Sunday, November 02, 2008

Library Memories: Mom Adds a Whole New Section of Books

Last week I told you about Mom and I fighting writer's cramp and paper cuts to put together a comprehensive card catalog for the library. In retrospect it's easy for me to see that Mom had big plans in which that card catalog played a part.

In the mid-1960s, Mom became fascinated with genealogy and it didn't take long for my grandmother to join in with her. Mom had the intuitive flashes of genius and determination; my grandmother had the dogged desire to get everything down on paper. I always thought of them as the Holmes and Watson of Genealogy. In this case, Doyle was not the author of the piece because there was a third member of the band: me. I think I was the factotum. Many are the overgrown, forgotten cemeteries we searched for and found, and many are the weathered tombstone inscriptions that I wrote down in my spiral notebooks. I followed direction well and became a dab hand at microfiche readers and deciphering old, bad handwriting. The two of them joined the local genealogical society, and as a result, Mom discovered that many people in our area were researching their own family trees--including members of the library board.

She began compiling a list of basic books and periodicals to show people how to get started. From genealogical society meetings and conversations with library patrons, she learned the areas where most people's ancestors had lived. She tracked down sources for the lists she had compiled, made purchases, and we cleared a large section of shelves for their arrival.

The section was placed close to Mom's desk so that she would be right on hand to be of any assistance. The shelves filled. Patrons who were also members of the same society began telling other genealogy fanatics about the new section in our little library. Those people came to take a look and were impressed by the depth of information and Mom's skill. Word spread quickly, and genealogists from near and far began to come to our library. Not only did they become acquainted with the genealogy section, but they also checked out other books to read. If they wanted to do research, the card catalog was available listing all the resources. Many times when school was in session, genealogists filled the large table back in the children's section. When children were there and wanted the table so they could sit and read the latest treasures they'd found, the genealogists moved to the tables across the vestibule in the village hall.

Mom's vision for a new section in our village library paid off in a big way--more than she'd ever dreamed. Her passion. to get people into the library and to use it, meant that she paid attention to what the people in the area wanted and needed--something that's carried out day after day in thousands of libraries across the country.

I am very very proud to say that, although many changes were made in our village library after Mom and I moved away, the genealogy section still exists. To this day, it is still one of the library's largest draws. In Mom's case, the family tree bore more than one kind of fruit.


  1. It sounds like your mom was an awesome librarian.

  2. On behalf of amateur genealogists everywhere, my thanks to you, your mother and your grandmother.

  3. My mother was an awesome librarian. She raised me solo on a widow's pension and various part-time jobs. When I was in high school, she started taking night classes at a local community college, leaving me to run the library on those nights. When I started applying for colleges, she did too. We went to college together. She got her degree in Library Science and became technical services librarian for the Arizona State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. In that capacity, she did a lot of work in conjunction with the Library of Congress.
    You're welcome, Corey. Unfortunately I'm too far away to be your factotum. :-)

  4. Wow, that is a wonderful story!

  5. Wow, what a cool story! Your family sounds amazing. Have you ever considered writing a book filled with these library memories? You're a natural story-teller.

  6. I was thinking along the same lines as Joanne - what a great gift to future generations, to bind these essays, even simply, in hard-copy format.

    I'm so enjoying this series, Cathy. I hope you have many more library memories to share with us.

  7. I'm enjoying this series so much!


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