Library Closures: Perhaps there is a Solution?

WARNING: This article contains personal opinions.

I published an article at http://bit.ly/2P7tDj9 about the recent closure of the David Library of the American Revolution in Pennsylvania. The closure of any library is always sad news, of course. However, I also see a solution and perhaps even a ray of sunshine in such announcements.

Most libraries close simply because of financial difficulties. It costs a lot of money for buildings, heat, air conditioning, electricity, and employees’ salaries. Oh yes, there is also a major expense for books and other materials that are the primary purpose of a library.

Smaller libraries typically serve a limited number of patrons: only those who live somewhere near the library and can use the library’s facilities without spending a lot of time and money in travel, hotel rooms, restaurants, and more in order to use the facility. When it comes to attracting visitors to a library, geography is perhaps the biggest impediment of all.

In contrast, let’s consider online libraries.

So Why Lock Up the Birth Records?

It seems that every week we hear of one more situations in which some politician or bureaucrat is trying to restrict access to public domain vital records. Everybody is trying to lock out everyone, including genealogists. Our right to access to public domain birth, marriage, and death information is being threatened constantly under the guise of “preventing identity theft.”


(That’s as strong a word as I will use in this family-oriented publication.)

I am sure that the politicians love the limelight back home when they can brag that they have taken action to “prevent identity theft.” Heck, nobody is in favor of identity theft, right? Therefore, just proclaiming to have taken some token action under the smoke screen of “preventing identity theft” is sure to win a few more votes in the next election.

“Facts? What facts? Don’t bother me with facts, I’ve got a re-election campaign to win.”

The End of the Desktop Computer?

Many people, myself included, have predicted that the desktop computers are slowly becoming obsolete. (I wrote about this more than two years ago. You can see my earlier articles by starting at http://bit.ly/2IdHxxy.) I believe that desktop computers and even the more expensive laptops are going to be replaced by simpler, cheaper systems that use modern technology to deliver similar performance, perhaps even better performance, than today’s desktop systems.

NOTE: When I refer to “simpler, cheaper systems,” I am including the cost of the hardware PLUS the cost of the more popular software programs.

Now Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has written an article for ComputerWorld that agrees with me and then provides an update to my earlier predictions. Vaughan-Nichols writes:

Update: California sues the Trump Administration over the Addition of Citizenship Question to the 2020 Census

I recently wrote a brief article describing California’s lawsuit against the Trump Administration over the Addition of Citizenship Question to the 2020 Census. That article generated quite a bit of discussion. You can read the article at: http://bit.ly/2qawVVV.

Newsletter reader Ted Russell has written a response to the various discussions that strikes me as common sense. Here is his response, published here with Ted’s permission:

Yes, data on citizenship status will be of great use to future genealogists. And yes, the question is legal and constitutional. But it will likely have the effect of either driving undocumented immigrants further into the shadows, or exposing and deporting them, and this administration knows this very well. The Census Bureau is not supposed to share individual information with other agencies, but based on this administration’s disregard for the law, it would be hard for a Census enumerator to convince a respondent that the information will not be shared with ICE.

The Future of Genealogy Software

Warning: this article contains personal opinions.

genealogy-softwareI recently exchanged email messages with a newsletter reader who is looking for a replacement for his favorite genealogy program, the now-defunct program called The Master Genealogist. He raised some good points about today’s available genealogy products, and I responded with some of my views and predictions. I decided to write an article based upon our “conversation” and to also expand our comments as I imagine many newsletter readers also are interested in finding new and (hopefully) better programs.

First, let me write specifically about The Master Genealogist.

A Proposal to Solve the Relocation and Downsizing of the Arizona State Library Genealogy Collection

Warning: This article contains personal opinions!

Two days ago, I republished an article from Judy Russell’s blog, The Legal Genealogist, entitled “Arizona State Library Genealogy Collection is Threatened.” The article explained that a “major genealogical collection is under major and imminent threat of being lost.”

The article also stated, “Unless something changes — and fast — the Arizona State Library Genealogy Collection — a vast collection of more than 200,000 volumes, many of them irreplaceable — is about to be lost to public access.” (Note: The number of books affected was later adjusted to 20,000.)

According to an article by Mary Jo Pitzl in today’s AZCentral at http://goo.gl/ggPTeP, a news site owned and operated by the Gannett Company, closure is no longer a threat. It is to be a fact. She writes:

New York City Publishes Online 17th Century ‘New Amsterdam’ Historical Manuscripts

The following announcement was written by New York City’s Department of Records and Information Services:

Municipal Archives launches project to digitize collections, beginning with the New Amsterdam historical manuscripts

Access the New Amsterdam digitized collection at www.archives.NYC

NEW YORK—As the first step in its efforts to digitize and make available to the public the historical records of New York City government, the City’s Department of Records and Information Services (DoRIS), announced today that it is releasing its first online collection of 17th Century historical manuscripts, showing the early development of the City’s government: ordinances drawn from the Records of New Amsterdam for the period of 1647 to 1661, and their corresponding translations, maintained by the Municipal Archives and Municipal Library.

US Postmaster General’s Office Claims “Digital (email) is a Fad”

Evan Baehr and Will Davis had a brilliant idea for a new high tech start-up company. They wanted to give customers the opportunity to receive all their (snail) mail digitally. They launched Outbox, a company that allowed customers to have all their regular mail forwarded to the company’s offices. The mail would be opened, scanned, and then images of the mail would be sent by email to the customers. In its first few weeks of operation, the company received rave reviews from satisfied customers and the word started to spread. Even CNBC carried their story nationally.

Then the government stepped in.

Amazing: an Overworked and Often Mis-used Word

It happened again. A lesser-known company in the genealogy business sent a press release to me this morning, obviously hoping I would publish it in my newsletter. After reading the announcement, I wasn’t very impressed with this new product. However, what really turned me off was the frequent use of the word “amazing.”

“This amazing new product…”

“These amazing stories…”

“You will be amazed…”

It sounded like an infomercial on late-night television from Ronco-Popeil. “This amazing product slices and dices…”