Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center’s Renovation to Begin in Early November

fortwaynelibraryThe Allen County Public Library’s board of trustees has approved a $138,541 contract to reconfigure about 2,000 square feet of the downtown library’s second-floor Genealogy Center.

Staff members say that the space, as originally designed, no longer meets the needs of the way family history researchers do their work today. New technology means that more family history research is being done online with digitized records resulting in less need to access the same records on microfilm.

About half of an area that now houses microfilm and microfiche readers will become a meeting room, where programs for the public can take place and staff members can meet with small groups of researchers to acquaint them with the center’s resources and layout.

The second part of the project will transform an area now used for orientation into a glass-walled setting for oral history interviews.

You can read more in an article by Rosa Salter Rodriguez in The Journal Gazette at


Thanks Dick – A very sensible approach and probably a trend we’ll see accelerated in other libraries


I think the digitization “craze” will be a bit of a fad…and before long, people will be clamoring for physical books (and microfilms) again…and here’s why I think this. Have people considered that benefits of flipping through books on a shelf? I cannot count all of the times I found something I had not expected because I had gone to get one book and while scouring the related books, I found something unexpected. Also, searching online on books and microfilms takes a good 5-10 longer than in books or microfilm (given, properly OCR’d and indexed books are quicker, but that is only a small percentage.). In an instant gratification society, that is a killer. I am sure technology will speed up connections online, and OCR will improve as well, over time, but when it takes 10-20 seconds to load each microfilm image (even with my high-speed connection), it takes quite a while to get through all of the pages you need. People will get frustrated over the slowness and give up. I can read 100 images on microfilm in the same time it takes 10-15 to load online, quite a disparity. Nor are they indexed, something I think a lot of people are assuming. Another example…by looking at an Italian microfilm on a reader, I can find the indexes in them quite quickly, anywhere from 5-15 seconds, but when doing the same thing online, it takes up to 5 minutes, because you’ve got to blindly search for them, guessing what page they’ll be on. I’ve also come across several times where the digitization of the records was not done correctly and had to refer back to the microfilm to actually read the records (blurry, out of focus, missed pages, etc). And that is not an option on the newest collections which are going directly to digital…if they are screwed up, there is no remedying that, save buying a copy from where ever the record originated. I think people also assume that old microfilms that were filmed poorly in the past, will magically be “fixed” because they are digitized…believe me they aren’t, they are often worse…and you can’t use the yellow paper trick on an online scan nor can you take it to an advanced scanner (like the ones we have in SLC) and play with the tone, brightness, contrast, etc to pull out faded or overexposed images and pull them out. Even 15 years ago when I was in the Czech Republic doing research, the microfilms were no match for actually flipping thru the old church books.

While I see the benefits of scanning as PART of the formula, I am afraid it’s gonna go too far too quick and when the books and microfilms are gone, it will be really hard to restore/replace them because the scanning process destroys the books and the microfilms will be completely irreplaceable. I can definitely see the benefit to those who do not have easy access to the library here in SLC as some access is clearly better than no access, but they are talking of getting rid of the microfilms here too, which I think is ludicrous and it kind of defeats the purpose of having the library here to begin with. I advocate having both and exercising temperance and patience…don’t be in such a rush to get rid of one for the other, just because it’s the newest thing. Let there be a gradual phase out of books and microfilms only after it is PROVEN by popular consensus that it will work better and easier than what we have now. An example could be once a film is properly indexed and the images you need can be garnered online much faster than on film (assuming of course they are indexed correctly, which can be very problematic for those with no experience in older and foreign scripts as can be seen any day on Ancestry.), only then consider “retiring” the film (but only retire it…not get rid of it..keep it available at the vault for those who really might need it.). And let the people who use them decide…not someone in the church offices who never uses them or understands how they are used, like it appears is happening now (nor does it appear they are concerned about patron’s feelings or input regarding the new direction). Besides, what’s the rush? Rushing into the fire rarely gives the best results. Prudence, on the other hand, usually does. Books (scrolls, tablets, etc) have been around for a lot longer than computers have been and they have stood the test of time. Just like the “new” layouts in the SLC FHL, which appear to be dismal failures as I have noticed a REMARKABLE decline in people there, as have others, and it started with all of these “renovations”. The sole exception seems to be the 3rd floor, which, for the time being, they have left alone. They are frustrated because of the apparent new lack of personability in the assistance there (take a number and we’ll get back with you with our “beeper”…reminds you of DMV or a busy restaurant), along with not being able to find things as easy, so they just don’t come back. It worked great the way it was for over 20+ years…why worry about changing it now, except for changing for “changing’s” or “modernizing’s” sake (the terms I’ve heard being thrown around at the library by the staff and those in the “know”)?

Back to Allen Co, I think they should take another look and get more input and see the “results” that have happened here in SLC before heading into their “renovation” towards digital-mainly based research. Also, I think they should heed the recent warnings from all of the irate people using Ancestry right now, because they keep changing their page formats every dang week it seems. On a side note on the Allen Co library, I was never a fan of their layout the one time I visited there circa 1998, where you had to fill out an order slip to get any books via a “gatekeeper”. I never understood why they didn’t have it set up as an open browse layout like we have here in SLC. I felt it was quite restrictive and uninviting and have never had a desire to ever go back. Maybe they’ve changed that since then, but I have never been back there, it put me off so much, so couldn’t say for sure, even though I have been in Ft Wayne many times since.

