Thursday, July 21, 2011

Schools out for the Summer but the Library is Open

Cambridge Library, From Flickr: The Commons
It's no secret that I believe university libraries are just one of the places you should utilize in the search for your family history.  I even wrote an article about it for the Expert series.  My trip this week to  one of the libraries on the University of California, Riverside campus reminded me of even more tips that can assist as you prepare to visit an academic library.

Chat with a Librarian

Prior to my trip I did peruse the online card catalog for books that I was interested in.  As part of my search, I used the Ask A Librarian feature to ask about resources that I may have overlooked. Librarians search the card catalog differently than you do.  It's worth it to use a Ask A Librarian feature to get even more ideas. I used the online chat, and received help in real time as well as assistance in finding additional books. Librarians  know their collection, so take advantage of their expertise.

Membership has Privileges

I had read the Library's website and knew that community members could, with a donation, receive a library card.  After speaking with a librarian I found out other ways that community members could receive a library card. My new UCR library card allows me to check out books at any UC school. This is a great perk when I don't have the time to sit at the library and research.

Books and Food, What a Great Combination or Things are Sure Different than when I was a Kid

It's always good to do your homework prior to leaving for the library.  I had a list of all the books I wanted to look at,  that was no problem.  But the directions the school provided to the library via their website were lacking.  Because they basically got me to the campus and that's it, I spent a good 15 minutes driving around. Asking the librarian while I was chatting with them online might have saved me some time. Also, while I was there I learned that they allow snacks and beverages, within reason.  No, you can't have pizza delivery but other snacks are allowed in the library.  Had I known that I wouldn't have decided to try to fast through lunch. With the option of eating while you are researching you can sit amongst the books for hours! Free wifi, books and food, what more could a genealogist ask for?

As you research, consider all the places that you should be conducting your research in your quest for a reasonably exhaustive search.  University libraries are just one example of a library to check out (pardon the pun).  For other libraries see the website Libraries in the United States.

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