Sep 112016

I have just attended the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conference in Springfield, Illinois. This was my second FGS conference and there are two different things about a FGS conference.

One is the Librarians Day where there is a special day supported by ProQuest for Genealogical Librarians who are a special breed that provide support for genealogists everywhere.

The morning comprised a series of presentations and the afternoon visits to two libraries in the local area.

This was the program:
8:30am – 9:30am | Family History Beyond the Family Tree | Mark DePue
The session discusses the value of oral history narratives in family history research.

9:45am – 10:45am | FamilySearch Family History Resources for Librarians | Robert Raymond
There are many family history tools and resources available to librarians. This class introduces some provided by FamilySearch and provides example LibGuides adaptable for your library.

11:00am – 12:00pm | A Capital Idea: A look at the Sangamon Valley Collection, the regional collection of genealogy and history for Lincoln Library | Curtis Mann
An overview of one of the premier Illinois local history collections covering History of Springfield, Illinois and the Surrounding Region

12:15pm – 1:30pm – Lunch – ProQuest Presentation | William Forsyth, Director of Product Management, ProQuest

Tour of Sangamon Collection with Curtis Mann
Lincoln Library | 326 S. Seventh St A first-hand look at this well respected local history collection

Proper Environment, Proper Storage, Proper Handling with Bonnie Parr
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum | 112 N. Sixth St
Basic preservation guidelines and tips for caring for collections of family history materials – documents, books, and photographs

It was a very well attended day (Thank you ProQuest for the sponsorship and lovely lunch) and there were librarians from a wide variety of library types: family history societies, museums, archives, Universities, specialist societies.

The second day was a Society Day. This was a day devoted to presentations to help societies in ways of providing to their membership, to outreach programs, to running special projects, to ways of running seminar days, of helping volunteers, to using technology to reach remote members and so much more. There were thirty eight presentations solely designed to help societies in these difficult times. (see below for some of the presentations on offer)

Many societies are seeing falling membership numbers and the increasing belief of some that “it is all online and you can just click on the leaf” which means they are less inclined to even think of joining a society. Many societies have remote members and are unsure of how to give them benefits that will help retain them as members.

Volunteers join committees and can become burnt out with the various duties involved in running a society.

Having very sadly been recently involved in the closing of a society that had been going for over thirty-five years I know it is a real problem. Seeing this level of support for the future of  societies and the volunteers that run those societies was wonderful.

Congratulations to the Federation of Genealogical Societies for this day and also the many other things they do to support societies who join them. They even have a section of downloadable resources which are freely available to all. These include around 50 Society Strategy papers on things that should be considered when running a society. Certainly some of these are US-centric but the majority should be essential reading for anyone involved in a society. They also have a free newsletter that talks of various societies activities. There is also the FGS Forum which is a subscription newsletter that is available for anyone to subscribe.

A genealogical society, even one listed as a non-profit, has to run on business-like principles  if it is to survive.

I sincerely hope that other conference organisers (AFFHO please think about this!) consider doing something similar, maybe they can’t run a whole day but run a number of presentations that focus on helping societies.

All in all these were two very useful days and this is before the FGS conference actually starts!

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