Brother and Sister Miller, Area FH Advisers New England
This article also includes suggestions on how to make better use of your FHC
NB I have edited references to New England so they refer to our area – the edited comments are in brackets
In an effort to bring family history resources to more people, the Family History department has allowed local public libraries to enter into agreements to become family history “affiliate libraries.”
Thank you Brother and Sister Miller
These are public libraries who contract with the Family History department to provide access to Family History Library microfilms and microfiche. The libraries use their own resources and staff to provide this service; people requesting films pay rental fees just as they do at family history centers.
(Some) libraries in our region have expressed interest in becoming affiliate libraries, and some already have. The best candidates are libraries that are open for a significant number of hours several days a week and are looking for ways to offer more services to patrons without increasing their cost.
(There are a few affiliate libraries in our area already). Other local libraries now are looking into making similar arrangements on a smaller scale.
What does this mean to Family History Centers? According to the new church handbook, family history centers exist primarily to help members identify and prepare names of ancestors to receive temple blessings. However, the church has long offered (and will continue to offer) use of our facilities to nonmembers as well.
Affiliate libraries make it easier for people to access church resources in areas where a family history center is not as close or has limited hours. They also relieve the crowding that sometimes occurs when there are more patrons than equipment in a family history center.
However, family history centers that rely very heavily on nonmembers may need to launch some initiatives to get more members to use their local family history center.
While the internet makes it possible to do genealogical research from home, family history centers serve several important functions. First and foremost, they are a place to get one-on-one assistance from trained workers (or people who know how to call family history support to get answers to questions). Personal assistance is probably the greatest resource offered at a family history centers.
In addition, family history centers have access to materials not available at home – especially microfilms and microfiche that can be ordered from Salt Lake, and often maps, books and other resources that have been gathered. (There are also pay to use web sites and software available for free in a FH Centre). From visits to a few family history centers in our area, it is clear that they are great resources with important materials to help researchers. Some have collected local records and family histories or family group sheets of interest to people with roots in the local area. These are treasures!
(FH Centres are also encouraged to offer classes and workshops to both members and the community – see new Leader’s guide)
If your family history center is mainly used by nonmembers, now is the time to get the members into it. Don’t just invite them generally – schedule each family for visits – not just one, but working sessions to help them with their family history. By having a schedule, workers know who to expect – and can remind them before their scheduled session.
While members can do family history work at home, the fact is that most don’t – either because other things push it out of the schedule, or because when they sit down to work on it, they really don’t know what to do, and they don’t have the time to figure it out.
Begin with members of the ward or branch council. As leaders, they need to know what resources are available and how to use them – and more importantly, set an example for the rest of the ward. As they gain experience and prepare their own family names to the temple, they can see ways that this can benefit other members of the ward as well.
Scheduled visits should not be just tours of the family history center; they should be actual hands-on working sessions. Members should leave with a list of things to do, things to obtain, and a specific plan on how they will obtain them – and when. Help people understand that besides the resources they can see in the family history center, there are millions of valuable resources that can be ordered for a modest cost – some of which can give them exactly the information they need.
Right now, there are only (a few affiliate libraries in our area). Rather than seeing them as a threat to family history centers, take steps now so that they can be a valuable asset – extending the time available for genealogical research and reducing the burden on family history center staff as more and more people become interested in tracing their roots.
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