by Amy Coffin | Apr 2, 2010
There is a great genealogy resource near you. It contains free accessed to the latest "how-to" books, magazines and historical materials. Computers with the latest genealogy databases are waiting for you to use them. There are classes, lessons, special events and a staff whose sole purpose is to help you find the information you need. Where is this place? It's your local public library.
You don't have any ancestors from the area where you currently live? That's ok. Public libraries have broad collections for global interests. Even small libraries are connected to other institutions which increases the materials to which you have access. Yes, libraries are full of books, but they have so many more options to benefit the frugal genealogist. Maximize your genealogy experience without maximizing your budget in seven easy steps:
The staff members behind the desk are there to help you. Don't worry about bothering them because that's their job! They want you to approach them and ask questions. Library staffs know their collections. If you can't find something, they will tell you where it is located and do what they can to get the item in your hands.
Sign up for a library card if you don't already have one. For the vast majority of patrons, this shouldn't cost you a dime provided you live in the library's service area. A library card entitles you to more than the latest romance novels, as you will soon see.
Most public libraries have general and reference sections. Patrons may check out items from the general sections. Usually the reference section holds items that can be viewed in the library, but not checked out by the public. Included in the reference section are expensive items and the most recent copies of popular books. During your library visit, be sure to examine the materials in both sections. Items in these locations include:
Libraries vary in size and service, but many have unique items that are not on the front shelves. Some organizations may even have whole rooms dedicated to special collections. Contents may vary from local treasures and records to rare materials of historical importance. Explore your library or ask staff about special collections in their building or other local repositories.
Your trusty library card also entitles you to access many helpful databases online. The choices vary between library systems, but most patrons will be able to tap into versions of Ancestry.com Library Edition and HeritageQuest to search for vast amounts of records, articles and more. While you are delving through all the online treasures you library has to offer, don't forget to check out the databases that have historical newspapers and maps.
Just when you think you've discovered all the genealogy treasures your library has to offer, there's interlibrary loan yet to peruse. Interlibrary loan (ILL) is a service where patrons of one library can request items from other libraries. If your branch library is part of a larger system, you will likely be able to request items from anywhere in the system and have them delivered to your local branch. Each library's ILL policy is different, so ask the library staff about yours. This is a great service if you like to read the latest general genealogy books. If you have an interest in acquiring specific articles from publications not carried in your local library, check to see if they offer document delivery services as well.
Libraries produce great programs that are of interest to genealogists. Check your library's event calendar to see if they have any classes or events that meet your needs. You just might find:
If you don't find any classes or library events to meet your interests, ask the library staff if they have plans to hold such classes in the future. Perhaps you can work with the library to create and plan events of varying interests to genealogists.
Many institutions have "Friends of the Library" groups to help raise money, improve collections and fill the gap between a library's budget and wishes. These groups often sell used books and items for pennies on the dollar. Look for (or ask about) a Friends area in your library. See if they have any books that might meet your research or general interests. Check back often because the inventory is always changing. If you need to make room for genealogy books at home, consider donating your gently used books to a local Friends group.
The pursuit of family history takes patience, perseverance and a little creativity. Only lottery winners can travel to all the places our ancestors once walked. The rest of us have to tackle our research with careful consideration to budget and time. When pursuing all avenues in your family history quest, make use of your local public library as well. These seven steps will help you increase your genealogy knowledge in a local setting without decreasing your bank account.
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