Librarians Day launches family history gathering

Genealogy is among top topics for library visitors, sponsor says

Published: Wednesday, April 28 2010 2:53 p.m. MDT

James Sweany, Library of Congress, talks with Judy Sindel-Dorsey after speaking Tuesday. (Stuart Johnson, Deseret News) James Sweany, Library of Congress, talks with Judy Sindel-Dorsey after speaking Tuesday. (Stuart Johnson, Deseret News)
Libraries and genealogy go hand in hand.

Genealogy is consistently one of the top two or three areas of content librarians are asked about, says Paul Nauta, FamilySearch Public Affairs Manager, whether they are at libraries big or small.

So it has become a tradition at annual meetings of the National Genealogical Society to kick things off with Librarians Day, says William Forsyth, with ProQuest, sponsor of this year's event.

The day's session is designed for public and academic librarians, for genealogical and family history librarians, for archivists, for anyone who might be asked to help patrons in this area, he says, whether or not genealogy is their specialty.

\"It is also traditional to tour local depositories so librarians will know what resources are available and how to use them.\"

Morning sessions for 2010 Librarians Day were held Monday at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building; afternoon tours took conference attendees to the Family History Library and the new Church History Library.

The National Genealogical Society is meeting in Salt Lake City for only the second time in the past 25 years. This year's gathering, which officially starts today at the Salt Palace, is expected to be one of the largest ever in the United States, with more than 2,000 attendees, 100 speakers, 180 lectures and workshops, and 123 exhibitors.

Special events throughout the week will include a multimedia tribute to family history featuring historian David McCullough, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

There will also be a Family History Consultant Fireside with Elder Allan F. Packer of the First Quorum of the Seventy, an open house and extended research hours at the Church History Library, a kids camp, a virtual tour of the world-famous Granite Mountain Records Vault, free \"Ask-an-Expert\" family consultations by the Utah Genealogical Association and more.

Starting things off on Librarians Day was James Sweany, head of the Local History & Genealogy Reading Room at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Even the Library of Congress is heavily involved in genealogical research.
\"It's always been a staple,\" he said. But in recent years, with all the automation, it has just expanded tremendously.\"

The Local History & Genealogical Reading Room is one of 20 reading rooms that are open to the public. Last year, he said, the library was visited by 1.6 million patrons. It has, at latest count, 141,874,810 items in its collection; new items are added to the collection at an average rate of just more than 10,000 per year.

\"It is a superlative library,\" Sweany said. \"And talking about the highlights of the collection is sort of like trying to take a drink of water out of a fire hydrant.\"

The library dates to 1815, when Thomas Jefferson sold his private library to Congress, after the original collection was burned by the British in the War of 1812.

The original collection had between 9,000 and 10,000 volumes, including some European books such as the English Domsday Book and the Peerage of Ireland. Up until then, \"the library was primarily a law library, for use of Congress only,\" said Sweany, \"but Jefferson said he could not conceive of a subject that should not be of interest to Congress.\"

Over the years, it has \"expanded to the breadth and depth we enjoy today.\"

The way most people now access the extensive library collection is online, he said, where it is possible to search by keyword as well as employ advanced search methods. Materials are also available through Interlibrary Loan.

Specific questions can be asked through the \"Ask a Librarian\" program. And some 9 million items that document U.S. history and culture have now been digitized through the \"American Memory\" program, with more being added all the time. American Memory collections include such things as a survey of historic buildings, first-person narratives of the American South, panoramic maps, diaries and letters from the trails to Utah and the Pacific from 1846-1869, historic newspapers, Civil War photographs and more.

\"We are not able to do any research,\" said Sweany, \"but we can offer suggestions on where to look.\"

Founded in 1903, the National Genealogical Society is dedicated to \"genealogy education, high research standards and the preservation of genealogical records.\" Throughout the week, a wide range of U.S. and international topics will be covered, as researchers from all over look for new technologies and methods of gathering age-old family histories.

Websites guide searchers in the Library of Congress

Search strategies for materials in the Library of Congress

Library of Congress website: www.loc.gov

Library of Congress Online Catalog, containing 12 million bibliographic records for books, serials, manuscripts, music and more: catalog.loc.gov/
Alternative Interface for Online Catalog, which works well for text-only browsers: www.loc.gov/z3950/

Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, bibliographic records and thumbnail images for nearly half of the Library's pictorial collection: www.loc.gov/rr/print/catalog.html

Encoded Archival Description (EAD) Finding Aids, a searchable set of archival finding aids for collections in many of the Library's reading rooms: www.loc.gov/rr/ead/

Ask a Librarian: www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/

Interlibrary Loan: www.loc.gov/rr/loan/

American Memory, a gateway to the Library's more than 9 million digitized historical materials: memory.loc.gov/ammem

E-mail: carma@desnews.com

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