Are Libraries Past Tense?

Have you been to your local library lately? It’s time. And with September being Library Card Sign-Up Month, libraries around the country are being especially creative in building membership and awareness of services. Plus they’re raising funds to support their future existence.

They’ve Come A Long Way

0507_library-booksLibraries probably began around 1200 BCE, with excavations identifying a palace library, a temple library and two private libraries in Syria. The Library of Alexandria may be the world’s most recognizable early library. It flourished in the 3rd century.These early libraries and the Greek and Roman versions that followed them were hardly public lending libraries. In fact, they were available only to scholars or to the wealthy who proudly displayed their collections in their private houses. Yes, a library in your house was a status symbol. Even if you couldn’t read.

As you progress forward in time, the Middle Ages saw a focus on religious texts. Christian monks, whose spiritual development was linked to copying manuscripts, scribbled away for hours a day. With such production, medieval monasteries began to accumulate large libraries. The Renaissance transitioned to the scrolls of the Greeks and Romans. Scholars brought in originals of these ancient tests from Byzantine and Islamic sources and made multiple copies. Like their predecessors, these libraries too were generally not for public use.

Public lending libraries as we recognize them today only came on the scene during the French  Revolution when revolutionaries confiscated private and church book collections. Two professional librarians organized over 300,000 books and manuscripts that then became the property of the people at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Logically, as the collections became more massive, the system for cataloging the materials became more methodical.

Today, most of the modern world has access to a well-oiled machine. Libraries have proven to be essential local and global resources.

Reality Bites

compcenLibraries today have a significant amount of change to consider. For example, as technology continues to evolve, and e-books and e-book readers become more and more prevalent, administrators are forced to make sometimes difficult and expensive decisions.To meet their clients’ demands for increased access, U.S. libraries now offer a wide selection of digital books, but in doing so, face high costs for access from the major publishers. At the same time, many libraries face budget cutbacks from state and local governments. There seems to be no doubt that libraries must change to survive.

The Future… or the Now?

You may think that virtual libraries are an adventure that is yet to become reality. Wrong. Just two weeks ago–on September 14, 2013– we saw the opening of an all-digital public library in Bexar County, Texas. Perhaps you saw the feature on NPR highlighting the event. They are offering about 10,000 free e-books for a community that includes San Antonio. The system includes an actual physical library space that offers e-readers, kids’ story time and more. More and more of these types of library facilities will be opening in the coming years.

Department Library 2But what about the books themselves? I have heard colleagues remark that if it is not available as an e-book, they will not buy it. What will happen to these vast collections? Are libraries destined to become museums with their precious tomes behind glass? Many of us still hang on to the love of turning a page and the time spent wandering through crowded used bookstores. In my book (pun intended!) very little compares with a rainy day, a cozy spot and a good book. Are future generations at risk of losing that experience?

To me, creating and expanding a strong public library system is just as important as preserving and building my family’s history. I have chronicled my family’s history for years. Most recently, I’ve added a new dimension: collecting my family’s oral history. At the same time, I invest in my community, and I’m currently involved in a fundraising effort for the construction of a “new” library and community center in my town. We plan to use a converted historic building.

Treat your local library well. Take a role in its future. Consider its service in your family’s story.

Jen BaldwinGenealogist Jen Baldwin is the owner of Ancestral Journeys, specializing in the Rocky Mountain Corridor. She writes for a variety of publications, speaks regionally on genealogy related topics, is the creator and co-host of #genchat on Twitter, and owns Conference Keeper. She also is co-creator and Co-Chair of the NextGen Genealogy Network and is the Director of Operations for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can connect with Jen on her website or on social media.


Tools to Preserve Family Oral History

While you’ve worked hard to preserve your family’s stories, especially in audio format, what have you done to ensure that your work is safe and accessible for years to come? September is National Disaster Preparedness Month here in the United States and a good time to consider safeguarding the various files and data created as part of any oral history project.

Data Backup Basics

SanDisk_Cruzer_MicroIf you have any family history data – documents, scanned photos and audio files – you will want to make sure you have a backup copy, and preferably stored in more than one place. Never rely upon just one backup location such as the cloud or an external hard drive. Stuff happens. Cloud sites go out of business. USB flash drives are lost. Make sure you have multiple backups.

A smart move is to go for the Data Backup Triple Play as I call it:

• Out #1 is to download data from a website to your computer hard drive. This protects you from the website going out of business or being hacked into.

