Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Two Great Talks This Week

It's too bad more SGS members can't make it to our many talks and programs. Last week featured presentations by two Seattle area professional genealogists. Both were interesting and informative. About 30 people attended each talk, which is a significant increase over the number of members who used to attend our monthly programs. Hopefully we're offering topics and speakers of greater interest to our members.
On Monday, July 12, Evelyn Roehl spoke on "Genealogy Quirks"--weird things in databases and indexes that genealogists use. Evelyn has been collecting examples of such quirks for many years, as witnessed by the article on the same topic she wrote for the SGS Bulletin back in 2000 (which has been scanned and should be posted shortly on the SGS website). For this presentation, Evelyn had numerous great examples of errors and omissions in databases we all use that could cause unsuspecting genealogists to turn prematurely grey or pull out our hair. Hopefully we all learned that you can't trust an index to be comprehensive and if you don't find someone where you know they should be, check to make sure the database you're searching is accurate and comprehensive.
On Saturday, July 17th, Sarah Thorson Little spoke about her "Whirlwind Research: 50 States in 50 Days." Sarah was hired by Dr. Ellen Fitzpatrick, author of Letters to Jackie, to obtain releases from authors or their descendants of over 200 letters written to Jackie Kennedy in 1963 following the death of her husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Sarah shared how she used every scrap of information contained in the letters and the envelopes they were sent in to fulfill her assignment. What was particularly amazing was that Sarah had less than two months to track down all these people, while continuing to hold down a job and deal with various fall holidays. Attendees at this talk learned a lot about carefully reading letters for every clue and making use of helpful librarians and other local resources to find living relatives.
This week we have the DNA Interest Group meeting on Wednesday evening and a special half-day Scottish Genealogy Workshop on Saturday afternoon. Hope to see you at SGS soon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Is SGS ready for WorldCat?

 I think I've written previously about the proposals submitted to the Board by last year's Library Trustees. One of their many thoughtful recommendations was that SGS should place it's library catalog on WorldCat. Since none of the current Board members know much about the inner workings of WorldCat, we invited Gary Zimmerman, president of the Fiske Library (the second genealogy library to join WorldCat and the first to use WC as its digital catalog), to come and speak to us about the Fiske's experience. Gary was kind enough to accept our invitation and gave a very interesting and informative talk last Wednesday evening, July 7th.
One of the many things I didn't know about WorldCat is that it's operated by OCLC--the folks who coordinate interlibrary loans across the country. You have to join OCLC and pay them a monthly fee to list your holdings on WorldCat. You also have to join FirstSearch, which "seamlessly links your users to thousands of full-text articles, electronic books and journals, digitized special collections and more." What they are selling is "linkages"--to researchers on the internet, to other libraries, to a rich set of resources that support libraries. As a 501(c)3 we can join at a reduced rate of $1100 per year. Some of these costs can be offset by credits generated by listing our library holdings on WorldCat, but it's not clear to me whether or not we could offset the full costs or not. You can also get credits for sending your items out to other libraries via interlibrary loan (ILL), but there are some strict standards that have to be met (like responding within 72 hours to an ILL request; mailing the book on the same date as your "accept" the request; mailing from your library's zip code).
The Fiske has entered about 9000 titles in 3 years into WorldCat and are the envy of many libraries. They've also added bar codes to all of their books so they can track them efficiently. It's not clear how many hours of volunteer time this has required, but it was clear from Gary's talk that generating accurate library call numbers was a continuing challenge--and still is--for them. I can't imagine it would be any different for us.
There are definitely pros and cons to joining WorldCat and I, for one, don't have a clue how they might balance out for SGS. Your thoughts?
Next week our new Director of Library, Mary Alice Sanguinetti, will begin an inventory of our collection. Kudos to her for moving so quickly to get this important effort started.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ready to roll....

I am happy to report that the SGS Board of Directors is now complete. Our new Nominating Committee, chaired by Bruce Finlayson, submitted names of candidates interested in each of the four open Board positions (two contested, two not) and the Board, after reviewing the candidates' statements and their qualifications, elected the following to serve the remainder of the 2010-11 SGS fiscal year:
     Vice President:  Bonnie Larson
     Treasurer:   Tom Hamilton
     Director of Membership:   Jean Morton
     Director of Volunteers:   Becky Kaufman
Please join me and the rest of the Board in welcoming these new officers/directors and really appreciate the level of interest shown in these positions. We look forward to another active and rewarding year.

The Board also confirmed the appointment of Marilyn Rose, former SGS President, to serve a three-year term as a Library Trustee. She will join Pat Younie and Ida McCormick, continuing Trustees, this year, to continue working on establishing appropriate library policies.

So, what is this now-complete Board working on? Right now, we have the following major projects on our collective plate:
1. Decisions related to the Library Trustees' proposals: So far we've had one working meeting and are trying to schedule more. Since many of the proposals are interrelated, we need to make sure that new library policies are totally consistent. One of the Trustees' proposals--to place the SGS Library catalog on WorldCat--will be addressed in an informational meeting with Gary Zimmerman, President of the Fiske Library (which was the first genealogy library to join WorldCat), on Wednesday, July 7th, at 7 pm at SGS.
2. New policies required by our new Bylaws: We have developed drafts of many of the required policies and now need to review them carefully before voting on approval.
3. New Board Job Descriptions: Our current job descriptions were written in 1999. Duties and responsibilities have changed a lot in 11 years, especially with this year's new Board position. We are working on revising all of the job descriptions and making them consistent and comprehensive.
4. Establish the year's calendar for SGS programs, meetings and events.
5. Establish performance measures for each Board member. Yes, we're all volunteers, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't evaluate our efforts. Setting performance measures will help us gauge how well we're doing at meeting the goals of our positions and the Society.

If you'd like to provide input on any of these projects, please email us. All Board members have generic email addresses, e.g. President = sgspresident@gmail.com, Secretary = sgssecretary@gmail.com. We need to hear from our SGS members to know if we're on the write track, so please email us.