Expand Your Library’s Genealogy Program: Ideas and Activities

Library Resources | Schelly Talalay Dardashti | January 15, 2016

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There are many ways that you can begin or expand your library’s genealogy program while also using patrons’ interest in family history to connect with additional members of your community and increase overall library usage. Read about some specific ideas that you can start using right away.

Schelly Talalay Dardashti, US Genealogy Advisor for MyHeritage.com shares some ideas on using your patrons’ interest in family history to connect with members of the community.

MyHeritage knows that librarians are always on the front line when patrons ask about family history resources.

That’s why we presented a recent webinar on the MyHeritage Library Edition and included suggestions to bring more genealogy and family history activities into your library, how to create partnerships with local genealogy societies and much more.

Here are some highlights from our presentation.

Activities for All Generations

We discussed programs for grandparents and grandchildren that would, according to age, focus on completing simple family tree templates or larger, more extensive trees. A show-and-tell of family heirlooms, focusing on patrons’ ethnic and geographic origins, is an interesting way to involve diverse populations. Some libraries hold holiday events where patrons can dress in their native clothing and bring in foods specific to their origins. Sharing family photos can raise awareness of the universality of family over the years and screening old home movies can bring these snippets of life to light.

Older teens may wish to join in a community service activity such as visiting a retirement community or nursing home and helping residents build their own simple family trees — or even using the MyHeritage Library Edition to find family members. Bringing in young, tech-savvy volunteers can overcome hesitancy with computers that may present obstacles in outreach projects for seniors.

Young people — who often use their devices to socialize or play games — can also use the MyHeritage Library Edition on those devices, as much of the database’s search interface is mobile friendly. This accessibility opens up possibilities for youth activities involving genealogy — not just in the library — but also at school, at home or elsewhere.

Partner with Local Organizations

Collaborating with local genealogical and historical societies to produce library-based events has been a successful strategy for many. For example, a Veterans Day program might be a great opportunity for a local society to present what military records may reveal and how to access them using the MyHeritage Library Edition and other resources.

Your local genealogical society may be willing to offer a Genealogy 101 program on a weekend afternoon for adults or children.

Other local organizations may be interested in recommending books, guides and other resources for your genealogy collections. In many localities, societies — whose own premises are limited or not functional for large numbers of visitors — donate their extensive collections to the local library so that more patrons can use them at more convenient hours.

Local genealogical societies have experts in many research areas. For example, if your population has many of Polish descent, ask the society’s experts in that area to speak about research and resources of interest to that ethnicity.

DNA genetic genealogy is a hot topic these days. Partnering with local societies to bring in an expert to speak may well mean a very large turnout.

Integrate Genealogy into Other Library Programs

There are an almost endless number of ways to enhance other library programs by incorporating genealogy into the agenda. Have an Anime Club? Members can create anime about their family history. Book clubs could offer a series centered on family history-themed books. Your library might schedule an evening on family recipes, combining food and personal stories with historical documents providing rich details. For example, someone’s great-grandmother’s famous pie recipe might be presented along with her printed 1910 U.S. Census record to shed light on where she grew up and other interesting facts about her life.

Local experts can present programs to inform patrons about their neighborhood, town or county, and demonstrate other library resources you already maintain. Learn about prominent personalities, their families and their achievements.

Do you have community authors who write about your locality? Invite them to discuss their research into the town’s families, and combine it with a book signing. If you have a museum or university in your area, ask a preservation specialist to come in and talk about storage and handling of family documents, letters and photographs.

These are just a few of the many options available to bring more genealogy-related programming into your library. We are delighted to help your patrons discover more about their family history and become engaged in the library community. Don’t hesitate to ask us for additional suggestions or to share successful programming in your community.

Please contact us with any questions, suggested best practices and ideas at libraries@myheritage.com.

View a Summary of Ideas

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Schelly Talalay Dardashti
US Genealogy Advisor for MyHeritage.com

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