• Out #2 is to backup that same data to an external device. This means copy to a CD/DVD, MDisc, a USB flash drive or an external hard drive.

• Out #3 is to copy the data to at least one cloud computing storage site such as Box or Dropbox.

Your data stored at Saving Memories Forever is safe and backed up nightly on our servers. Also, don’t forget that Premium Subscribers of Saving Memories Forever can download their stories on the Saving Memories Forever website for free! Free subscribers can purchase the same ability for $12.95 for a three-month period.

Future Proofing Your Data

One area of data backup and technology that is not often discussed is the area of future proofing data. What exactly does this mean? Future proofing refers to ensuring that various data formats are accessible in the future.

Here’s an example: do you remember 3.5” diskettes or the 5.5” floppy diskette version from the 1980s and 1990s? Perhaps you still have family history data and even audio files saved to these diskettes. Can you still access that data? Did you copy those files to your hard drive or to a newer data format for easy access?

Being pro-active in terms of future proofing is staying on top of the latest data storage technology, including audio file formats, and then copying the data from the soon-to-be-outdated format to a newer and more common format.

Don’t wait until different data storage media and file formats are outdated. If you do, you’ll have to use third-party services that will convert your data for you, often for a fee.

Keep The Legacy Train Moving Forward

And now after all your hard work and your preparations to protect your data, have you thought about what will happen to all of it once you’ve left this earth and have become an ancestor yourself? One of the most troublesome areas right now is this: other family members don’t understand the value of collected family history research and simply dispose of it in the trash once a person has died.

Don’t let your work be in vain! Focus on these two areas: passing the family history torch on to another family member and adding specific instructions in your estate planning papers about the disposal of your research.

Tips and Tricks for Oral History Preservation

Here is some helpful advice on safeguarding your oral history data and information:

Create multiple backups. The phrase “never put all your eggs in one basket” applies to data files as well. Even if you have your audio files as part of Saving Memories Forever, make sure you’ve exported them and saved them in various places including a cloud data program, a flash drive and a CD/DVD.

Future proof your data. Make sure you are using one of the latest file formats for audio files and storing the files on accessible media such as DVD or in the cloud, instead of diskettes.

Transcribe your interviews. Yes this can be time consuming. Yes this is not the same as hearing a family members voice. But rather than have the interview be lost forever, take time to transcribe the conversation. At Saving Memories Forever, you can upload your transcribed interview to a Transcription file on the website. There is a transcription file for each story.

• Preserve the legacy chain. Have you made plans for all your hard work and collected information after you’ve died? Find a family member who is willing to preserve the information you’ve prepared. Also consider donating items to a local historical or genealogical society.

Resource List


Free cloud data program for storing files


Free cloud data program for storing files

Estate Planning for Genealogy Heirlooms

• Express Scribe Transcription Software

Download free version to transcribed audio files

How to easily transcribe audio or video recordings into text

• Is Your Genealogy Future Proofed?

• MDisc

• Transcribe

Site that helps you transcribe audio files.

• What will (really) happen to your genealogy files when you die?

© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

downloadThomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit

A Story of Two Boys


I once went walking through an old abandoned cemetery in South Australia.  Surrounded by endless miles of red dirt and golden wheat fields, it sat well back from the road down a long dirt track.  A rusted wrought iron fence surrounded the 20 graves it held – protecting them from what it was hard to tell.  There were no houses around; not even a trace of an old chimney stack.  There were no trees that large animals could shelter under or house in.  The old fence could not have protected the graves from the merciless sun, nor the biting winds.

The gravestones are a concrete link to the people who once inhabited this wild land. A simple sandstone column inscribed with words that touched the heart.



Loved Son

Aged 3 years and 2 months

Holding God’s hand

I could feel Jack as I stood near his resting place.  I could see his innocent body held by his mother and father as they beseeched God to save his dear little life.  He’d done nothing wrong; he didn’t deserve to die of an illness.

But Jack was born in the wrong century.

In Jack’s time doctors treated most illnesses with leeches and pharmacists concocted potions from unproven herbs. Medical knowledge was limited. It wasn’t enough to save Jack.

Discovery by Chance

While Jack was being laid to rest, another 3-year old boy was growing up in Scotland. This little boy was luckier than Jack. He survived the harsh winters. He went to school, learned to read and write, and discovered that he was interested in medicine.

During WWI he served in an army medical unit and he noticed that the antiseptics used on soldiers’ injuries were not working; in fact, the injuries got worse.  This gave the young man focus as he returned to study medicine after the war.  He completed his training and gained a reputation as a brilliant but untidy researcher.