As have been the fate of many a “fad” in the past, and the pattern of running towards all of the “newest” things over “older” things, I am afraid we are again going to repeat history if we don’t slow down and really think this through. Newer does not necessarily mean better, and if we don’t take history’s warnings more seriously, I am afraid we will have yet another example to add to the list of unheeded lessons. I don’t think that prudence and thought is too much to ask.


    David Paul Davenport September 1, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    I agree fully. But let me add that many school libraries are disposing of books and going all digital. San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno no longer has books and I find this dangerous. The students are using the internet exclusively to conduct historical research and I am certain this is what George Orwell warned us of when he wrote of the Ministry of Information controlling what people learned. Likewise, Fresno State University completed construction of a new library about five years ago and the stacks are now closed, and compacted. Students must know what they want and complete a call slip to acquire a title. Sadly, they will never experience the joy of serendipitously discovering a book that piques their interest. I fear for our intellectual future because one massive power-outage will cripple society. BTW – re census microfilm, esp 1850 and 1860. Most census takers did not confine their enumeration to a specific township before starting the next. We have all seen evidence of this in a first page of “such and such” starting with dwelling 165 etc. and others have done a great disservice to researchers by digitizing these manuscripts and breaking them apart alphabetically. I know of hundreds of cases when the part of a family begins at the bottom of township “B” and the end of the same family appears at the top of the next page which has been put elsewhere in the database because most of the page embraces a different township. The original integrity of the census has been cut apart by those who created the digital files. As a result I am “forced” to use the microfilm to find people I believe are missing. So I sincerely hope that microfilm doesn’t go away (and I won’t detail the problems caused by poor indexing).


    Here, here David.  I am in total agreement with you on all fronts.  The internet is littered with many, many bad, misleading and all around wrong sites on a great many subjects.  I can see the touch of the "Ministry of Information" on a great many.  And search engines are far from exempt from this as well, as it is generally understood among those that have been aware that designed mis-informational, corporate and gov't interests tend to get higher trumping in the results.  And in this forced "PC" world we live in, most kids these days are not encouraged (or even allowed) to think critically so they are just demurring to it and accepting it "as is".  That, too, is a most disparaging scenario.  Even 30 years ago when I was in public school (and especially so later in college), I realized that the curriculum was designed to produce good "workers" not thinkers.  And it has gotten even worse now.   Most teens these days get their "news" from Facebook, which at least half of the time is not reliable on any account.  Not that the "daily depression" on TV is much better.  (I have to look to foreign news services to really learn what is going on here in America and around the world…something most people don't even consider these days…they are plenty happy with the daily falgarcarb they get on the MSM.)  It's also "taught" them what is "important"…e.g. Miley Cyrus being crude on stage.  My wife and I have a theory on why the show "The Walking Dead" is so popular…It's because it is a good representation of a large number of people these days…they litteraly are walking zombies when it comes to actually thinking for themselves.  Just look at how people drive these days (and even living their lives) and you can see it in plain view.  They just blindly (and mindlessly) follow what everyone else is doing without putting any independent thought into it to see if that is right for them.  Sounds like a zombie to me.


    I, too, have thought of the power outage scenario.  Society is so dependent on electricity these days that I think that 95%+ of people would be totally paralyzed if they no longer had it.  A protracted loss of electricity would be akin to a return to the Dark Ages, especially in an all-digital, all-electric world.  I know it seems extreme right now, but I bet Roman's thought it impossible, too, that such a "great" and "enlightened" civilization would fall and descend into such chaos.  Ditto the Egyptians, Persians, Assyrians, Hittites, etc.  We are the "exeptional" ones, right?  How could that happen to us?  Well, it has happened in the past and can/will happen again for those who do not heed those lessons of history.  Why can't kids these days figure this out?  They do teach history in school still, right?  Well, in my view, a very select and un-critical version of it…and it is more trivia than history.  It seems to be all about regurgitating names and dates (even back in my school days) and not about the important LESSONS it should be teaching them.  They don't go anywhere near that in "history" class.


    I too have met the frustration of Ancestry's "slice and dice-ing" of the censuses.  I understand the theory, but why don't they make sure they have all of a section before they move on to the next town.  It wouldn't hurt anything to have a page shown twice if the town ends mid-page.  Like it's gonna overload their servers to have a few more images…and it doesn't even have to even be that…have the one image, but allow two links to it, one for each town.  Quite a simple solution.  Why can't their "educated" engineers think of that?  Why?…ditto above…they can't think beyond their "programming".


    Bottom line…A bookless society is a dead one.





    Sent: Tuesday, September 01, 2015 at 11:44 AM


What happens to the old microfilm? Will it be digitized or tossed out? My concern is that , not everything is yet digitized but thousands of records have been placed on microfilm, microfiche or later on cds . Researchers who rely only on what has been digitized so far may be missing out. If an item hasn’t been digitized or then hasn’t been indexed, researchers may discover great gaps in their data trail. While making it an easier process encourages many more amateur participants, a good thing, not all of them are serious researchers. They won’t know the difference and we may be losing some valuable data.


I wish they would put in a few lockers – I just spent a week there and had to lug my purse around the library all day every time I went in the stacks – SLC has lockers located everywhere, very convenient, for a dime.


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