest Perez, won’t be for everyone. But the tricks Perez offers for cropping photos for better effect, editing out extraneous elements, or colorizing might be useful to the digital scrapbooker or for presenting historic images attractively on a website. The author addresses important copyright and authenticity issues, but most of the book is dedicated to editing examples. Information Today, 2016. 200 P. $49.50. PBK. 978-1-5738-7513-4.

GIS Research Methods: Incorporating Spatial PerspectivesAlso technical in nature, but with components that might be useful for expanding family history services, is GIS Research Methods: Incorporating Spatial Perspectives, by Sheila Lakshmi Steinberg and Steven J. Steinberg. This is not a manual for using GIS software but rather a treatise on applying geospatial information to research, such as creating interactive maps that help tell a story. The authors address research design, types of data, sources of digital data, special analysis, and linking the results of research to policy and action. This is advanced, but consider what students might learn about local history by using GIS research techniques to track municipality development. Esri Press, 2015. 432 P. $79.99. PBK. 978-1-5894-8378-1.

Digitizing Your Collection: Public Library Success StoriesGetting materials out of the back room and onto a website may be another avenue of family history services to explore. Digitizing Your Collection: Public Library Success Stories, by Susanne Caro with contributions from Sam Meister, Tammy Ravas, and Wendy Walker, explains why a library might digitize parts of its collection. It also presents what to consider before undertaking a digitization project, including the pros and cons of certain types of collections, such as photographs or local school yearbooks. The authors cover copyright issues, funding, staffing limitations, digital preservation, getting the community involved, and marketing the new collection. ALA Editions, 2016. 176 P. $55. PBK. 978-0-8389-1383-3.

Digital Library Programs for Libraries and Archives: Developing, Managing, and Sustaining Unique Digital CollectionsDigital Library Programs for Libraries and Archives: Developing, Managing, and Sustaining Unique Digital Collections, by Aaron D. Purcell, also offers guidance for building digital collections. Purcell begins with essays on how digital libraries developed and the challenges they face. The main portion of the book is a step-by-step guide to digital library planning, including daily operations, selecting digital collections, technical standards, and identifying resources and partnerships for creating the digital library. Purcell outlines outreach and promotion to let the user community know the resource is available. ALA Neal-Schuman, 2016. 256 P. $85. PBK. 978-0-8389-1450-2.