2019 Libraries Week at the Society of Genealogists

by Christine Worthington, Volunteer Manager #librariesweek

The theme of this year's Libraries Week (7-12 October) is 'Celebrating Libraries in a Digital World'.

The theme encourages libraries everywhere to think about the ways they are:

  • Engaging their community through technology
  • Building digital skills and confidence
  • Encouraging digital participation and inclusion

This is a great opportunity to reflect on the ways the Society of Genealogists lives out the values of community building, engagement and education in the digital world!

Encouraging Digital Inclusion 

The Government Digital Inclusion Strategy identifies four main kinds of challenges that people face to going online:

  • access - the ability to actually go online and connect to the internet
  • skills - to be able to use the internet
  • motivation - knowing the reasons why using the internet is a good thing
  • trust - fear of crime, or not knowing where to start to go online

The Society encourages digital inclusion in several ways:

  • The Society provides public access computers for genealogical research to people who cannot access the internet at home and welcomes everyone (non-members pay a small fee per visit)
  • The Society provides public access to subscription services (such as Ancestry and Find My Past) and other digital resources that can be very costly for individuals to purchase at home
  • The Society provides wifi access for members to use if they wish to bring their own laptop or device
  • The Society provides regular one-to-one internet sessions of 45 minutes duration. These sessions give an overview of online family history resources (such as Ancestry and Find My Past) and how to begin using them, and other resources that might be useful. The sessions include advice on any other online issues the new user may have. The next round of one-to-one sessions will be held on 12 October (during Libraries Week!), and are completely free to members and non-members of the Society. To book a one-to-one session, visit our events page
  • There is another aspect to digital inclusion – the inclusion of remote members who live a long distance away or who cannot visit the library in person for some other reason. 
    For these people, the Society offers an online-only or ‘Associate’ membership, for a reduced annual rate. The member area of the website contains educational resources and access to support services for family historians. There are courses for beginners, tutorials and presentations on a range of topics, record guides, research aids and tips for ensuring the best principles and standards in research. 
    The Society is also committed to giving online access to as many of the Society’s collection resources as possible – an ambitious undertaking, as there are so many great resources to digitise and add to the member section of the website.
    This is made possible by the cheerful hard work of our digital resources volunteers who undertake scanning, checking, indexing, and transcribing genealogical publications from our library, and unique documents from our archival collections. These items can be found in the member area of the website and the collection is called SOG Online.

Building Digital Skills and Confidence

A quick glance at the Society’s 2019 events program reveals many events specifically concerned with digital literacy education for family historians. 

So far in 2019, there have been information sessions about scanning, family history software on the Mac, free genealogical software, Family Tree Maker software (beyond the basics), and family historian software (practical for intermediates).

The following digital skills information sessions are coming up over the next few months:

Other information sessions, workshops, and lectures, held throughout the year also contain information about using particular digital resources as they pertain to particular topics of interest and types of research.

You can book online for any of these events, and Society members receive a discounted price. Events related to other subjects can be found by choosing a topic from the ‘Categories’ menu on the right-hand side of the events page.

The Society also promotes external events connected with the overlap of technology and family history research such as the upcoming Rootstech conference, which will be held in London for the first time, on 24-26 Oct. The Society will be an exhibitor at the conference and will hold open days and talks either side of the conference for members and visitors. 

Engaging Our Community Through Technology

Digital engagement refers to the way users interact with the library and its community using digital tools, such as social media applications and digital communication enablers like forums and commenting.

If you are on Facebook, don’t forget to ‘like’ the Society’s page. There are news items about events and goings-on and followers of the page can make comments or ask questions.

For specific family history enquiries, members can use the online Community Hub forum on our website. The Hub and our Ask an Expert service enable members, no matter where they live, to post queries and work through their research blocks with a friendly and knowledgeable team of experienced genealogists.

The Community Hub contains broad topics such as military, parish records, occupations and civil registration, as well as for general genealogical queries, and ‘how to break down brick walls’. Members can contribute to an existing thread or start a new discussion.

For all members, the Society offers distance learning in family history skills and strategies and online learners can engage with their tutors and fellow students via the Hub.

The Society’s volunteer page contains some small social media icons at the top of the page. By hovering over any one of them and selecting ‘More’ from the menu that appears, you can see that there are over 180 ways to share the page via email and social media. So if you would like to help the Society by sharing our volunteer page on your favourite social media platform, it’s very easy to do so. And if you know anyone who may like to volunteer at the Society this could be an easy way to email a link direct to our volunteer page.

Get Connected

Libraries Week is a great time to get connected! Come and visit us! 

9 Oct Library Tour : New Members Orientation Tour (FREE) 
9 Oct Lecture : Getting the Most from the Society of Genealogists (FREE)
10 Oct Evening Course : Education, Trades & Professions
12 Oct : One-to-One Internet Session (FREE, several timeslots available)
12 Oct Half Day : Brick Walls and Lost Ancestors
12 Oct Half Day : How Our Ancestors Died

Be sure to place a booking even for free events.

If you would like to join our amazing community of digital resources volunteers, or if you would like to contribute to our digital resources by indexing for the Society at home, visit our volunteer page and send in the form to register your interest. 

Happy Libraries Week from the Society of Genealogists!

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