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A Genealogist In The Archives: Archives Need Genealogists, Be A Statistic!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Archives Need Genealogists, Be A Statistic!

Last week Amy Johnson Crow wrote a wonderful blog post entitled The Real Reason You Shouldn't Reshelve Genealogy Books (

Also, yesterday Judy G. Russell's blog post Records Access Alert: LVA Records ( tells us about the Library of Virginia's budgetary woes.

After reading Amy and Judy's posts, I knew that I had to write a blog post of my own to further explain the statistics that many of our archives and libraries keep on a daily basis and why we need genealogists to use our facilities now more than ever!

Archivists keep statistics on a daily basis, weekly basis, monthly basis and yearly basis. These numbers are used by archives to show how much the records are being accessed and used. Some statistics give us hard numbers of how many visitors, emails and phone calls we have received and answered.

Why are these statistics important, you might wonder?

Many times these statistics are used by budget committees, county governments and other governing bodies to determine the next years budget. They are also used to justify the amount of days and hours a facility should be open. Most importantly, these statistics also determine if the staff that is currently employed is needed or costing too much money.

So, how can a genealogist help?

Books

When you visit an archive of any kind be sure to sign the guest book, registry book or whatever sign-in book that is available. If you are not asked to sign-in, ask the archivist or librarian if they have such a book for patrons to sign. Sometimes we get so excited about helping people that come in the door that we sometimes forget about the sign-in book. The numbers counted from the sign-in book shows those in charge of budgeting how many people have visited and been to the archive.

Do Not Reshelve Books

As Amy Johnson Crow's post explains, if you see signs posted that say "Do Not Reshelve Books", please follow those directions. If there is no sign, ask the archivist or librarian if you should reshelve the books or leave them on the table. The statistics that are gathered from counting the amount of books used on a daily basis is very helpful in showing the facilities usage. I know that we all try to be nice and help out the staff by reshelving the books but don't do it. You may be hindering the statistics they need.

Can't Travel, You Can Still Help 

Many of us are not able to travel to the archives that hold the records of our ancestors. Don't let this deter you from accessing these records.

Email Our archives have email address and we encourage patrons to email us with your records requests. Please be patient for a reply as our archivist have a lot to do on a daily basis. Archives keep statistics of how many people have emailed them and what records they have requested.

Call Calling an archives on the phone is also an option. Be prepared to leave a message or to be told that they may have to call you back if they are a small archives with a small staff. When making your records request, be as specific as possible. Archives keep statistics of how many people call and what records they have requested.

Write a Letter! I know that seems very old fashioned but it really does work. Type up a letter with your genealogical records requests, be as specific as you can be. Also, include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). Archives keep statistics of how many mail requests they receive and what records were requested.

So, Be A Statistic! Help keep our archives, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, university libraries/archives and museums OPEN AND FULLY STAFFED! 



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