21 September 2015

How to Best Research in Libraries -- Don't let anxiety get in the way!

It can be hard to visit a library, archive, courthouse, or other repository that we are not familiar with.

In fact, sometimes it creates such anxiety, that we may talk ourselves out of making the visit.  Who knows what we’ve missed out on by choosing not to make a visit.

This post by Linda Barnickel on Ancestry.com, Don’t Suffer From Library Anxiety: How to Best Research in Libraries is a great read. 

Symptoms: anxiety, uncertainty, sudden shyness, fear, worry that one might seem woefully ignorant, embarrassment, bewilderment, lack of confidence, and perhaps even shame that one should “know better” or already know the answers before the questions are even posed. If not treated, additional more-severe symptoms may develop, including: frustration, despair, a spirit of defeat, giving up, bitterness, and a vow to never do this again (whatever “this” is).

Remember, you are not alone!  Every one of us has been to a “new” library in the course of our research and I definitely always am a bit anxious as I prepare to visit and then arrive on the scheduled day.

Since I am writing this blog post, I have obviously, emerged unscathed from these experiences.  I’ve learned that preparing in advance helps a lot.  It removes much of the uncertainty to have researched the answers to our myriad questions.  For example you may have questions about pencils or pens, real-time copies or not, what tech toys are allowed, request materials in advance or not, signing in and getting set up, costs, etc.

Anne Gillepsie Mitchell helps us prepare with her post, Genealogy Roadtrip: 10 Tips for Researching at a Library or Archive as does Michael John Neill with his advice in Before Your Trip -- Doing Your Homework: A Checklist for Your Genealogy Vacation.

Finally, don’t forget to start with your local library!  You may find that some of what you seek access to might be available locally (via subscription databases, journal archives, print books, etc) or through interlibrary loan (ILL) and for FREE.

For example, I have ancestors who lived in Essex County MA.  A search in my local Raleigh NC library card catalog tells me that there are several books available that I can consult.  

And, your local library can be a good place to ease your anxiety about visiting any library. The stakes aren’t as high when walking into a local library as when one has traveled possibly a great distance to visit a repository.

If you are planning a visit to a library, archives or other type of repository and feel a bit anxious, consider the advice offered above.

Editor’s Note: Related posts ...

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