His name was Alexander Fleming.

On September 3, 1928, Fleming returned from vacation to find a large stack of contaminated Petri dishes lying on his lab workbench. As he sorted through the dishes, he noticed that one culture was contaminated with a fungus which had killed the bacteria immediately surrounded it. Fleming spent several weeks growing mold and trying to determine the specific substance that killed the bacteria.  He enlisted the help of C.J. LaTouche, a mold expert, and determined it was the Penicillium mold.  Fleming noted his findings in a journal entry dated September 15, 1928. Later, he named the antibacterial agent penicillin.

fleming_postcardThe drug held promise, but Fleming was not a chemist and was unable to isolate penicillin or keep it active long enough to be used in humans. Twelve years later two chemists continued Fleming’s work. They were able to produce a brown powder from the mold that kept its antibacterial power for longer than a few days. Needing a new drug immediately for the war front, mass production started quickly. The availability of penicillin during World War II saved many lives that otherwise would have been lost due to bacterial infections.

Cures Through Time

How many young children like Jack would have been saved with the penicillin Alexander discovered?  How many parents since penicillin’s discovery have felt the depthless relief of seeing their child’s health recover quickly with a simple few drops of liquid medicine?  How many of us now take this incredible cure for granted?

We are so lucky to live in this day and age where we benefit from Fleming’s penicillin, Salk and Sabin’s polio vaccine, Michiaki Takahashi’s shot that prevents chicken pox, John Franklin Enders’ inoculation that eradicated measles, Descombey’s work on preventing tetanus and Ian Frazer’s work on cervical cancer.  These men are just a few of the incredible people who have cured, prevented or treated the illnesses that took the lives of so many in earlier centuries.

We now know the necessity of preventing disease.  We are informed.  We are healthy and we live twice as long as our great-great grandparents did.

Jack’s spirit lives in every scientist who works on finding cures for today’s diseases. They understand the anguish of parents confronted with their children’s death from illness. They are on the brink of discovering cures that will become as commonplace as penicillin is today.  It’s exciting to live in this day and age, and to know this is happening for our children and grandchildren.    Rest in peace, Jack.

kimsmallKim Aubrey is an Australian genealogist who has been researching for over 20 years. Her philosophy to family history is simple – “learn from your research, connect with your past.” 
Kim shares ownership of with her youngest daughter, Kristy, and undertakes all research with the “digging deeper, learning more” approach . KKGenealogy has published 6 books and aim to publish 2 further books each  year. You can connect with Kim via,Twitter, or Facebook.

It’s Great to be Grand

kim_cora_islaAs they say in the news world, here are the facts.

Fact: Today, there are 70 million grandparents in the USA.
Grandparents represent one-third of the US population with 1.7 million new grandparents added to the ranks every year.

Fact: Grandparents love being grandparents.                                                          

72% think being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.

Fact: They are younger than ever before.
became grandparents in their fifties, 37% in their forties, with the average age of grandparents in this country at 48.

The facts above are from, an upbeat site where “it’s great to be grand”. Their enthusiasm is catchy. As is the idea of Grandparents Day.  Started in the USA, today Grandparents Day has gone international. To name a few, it’s now celebrated in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Poland, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Taiwan and Singapore.  And beat this. If Grandparents Day were to extend worldwide, about 2 billion people would be honored.

Background behind Grandparents Day

The idea for a National Grandparents Day in the United States originated with Marion McQuade, a coal miner’s wife and mother of 15 children in West Virginia.  Her primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. But she also hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. In 2013, that date falls on September 8th.

The essay below reflects the thoughts and emotions of Kim Aubrey, a blogger from Australia. It tells what becoming and being a grandmother means to her.

grandmotherKim’s Thoughts

“Five little ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away, Mother Duck said….” I hesitated as I listened to the sounds coming from the house.

“Quack, Quack,Quack, Quack!” my 2 ½ year old granddaughter impatiently chimed in. “Nana, why do you keep forgetting?’

The sunshine played through Cora’s hair as she sang the rest of the song.

A long low guttural groan came from the house.  My eldest daughter, Louise, was in the last stages of labour.  This was her first homebirth.

I continued to sing, louder this time. “Old McDonald had a farm, eieieo, and on that farm he had a….”. I stopped as I heard Louise groan again.

Cora, oblivious to what was going on inside, completed the verse “Cow!  Mooooooo. Nana, Moooooooo!”

Another groan. This time it was higher in pitch, more distressed.

