As reported yesterday in various genealogy newsgroups and blogs, the Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown, Connecticut, is in the process of dropping HeritageQuest Online from its portfolio of offerings. The information floating around online is confusing, and some comments that I read contradicted other online comments. I was bewildered. Today I talked with Godfrey Library Director Richard E. Black and received the "inside story."
For several years, the Godfrey Memorial Library has offered in-home access to HeritageQuest Online's collection of the original images of U.S. census records, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, old family and local history books, and more. These services are normally available only to libraries, not to individual subscribers. Only a few years ago, to access any of HeritageQuest Online's databases you had to visit a library that had purchased a subscription to those databases.
In the past couple of years, HeritageQuest Online's parent company, ProQuest, has also allowed some subscribing libraries to offer the same databases to their patrons in their homes. That is, if you hold a library card from a subscribing library, and if that library has been authorized by ProQuest, you can stay at home, connect to your library's web site, enter your library card number (or some other verification information), and then be connected to the library's gateway that, in turn, connects to HeritageQuest Online.
By use of your local library's gateway, you can sit at home and view the same online wealth of genealogy information on your own computer. The only cost to you is the cost of the library card (which often is free) plus the cost of a computer and Internet connection.
I wrote about all this four weeks ago in a Plus Edition article entitled, Access HeritageQuest Online at Low Cost or No Cost. That article is available at http://eogn.com/plusedition/blogplus/?p=1149. (A Plus Edition user name and password is required to access that article.) The article is still accurate, except for one thing: the information that I gave four weeks ago about the Godfrey Memorial Library is now obsolete because of this week's events.
The Godfrey Memorial Library has long been one of the subscribing libraries that offered in-home access to HeritageQuest Online. In fact, representatives from the Godfrey Library have been quite aggressive in advertising this service as one part of the Library's many services available for an annual membership for a modest $35 per year. As a result, many genealogists who live all over the country have become members of the Godfrey Memorial Library and paid the membership fee, even though they had no plans to ever go to Connecticut to use the library's services in person. They simply wanted to have in-home access to HeritageQuest Online.
It seems ProQuest has decided that this "aggressive advertising" was a violation of the terms and conditions of the contract with the Godfrey Memorial Library. After some discussions between the two organizations, a decision was made to not renew the contract.
Effective now, all new members who join the Godfrey Memorial Library will not have access to HeritageQuest Online. All present library members will continue to enjoy such access until either (1.) the end of their present membership or (2.) December 31, 2006, whichever occurs first. This guarantees that all those who have already purchased library membership for the primary purpose of accessing HeritageQuest Online will indeed receive all the access that they have paid for. They simply will not be able to renew that access in the future.
In reality, this should be only a minor inconvenience for most of these subscribers. I believe that many will end up saving money because of this. In fact, free access to the same databases is available today to millions of Americans. As I wrote four weeks ago in my Access HeritageQuest Online at Low Cost or No Cost article, many state, university, and local libraries already provide free access to their patrons. I used the example of how all Massachusetts residents already can obtain free in-home access; but comments posted at the end of the article at http://eogn.com/plusedition/blogplus/?p=1149 show that many other states offer similar free access. You can read the comments there for details.
Godfrey Library Director Richard Black commented that the residents of more than forty U.S. states already have free access to HeritageQuest Online so that the offering by his library has become less attractive to its members. Many of those who joined the Godfrey Library only for the purpose of obtaining access to HeritageQuest Online have since discovered free avenues to the same information.
Mr. Black and the Board of Directors have now decided to invest the Godfrey Memorial Library's funds in other online services in lieu of the HeritageQuest Online databases. The Library has recently added more than 40 new sites to its menus. Some of these are free sites available elsewhere on the Internet. However, the recently added "not for free" sites include the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online (50,000 biographies) and the American National Biography Online (18,000 biographies). These last two databases are available only via the Godfrey Memorial Library's gateway or via the gateways of other subscribing libraries.
In the future, the Godfrey Memorial Library will be digitizing many of the printed publications already on the library's shelves and will also be scanning Bible records and other manuscripts that do not exist elsewhere. This will certainly add value to their member offerings.
The Library already offers Accessible Archives databases; Chadwyck-Healey's African American Database; Newsbank's Early American Newspapers, U.S. and World Newspapers, America's Obituaries; EBSCO's NewspaperARCHIVE Elite; ProQuest Newspapers; the OCLC WorldCat; Marquis Who's Who; and FindUSA. In short, the modest $35 annual fee to be a member of the Godfrey Memorial Library remains "a good buy."
Here are links to the resources mentioned in this article:
The Godfrey Memorial Library: http://godfrey.org
HeritageQuest Online: http://www.heritagequestonline.com
ProQuest (the owners of HeritageQuest Online): http://www.proquest.com
My earlier article: Access HeritageQuest Online at Low Cost or No Cost: http://eogn.com/plusedition/blogplus/?p=1149. (A Plus Edition user name and password is required to access that article.)