Saturday, July 19, 2008

NYG&BS disposes of its library collection

According to an article in The New York Times today, the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society will donate their entire book, periodical, microform and manuscript collection to the New York Public Library.

Dick Hillenbrand, Dick Eastman (and again), Leland Meitzler and Schelly Talalay Dardashti (and perhaps others) have blog posts today explaining why this has happened, and opine about the effect this event will have on the genealogy research community. Please go read each of these blog posts, including the comments.

My own opinions are pretty similar to the points made in Leland's post. The handwriting was on the wall, and they pulled the trigger today. NYGBS really had no choice but to donate them to the NYPL - anywhere else would have been a public relations disaster (another one!).

I welcome this move since it brings records out of the "members only" repository into a public repository. Of course, I wasn't an NYG&BS member and I don't have an emotional attachment to NYG&BS or NYPL.

I observe that this move really does not add anything to the world of genealogy resources - it just moves these "deck chairs, er book volumes" around on the "good ship Genealogy Titanic."

IMHO, the really unique items of priceless genealogical value in a collection like this one are the manuscripts and estate collections donated by persons or obtained by and held by the Society. They are catalogued by the repository, but are usually not every-name indexed, and it often is difficult to access the records due to archival issues.

Would it be too much to ask the New York Public Library to:

* Put the NYG&BS catalog on their web site - either as part of the current NYPL catalog or as a separate catalog until the NYG&BS material can be integrated into the NYPL catalog. That way, researchers in the genealogy world can identify records of interest to be searched.

* Digitize as many unique records as possible and make them publicly available on a web site, subject to copyright restrictions.

* As NYPL catalogs and/or digitizes the NYG&BS collection, index the names in the manuscript and/or estate papers collections? The records that nobody knows what's in them. If they can't or won't do that, would they please request volunteers to do it with them or for them?

We don't want much, do we? Frankly, if we don't wish for something, we'll never get it!

UPDATED 6:30 p.m: I started this post at 7:30 a.m. this morning, but was gone until late this afternoon. The delay gave me time to think a bit about all of it, and put the links to the other bloggers in.

1 comment:

mcwieser said...

Well there are a few things I find sad about this. But one of the saddest is that NYPL doesn't lend via interlibrary loan and they rarely do much for distant researchers. They are resistant to answering e-mail queries and 90% of the time the answer is "we aren't willing to do that for you." So I suspect these amazing manuscripts will find their way into locked files and that will be the end of that. And this is coming from a public librarian!