Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Discover Your Family History " Workshop a Success!!

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society, working with the Chula Vista Public Library, hosted a free 90 minute workshop today. The purpose was to introduce genealogy and family history to families with elementary age children (who might have a homework assignment to research family history) and adults (who might be interested in learning, and in joining CVGS).

The workshop was 90 minutes long for the attendees - 30 minutes of very basic introduction and work on a pedigree chart, 30 minutes to try to find data on the computer, and 30 minutes for a visit to the library computers with installed and to the genealogy book collection in the library, with a pitch for CVGS at the end. A society member was assigned to each attendee to mentor them and help them work through the process. Due to space limitations in the computer lab, we were limited to a maximum of 42 attendees over 7 time periods during the day.

We had publicity out a month ago, with signups in the library, which included a homework package that focussed on finding information for a pedigree chart. As of last Monday, we had only 5 signups. By Thursday we had 18 reservations, and then we had an email from a National University teacher who wanted to bring her sociology class of 10 to the workshop. We anticipated that we would have some walk-ins also.

On Saturday morning, we awoke to the first rain of the season in San Diego. The library had also commandeered 20% of the parking lot for the light-bulb exchange. In the first 10 minutes after the doors opened, all we saw was cars orbiting the lot looking for space. Our mentors arrived on time, ready to go thanks to training done in the last week. 3 of our first 5 appointments were no-shows, but two walk ins made up for it. The class arrived for their 11 AM appointment, and had done their homework, and were excited about the subject. In the end, we had about 24 attendees (some with children) who were introduced to and received a taste of genealogy and family history concepts.

Many of the attendees were excited about their search results and complimented the workshop and the mentors. Some new friends were made. The community was well served. The library staff was happy with the results. Our 16 mentors were ecstatic - they helped strangers find their family history and were able to share their knowledge and expertise. The society officers, all of whom took part in planning and executing the workshop, were very satisfied with the results.

We will have a post-mortem on what went right, what didn't go right (besides the weather and the parking lot), and how could we improve the experience during this next week. We also want to capture the mentors' experiences and learn about the individual success stories of the attendees.

The cooperation by and with the library staff was excellent - they supported us with everything they had and we greatly appreciate their effort and enthusiasm. It was a real win-win for both the library and the society.

For me, the biggest payoff was seeing the excitement and outright glee in the eyes and smiles of our members as they worked hard to make this workshop a success - both the officers and the mentors.

During the last two sessions, the mentors who weren't "working" those sessions stayed in the computer lab and played with our new "toy" - Ancestry Library Edition (CVPL got it in September). They got some real research done and are very enthusiastic to continue using it in the library.

Learning and experiencing genealogy is a gradual step-by-step process - we all know that from our own experiences. Helping community people start that research was a wonderful teaching and team-building experience for our members. We will probably do this again next year - especially if it results in some new members.

I will write up our post-mortem and success stories in another post.

Yep - a success!!

1 comment:

Jasia said...

Congratulations on a job well done, Randy! And thank you for writing up what went into putting on the workshop. Hopefully other groups will learn from your example... it's a good one!