Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Some weeks ago I visited the new facility in downtown Fort Wayne of the Allen County Public Library for the first time. You would think that since I live so close that I would have been long before this, but the fact is I had not been there in years, and had only vague memories of the old genealogy department. I was interested to see how new technology and a new building served the genealogy patrons.

In the "old days" a librarian would get your reference materials for you by request. Now everything is self serve. Computers are plentiful and even if you are not an Allen County resident you can still use the computers with a complimentary visitor number. By using the computers you have access to seven online subscription-only databases. The layout of reference materials is according to geographical area for the most part. I especially liked the large bookcases in one area that move on a track at the touch of a fingertip. That allows more inventory. But that also means you have to get the book you want and move so that the next patron can move the cases to access his/her book. And large tables are abundant. That is especially helpful when you are researching several references at once and tend to spread them out before you. The Allen County Public Library has always had a fine reputation for genealogy research and they were careful to keep that reputation in mind during the remodeling.

One thing that always bothered me with the old library was the sore lack of parking areas. Parking was always hit or miss on the street or at one or two nearby small commercial parking lots. Now the library has its own parking garage below the building. A wonderful addition. Nonresidents must pay for them though. Allen County residents have already paid for this building through their taxes.

Before visiting the library I suggest that you plan and research your visit in advance. Otherwise, if you are like me, you can easily get overwhelmed when you walk in. You can search their catalog online, which makes it easy to plan exactly what books and documents you want to research.

You can see a virtual tour of the library here. There used to be a video tour of the Genealogy Center itself on their website, but I can not find it now. Too bad, because it was a great help in orienting me before I ever walked through the doors.