CHICAGO—Thomas Jay Kemp, director of genealogy products for NewsBank, is the 2010 recipient of the Genealogical Publishing Company Award—a citation and $1,500 cash prize to a librarian who has demonstrated professional achievement in historical reference and research librarianship.
The award is administered by the History Section (HS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) and is sponsored by Genealogical Publishing Company. Kemp was selected for his long-time leadership role in both HS and in the field of genealogy librarianship, as well as his significant contributions to genealogy publications. He is well-known as one of genealogy’s primer librarians and authors, and several of his sources are classics known even to non-genealogy librarians and to novice genealogists. Mary Mannix, award committee chair, cited Kemp’s enthusiasm for the profession as a characteristic that sets him apart from his peers. “He is an old school genealogist who quickly embraced new technology and the opportunities it brings both us and our patrons,” she said. “He is an educator at heart who always has time to explain even the most complicated of answers, and many of us in the History Section are involved today because of Tom’s welcoming manner and his encouragement. He has also instilled in many of us the belief that ‘It’s a great day in genealogy!’”
Kemp previously served as the director of the Godfrey Memorial Library, Middletown, Connecticut, and director of special collections at the Univ. of South Florida Library, Tampa. In 2005 he received the Silver Tray Award for Lifetime Service from the Utah Genealogical Association. He is widely published, with the distinction that his “International vital records handbook” is, to professionals, simply known as “Kemp”. His extensive list of publications also includes The Genealogist's Virtual Library: Full-Text Books on the World Wide Web; and Virtual Roots 2.0: A Guide to Genealogy and Local History on the World Wide Web.
Kemp will receive his award—a plaque and $1,500 cash prize—at the RUSA Awards Ceremony and Reception, scheduled for 4-6 p.m., Monday, June 28, as a part of ALA’s Annual Conference events. All conference participants are invited to this celebration honoring RUSA’s best, and are also encouraged to participate in RUSA’s various other conference program offerings.
The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. For more information, visit www.ala.org/rusa.
Background on the recipient
Thomas Jay Kemp this year's recipient is recognized for a life of service as a genealogical librarian, author and innovator. He has been working as a genealogy & local history librarian since 1962 when he started working for the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT. There he was assigned to work with the late Grace Hope Walmsley (1885-1971) who had created the Genealogy & Local History Collection at that library. Twelve years later Kemp received his MLS and that same year he joined the ALA Genealogy Committee.
Kemp is the author of over 35 books on genealogy and reference sources. His many articles have appeared in Library Journal; School Library Journal; archival and genealogical periodicals. During his career he served as the Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; New England Historic Genealogical Society and the Godfrey Memorial Library. Kemp twice stepped out of working in libraries to work in the commercial library sector – where he created the heavily used online genealogy databases: GenealogyBank for NewsBank, inc. and HeritageQuest Online for ProQuest.
Kemp has routinely lectured for library and genealogical associations across the country and in May 2000 he was a presenter at the first genealogy conference held in China since 1945. Chinese President Jiang Zemin also spoke at the conference. In 1987 he was called to testify before the Senate at the Hearings for the nominee for Archivist of the United States.
As a long time member of RUSA, Kemp has served as the Chair of the History Section; Chair of the Local History Committee and many times served as the Chair of the Genealogy Committee. It was as History Section Chair that he expanded the number of committee members taking the committees from 6 to 8 members to over 30 members on each committee to increase the number of librarians able to serve & participate in RUSA. He served for over 10 years as the Chair of the Genealogy & Local History Discussion Group and organized and coordinated the Genealogy Preconference for many years. Kemp has also served as a President of the American Society of Indexers and as Chair of CNLIA, the Council of National Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC).