Friday, January 8, 2010

The Usefulness of a Library Card

Amy Coffin at WeTree, with the support of GeneaBloggers, are collectively providing a weekly challenge this year they are calling 52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy.
Week 1: Go to your local public library branch. Make a note of the genealogy books in the collection that may help you gain research knowledge. Don’t forget to check the shelves in both the non-fiction section and the reference section. If you do not already have a library card, take the time to get one. If you have a genealogy blog, write about what you find in your library’s genealogy collection.
Monday morning of Week 1, and I was home, sick. The rest of this week it's been close to zero degrees Fahrenheit outside. Heading to the library after work hasn’t appealed much. I preferred, for example, letting my cat curl up on my lap as I re-watched the Doctor Who End of Time episode.

But I have a library card, so I can go to my local library (St. Louis County Library) in the comfort of my living room. There are a few databases I could access only if I went to the physical library (Ancestry and Footnote being the two chief ones of interest to me.) But many others don’t have this restriction. All you need is a library card number.
  • HeritageQuest Online
  • Sanborn Maps for Missouri and Illinois
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library (Encyclopedia, almanacs, and specialized reference sources)
  • Oxford English Dictionary
  • Oxford Reference (Dictionaries for Literature, Classics, Folklore, Mythology and Languages)
  • World Book Encyclopedia
  • St. Louis Post Dispatch 1988 to present
  • St. Louis Post Dispatch 1874-1922
  • Christian Science Monitor 1988 to present
  • New York Times 1851-2004
  • New York Times 1995 – Present
  • USA Today 1997 to Present
  • Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition 1984 to Present
  • Washington Post 1987 to present
  • NewspaperArchive
  • 19th Century African American Newspapers
  • Charleston Mercury, New York Herald, and Richmond Enquirer (1860-1865)
  • Ethnic NewsWatch
  • Factiva
  • Informe (Hispanic newspapers and magazines)
  • InfoTrac Custom Newspapers
  • NewspaperDirect Press Display
  • Nineteenth Century US Newspapers
I’m leaving a lot off the list. But I’ve focused on those of interest to those researching genealogy and history. There are databases for science, government, health, and more. You may be able to find similar resources elsewhere on the internet, but it's all available in one location.

The St. Louis area has three library systems - City, County, and several municipalities in the County went rogue and developed the Municipal Library Consortium. However, along with neighboring St. Charles, they have formed a "reciprocal lending" program with each other, so if you reside in any of them, you can get a library card for any of the others, for free. (I actually reside in a district in the Municipal Library Consortium. I have only three library cards, as I haven't investigated the offerings in St. Charles yet.)

Note: I would be remiss if I failed to mention that while not accessible from home, the St. Louis County Library has housed the National Genealogical Society Collection since 2001. It comprises over 20,000 volumes. All of the 20,000 volumes are available through Inter-Library Loan, if you happen not to live in the St. Louis area.

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