Guidelines for Developing Beginning Genealogical Collections and Services

Reference & User Services Quarterly, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview

Guidelines for Developing Beginning Genealogical Collections and Services


Public libraries have a responsibility to serve the needs of patrons interested in genealogical research by providing basic genealogical reference materials and how-to-do-it books in the library and by providing access to additional genealogical research materials through interlibrary loan or referral. Other libraries that wish to develop a genealogical collection and provide services may find these guidelines useful as well.

These guidelines address collection development, personnel, access, and fiscal considerations for genealogical services. They are intended to assist those who need to create a beginning genealogical collection and services in order to meet the above-mentioned responsibilities, the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights, and the markedly increased public interest in genealogical research.

1.0 Services

1.1 Genealogical reference service should include, but may not be limited to, assisting and instructing genealogical patrons to determine what research materials may help them, evaluating the significance and validity of various types of information, locating research materials through print and digital data sources and services, and providing access through interlibrary loan, rental services, or referring genealogical patrons to other known libraries, institutions, agencies, and archives that have particular genealogical research materials that may be able to help them.

1.2 When necessary, genealogical patrons or their questions should be referred to system or network resource centers, or to archives, government agencies, or libraries where the referring librarian knows that the needed research material that cannot be provided by the library through its own collection or interlibrary loan is available. If a specific genealogical reference service cannot be provided, the library's general reference service should include assistance for genealogical patrons.

2.0 Collection Development

2.1 Genealogical collections should include but not be limited to, manuals and handbooks of how to do genealogical research; family histories; pedigrees, originals or copies thereof, and published compilations of family group sheets; vital records; census schedules; probates and wills; land records; maps; cemetery and religious records; immigration and naturalization records; voter lists; military records; newspapers; local history materials and indexes to the above materials of communities, counties, states, and countries other than the community which the library serves. These items may be available and provided in various formats, including microform, print, and digital.

2.2 A genealogical collection should be developed and maintained to support the basic research needs of the community served by the library. …

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