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Is providing genealogy help @ your library becoming a service priority? Here are some successful services and programs the Algonquin Area Public Library is providing to support residents looking to “discover their roots.”

Laying the groundwork for successful genealogy programming starts with identifying someone who has been doing their own family research, is “genealogy friendly” and willing to share their expertise with the public.  Start by asking your own staff; call another library, a local historical or genealogical society from the surrounding community for free or inexpensive speakers.  Reference librarians Virginia Freyre and Kristen McCallum are our resident experts and teachers. They have created a first class genealogy collection and program repertoire over the last 8 years of books, classes, workshops, brochures, speakers, online resources, a web page and half hour consultations for the “Clueless about Genealogy!” We are close to becoming an affiliate Family History Center (LDS) to process patron requests for microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Our beginner classes are traditionally scheduled early in the year. The original Genealogy 101 class covered the basics of where to start, searching census records, locating vital records, military records and immigration and naturalization resources. Students loved the notebook we provided with handouts on each topic presented. The wealth of information presented is often overwhelming to beginners so Kristen and Virginia redesigned their class. The original 101 class was expanded to a 3 week session limited to 30 students titled Genealogy Bootcamp.  They discovered that step by step instruction, building on the previous week’s lesson, by using case studies, assigning homework, and giving quizzes helped the new “recruits” increase their understanding of the research process.  Information was provided about other genealogical programs, workshops, and conferences and attendance was encouraged for additional learning opportunities.

Our most popular program always filled to capacity is our After-Hours Genealogy Workshop. For the last 5 years, in April and November on a Friday night from 4:30-10:30pm Kristen and Virginia provide genealogy enthusiasts independent research time on our computers, technical and research assistance and occasional “expert” volunteers from the local genealogical society. The evening begins with a short presentation on a general topic of interest, snacks and drinks are provided, use of our computers, access to Ancestry and other databases, and unlimited free printing. October and November is a good time to schedule an after hours program to take advantage of the State of Illinois’s free trial access to electronic resources during their annual Try-it Illinois.

Two years ago they created the monthly Genealogical Lecture Series by choosing a regular day and time, ours is 3rd Tuesdays at 7pm (excluding July, August and December), to increase appeal to novices, seasoned researchers and increase attendance. We continue to schedule a variety of topics and speakers; Ethnic research strategies (Polish, German, Irish, English, Scottish, Swedish, etc.), Genealogy computer program comparisons of Family Tree Maker & Roots Magic, Online resource demonstration and instruction for Ancestry and Heritage Quest, FamilySearch.org Experts (LDS), Immigration & Naturalization, Marriage Records, Collateral Relations, Cemetery Research, Writing Your Family History, Old Photograph identification and restoration and Local History.

Contact Vicky Tobias at the Algonquin Area Public Library for more information.

Any library patron high school age and above can make an appointment for an hour of one-on-one help from a professional information specialist – an “InfoPro” – at the Des Plaines Public Library. The InfoPro service supplements the telephone, walk-in, and electronic reference services already offered by the library. Individuals and small groups may also make appointments with an InfoPro for personalized tours to learn more about library materials and services.

In addition, the patron will receive a customized research guide tailored to his or her specific needs. The guide will list suggested books, databases, Web sites, and other resources on a particular topic. The website of InfoPro is www.dppl.org/reference/InfoPro.html. Submitted by Holly Richards Sorensen, Head of Adult Services