My son-in-law, Greg, a picture of determined calm, came to the verandah.  Only his voice gave the situation away.

“Louise wants apple juice ….now.” Greg emphasized. “ I’ve got none. Can you get some from the service station please?”

Another groan, more desperate.  Greg’s t-shirt disappeared through the door.

Cora and I left for the store. Trucks whizzed up and down the highway, horns blared, the woman in the queue ahead of us moved in slow motion taking her money out of her wallet.  The groans played in my head while my stomach clenched. My world was spinning so fast, completing another revolution of the circle that had started long before I was born.

“Your hand feels bouncy, Nana.” Cora announced.

“And yours feels like a princess’s, Cora.” I replied.

Greg’s voice yelling out my name as we came towards the front gate clutching the apple juice propelled my rubbery legs into action.  No time for thoughts.  I scooped up Cora in my arms and ran towards the house, trying to breath, trying to tell Cora that this was the moment.

“Be happy, “ I whispered to Cora. “ Mummy is happy.”

“Don’t think, Kim,” I told myself, “Don’t think. Just do.”

Louise. Eyes closed, head slumped on the poolside, summoning her energy, focusing on her job.   In the pool, under the water, Isla had begun to make her way into the world, not yet having taken her first breath, still attached to her Mummy.  I held Cora as we watched Isla’s arrival.

The circle of life.  The first separation from womb to world.  My child delivering her child. Unbridled pride, love and admiration.  Awe spilling from my heart, my eyes, my very being.

Quiet.  Peace.  Calm.  Family.   Witnesses to the first breath.  Trustees of a new soul.  No luckier grandmother on earth.

Isla is the third of my grandchildren.  I have five and number six is due on Xmas Day this year.  Again, I will have my trembling hands held by the big sisters of the new baby as we welcome the child into the world.  Again I will marvel at the strength of my daughter and it will be very hard not to be a blubbering mess as I watch my baby deliver her baby.  Again I will photograph the birth and create a book of memories.

kim_milly_coraIs there any greater gift in life than to be a grandparent?  I don’t think so.  I’ve thought about the diamonds and pearls and the satin and laces of past gifts, but none compare to the cuddles and kisses of a grandchild.

My “five little ducks” have more chance of knowing me than I did with my grandmother.  My Nana only had a Box Brownie camera and her notepads and pens.  Luckily, she was a “list keeper”.  She never threw out her notepads full of chemist lists or bill payments.  Today, these lists give me a peek into her real life. But as I scan her old sepia photographs and her lists, and enlarge the photos to see every detail, I wish I had her beside me to fill in the gaps of the stories.

There will be less reason for my grandchildren to wish that when I am gone, merely because of the era they live in.  They have technology.  If a grandparent lives far away they have email, Skype, and instant overseas telephone calls.

They also have smartphone apps like Saving Memories Forever that allow you to record and share family stories.  Creating these records is as easy as asking a question and pressing a button. They will hear my voice as I tell them about my experiences. Maybe they’ll chuckle when they hear me tell my favorite jokes.  Maybe they’ll smile as they look at pictures of me in the midst of those experiences. I think they’ll doing all that.

My grandchildren also have social media.  Are you aware that you can download your complete Facebook profile and save it as a document?  Imagine if my grandmother had been on Facebook during the world wars or the Moon landing.  Imagine if she made short quips about her interests. Just imagine how much more I would know about her now.  My children and grandchildren are able to do that.

Whilst the US has been celebrating Grandparents Day since 1978, Australia (where I live) has only just picked up on the idea and will be celebrating Grandparents Day for the second time on October 28, 2013. While I like the idea of Grandparents Day, I don’t need a cake or party on that one day to feel special.  I feel that honour every time I bend down to marvel at a bug with Cora.  I feel the joy every time Milly puts on a puppet show for me.  I burst with pride every time Isla asserts her independence over the potty.  I can’t control my smiles each time Taya climbs onto my lap to have a book read.  I feel the contentment as I wrap my first grandson in his blankie and give him a bottle.

All I want is for that to continue and for my children to record those moments so that in years to come, these 5 little ducks will be able to see just how much I love them. If you are a grandparent or have a grandparent in your family, save their memories by whatever means you can.  They want you to.

kimsmallKim Aubrey is an Australian genealogist who has been researching for over 20 years. Kim shares ownership of with her youngest daughter, Kristy, and undertakes all research with the “digging deeper, learning more” approach . To date, KKGenealogy has published 6 books.  You can connect with Kim via