A long time ago (at least in blog years...), I wrote an open thread diary about getting out from behind a computer and researching in person at libraries, archives, and other places where real records are hiding.
My interest in genealogy is currently being fed by being in graduate school for a degree in library science ~ and courses this semester include one on genealogy reference services and another on managing small archives.
Why am I mentioning these classes? Follow me below the fold for more.....
For the genealogy reference services class, an assigned article was about why library staff too often tend to dislike genealogists, and the topic also came up in readings for the archival management class. A couple times, I've been on the receiving end of a less than welcoming librarian or town clerk.
So I'm going to outline a few tips for making sure that librarians and archivists are glad to see (and help) you....
1) Check out the library/archives website before you go. Getting lost on the way can make for an unpleasant visit :-( Plus, making sure of the opening hours and what researchers are allowed to bring in to the library/archives helps as well, as does familiarizing yourself with what the library/archives has in its collection.
2) Check out the rules, which are usually posted and/or on a handout. For example, many archives allow only pencils, not pens, to be used in areas with archival materials. Others only allow a few items in with researchers and provide lockers for everything else. While occasionally you may run into a run that seems arbitrary and/or draconian, most of these are in place to either assist with preservation of unique/irreplaceable materials or to make the experience of all researchers/patrons better.
3) This is less true for libraries and archives. But court houses, town clerks' offices, and other places with relevant records about our ancestors have purposes other than helping us find those elusive ancestors. So sensitivity to the fact that offices like these have other tasks on their plates can go a long way in helping make genealogists welcome.
Yes, I'm preaching a bit on the topic ~ but I've been in various archives, libraries, and other records offices over the years where genealogists were, to be quite frank, obnoxious. Examples seen in the last few months: Arriving at 9:30 when the website clearly said opening time was 10, and complaining loudly to the staff about their time being wasted when the doors opened. Only having pens and refusing an offered pencil when taking notes from a delicate 18th century document. Demanding that a county probate clerk drop current work NOW in order to find a document. These are definitely the exceptions ~ genealogists are, on average, very polite people ~ but the exceptions are what gets remembered, unfortunately, by staff whose primary job is something other than helping genealogists.
Yes, this is a less exciting topic than finding an elusive ancestor ~ but worth a quick reminder. Next time I do one of these diaries, I'll write about more fun stuff ;-)