National Genealogical Society Library

I appreciate all the interest there has been in the National Genealogical Society Library over the past several days and weeks. In the following, I will do my best to explain what exactly is being planned and why these plans were formulated. First, let me say that your NGS Board of Directors is committed to providing the highest level of information, services, and products possible to NGS members. That is why we are immersed in a strategic directions initiative. We are looking to provide more services to our members with the same number of staff and the same level of resources. And as I am sure you can imagine, our financial resources continue to be rather modest, particularly in this time of economic downturn. Despite rumors, stories, and musings to the contrary, the National Genealogical Society Library is not closing nor are its collections being randomly dispersed to other libraries. It is important for me to state again for the record: the National Genealogical Society Library is not closing. Rather it is being reconstituted in a manner more conducive to providing better services to the society's membership. Historically, the book loan collection has been under-utilized by the society's membership. Yet no one, absolutely no one, is interested in terminating the book loan service. The NGS staff and board of directors appreciate that while little used by the majority of members, the book loan service is highly valued by a number of members. The challenge before us was to find a way to continue making the book loan service available while freeing the NGS librarian and her staff to provide more valuable reference services for our members-services that would make NGS an increasingly invaluable part of more genealogists' lives. After much study and deliberation, the NGS board voted to create the nation's largest family and local history book loan collection through a partnership with the St. Louis County Library (SLCL). This partnership creates some of the most exciting growth opportunities for a book loan collection the genealogical community has ever seen. As specified by the agreement, all of the books SLCL receives from NGS must be made available for loan, making the entire NGS book loan collection as close as your nearest public, college, or university library. The two organizations have committed to meet at least yearly to review the status of the arrangement and modify as needed to make the books as accessible as possible. I believe it is important to also note that having the NGS Book Loan Collection at the St. Louis County Library carries the following additional benefits. 1. Book loan requests will be filled five days a week, rather than just one day per week as we had been doing at Glebe House. The service will be much more responsive. 2. Neither the St. Louis County Library nor the NGS Library will have to close to perform the interlibrary loans. In the past the NGS Library had to close to perform loan functions. 3. The St. Louis County Library has a much larger staff to handle loan requests. 4. The St. Louis County Library is committed to assisting NGS with reference questions that result from use of the loan collection. 5. Housing the loan collection in St. Louis means that the book loan collection will be in one place and in one consistent order. Currently, the NGS book loan collection is in two different facilities on the Glebe House grounds as well as two different remote storage facilities. 6. The St. Louis County Library will market the book loan collection in ways NGS was never able. 7. The St. Louis County Library will be offering programs at national conferences on the riches and use of the loan collection. 8. The St. Louis County Library will be enhancing web access to the loan collection, and creating pathfinders and use-aids for the collection as well as highlighting unique items. 9. The staff of the St. Louis County Library is most competent, professional, and very excited about making this arrangement truly benefit both organizations. The administrative, special collections, and interlibrary loan staffs in particular are truly extraordinary. I know this from months of personal experiences and interactions with them. Both SLCL and NGS are committed to growing the book loan collection in very dramatic ways. While we are not yet at the announcement stage, we are contacting numerous genealogical libraries, societies, and other organizations that heretofore were not interested in giving their duplicate materials to NGS because of our space constraints and the manner in which we had to run our loan program. We are asking these entities to reconsider enhancing our national loan collection by designating this new partner collection as the repository of their duplicates. In addition to finding a much better way to conduct the society's book loan program, I believe the NGS board's commitment to enhancing its library and information services can be evidenced in a number of significant ways. 1. The NGS librarian remains an important, full-time position on the society's staffing table, on par with other professional staff employed by the society. 2. The society's valuable manuscript collections (including the marvelous Richardson Dougall European Manuscript Collection), its archive of Bible records, the AMA files, and the MAC chart files are all being maintained at the Glebe House Library. Indeed, efforts will continue to be explored to acquire other such unique collections of materials. 3. The society is maintaining its contracts with CAPCON (the OCLC library cooperative in the DC-VA-MD area) and The Library Corporation (TLC). Access to OCLC will allow NGS staff to assist members in finding important family and local history books worldwide. Maintaining our online catalog through TLC will allow staff to eventually catalog our many manuscript collections, making them far more accessible to our members. The TLC system can also be used for providing new member services in the information arena. 4. The look-up services of NGSearch (e.g. Germans to America, Italians to America, etc.) will be maintained and expanded. 5. The society will continue to accept donations for both its reference collection being maintained at Glebe House and the book loan collection. 6. A new service to retrieve information and records from Washington, DC area repositories is being explored as a new service to members. 7. A new, members-only Help Desk will be established as a part of library services to provide personalized guidance to researchers just getting started, getting started again, and those who have reached an impasse of some kind. Toll-free help lines, designated email addresses, and partnerships with other genealogical libraries to investigate a 24-7 reference assistance model are all being explored. Indeed, I believe you will be pleasantly surprised and pleased when all of our plans for the expansion of services in our newly reconstituted library are unveiled. Regarding the governance of the society, please know that the NGS Board of Directors is comprised of thirteen hard-working, forward-thinking, every-day genealogists like you and me. They are elected by the membership to provide strategic direction to the society and to explore ways of enabling the society to fulfill its core educational mission. Directors are chosen from across the entire United States. I would hope that you would feel represented in some fashion by the entire elected board. Your NGS Board of Directors truly believes this new partnership with the St. Louis County Library will make for a stronger and more responsive society as well as a stronger and more vital library at Glebe House. Thank you again for your interest. Curt B. Witcher President, National Genealogical Society Curt B. Witcher Manager, Historical Genealogy Department Allen County Public Library P. O. Box 2270, 900 Webster Street Fort Wayne, IN 46801-2270 219-421-1226 Fax: 219-422-9688 RETURN to VITALS MAIN RETURN to BROOKLYN MAIN