Happy New Year!

Christine L. RidarskyHistorical Services Consultantchristine.ridarsky@libraryweb.org

Christine L. Ridarsky
Historical Services Consultant

Looking back over 2012, the Local History & Genealogy Division underwent some significant changes. As regular patrons and friends of the division likely already know, long-time Division Head Larry Naukam retired late in 2011, and I was hired in January 2012 to take the helm of a newly reorganized historical services department. Under the new organizational structure, the Local History & Genealogy Division, the Office of the City Historian (which I had led since October 2008), and the Digitizing Department have been combined under a single umbrella.

While patrons may not have noticed much difference, I strongly believe that this new structure has benefitted them by providing access to the broad and varied skills of experienced librarians, historians, educators, and technical staff, each of whom can address patron needs from different experiences and perspectives. Furthermore, creating an environment in which people with such diverse skills, talents, and interests are able to interact with each other on a regular basis has led to several exciting new initiatives, many of which will begin to bear fruit in 2013. I would briefly like to discuss three of these.

First, the division successfully applied for and received two state grants that will allow us to better care for and improve access to some of our most historic and unique Special Collection materials.

A grant from the New York State Library is allowing us to reorganize our temperature- and humidity-controlled storage vault and to transfer all of the manuscript materials out of broken-down, decades-old cardboard and metal containers into acid-free archival folders and boxes, thereby extending the collections’ useful life. In the process of doing this, we are getting a much better handle on the contents of each of these collections, many of which hadn’t seen the light of day in decades. The knowledge we’re gaining will allow our staff to provide better service to our patrons and to better care for the unique and irreplaceable materials for which we are stewards.

In March, we will begin work on a second archival project, funded by grant from the New York State Archives Documentary Heritage Program (DHP). That will involve processing, arranging, and describing collections of three significant local cultural organizations: Photographic Heritage Association/Photo Archives Belong in Rochester, Rochester Community Players, and Rochester Area Educational Television Association.

In addition to preserving original materials, the division will be working in 2013 to improve our digital presence. The library has long been a leader in digitization of out-of-copyright books and unique primary source materials. This year, we’ll be developing new ways for patrons to access our collections, as well as information about Local History services, online.

Last year, the library received a generous grant from the Gleason Family Foundation to begin developing a new interactive mobile-friendly Web site and app to showcase our digital collections. The site will include digital versions of historical documents, photographs, maps, etc., as well as maps, timelines, and interpretive descriptions of the material and the stories they tell. We’re working closely with local K-12 educators to ensure that the content is useful to teachers and students, too. We expect to have a prototype of the Web site by the end of 2013.

We’ll be providing periodic updates on each of these projects—and the exciting things we’re discovering as a result of them—in the weeks and months to come.

Which brings me to the final initiative that I want to highlight today: Although we in Local History make our living by preserving the past, we recognize that we also need to participate in the 21st century. Thus, we’ll be making much more of an effort in 2013 to engage with people via social media, starting with this blog.

If you’ve followed this site in the past, you know that, well, frankly, there hasn’t been much to follow. That’s all about to change. This year, you can expect to see posts from the Local History staff at least once a week. We’ll also be using the Central Library’s Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter pages to communicate more, too. So stay tuned… there is a lot of exciting information coming your way in the months ahead!

Published in: on January 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sounds great! I can’t wait to see what goes online before I can visit in person from Maryland.

    • Let us know when you’re coming and what you’ll be looking for so we can be prepare with the resource you’ll need. You’ve probably already discovered that we have a lot of material online already, but if not be sure to check out our Digital Collections under the Local History tab on our Web site: http://www.libraryweb.org.

  2. For 2013 we need to focus on the number 13- 113th Congress, 150th anniversary of 13th amendment, 13 years into the third millennium, 200 years after the burning of Buffalo in 1813, 13th President …

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