Friday, April 17, 2015

Are Libraries Still Relevant? A Case Study of the Southern History Department

Some people think libraries are no longer relevant and just a place to store old books that no one reads. We don't think so.  Other people agree and have cited the Southern History Department's Beyond the Basics of Genealogy program as an example of how libraries are a community asset.   We want to prove that libraries are relevant by giving you a “behind the scenes” glimpse of what happens in the Southern History Department. This department houses a non-circulating collection that covers each facet of Southern culture, genealogy, and local history. In this department alone, our patrons use over 1,500 books, make over 2,500 copies, and ask over 700 reference questions each month. Yet, most people do not know about the other things the Southern History Department does to serve the community.

Birmingham Cultural Alliance Partnership (BCAP): This award-winning, collaborative after-school program that has served more than 1,650 low-income middle school students and their families. With eight cultural partners, BCAP provides high-quality, hands-on cultural enrichment activities that enhance academic achievement by reinforcing classroom instruction and facilitating parental involvement and family learning. BCAP partners have included the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Birmingham City School system, as well as the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham Public Library, McWane Science Center, Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, Southern Museum of Flight, and Vulcan Park & Museum. BPL has been a partner since the beginning in 2001 with the Southern History Department leading the library’s efforts for four weeks of after-school programming at two middle schools. We do a variety of programs focusing on family history, local history, African American history, poetry, and debate. Additionally, we bring in a few alumni of the Birmingham City Schools to speak about their experiences in school and life.
Mr. Jess Lanier at BCAP

Alabama Library Association (ALLA) - Mary Beth Newbill was part of a panel entitled "Your Tax Dollars at Work: Interesting, Helpful, and Essential Websites from the Federal Government" at the annual convention in Point Clear, Alabama. She presented on useful genealogy websites, such as the National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database. By presenting to other librarians on resources they can use at their home library, this indirectly helps library patrons all across the state.
Alabama Library Association 2015

Digitorium: Mary Beth Newbill and Laura Gentry presented at The University of Alabama's Digitorium, This conference is for digital humanities, and they were part of a panel on "Strategies for Creating Digital Exhibits and Analyzing Archival Materials". Their presentation was entitled, "Digital Exhibits: Finding a Platform that Fits for the Birmingham Public Library".
Digitorium 2015

Digitorium 2015

Other things we have done this month and some of our ongoing activities:
  • Applied for a grant for new microfilm equipment and an overhead book scanner 
  • Taught our Introduction to Genealogy class 
  • Created a digital exhibit on Easter in 1915 
  • Mended books 
  • Conservation and mending of maps 
  • Ordered new books 
  • Answered reference questions in-person, by phone, and by e-mail 
  • Indexed books, newspapers, and periodicals 
  • Created blog posts and social media 
  • Booked upcoming speaking engagements and workshops
What’s ahead on our calendar for the rest of April

Southern History Department
Central Branch
Birmingham Public Library


Fontaine Alison said...

Hey, you forgot to mention emptying dehumidifiers 3x a day to protect the collection!

Juliet said...

Here is another good one! Helping me and my 3 year old explore the joy of reading, learning and community through weekly visits at the library. Thank you so much!