Garland County (Arkansas) Library Closes Its Genealogy and History Room

The Garland County Library in Hot Springs, Arkansas has closed its Hiram Whittington Arkansas Local History and Genealogy Room, citing competition from the Internet. According to an Associated Press article by David Showers at http://goo.gl/30CVIo, “patrons who had previously relied on its genealogical and historical troves to trace their origins can now do it remotely through online databases.”

The article quotes Library Director John Wells: “We’ve noticed a dramatic decrease in the use of that room. You’d walk by, and no one was in there. A lot of what was used in genealogical research is now available online. They’re not using that stuff here when they can sit at home and do it all day long.”

You can read the full story at http://goo.gl/30CVIo.

6 Comments

I can see his point, and I fear many of our libraries will go that way, but I think it sad. Among other reasons, these libraries have held manuscripts and small books that never made it to any other collection. Even in the smallest of local libraries, I’ve sometimes found that one key that opened up a family for me…materials not found online and not in the bigger libraries, either. If there are no libraries left, where can we donate our own work on which we’ve spent years and huge amounts of money?

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Exactly…where do we leave all the files and pictures and books that have been accumulated over the years? A couple of years ago I was going to have my daughter donate all my work to our local historical archives upon my death. However, they no longer take donations because the morons with the power have decided to merge the historical museum & archives with the tourism and wildlife agencies. Now what?

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David Paul Davenport September 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm

When I stop crying I will have lots to write. In the meantime let me offer just one comment. Owning a computer does NOT make anyone qualified to do research. Not a day passes when I don’t see erroneous information posted on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, etc. and this is there because people are apparently confident that the research they’ve done is correct. Sadly, most are NOT novices, but let me share an example from Sunday’s Family History class at Church. A woman insists she is related to Brigham Young and her connection is through a English couple from the late 1400s. Unfortunately, that husband died 17 years before the wife was born. This is obviously wrong but the woman insists it must have happened because she printed the relationship chart from the LDS church website. No amount of expertise and experience on my part can every overcome the research by people with computers who seem to believe that computers have made “the work” so easy that anyone can do genealogy. Education in this country is in a serious downward spiral and Libraries appear to be leading the charge toward total ignorance in an effort to become entertainment centers devoid of any value as repositories of knowledge.

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The good news in this case is that the books and materials aren’t being destroyed, they’re being donated to like minded organizations that will maintain them and make sure they’re available for use. Historical societies, genealogical libraries and especially local facilities are the places you go when it’s not online. I was amazed when I saw the quantity of state and county histories, books of transcribed records, and family histories the Melting Pot Genealogy Society volunteers are now cataloging and working hard to make room for these materials as they await delivery of more shelving materials. I’d like to donate my books and resource materials to this entity when I’m ready to pass them on and surely hope “the powers that be” will keep funding and adequate space available so that future generations can benefit.

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In our local Archives, we are constantly busy with researchers. When we do not have researchers there are always volunteers working and we have lots of documents to preserve and index. We are a bustling place. The internet will never be able to take the place of that local experience. When I look at a census of our area I can pretty much tell you where they were living by looking at the neighbors. We have millions of records that have never been microfilmed let alone digitized. And furthermore, if the library thinks that the competition is the internet then they are the problem. Sounds like the Library Board may not have wanted the hassle of taking care of the “room”. If they had programs and had done things to promote it maybe it would be used.

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I live in Arkansas and have been to the library in Garland County many times and found much there to interest and help me in my research. The problem is the other society, the Historical Society, has very limited hours and having to drive a long way to spend only an hour or maybe two, is not enough. They have huge collections for a small town.
In our own local library and society, there are maybe 1/3 or less of the members who can or do use a computer and even of those many don’t have access to paid sites, because they are on a limited income.
I agree with many of the other comments on this page, and also wonder where my large two-county collection will go. However, I have been busy for many months scanning loose papers and news articles, etc. and making them searchable pdf or jpg files. I plan to share these with the local libraries. For anyone interested in this method, I use an upright scanner that is super fast and will scan both sides of a page at once and almost instantly turn it into a searchable pdf. Many times I scan many documents, then combine them to make one. Folders are created to hold the files as subject, surname, etc. My own personal effort to prepare for the future.
However, there is another issue. I also write local history books and with things going digital, it makes writing a book and selling it hard. Yet, there are not enough local people (rural Arkansas) who have access to buy ebooks or any digital book to make it worth the effort. If our society can no longer sell books, our income is mostly gone. Membership only pays for printing and mailing newsletters. Any ideas of how to help this situation?

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