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Exploring Repositories

Creating a Checklist for Exploring Repositories


I went adventuring on my birthday this year and one of the places I visited was the Orange County FamilySearch Library. It was the first of many exploratory repository trips that I hope to make in the coming year and I used it as  a chance to figure out what the best approach to learning about the local resources in person might be for me.

Here are my takeaways:

  1. If possible, get a tour. I could have just wandered around by myself, but it was much more comfortable (and thorough) to have someone take me through the library systematically, pointing out the important resources. It gave me the perfect chance to ask questions as they came to mind.
  2. 23590734843_f2e327cc7d_oAsk about unique resources. Many libraries have unique-to-them collections. When I asked about the Orange County FamilySearch Library’s unique strengths, I learned that they have a collection of Los Angeles property records on microfilm. I also learned that they have a photo scanner that will quickly digitize pictures in batches of twenty-five.
  3. Ask about staff specialties. I learned that the volunteer who knows the photo scanner inside and out only works on certain days. When I go back with a few hundred photos, as I plan to do someday, I will pick a time when he’s there. I also asked if anyone was skilled at reading German, thinking that I might be able to get some help reading a few of the Shelvis letters that I acquired recently.
  4. 23590739343_b733b3ea76_oCheck the catalog and shelves with a purpose in mind. I used Chicago and Cook County, Illinois as a way to explore the catalog and I discovered that the Library holds a unique microfilm death index that I was sorry to leave behind when I moved. I also came across mention of an index to a physician’s record book from the mid-1800s that hadn’t been on my radar.
  5. Take notes on the drive and the area. I remember noticing an exit off one of the major highways that might have been more convenient than the one I took. I should have jotted it down, but I didn’t. And this is California. I should have written down the things I learned about lane changes and exits to make the trip a more confident one next time around. I did note a number of restaurants nearby, so if I was to make a day trip, I now have an idea of where I could go to eat.

The Orange County FamilySearch Library has the resources I’d expect to find in a Family History Center — but on a larger scale.

  • Many computers with access to FamilySearch’s premium databases
  • Microfilm readers and scanner in good working order
  • A large book collection
  • A large collection of indefinite loan films
  • A card catalog covering their holdings

And, they have a few things that were a nice surprise.

  • A photo scanner that can handle up to 8×10 pictures
  • A broad selection of on-going workshops

To learn more about the Library in detail, just visit their website .

I wish I had explored the collection in more detail but I was eager to keep working down my birthday to do list. I’m looking forward to going back.