Mentoring a local genealogy society librarian


As the old librarian lay on the floor gasping for breath he noted a lot of useless old books on the genealogy society librarian’s book-shelve ( see view from the floor, above)

Have you ever visited a genealogy society library and marvelled at the vast amount of junk they collect? Not so long ago I had that experience. The basic problem is a lack of professional training for the volunteer librarian and assistants. But there is hope.

The old librarian and the society’s volunteer librarian had a little chat. Here’s what the old librarian had to say.

  1. Develop a mission statement and objectives for the library. Is it a lending library, or a reference and research collection? Be sure to state. Who does it serve? (Members or public?) Get this approved by the membership.
  2. Create a collection policy. This should define the format and content of the collection in general terms, then expand with more detail on priorities in materials to match mission, goals, objectives. You should do a survey annually to determine research interests of members: how many doing German research, Saskatchewan research, Mayflower family research-whatever. From the survey results prepare various parts of the policy that deal with acquisition priorities. The policy should have a clause concerning donations, “all donations are the property of the library and may be retained, maintained or disposed of at the discretion of the librarian”. Get this approved by the board and communicated to the members.
  3. Now the hard part; remove all books and materials that do not meet the priorities and goals of the collection policy. Remove books with outdated info. Some you’ll dump in garbage, but others offer by silent auction at next society event. If you get 6 cents, its better than nothing! Clean out boxes, bags etc not likely to be used in near future. One library had a 7 year supply of scrap paper. Send it to the recycler I said.
  4. Next make a list of your top priority new acquisitions: books, journals, CDs, DVDs, database subscription. To this add a list of needed supplies, furniture and equipment. Research the costs and prepare a draft budget for the next three years. Within each budget identify A, B and C priorities. Be prepared to see some items cut. present plan to the board. You might also publish or post  your want list. You never know when a member might have  that needed chair, or book, youneed in the library.
  5. There will be key items on your list members will want to see and use. Publicize your wish list and invite members to donate funds to sponsor specific items.
  6. Buy the items from your lists as funds are made available.
  7. Publicize each and every acquisition. If you have researched your members’  needs, your members will be enthused– and you’ll have space since you through out the junk, weeded the collection.

In future, that policy and annual survey, coupled with the weeding of outdated material will pay off with increased use by members.

Its not rocket science. Listen to the old librarian.


4 responses to “Mentoring a local genealogy society librarian

  1. Hey, Jana,
    There must be a lecture in this somewhhere.

  2. Or find a volunteer with actual library training, or even a library school student. A professional librarian in the area with interests in genealogy may love to donate a few hours.

    Many people think being a “Librarian” involves reading the books and putting them on the shelf, but a professional librarian with a master’s degree brings untold wealth to a collection in organization skills, collection development skills, and research skills.

  3. Pingback: Last Weeks Most Popular Posts « Genealogy Education

  4. Our Friends of the Library are thinking of hosting a Genealogy Lock-in next year. I would appreciate any advice or suggestions to make it a successful event.
    Thank you.

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