Preparing for A Research Trip to an Archive or Library

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One of the great weaknesses in the genealogists who I served as a librarian for 22 years was their lack of advance preparation before visiting an archives, library or record repository of any sort. So a few years ago I prepared a lecture entitled "Romancing the Librarian" which is now a two hour workshop. Here's what we cover.

The first part of the lecture contains a lot of ideas to sink your teeth into. Together we discuss identifying research objectives, selecting the specific problem to tackle, analyzing the problem, then developing the research plan. The plan may a segments of work to be done in various repositories, so these are listed separately as well, ready to take on the archive/library visit and may show details of which specific books, which records, which local in-house data bases you need to search along with call numbers, record group numbers, etc.

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We conclude part one by discussing appropriate dress, and what to take on your visit so you are not packing every box of files you own with you.

Part two covers:

  • the reference interview
  • library/archives etiquette
  • Handling of books and documents
  • Effective note keeping and the use of research logs
  • Practice of abstracting skills
  • Why and how to say thanks to the staff (librarians prefer good chocolate!)

Depending on the circumsatances this workshop can be expanded to three hours of productive lectures and practical problem solving to develop skills. It has been well received as both a 60 minute lecture and as a longer hands-on workshop.

What do you think? Do genealogists in your area need a learning experience like this? Can you teach it or do you want me to come and do it for you?

Your comments are always welcome

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2 responses to “Preparing for A Research Trip to an Archive or Library

  1. Barbara Schenck

    It sounds like a dynamite presentation, Ken. But I would consider changing the title because I didn’t have a clue what it meant. From your description I would very much like to hear what you have to say. But the title meant nothing to me and wouldn’t have attracted me to the topic. Just a thought.

  2. I think the title works extremely well IF (and it’s a bif if) all the publicity tells a bit more about the talk, e.g. “…Ken will tell us how to maximize your results in a library setting by getting the librarian on your side by doing your pre-visit work, being courteous and friendly, and by presenting chocolates as you leave.”

    If it is just a title and a name, it doesn’t work for me either. Careful planning by the speaker and program planner pays dividends.

    I always try to romance the librarian, but she…oh, well, you know.

    Cheers — Randy

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